Animals, Mystery, Romance, Stories

The Lure of the Snake by Karen J Mossman

The story of a girl who loses her memory and dreams of a snake. Can this be the key to finding out who she is?  A story in three parts.

Part One

The snake slithered down the hillside, it’s tongue flicking from its mouth.  

Mia waited; too terrified to move as the pinprick eyes fixed on her. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead as she refused to believe it was real. Her head ached as she scanned the landscape for somewhere to hide. 

Very little vegetation grew on the barren land that surrounded her. The few trees scattered around were dead with their barks full of holes, and bare branches pointed upwards. 

Under a stone-grey sky, Mia clasped and unclasped her hands. Her body prickled with nervous spikes that pinned her to the ground. 

The snake stopped, its huge head rose above, its mouth open as it threatened to engulf her. All she could do was let out one long scream. 

Something hit Mia with a thump, and it jolted her awake. She lowered her eyes to see a hand draped over her waist. The fingers brushed her gently. She had no idea who they belonged to. 

It took a few moments to orientate herself, and as she did, a sleepy voice from behind whispered. “Shush, go back to sleep.”  

Mia stiffened, and her heart raced. 

When the breathing behind her steadied, she gently removed it and sat up. With bated breath, she paused to see if he awoke.  When he didn’t, she slid out of bed and noticed her clothes strewn on the floor. 

The strange room and the man sleeping peacefully beside her, did nothing to jog her memory. 

Quickly, she crept across the carpet, gathered her clothes and went through the open door of the bathroom to dress. Leaving the it slightly ajar, she worried in case he awoke and challenged her.  

It was only when she returned, she noticed it was a one roomed studio flat. The other door should hopefully, lead her to the exit. 

Just as Mia was about to leave, she spotted a handbag on the top of a chest of drawers. With another quick glance at the sleeping form, she grabbed it and left. 

She dashed down the flight of stairs and out of the front door.  

On the street, she turned and paused to look at the large dark bricked house she’d emerged from. Nothing about it was familiar. 

As she reached the end of the road, Mia came upon a High Street where shopkeepers opened their premises ready for business. In the town’s square, market traders were busy setting up their stalls.  

A warm breeze blew from a cloudy sky and brought the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. She squinted upwards; the day held promise as the sun broke through. The clock on the church said it was 7.30 am. Mia couldn’t think what day it could be, neither did she dwell on other things she couldn’t remember. 

Her eyes swept the area in front and behind her, and she had no clue as to where she was. Her heart pounded as panic rippled through her veins. 

Across the road, she spotted the source of the aroma. She pulled the bag off her shoulder and located a purse. Inside it contained enough money for coffee. This would at least buy her time to think.  

Opening the door of the cafe, she looked around the small area and was about to take a seat at a table when an unfamiliar voice called out. 

“Oh, good morning, you’re in early today, Mia.”  

Alarmed, she stared at the assistant like a rabbit caught in headlights. She had never met the woman before.   

“Would you like your usual?” 

Unable to do anything else, Mia nodded and sat in the corner by the window. Outside she still did not recognise anything. What could have happened? How could she have got there without her knowledge? Could the man in the bed have drugged her? She felt nothing apart from an ache that thumped at the back of her head.  

Taking deep breaths, Mia calmed herself as panicking would do no good. 

“Here you go, love.” The same voice startled her a second time. 

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump.”  

The woman had dark hair speckled with silvery grey, and a slight foreign accent. She placed an Americano coffee on the table. 

“T-Thank you,” Mia stuttered. Her voice sounded strange to her own ears. 

“No Josh this morning?” The woman asked. 

Not trusting herself to speak again, Mia shook her head. Who was Josh? 

“Breakfast will be with you shortly.”  

She didn’t know how to reply, and instead mumbled her thanks again as the woman left. 

Mia sipped the coffee and gazed out of the window. How could she know the coffee was her favourite but not know who she was? 

The traffic increased as the world awoke. Beyond the High Street, in between the buildings, Mia saw hills in the distance. They called to her and something about them made her happy. 

The snake from her dream came to mind. The thought of the reptile made her shiver, but at the same time, offered her comfort. Something bad had happened with the snake. Whatever it was, had frightened her so much she felt a tremble deep in her core. 

After some time lost in thought, the waitress arrived with a warm plate of pancakes. Slices of banana glistened with honey drizzled along the top. It smelled yummy. 

“Thank you,” Mia muttered. With another smile the server left. Mia noticed other customers had arrived and were already seated at tables. 

The food on the plate looked delicious, just the sort of thing she would enjoy. But today she had no appetite. She pushed the pancakes away along with her favourite coffee and wished the nagging headache would go. 

Leaving enough money on the table to cover the food bill, Mia left the cafe. She draped the strap of her bag over her shoulder and strode along the pavement not really sure where to go. As a bus approached, she saw the word Bleasefield on the front, and jumped aboard. She paid the fare and took a seat. The headache blazed in the light of the sun and it made her nauseous.  

