Cold Safety

Mia Paton

cold so cold. time to shift time to slither away over sticks under logs cool leaves. soon the sun soaks my scales. i sigh a relief shimmering down my body smooth shining lovely. i could stay here until i start to starve relax on the dark dirt my body heating from above and below until i start to starve. my dark colour blends in with the ground only my eyes are seen but no longer seen nice and tired snoozing in the warmth. 

the sun works its way in from my scales works its way into my bones my stomach intestines. i see red behind my eyelids feel the sun magic working. i can breathe in the heat sense the calm and still in the air of the world the trees the calm of the world. birds chirp and chatter in their ways their language their twittering warbles. want to try them taste them but not shut off the sound. i like the way it travels through the ground warms me almost as much as the sun it travels through the ground.  

it is lizards i go for. the scurrying little things that like to steal my sun from me. not ok not nice it is mine. they come pattering out of their logs burrow up through the dirt start lying on the ground where the leaf shade meets the warm. i watch them wait until the sun starts seeping through their scales to their bones their stomach intestines. they like to copy me like to close their eyes and see red behind their lids. that is enough. no more pretending to be as slippery as me no more pretending they do not have legs.  

the legs i go for. those little nasty claws scratch the roof of my mouth as i snap my fangs into their bodies those little nasty claws. they squirm squeal their pitiful cries travel through the ground they try to make for the water. it shows they know nothing of this world it shows they do not know i can swim.  

and i do swim sometimes when i am warm need to change places. the water is always cold up here always freezing. the current so strong it pulls tugs shoves my body around the rushing of the streaming water over the rocks is harsh violent sweeps me under shoves me against the ground against the rocks. sometimes i come across a pool that is calm shallow i lie there in the sun on the rocks not slippery enough to trap me forever moss enough so i can slide back out when I want to.  

it is just after i swallow a lizard that i hear it just as i am about to snuggle down into the sun until it dies behind the trees. it is a thumping a loud vibration i have never heard before. big the animal is big bigger than anything i have felt before. thousand times the size of the ants that scurry over me tickling my scales using me as a bridge hundred times bigger than the birds that twitter chirp in the trees than the lizards that tastes so good.  

 open my eyes the red disappears world turns bright. i feel it before i see it the thump thump thump of it moving coming closer and closer and thump thump thump. unlike anything i have ever seen before. not natural colours it is not all flesh bone no it has got something else something else clinging to its skin. i wonder if it is wounded if that is why it is flailing about thumping with wrong steps not effective steps for its size.  

 want to get closer slither forward see what it is but my body stops me tells me no no it is bigger than you nothing has been bigger than you before. must flee move away stray from the danger cannot be safe here not with it coming.  

fallen logs leaves undergrowth see them there solace in the darkness. hide there yes go back home. cannot stay here where the thumper is flailing cannot stay here where the colours wound it could make it angry dangerous having this unknown clinging to it. better hide better be safe not sorry danger.  

SSANAYYCK! 

it screams out a cry a cry i do not understand. strange language it possesses strange tone comes out of its mouth. it is not a chirp of a bird or a scurry of an ant or a squeal of a lizard it is harsh strong loud hurts my ears shakes the ground.  

it moves in slow this big animal that goes thump thump thump it moves in slow as if trying to stay still but moving reaching for a stick on the ground. its eyes are staring straight at me why looking at me like that? looks angry looks dangerous looks scared why scared of me? it is bigger it is thump thump thump around my home it is squashing my logs with funny coloured feet funny shape why scared of me? it is ruining my safe ruining my home i cannot hide there is only dirt left now squashed plants.  

 hiss dart backwards as it jabs the stick at me it is using the stick against me it is not using its thumpers it is not using its teeth or claws or body what animal uses sticks to danger away why not use its body? the thumper does not seem to hear my cries does not seem to understand my hisses of go away leave me alone i will not hurt you if you do not jab jab jab me.  

it does not stop it will not stop it will not put the stick down leave me alone. it is yelling out strange language more loud words that shake the ground disrupt the peace cause ants to scurry. they hear it too they fear it too but it does not seem to see them. too small for its eyes a weakness in this new animal a weakness i use.  

in its slow in its sharp jab jab jab i strike. launch forwards with all my speed pretend it is a lizard. the thumper roars as my fangs sink into flesh foul taste fills my mouth not at all delicious not at all good like lizards. gross blood gross flavour. the ground shakes worse i let go as the stick zooms down to me. it misses i slither away as fast as fast i slither away.  

the ground vibrations slowly fade slowly move away from me slowly stop. i sigh a relief the feeling shimmering down my body smooth shining lovely almost as magic as the sunshine even better than the sunshine. i could sit here until i start to starve relax on the dark dirt hiding under logs under bushes under trees until i start to starve.  

my body falls into darkness my body cools down quick. i do not mind that i shiver that night i do not mind that i did not get enough sun today shimmering shining cold lovely darkness. safety.  

Mia Paton (she/her) is a writer and editor currently studying a BFA in Creative Writing at QUT in Meanjin (Brisbane). She has two short stories published in Dawn Street Zine and is a volunteer beta reader for the Queensland Writers Centre. She is currently in the process of writing her first manuscript, Witch Hunt. Mia writes a mixture of literary and historical fiction and is delving into contemporary and fantasy genres.  

 

Art by Sophie Gollant @soggolla