"Come on Amber! It's going to close soon!" I laughed as my little brother pulled on my hand. Digging my heels in, I smiled at his attempt to drag me, "Ok, hold on. The pet store isn't going anywhere Michael." We walked into the shop as the bell announced our presence. The smell of wood chips and saw dust filled the air as happy barks from the puppies yelped out at us. I had promised Michael he could pick out one pet for his birthday.
"Good afternoon Ms. Amber. You are looking lovely today. Oh and Mr. Michael, you are growing up so big!" The kind voice of Mr. Johnson rang out. I smiled at his chubby frame as he knelt down to pick up a box of dog food. But I couldn't ignore the look he gave me when he stood back up. It was the look that said, "Poor little things." We were given that look all the time ever since the funeral.It had been eight months since the accident that took our parents away. I had to come home from college to take care of my seven-year-old brother. Michael and I live in a sleepy little town, everyone cared for everyone else. Sometimes that was a little suffocating though. We didn't want their pity, we just wanted to put back our lives together. We had to sell the house and buy an apartment for the two of us. Now that we had gotten settled, I decided it was time that Michael poured his emotions into a pet that he could love and care for.
"It's Michael's seventh birthday today." I said as he hid behind me shyly. Mr. Johnson smiled, "Oh really?! Well, you need to be getting a pet fit for a young man of your age. So take a peek around, see if you like anyone." Michael smiled and pulled me along the different pens and cages, "How about a puppy?" I asked as I picked up an adorable black lab. The cute little thing licked my face happily as he shook his head, "No, I don't want a dog."
"Ok, how about a kitten? I've always wanted a kitten." Michael rolled his eyes, "Those are girly animals!" I put the puppy down sadly and followed him around as we went through every single cage and picked up every animal. After a few moments I was begining to worry that we wouldn't find anyone to bring home when Michael let out a loud, "Cool!" I stopped petting a feret and went over to my excited little brother who was jumping up and down, "I want this one Amber! Please!"
"Ok, ok, what do we.... ew!" I stopped short as he pointed at a brown colored boa who was constricted around a rat. I watched in horror as the snake's muscles gripped the struggling little rodent. It screamed a piercing wail before the bones crushed and it's eyes bulged from suffocation. The snake started to eat the still twitching body whole as my stomach churned. Michael broke my concentration as he wrapped his arms around my waist, "Please Amber? It's so cool."
"Michael, not a snake. Anything but a snake. They are disgusting!" He looked back at the snake and then at me before sighing, "Ok. Let's go. I don't think I want a pet anymore." Damn that boy, he could always get me with those big brown eyes. I glanced back at the horrible animal that had just devored his prey before biting my lip, "Mr. Johnson, can we please have the....the.....snake?" He waddeled over and looked in the cage, "All right, let me get her for you."
"It's a girl?" I asked as Mr. Johnson put on a thick glove, "Yep, they tell us the sex before we get them. Now you have to feed her live animals and make sure you pay attention to the cage size, these guys tend to grow quickly." I leaned back and asked, "How big do they usually get?" Watching as the snake's body curled around his wrist he thought, "Oh usually females are bit bigger than males, so around 12 feet." I nearly fainted, "12 feet?!? Are you serious?"
"Awesome!" Michael said as Mr. Johnson held the snake down for him to hold, "Ok, now keep your arm like this so she can wrap around you. There you go." Michael's arm dropped a bit, "She's heavy!" He said as he turned to me, "Look Amber! Isn't she beautiful?!" I backed up, "Oh you are so keeping that thing in your room and I'm not feeding it. This is your pet." Michael smiled, "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll grow to love her! Thank you big sister!" He said hugging me. I placed an arm around him gently until I felt the scales of the snake brush my hand and I jumped back, "Ew!"
"Ok, so I'll ring up the food and the cage for you." Mr. Johnson smiled. We left the pet store as I look longingly at the puppies again. In the car, Michael looked through the packet of information we got about snakes as he struggled with the big words, "This snake feeds on large lizards, small or moderate-sized birds, opossums, bats, rats, and squirrels. It is a noct....nocturn...."
"Nocturnal?" I asked as he nodded, "What's nocturnal?" I turned off at our house,"It means that it hunts at night." He smiled and continued, "Nocturnal hunter and uses its heat-sensitive scales to locate its prey. The boa constrictor's preferred prey is bats, which they catch by hanging from the branches of trees or the mouths of caves, grabbing them out of the air as they fly by, and killing them by constriction. Amber, what is constriction?"
