The Granddaddy of all snakes
|The Rattler's Kiss
Jake Springer loved to hike and camp in the woods. Every chance he got he'd be alone in the high country of the Sierra Nevada. This was how he'd relax, and commune with nature. Of all the many trips he'd ever made, he never had any trouble with bears and the like, until this time. This time he found himself stumbling through the woods in complete fear and shock. It was a two-hour walk back to the trailhead where he had parked his car, and the sinking feeling in his guts told him he wasn't going to make it.
Can a man die from a rattlesnake bite? You're damn right he can, he told himself as he pushed through the undergrowth and hurried toward the top of the next hill. His lips and face were beginning to go numb.
When he broke camp that morning, he found the snake curled up under the foot of his sleeping bag. It was huge, the biggest damn snake Jake had ever seen before: the granddaddy of all snakes. The damn thing didn't even rattle; it struck with the speed of a mousetrap, latched onto the arm of his heavy jacket, and then hung there thrashing about as if its fangs were stuck.
Jake ran out of the tent dragging the snake's length behind him; it sagged heavily upon his arm, filling him with venom. Frantically, he grabbed it around the thick of its body, ripped it from his arm, and threw it as far out into the woods as he could. Even then, it had tried to whip around and bite him again, nearly striking him in the face. Jake could have sworn he felt its hot hiss against his cheek.
Coming to his senses, he quickly fished in his pocket for his knife. The blade was dull but would have to do.
Taking a deep breath, he hacked away at the bite making a bloody mess of his arm. His head swooned as he squeezed at the cut hoping to get some of the poison out. His blood was dark--almost black--and as it ran down the length of his arm, it felt as hot as freshly brewed coffee.
He didn't know what else to do and never took the time to learn how to doctor a snakebite. He just did what he remembered seeing cowboys do in those old movies.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the rattlesnake again. It worked its way out of the bushes and headed straight for him. A chill ran through Jake's body. "What the hell..."
The snake was fast. It forced him to step back, tripping over a dead tree branch and nearly falling backward. It crawled over Jake's abandoned backpack, hesitated, its forked tongue licking at the air, and then came forward again. He had never seen a snake act like that before--it was attacking.
"To hell with you," Jake said, his heart trying to pound its way through his chest. He turned and ran.
It wasn't long before his vision began to swim, hot and cold chills quaked through his body. In his envenomed state he was forced to sit and rest.
Jake looked at the wound then: a blue-black color like a burst blood blister that burned with all the ferocity of battery acid. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. He knew he had to relax, make himself believe that he wasn't dying--trick his heart into pumping less poison.
Something moved through the underbrush. Jake cranked his head toward the sound and saw the sleek head with eyes as black and lifeless as push-pins.
The damn snake was chasing him.
His left hand, clenched into a fist, rose to his open mouth, and he crammed it between his teeth, biting so hard he drew blood. Lowering his hand, he yelled, "What are you? Leave me alone!" then turned and ran on.
When his breath burned inside his chest like a forest fire, Jake stopped pumping his legs and dropped to his knees. He could go no further. The poison made his head swim and the ground moved like the face of the ocean. He fell forward gasping for air.
The snake was right behind him and slithered over the top of a fallen tree.
In Jake's mind, the race wasn't over. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! It's coming... His heart beat like a bass drum in his ears but he was unable to stand. Then he felt the rattler crawl over his legs, across his buttocks, then coil on top of his shoulders. The weight of the thing nearly forced him flat to the ground.
Jake had to look. Slowly, he turned his head.
It rattled then, like a large baby's rattle in the hand of a lunatic. Jake felt the nape of his neck shrink. For a moment, the thought crossed his mind that he just might twist his body around very quickly and throw the snake from his back.
But the rattler was patient and waited for him.
Jake's eyes bulged, greasy nausea gripping his guts. He turned his head to meet it face to face.
It greeted him with a vicious kiss to his cheek, like a hard poke in the face with a sharp stick. Then the immense snake coiled around Jake's neck and bit into the back of his neck.
He wondered if the rattler could feel the screams vibrate through its fangs.