When the bus reached her stop, Mia disembarked. Her eyes strained towards the hills as she subconsciously searched for the snake. In her mind’s eye she saw it towered above her, ready to swallow her whole.  

It was at that point she realised she wanted it to devour her. Only then would she feel happy. 

Part Two

Josh stretched his arm and expected to feel Mia in the bed beside him.  Maybe she was in the bathroom, although the door was ajar.

“Mia?”  No reply.  

Alarmed, he leapt from the bed and threw on his clothes. With his mind already in a whirl, he tried to second guess where she could have gone. Mia would never leave without telling him. Especially after what happened last night.  

Damn! She told him she was okay. His instinct had been to go to the hospital to have her checked out, but Mia was insistent that she was fine, just a little drunk. 

“Oh Mia,” he sighed aloud. The worry he’d had for her of late, escalated. 

Josh grabbed his phone and hit her number. It rang out unanswered before going to voicemail. Standing in the centre of the room, he stared at the phone and exhaled. Could she have gone home? Why would she leave without telling him? 

Josh left the flat and took the stairs two at a time. He slammed the front door, and then remembered he shouldn’t slam it so early in the morning.  He legged it down to the house Mia shared with three other girls. It was Saturday, and likely they were still asleep. This was an emergency, his gut screamed out to him.  

Josh hammered on the door. 

A sleepy Lena, opened it wearing red floral pyjamas. She squinted at the light with a hand over her eyes. 

“Josh, what’s…” She hadn’t got her words out before he was inside.  

“Where’s Mia?” He asked as he dash passed her and up the stairs. 

“What?” Suddenly she became more alert. 

Josh returned after finding Mia’s room empty and unslept in. 

“What’s happened?” Lena asked, as she stood at the bottom of the staircase with a look of shock on her face. “She was with you, wasn’t she?” 

“I can’t find her, she’s disappeared.” He could hear the panic in his own voice. 

Lena’s eyes grew wide, as she heard it too. “What do you mean?” 

Footsteps sounded as Corine and Tilly joined them in the hall. 

“What’s going on?” Corine asked, with a wary look on her face. 

“What time’s it?” Tilly spoke at the same time, and through a yawn. 

“Mia’s gone missing,” Lena stated. “What happened, Josh?” 

He paced up and down the hall wringing his hand before he briefly explained.   

“Missing?” repeated Tilly. “Maybe she’s just gone for breakfast?” 

“No, no,” Josh cried, and ran his hand through his hair. “Not without me, she wouldn’t.” 

Corine put her hand on his back. “Let’s go into the lounge and you can tell us why you’re so worked up.” 

Tilly and Lena glanced at each other and followed. Nobody sat down. 

“Now,” said Corine, ever the schoolteacher. “Tell us why this has got you so worked up?” 

Josh stood still for a moment and swallowed. His heart pounded with anxiety and he rubbed his face. 

“Go and get him a glass of water, one of you,” Corine instructed, and Tilly toddled off. 

Josh perched on the edge of a chair, elbows on his knees with his hands clasped together.  

He took a deep breath. “Last night, we had a bit too much to drink. We were with a group of people and an argument broke out – not between us. This guy squared up to someone else. Outside a fight broke out.”  

Josh ran his hand over his face again, his eyes swept the room with guilt. He should have done something to help her. 

“Go on,” urged Lena with concern in her eyes. 

Tilly handed him the water, which he swallowed in one. It increased everyone’s anticipation as they waited. 

“We just got caught up in it, and Mia was violently shoved. It was like slow motion. I saw her fly through the air and smack into the wall. She didn’t move.” 

“A head injury?” gasped Lena, who was a student nurse.  

“She said she was okay.” His voice rose as if they had accused him of something. 

Corine put her hand on his knee. “It’s alright, Josh, it’s not your fault.” 

“It is, I should have insisted she go to the hospital.” 

“Was she knocked out?” Lena asked anxiously. 

Josh nodded. “Only for a couple of minutes. I couldn’t get to her, then I did, and she was coming round. I helped her to her feet, and she staggered. I didn’t know if that was the drink, y’know?” 

“Then what? asked Lena. “What did you do?” 

He shrugged. “I checked she was okay. She said she was. I wanted to get her checked out, but she refused. I should have insisted.” 

Tilly scratched her head. “Mia is strong-minded and if she doesn’t want to do something, she won’t. You know what she’s like?” 

The others mumbled in agreement. 

“We should call the police,” Tilly suggested. 

“It’s too soon.” Corine rose to her feet. “They won’t do anything. I suggest we look for her first.” 

They all stood up. 

“Where else would she go, Josh?” 

He shook his head. He couldn’t think. “We were going to get breakfast at Gretchen’s when we got up.” 

“Well, there you are. She’s probably having breakfast already. You go and check. We’ll get dressed and if she’s not there, call us and we’ll all go looking.” 

Everyone nodded. It sounded like a plan. 

