Chapter 11 – TV Dinner
By Lilly’s reckoning, she had no more than 30 minutes to collect the antidote and use it to stop the epidemic of crocotearalitis that was spreading through the children waiting to be released from behind the gate. Lilly wasted no time and made her way to the Reptile House, and once there checked the largest glass tanks that held the exotic animals until she came across a magnificent snake, adorned in light golden brown medallions, set against a creamy white background of skin. Lilly looked around the interior of the tanks, which was really a small room with two large glass viewing windows. In the middle of an undulating stone effect concrete floor was a pond and behind it the floor rose to create a higher platform. There in a loose coil lay Shakira: a 17 foot albino boa. Above Lilly’s head an out of sight something was flickering and appeared to be mesmerizing Shakira. Lilly banged on the glass and momentarily the snake glanced over and looked uninterestingly towards Lilly before returning her gaze back towards the flickering.
Off to one side of the pond, amongst the scattered sand and loose foliage a large log lay, its remaining branches reaching up towards the roof where Lilly spied a trap door just large enough for a small teddy bear to fit through. There was another door at the back, a door that the keepers would enter through, but Lilly would not be able to open such a large door in a hurry. And she was most definitely in a hurry. No, Lilly would have to enter through the small trap door. A door that was used to feed the snake: anything that came through that door, Shakira would see as food. Lilly knew that, but had no choice. She needed Shakira’s attention quickly and being her lunch would certainly do that.
At the start of the row of the larger tanks, there stood a Lime tree in a large clay pot, its branches reaching high enough for Lilly to scale and climb into the first of the tanks roofs. Once up, Lilly dashed across each roof and leapt across the metre wide pathway that ran between them. Shakira’s tank being the largest had a wider pathway separating it than the ones Lilly had just leapt across. Lilly walked to the edge and looked over. The jump was nearer twice as far as the pervious jumps she had made. Not only that, Shakira’s tank stood a good bit higher too. This was going to be no ordinary jump. It was going to have to be an extraordinary jump, a jump that would be difficult, even for a secret agent extraordinaire. Lilly walked back to the very edge of the roof she was stood on and concentrated on the gangway in front of her, the wide gap she needed to clear, and the wall of Shakira’s home. Rising on her toes, like a gymnast Lilly composed herself, and then shot down the gangway gathering speed. When almost at the end she carried out a forward flip, her toes landing perfectly on the other edge of the roof, before summersaulting into the air, propelling herself forward, chin up, chest out, arms wide like a professional ski diver, which of course she was. Even with the outstanding leap, Lilly only just reached Shakira’s wall and clung on by the very tips of her paws, before scrambling up the wall, onto the roof, to make her way to the trap door.
Lilly loosened the latch and lifted the trap door clear and carefully stuck her head in to make sure Shakira hadn’t moved from her platform. She had not, though the removal of the trap door had drawn her attention away from what Lilly could now see was a small TV screen above the viewing window she had knocked on. “Hello,” Lilly said to a puzzled Shakira, who was not used to her food talking to her as it was usually dead and lowered through the trap door on a pole. Shakira was further puzzled that it was not her feeding time yet, but still the strange looking animal, that had now climbed fully through the hole and onto the highest branch of the log, could be a tasty morsel and for a change, alive. Lilly stood upright on the branch and gave Shakira a friendly smile. “Hi, I’m Lilly,” she said warmly. Shakira slid forward towards the branch and tasted the air with her tongue, confused by what her tongue was telling her. Lilly didn’t smell like food, yet she had come through the trap door so she must be? Lilly kept her eyes firmly on Shakira’s trying to anticipate the snake’s next move whilst continuing trying to strike up a conversation. Shakira on her part was weighing up whether to strike (as snakes do!). After all Lilly did look a little like a rat, though she had a squishier nose, didn’t really have a proper tail and her ears didn’t look quite right. Not small enough.
One moment Lilly was standing on the branch, the next moment she wasn’t! Lilly had made the mistake of looking up at the open trap door, just for a moment in case she needed to make a quick exit. That was when she Shakira struck! And Lilly found herself within the tight coils of the boa. Lilly was used to being squeezed. Vicky had quite a squeeze on her, and so did Miss Sharp, but this squeezing was altogether something else. It just got tighter and tighter. So tight that Lilly was in fear that her stitches would burst apart. So tight that she could barely draw enough breathe to speak. It could certainly be said that Lilly was in a real bind. It was as Lilly’s last breathe was being forced out and Shakira was about to devour her bulging eyed meal that Lilly recognized what was being shown on the TV screen. It was one of her favourite films, and more like a thought being squeezed out of her body than an intension to talk, Lilly found herself saying, “Romeo and Juliet, my favourite.” That’s when the grip loosened just a little and Shakira pulled her head away and looked almost sympathetically at her dinner. Then she spoke in a thick Columbian accent. “It’s mine too, so sad, don’t you think?” Lilly nodded, trying to catch her breath and ease herself a little way out of the coils, though Shakira wasn’t ready to release her quite yet.
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