I shuttered, "Remember what it was doing to the mouse in the store. Squeezing it to death? That's constriction." To my horror, Michael smiled again, "Snakes are awesome!" He grabbed the cage as I opened the doors for him to put the vile thing in his room. My little brother's face was priceless as he came back from his room and kissed me on the cheek, "Thank you!" I gave him a squeeze and smiled, "Happy birthday." He went back to his room to watch his snake. I shuttered as the memory of the reptile suffocating the rat flashed back while I worked on dinner.
"Michael! Dinner time!" He didn't answer. I put down the plate and knocked on his door, "Mikey? Come on now." When I opened the door, Michael was sitting on the ground staring at the snake, "Come on honey, it's time to eat." I said as he kept staring. Walking over I placed a hand on his shoulder as he jumped, "Amber! Don't scare me like that!" I laughed and ruffled his hair, "Well somebody had to bring you back to Earth. Come on, it's time to eat."
"What about Venom? I have to feed her too." He said as he reached into the mouse cage and pulled out a squeeking field mouse. "Venom?" I asked as he nodded, "Yep, that's her name." I turned as he dipped the creature into the cage. When I left out the door, I stopped and listened to the laughter that exploded out of my little brother. Something seemed very wrong about how much pleasure he was getting out of this experience. Shrugging it off, I sat down at the table and waitied.
A few days had passed since we brought the snake home and already I was having nightmares about it. I hated snakes. I hated the way their bodies moved, I hated how their tongues flicked out, but mostly I hated the hissing noise. All of it put together made a disgusting creature. One night I tossed and turned in bed dreaming about the reptile,
"Help me Amber! Help me!" Michael's voice cried out. I struggled with the door, beating my body against it with all my strength. When the wood finally gave way, it opened up into a vast jungle. My white sneakers pushed through the dense under brush as the sounds of birds and insects filled the air. "Michael! Michael where are you?!" I cried as I pushed through the vines. To my awful surprise, every vine was a hanging snake! It curled and hissed in my hand while I dropped the slithering body with a scream.
"Amber!" He called to me again. I began running through the jungle of twisited snakes, trying my best not to have a panic attack. It wasn't until I stopped at a clearing that my eyes fixed on my little brother, almost completely engulfed by the snake's massive body. The dark, scaley creature had wrapped itself around him and flexed it's muscles in an attempt to crush him. Michael reached out a trembling hand to me and coughed out, "Help....me...."
I lunged onto the horrible thing and tried my best to pry it off of Michael, but the snake was too strong. Every attempt I made only made it squeeze harder until it's head whipped up and looked me in the eyes. The snake's gaze made me feel like a bird trapped in it's coils as it got off Michael and proceeded to curl around me. The air shut off, my muscles burned and I gave into the darkness that was engulfing my vision.
Awaking with a scream, I laied in bed, panting heavily. I reached down and laughed at myself as the curling I felt around my body was only my sheets that I had twisted around myself in my nightmare. Taking a breath, I got up to check on Michael. When I cracked open the door, Michael was sound asleep, snoring lightly. I smiled and placed his arm gently under the sheets. Brushing his hair back, I turned and looked at the cage where the slithering creature curled around it's fake log. I took a step closer and looked at it.
"Yuck." Was all I could say. Then, as if it could sense my disgust and fear, the snake twisted around to look at me before striking against the cage hard. I jumped asshe struck out again and again against the glass. When I stepped back, she calmed down and laid her slender head back on the log. The shutter that went down my spine was enough to keep me up the entire night as I sat down to make a cup of coffee. The next few weeks went by like normal and already we had to geta bigger cage,
"She's growing so big Amber! She's almost as long as me now! Isn't it amazing?" I groaned. It was true, the snake had grown at an alarming rate. The cage we had to get needed to be brought in by two men and laid on the floor. I told Michael that I didn't want Venom in his room anymore now that she was so big. So we moved her to the basement. I felt better knowing that the disgusting creature was down stairs, far away from the both of us. The only thing that disturbed me was that Michael had begun to change ever since we brought her home.
"Michael honey, could you please start on your homework?" I asked as he shook his head, "I'm going to feed Venom."
"You already fed her once today. She doesn't need to eat as many times as we do. Now come on, start your homework." The normal Michael would have sat at the table and finished without argueing, but he turned and stamped his foot, "No! I'm want to feed her right now!" He slammed the door and went down stairs. I stood shocked at his tone, before I followed. When I opened the door, I listened for a moment as I heard him whisper,
"Hey pretty girl. You hungry? Yeah I know you are. You're a beautiful girl, a snake princess. Don't worry, she won't get in our way again. I love you Venom, pretty, pretty Venom." I peeked my head in and watched as Michael picked up something in a bag.
