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The Snake

human brain in a jar

Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

He didn’t want to. He never did. He had to, regardless of what he wanted. It was like something else took over his body when he wasn’t looking. It was sneaky, elusive. He could feel it in there, just behind his ribcage. Slithering around like a bad dream after you wake up. He cries after every time it makes him do it. He holds each and every little body close to him as if trying to make it all better. He never can, though. They were so little, so easy to break. He couldn’t remember how many tiny garbage bags he buried. Maybe hundreds. Every time he dumps one he tries hiding it less and less, just praying that someone will find it. Lock him up forever. Maybe even kill him. Just to stop him. No one ever has. So, there they still are rotting under a couple inches of dirt. Forever mysteries.

He can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there. He imagined the day he was born, it was born with him. Maybe he absorbed a twin in the womb. The twin who never got to live. Whatever it is, it’s angry. Whenever it crawls from his chest to his throat he can only feel fire. Hot red flashes in his mind. It’s overpowering. He can’t see. He wants to vomit it all out, spraying it all over the sidewalk so he can see it’s ugliness. He tried once, but it just gave him a headache. It goes from his throat to behind his eyes. The pressure of it. He can hardly take it. It’s going to push his eyes out and plop them on his lap. He screams. But someone else screams with him. Who is it? He can feel something on his hands. It’s hot and wet. Maybe he did vomit. The snake slithers into the back of his skull, resting on the top of his neck. Sedated. Drowsy. The pressure stops. The red slowly trickles away. He can see. He feels sick. Tufts of hair lay across his lap. Light and wispy, it caught the light and sparkled. He followed it. A head, turned away. He can’t see who it is. He turned it towards him. It rolled.

Another garbage bag. Dumped. Please someone find it. He even switched colors. He normally buys black, but this one is white. It stands out against the dark soil. You can see it poking out from among the earth. Reaching out. He never knows who they are. He normally doesn’t even remember doing it, just the aftermath. The snake only stays for the fun, leaving him to do the boring parts. The clean-up. It slithers away for a mid-day nap. “I’ll awaken once it’s done,” it says. He couldn’t find the rest of the body. When he came to he only had her head. This one was a bit older than usual, maybe even in high school.

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He’s already tried making himself his last victim. He slit his wrists with a rusty lid he found in the trash. It was ironic, of all his victims he stabbed and slit, he didn’t slit his deep enough. The evil took over after that. He woke up to his arms red and burned. He had used pliers to cauterize his own veins. Heated them using the flame from his gas stove. He hates himself. He hates what’s inside him. He is a puppet to his own body. He’s not even master to his own game. He looks in the mirror and only sees a dark mass swirling around where his face should be.
He’s learned to act normal. He thinks he does a pretty good job. He has a normal job, with a normal apartment. He has normal parents. For people who birthed something so vile, they actually did a pretty good job raising him. They taught him what they were supposed to. Share. Be kind. Work hard. They just forgot about the other thing they created with him. He talks enough to seem friendly, but doesn’t stick around to make them last. That’s what he wants. No friends. Let them think he’s closeted, or socially inept, even traumatized. He doesn’t care. As long as they stay away. He knows it doesn’t have a preference. It will take who is available. Normally, children. Those brave enough to wander away from their parents. Exploring the big world, trying to make something of themselves. Occasionally a small adult. Whoever he can overpower. Ripped away. Gone. The evil doesn’t give them a fighting chance. It laughs in their face and spits, reminding them of how weak they are. Life is never guaranteed. “You thought you were doing so well,” it sneers. “All for nothing.” Then, just like that, the light washes away. Most people think its quick. It’s not. You can see the energy trying to stay, so desperately trying to hold on to its vessel. “Who needs it more?” The body taunts. “The brain or the organs?” For something that holds so much blood, so much life, it’s never enough. Eventually, the energy gives up. Beaten. Exhausted. It puddles at the bottom of their feet. Stagnating. Then it’s all over.

He kicks away a few tendrils of dirt, exposing the white bag even more. Someone find it. Please. How could someone not notice it. He turns to leave. “Nice try.” The snake hisses. “Cover it up better.” Her hair flies around in his mind as he returns the dirt back on top of her. It was matted with blood. He did a sloppy job. Hacking at the spine is the hardest part. It makes him sick when he thinks about it. The vibrations from the knife travels up to his lips. A kiss from death.

He showered her blood off. Dripping off him and swirling at his feet. Waving one last time before draining away forever. How long will it be before the snake awakens? It was in his stomach now, outstretched in his pelvis. Comfortable. He could feel it’s weight pulling him down closer to the floor. Please stay asleep.

