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The Serpent in the River

by Chris Higgs © 2004

Once, long ago, in the sprawling African wasteland of antediluvian Mauritania, where vividly violet hyacinths blossomed in meager patches amidst the cinnamon colored sand, there lived a pitchy little boy with large feathery wings. He loved his wings and took very good care of them, washing them and fluffing them and drying them in the sun. A gem of a gift, his father called them, a right fine gift for a right fine boy. Proud was his father, proud of his son with the feathery wings.

Then one day a giant grisly serpent, half the size of the sky, rose from the River and slithered into the boy's village. With one large gulp the serpent ate up all of the villagers except the winged boy’s family who hid in a covered hole under their tiny thatched hut. The serpent returned to the River, content with destroying mankind.

For years the boy's family continued to live alone in their ghost village, quietly – so as not to anger the serpent, until old age took his mother and father, leaving only the boy with wings and his younger sister. The boy began to imagine laying with his sister, for she was truly beautiful, but he knew that it was against the rules of their tribe.

"But there is no more tribe," said his sister, who yearned so badly for any sort of touch. "We are completely alone. We can do whatever we want!"

So the boy with wings (now a man with wings) took his slender sister in tender embrace. And soon she was with child. The man with wings was very happy to become a father, and to begin creating a new tribe of people.

But on the day she was to give birth, his sister, washing garments in the River, caught sight of the hideous serpent that swallowed their people, poking it's head to the surface of the water, and she choked with fear. Her heart stopped beating and she passed away on the bank of the River, taking the child to death with her.

Alone, the man with wings stood on the edge of a giant pink cliff overlooking the River and cursed the serpent for taking all of his people away, for leading to the death of his beloved sister and their baby, and for leaving him all alone. The serpent, hearing the man's screams, rose to the surface of the water, leaped into the air and bit off both of the man's wings.

"There," said the serpent, “now you truly have nothing!"

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