"I've got something special for you today. Rats are too small aren't they? Hardly fill you up at all. No, this is much better." My jaw dropped as the bag moved and a mewing came out. He reached and pulled out the neighbor's tabby cat. Smiling at it, he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and proceeded to hold it over the cage where the massive snake waited.
"Michael! Stop!" I cried running down the stairs. Michael looked at me and dropped the cat in the cage. I reached in and pulled the hissing cat out just seconds before the snake lunged. Holding the frightened tabby in my arms I looked at Michael who was glaring at me. "Michael, why would you do this?" Then he did something so out of character, Michael started pushing things over and screaming, "Why did you do that?! Venom is hungry! It took me forever to catch that cat! You are stupid! I hate you! I hate you! Give it back!!"
He reached out his small hands to try and grab the cat from me as I held him back with one arm, "Michael stop it! You aren't feeding that thing, this cat. It doesn't belong to you, it belongs to Mrs. Kathy. Don't you think she would be very sad that you killed her cat?" Michael pushed against me and shrugged, "I don't care about Mrs. Kathy. Venom is more important. She is more important than anything in the world."
I walked up the stairs and placed the cat on the higher level before closing the door and coming back down, "Michael, we are getting rid of the snake. This has gone on far enough. Besides, she has gotten too big for us to take care of anymore. Don't you think....Venom... would be happier some place else? We have to get rid of it."
"No! No! We aren't getting rid of her! You can't make me! I love Venom." He started to cry and it broke my heart. I walked over to him and tried to place my arms around him before he pushed off of me, "Don't touch me! I hate you! I hate you!" He ran to the cage and curled up next to it. "Michael, I'm sorry you are upset, but this has to stop. Venom will be gone by tomorrow." I turned and walked up the stairs, but stopped when I heard him say, "You're wrong. Venom is staying right here."
That night, I tried to make up with Michael by ordering pizza, but he wouldn't come out of the basement. I understood that he was upset, and that he probably hated me right then, but it was for the best. I didn't like how this was changing him. Later ,I would get him a puppy or something to ease the pain. Laying back in bed, I took some asprin for the head ache I had forming. I looked at the picture on my night stand of my parents,"What would you both do?"
It wasn't long before I started to drift off to sleep. That night, I dreamed about the snake again. I dreamnt that I was in bed, sleeping peacefully when my door opened and Michael stood there, struggling with the snake's weight. He knelt down and let the massive creature slither off his body and towards my bed as he stood there smiling. The snake twisted it's dark body under my covers and started to twist around my leg. Michael stood there whispering, "I told you, Venom is staying. It's you who will be gone soon."
I opened my eyes with a jolt. Sighing, I brushed back my sweaty hair as I rolled my eyes when I couldn't move my leg. I probably had twisted my sheets around myself again. I looked at the door and jumped when I saw Michael standing there, with the same expression I had seen in my dream. He smiled and said, "Venom is hungry." In one terrified motion, I flung off my cover and laid eyes on the most horrific thing I had ever seen in my life. The boa had swallowed the majority of my leg, all the way up to my thigh.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" I screamed as it's fangs curled into my thigh while it was having a difficult time trying to digest me. I screamed wildly and beat against the snake's gigantic head that only made it's fangs dig deeper into my leg. "Michael! Help me!" I screamed as he leaned against the door, waiting. The snake pulled it's fangs out of me and slid itself off. I looked as my leg was missing patches of skin from her stomach acid. I tried to roll off onto the floor as my leg wouldn't work anymore.
"Michael, please, get help!" He shook his head and closed the door behind him. I tried to pull myself towards the door until something that felt like two hundred pounds weighed down on my back. I pushed against the snake as it started to curl around my frightened body. Screaming, I tried to break away, but the snake was too strong. It coiled around me and started to squeeze, crushing me under it's weight. The air wasn't coming to my lungs anymore, my vision turning from red, to blue, to black as the hissing creature squeezed once more. That's when I felt it, the last thing I would ever feel. All of my bones crushed at once, stabbing into my lungs, collapsing my rib cage and puncturing my heart.
"Michael....." I whispered and then there was nothing. Nothing but the cold, paraylizing darkness of death as the snake devored my broken body.