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McSlaughter
Sep 12, 2013

"Kill white people and get paid for it? What's not to like?"


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McSlaughter
Sep 12, 2013

"Kill white people and get paid for it? What's not to like?"


Cerastes 1,000 words
The breath of a cerastes induces false prophecy; vision of a future that cannot come true.

Bonehouse

Renovations kept the foyer from being open to the public. Guests were permitted to access the parlor through a set of steps that led from the patio of the garden, but only upon the exception that they never cross the sagging threshold dressed in cautionary tapes and look into the unlit cavern that was the center of the Kerata House. The front entrance remained unopened throughout the winter, its great solemn doors sealed shut. Spring had begun to thaw out the frost and with its warm breezes hinting of mountain summertimes heat the arboreal array of growth that stretched around the Kerata House.

Visitors like Sarah Einfeld, a traveler fresh out of school who pursued the remotest connections to herpetology wherever she went, found the sprawling garden scenes spread at the feet of the Kerata grounds refreshing. The forests ran away in every possible direction from the blanketed walls of moss outside the old Kerata House.

The Kerata family had deteriorated long before their home was relinquished to the public. Its historical significance to the area paired with the affluence of the family name allowed the house to grow popular as a vacation spot and educational landmark. The plaques dedicated to the heritage of the Kerata portrayed their line as being a reserved, scientific clan, who embraced intellectual thinking and strove to understand the obscure. Their affinity for snakes brought members of their family distinction among taxonomists and scientists in the contemporary age of their long lineage.

Sarah was out on the west sunroom, an orange common area with sparse furnishings and tall windows spanning the whole length of the house's side, around mid-afternoon when she encountered Mr. Dunsperry, the anthropologist. Olmen Dunsperry’s interest in historic homes and the psychology of myth caused him to often invent narratives to act as answers to the questions he posed to himself about the symbolic meanings of myths and their relevance to the development of genealogical trees. The Kerata line, with its inseparable connection to the spineless snake, from the primordia of the medieval to the modern, fascinated Dunsperry.

"'Mythological,'" the old gentleman said to Sarah. "The world is canonized, and its unknown, unexplained elements are considered against what is thought of as certain. The natural superstition is supplied a logic that answers the locus of the theory presented and that rational becomes 'mytho-logical.'" Mr. Dunsperry indicated the Kerata coat-of-arms etched into the interior wall of the room, nearest to the roped-off entryway to the antechamber and, further away, the center of the house.

"Haven't you ever wondered what's down there?" Sarah asked, her eyes never leaving the entangled mess of endless coils that was the cerastes-in-cerastes, the two horned worms ceaselessly bending their spineless selves into each other's scales. The dark loomed around the embellishment’s frame, the garnets embedded in the eyeholes glowering in the flickering of the fading sunlight.
"I'd be careful about following that line of thinking down to its tail end," Mr. Dunsperry warned, clutching his black-leather cane with a crooked, snarled grip. There was a double-perforated slice on the scarred knuckle of his index finger that was still purple from envenomation long ago.

That evening, Sarah found she could not keep away from the space between the parlor and the antechamber that preceded the main hall of the house. It was while she considered the enduring, spiteful gleam of the ouroboric skein that she noticed a regal piece of furniture exhumed from the innermost sanctum of the home by a construction party.

The chest of drawers sprung open at the lightest touch of the copper handles. The dresser rolled open on creaking hinges that echoed along the walls and bounced back threateningly from the concrete foundation that blocked the way into the main hall at the end of the room. Sarah peered inside and saw the skeleton of a horned viper, literally Cerastes cerastes, partially preserved on parchment. The eyeholes of the skull were sunken and smashed, but the spine ran in succession from the nape to the tailbone without interruption. She couldn't help but marvel at the condition of the specimen. She became absorbed in the precarious placement of the individual bones, each arranged masterfully by a pair of careful hands.

The slamming of the parlor door shocked Sarah out of her wits. Her heart dropped into the cage of her diaphragm and pressed against her spine as her eyes spun in the fresh darkness. She hissed, trying to catch her breath as she felt for the handles of the dresser. Her fingers touched what felt like bone, but when she reached out to stroke the spine she felt instead a hard, cemented relief. She traced her fingertips along the wall and discovered that the feeling of bone spread all the way as far as she could reach in either direction.

From within the black chamber came a chilling sensation that crept along Sarah's skin, forming goosebumps underneath her hair. The rushing of air into an unseen recess and then back down the corridor to where Sarah stood created a sibilant breathing, and from that exhalation came words: "From dust we come and to dirt we go. Bone is the only truth any living thing must know."

Then came an illumination, revealing the hard work of the Kerata renovators: every piece of the main hall was fitted with serpentine skeletons. Sarah saw the walls embroidered with jagged bits of snake fossil behind a mosaic of inky marble. Snake teeth adorned the light fixtures, the great chandelier ornamented with every snake head Sarah could have imagined. The furniture was wrought from dried-up snake skins. And there, stretching down the hall, was the spine of a serpent bigger than Sarah or Mr. Dunsperry or anyone had ever dreamed, forming the hallway that led to the atrium. And the visage of the massive, living Cerastes curled around itself inside the court stared back at Sarah. The eyes seemed to smile, a liar's smile that beguiled unwary prey before strangulation.

"The end is inevitably in all parts present at the beginning."

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