Vest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Beneath the mambo sun, uh, uh,
I got to be the one for you,
I got stars in my beard, uh, uh,
And I feel real weird, for you,
Girl, you’re good, uh, uh,
And I’ve got wild knees for you, you, you, for you, you, you.
-Mambo Sun - T. Rex from ‘Electric Warrior’- 1971
Image: sipa at pixabay

Submitted: June 28, 2019

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Submitted: June 28, 2019

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Beneath the mambo sun, uh, uh, I got to be the one for you, I got stars in my beard, uh, uh, and I feel real weird, for you, Girl, you’re good, uh, uh, and I’ve got wild knees for you, you, for you, you, you, ba-ba-da-ba-ba-ba.. 

-Mambo Sun - T. Rex from ‘Electric Warrior’- 1971

The black mamba has quite a reputation. It is one of the world’s deadliest snakes. It is the fastest land snake in the world, and the longest species of venomous snake in Africa, and the second longest in the world. This snake’s potential danger has been blamed for thousands of human deaths.

The black mamba’s reputation is not entirely undeserved. Black mambas are extremely toxic and very fast snakes. They are highly aggressive when threatened, known to strike repeatedly and inject a large volume of venom with each strike. Their venom is potentially lethal and, though antivenin exists, it is not widely available in the black mamba’s native habitat.

Contrary to what its name suggests, black mambas are actually brownish in colour, ranging from olive to greyish tones, with paler bellies. They are named for the colouration of their mouths, which is a deep, inly black. When threatened a mamba will open its mouth to show the black lining as a warning signal. Black mambas have coffin-shaped heads and are lithe, athletic snakes. These beasts can live up to 11 years in the wild.

The speedy serpents can move faster than most people can run, a fact that might explain why they are so feared. Black mambas are one of the fastest species of snakes, reaching slithering speeds of 12mph. This is undoubtedly fast, but still slower than the myth of them outrunning a horse would suggest. They slither quickly in short bursts over level ground, and can zoom along with one-third of their bodies off the ground and their heads proudly held high.

The black mamba racing along with its head 4 feet in the air is a terrifying and amazing sight. Mambas hunt and are active during the day. They are shy and secretive snakes that prefer to escape from confrontation. Nevertheless, black mambas can become highly aggressive if threatened, raising their upper bodies off the ground to stand erect, then they spread their cobra-like neck flaps and gape their mouths to expose the black lining. This is a defensive posture to scare away a threat.

If black mambas do need to attack to defend themselves, they will strike repeatedly, bite and hiss loudly. Then they’ll slither away as fast as possible…

*****

One particularly hot June afternoon, I spot a gangly teenage girl dressed in a white singlet wearing a one-metre long snake, coiled around her neck, outside our local supermarket. I know this snake is alive; its forked tongue is flickering.

Anyways, the asp slides slowly down the girl’s spindly, tattooed arm, tying itself in a tightly-knotted tourniquet as she shows her trophy off to the boys.

The traffic grinds to a halt. A crowd gathers outside Tesco to watch the snake perform its vile act. One lady, faints. Several savvy shoppers complain.

Perplexed, I amble inside to raise the alarm and address the issue with Jerry, the slap-headed shift supervisor.

‘There is a blonde girl in a white vest wearing a brownish snake with a paler belly round her brown neck outside your supermarket.’

‘There’s a what?’

He is busy attending to an elderly lady’s bleeding bag of sliced lamb’s liver.

‘I’m not saying that all again,’ I say, irked by his tiresome response, ‘I suggest you go and see the girl yourself. You’ll find her standing next to the grey plastic bowl of water that Tesco leave out for thirsty dogs, stray cats, vagrants and waifs.’

Jerry goes outside to stare at the snake-girl while I search in vain for low salt Marmite.

*****

Black mambas typically eat small mammals and birds though there have been reports of mambas with whole parrots, or full-grown cobras in their stomachs. Black mambas hunt by biting their prey and injecting venom then releasing it. They then follow it until it becomes paralyzed or dies, at which point they eat it.

It doesn’t take prey very long to die after being bitten by a black mamba! 

Black mambas devour their prey whole. They have flexible jaws that can dislocate in order to fit food up to four times the size of their head into their mouth.

*****

‘So, there is!’ he says with deliberate flourish, returning to the Customer Help Desk, ‘I shall inform store management at once!’

I watch, bored yet mildly amused, as Jerry alerts store management via his enabled headset, then go outside to see Ben. I have to fight my way through the screaming crowd.

*****

Just two drops of potent black mamba venom can kill a human. Like cobras and coral snakes, the venom of a black mamba contains neurotoxins.

The venom can be accurately described as fast acting. It shuts down the nervous system and paralyzes victims, and without antivenom, the fatality rate from a black mamba bite is 100 percent.

Fatalities have been documented to occur within as little as 20 minutes after injection. However, most known fatalities occur within 30 minutes to 3 hours, or longer.

*****

The girl is lying on the pavement crying, her face pale as whipping cream, her arm as red as strawberry jam, and swollen. I notice two tiny pinpricks in the crease of her bruised elbow. That is when I know for sure.

The snake is distressed.

So am I.

The black mamba is, after all, the fastest-moving venomous snake in the world.


© Copyright 2019 HJFURL. All rights reserved.

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