Josh stepped back out into the morning sunlight. The sun peeped through the clouds as a breeze ruffled his hair. He just hoped to God, they could find her soon. 

It wasn’t just the bang on the head that worried Josh. Six months ago, he was badly beaten up. He told the police and Mia that it was a random attack.  

Mia had discovered him unconscious. It affected her deeply, and while he recovered, their relationship changed. They were always a happy go lucky couple, partying, and enjoying life. They stopped going out and it made their relationship more intense. They realised then just how much they cared for each other, and how much this had affected them both. 

Josh headed for Gretchen’s Café where they often ate. He hoped she was already there waiting for him. Guilt rose again, this time not for what happened but for never telling her the truth. It would have only made things worse, his rational self told him, but then, they loved each other, and she deserved to know, even if it was ugly. 

Whilst in hospital his parents visited. He’d never had the best of relationships with them, but suddenly they were his only way out of the terrible mess he’d got himself into. 

Stupidly, he’d become involved with the distribution of drugs. As he couldn’t depend on his parents anymore, it seemed a good way of making some money. How foolish he was! He ended up owing them, and they warned him of the consequences.  

The next thing he knew he was set upon. They almost killed him and the hospital said he was lucky to be alive. 

 He had no choice but to tell his parents. It almost broke his relationship with them altogether, but they paid up. Now he was free to live his life again. Except the girl he loved took the whole incident far harder than he’d imagined. It affected her mental health and she found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone would randomly hurt him. He knew he should have told her then, but he didn’t. Now things were worse than ever. He had a guilty secret that was gnawing away at his insides. 

Josh entered the café and Gretchen greeted him with a smile. “Good morning.” 

He looked around. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Mia, have you?” He fully expected her to say no.  

“Yes, she was in earlier.” 

 Josh bounced to the counter. “She was?” 

“Yes, I’d barely opened the door when she came in. Is she all right?” 

“Why do you ask?” 

Gretchen shook her head, “She just didn’t seem herself. Hardly spoke a word to me. Didn’t even eat her breakfast.”  She frowned.  “Seemed almost confused, now I come to think of it.” 

Josh’s worry increased two-fold. “What do you mean?” 

“I can’t explain. It was like she wasn’t sure why she was here. Looked at me blankly as if she had never seen me before.” 

“I don’t suppose you saw where she went?” 

Gretchen shook her head. “I’m sorry. She didn’t speak apart from a muttered thanks.” 

Josh’s stomach dropped. He didn’t know what to do. He tapped his hand on the counter and dithered with indecision. “Thanks Gretchen,” he said after a moment. 

As Josh headed for the door again, she called to him. “Actually, now I think about it, I’m sure I saw her on a bus.” 

Josh spun round; hope ignited. “Which way?”  

“Left,” she said, and pointed in the direction the bus went. 

“Thanks. You’ve been a great help.” 

Josh could feel his heart bang against his rib cage as his breathing became heavier. He ran for the bus, and pulled out his phone to call Corine, who said she would let the others know and wait to hear from him. 

Once he had recovered and regained his strength, he and Mia had gone on a day trip to Bleasefield, a small village out of town. They had taken a picnic into the countryside and enjoyed a wonderful day, walking, chatting, and laughing. It was there that they admitted their true feelings for each other, and agreed the future was for them to make the most of, as one never knew what was around the corner. 

How true was that? 

Part 3

Mia sat crossed legged on the grass and stared over at the hills. She felt happy here. Peace and hope filled her. She remembered the snake and how it almost broke her. She shivered even though she was bathed in warm sunlight. 

In her mind’s eye she saw his arm in the darkness, outstretched on the ground. The dark shadows of the building shrouded him.

“Josh!” she cried, as she moved closer, unsure of why he lay on the cold floor like that. When his face was revealed, it was barely recognisable. Swollen and bloodied. Someone had hurt him badly. She fell to her knees, cradled his head, and screamed. 

She shook herself to erase the memory. Here in this spot, they faced the future together. 

As she stared up at the hills, she remembered the snake from her dream, and how it came for her. It was her place of happiness, and she wanted nothing more than that. 

“Mia!” A familiar voice broke into her thoughts. She turned and saw Josh coming towards her. “Mia!” He called again, his hand outstretched in a wave. She jumped to her feet and her pulse quickened, her eyes glued to his arm. 

The tongue flicked out at his wrist and the body of the snake ran up the rest of his limb. The arm she had recognised in the alleyway with the unmissable tattoo. The man she loved lay broken on the ground. It took that moment for her to realise her true feelings for him. She couldn’t lose him.  

It was touch and go for a while before the doctors said he was stable. A nightmare of long days that broke her heart as Mia was comforted by her ever-loyal flat mates. 

As the memories flooded back, and how she had woken with a headache that had fogged her brain – the night before, and the fight. Mia burst into tears. 

Suddenly Josh was there, his snake arm wrapped tightly around her. 

As she buried her face into his neck, the snake finally devoured her, and she knew she would never let it go again. 

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