THE SNAKE TOMB

The dream world snapped into existence before me, as if someone had flicked the light switch in a dark room. We were on a mountainside, staring out into the great expanse of the world before us. Ahead, there was a low valley basin, with golden-yellow foliage nearly a mile down. Beyond that, in the distance, there was a line of mountains, green with trees and stained lightly with the early hintings of winter snow.

“What are you dilly-dallying for again!” I heard a voice call to me. It was my cousin, a well cut man by all accounts. His eyes had the shine of adventure in them as we moved through the trees around us. I swallowed my response and moved after him. We were moving north, up the mountain to a small set of caves he had been told about by…something. I realized I had no idea how we had gotten there, or why.

The way up was treacherous. The ground was filled with muddy spots from the rainfall the previous night, and it slid and slipped unexpectedly with each new step. The lack of handholds caused me to constantly be gripping at thin air for balance. Eventually though, we found our way to the top, where there were a group of caves. They looked like three gaping mouths, ready to swallow us whole. We picked the one on the right, which opened the widest. The inside of the cave was blacker than midnight on a starless night, and I felt my own vision fade.

Once again, I awoke in the dream, at our destination, though I found myself alone. The place was a horrific sight. It was a cavern, filled with an industrial pool, which seemed out of place in retrospect, but in the moment the oddity fell to the background. The foreground was filled with an excessive number of snake bodies, as well as snake skins, spread throughout the room. They looked like the remains of a post-apocalyptic world. The bodies were rotting, like spoiled peaches, but the smell itself was far more rank than any fruit could be. I felt my stomach heave as I my eyes drifted along the pool. On one end, there was a massive snake, nearly ten feet long, and equally thick. Its skin looked half eaten, and pus poured from its one remaining eye. The empty socket was filled with the largest spider I had ever seen. It was curled up, but the black body was nearly the size of my head. Its long, spindly legs were pulled tight against its body. Fortunately, it appeared to be content where it was as I moved past it.

Suddenly, I felt the world careen before me as my foot slipped in a puddle of water. I put my hands out to brace my fall, but I plunged through the surface of the pool into the water. I splashed about for a moment, until I broke the surface to come back up for air. I cleared the water from my eyes, and looked ahead of me. Then massive snake was still there, staring off into the distance. Then, ever so slowly, its head began to turn. The sound of bones popping, snapping, and breaking filled the air as it came to look at me. The low hiss emanated from its jaws. The spider still clung there in its eye, which  stifled the red glow that had appeared there. From the other eye, the one covered with the remnants of its skin, pus dripped into the water while the reawakened beast pulled its focus on me.

Its jaws opened, and the stink of decay wafted through the air. My stomach churned. I had smelled death before, but it had never smelled quite so ancient. The beast reared back, then lunged toward me. It happened so fast, yet it appeared to me in slow motion. I could see the scales shift under its weight. The droplets in the air as I desperately scrambled to get away. It massive jaws surrounding my head. Then again, everything went black.

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