Rebecca in the Moonlight
Rebecca sat at the window of her second-floor bedroom. Outside the window, an anemic looking yard of rocks, overly expensive gravel, and water conserving plants, looked all the more desolate in the silvery-white light of a full moon. No grass, no hedge, no trees to offer shade from the deadly daytime sun. She’d voted against coming here, but a fourteen-year-old girl had very little sway when it came to the decisions that her parents were making. Intellectually, she knew that it was a good move. Her mom would be nearly doubling her salary and it would be a major move up for her career. And that mattered in a world where women got few enough chances. On a fourteen-year-old girl-in-the-middle-of-the-school-year level, it sucked.
And so did the yard. Even at three in the morning, in the almost dark, without the constant sound of the desert rats storming the dunes in their overpriced toys. And so did the bus ride she would have to take twice a day rather than the short walk she’d left behind. And so did the fact that she was now eight hundred miles farther away from her father. Not that he was a gem, but he did work hard to spoil her now that the visits were more limited.
A slippery movement in the yard brought her attention back to the moment. Something small, long and narrow, was moving in the yard. A snake? A few more seconds and it moved out from the moonshadow of the rock. Sinuous. Nonchalant. Rebecca picked up the small pair of field glasses that she’d unpacked almost before anything else. She’d never before seen a rattlesnake, alive and close. Well, in your own yard counted as close, didn’t it?
Moving stealthily, holding her flip-flops in one hand and the LED flashlight in the other, Rebecca made her way down the steps, through the kitchen, and out the back door. She stopped long enough to put the flip-flops on, the gravel was not kind to bare feet, and crossed the yard to where the snake had been. She found it right away, still long and sinuous, not coiled or looking for a fight.
Stopping well out of range of any strike, she studied it with her light. She counted six buttons on the tail.
“What are you doing here,” Rebecca whispered to the darkness.
Turning to face her, the snake said in a sibilant whisper, “I belong here.”
Of the many things that Rebecca might have expected to find in this new, desiccated universe, a talking snake would not have made the list. Not believing it had been the snake–who would?–she looked all around, playing the light into the shadowed corners where the house changed angles. Nothing. No one.
“Snakes don’t talk,” she said into the early morning.
“You’re right,” the snake replied.
“Except for you.” The snake did not reply to that. “Why?”
“Just to mess with you,” the snake said, opening its mouth in what would never be mistaken for a smile.
“Snakes don’t talk. Ipso facto (Rebecca really liked that phrase), this has to be a dream.”
“Come a little closer and find out for sure,” the snake whispered.
John Markestad is a returning adult auditing the course. He is semi-retired, lives near Portage with his wife and best friend of 52 years, and has authored nine scifi novels.
Jeff Weiland graduated from UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County in the 1980's and has always enjoyed photography.