He went to the doctor once. Convinced he had a parasite, maybe even a tumor. He ordered blood work, scans, x-rays, even tried to get them to open him up. They refused whenever everything came back normal. He saw the scans himself. He was empty. Where was it? He can feel it inside him. He knows it’s there. Does everyone have it? Maybe his is bad. Expired. Rotten. He tried emetics, laxatives, anything he could buy at a drugstore. He purged. It had to come out. It gripped him tighter. He overdosed on Tylenol. On purpose. The hospital pumped his stomach. When he woke up he felt hollow. He was ecstatic. They sucked it out. Finally, it was just him. When he left the hospital it sucker punched him in the liver. “Stupid boy,” it giggled, “you can’t get rid of me.”

Tiny bones cracked and popped. It doesn’t take much. Joints make it easier. To a normal person, it would be like eating crab legs. You have to twist the joint to get to the meat. A little awkward at first, but not hard. It’s like that. Except, he never eats them. He just folds them so they fit in smaller places. He cries while working but he never means to. He can feel the tears slipping off him. At least he can give them that. “The other half of me is good, I promise.” He tries to convince their little selves. They can’t hear him, of course. They’re already stiff at that point. He’s touched more cold skin than warm. When he shakes a coworkers hand it shocks him at how hot and swollen it is. Filled with life.

It’s awake, and it’s screaming. He’s crouched behind a dumpster. “Please don’t make me do this.” He pleads with it. “I can’t do this again.”

“Weak. Pathetic. Worthless.” Each word a bite to his lungs. The jolt doubled him over. He couldn’t breathe. “DO IT NOW.” He lunged. A runner just passing through. She was too surprised to even scream. Just a little gush of air when he slammed her into the ground. The hand holding the knife wasn’t his. He was just watching. Some jabs got her in the muscle, it was silent, smooth, effortless. Some hit tiny pieces of her ribs, scraping as it slid in between them and into her chest. He had got her in the trachea at some point, but he didn’t know when. It must’ve been towards the beginning because he never remembers hearing her scream. All that she could do was bubble. Awful, wet sounds came out of her like when a drain that has been clogged for too long is finally freed. He doesn’t even feel his arm moving. It’s moving so fast. It’s frenzied, manic. She’s flopping around on the ground. Irreversible wounds, yet still trying to survive. Trying to extend each precious second of life she has. Crazed sounds come out of him. High-pitched huffs. It doesn’t care how innocent she was, or how undeserving of death. It just wants more. As if the massacre of stabbings wasn’t enough, the snake glides it’s body around his hand, showing him the way. He lingers over her face, he knows it delights in seeing her pleading eyes. He turned the knife almost completely sideways, swimming it to one of her brown eyes. One little flick was all it took. An eye only connected to her face by the tangle of nerves flopped against her face dejectedly. Hung there, lightly grazing her cheekbone. “Do it again.” The snake flirted, plump with content. Flick. “I want them. Let’s take them home with us.” A couple more snips and he held them in his hand like avocado pits. They were hot, wet, mushy. He wanted to vomit. He tucked them into his jacket pocket as he gathered what remained of her body and stuffed her into a suitcase he had found in the dumpster. It was like it was waiting for him. He only had to cut off her feet to make her fit perfectly. It wasn’t natural. Some people fall asleep in a form similar to this—curled up in fetal position. But this would probably tear ligaments if she wasn’t already dead. All he had to do was throw the previously-empty case back into the dumpster. Done.

He could feel the eyes pressing against him as he walked back home. The snake cuddled up close to them, pressing against his chest. He had taken prizes before, but they were normally never so organic. Maybe a few strands of hair, a piece of jewelry, an ID. What was he even going to do with them? He might have an empty pickle jar in his fridge somewhere. The snake purred to them. Caressing the inside of his ribs–trying to touch them. He had to check periodically to make sure he wasn’t staining his clothes. Is this what being a woman is like?

Constantly checking to see if the blood leaked through. Paranoid that other people could see what he was hiding, he hunched his shoulders. Creating more space for the eyes to fall into. He practically ran into his building, not even bothering to greet the regular lobby loiterers. He’ll tell them it was food poisoning from the kebab stand down the block.

Sploot. It was a cute little sound for something so disturbing. He had washed out a nearly-empty jar of mayonnaise and filled it with water. He almost giggled when he dropped the eyes in. Such an innocent little noise. If someone was listening at his door they might’ve assumed he was putting ice in a cup of water. He screwed the lid back on and hid it behind a bag of frozen vegetable medley he was never going to eat in his freezer. They’ll stay there until the snake forgets about them and then he can thaw it out and dump it in the garbage disposal when he’s doing the dishes. It’ll never know, it mostly tunes out when he’s doing normal, boring things. Right now it was swimming lazily in his bowels, too relaxed to control him but also not relaxed enough to let him be on his own. Reminding him that it was still there. A warning.

He headed to the shower. He regularly had to bleach his tub, blood leaves a faint pink hue to his cheap plastic interior. If maintenance came in they might recognize it, and the snake wouldn’t allow that to be a possibility. Hot water quickly turned to steam in his small bathroom. He was glad it covered the mirror, even though if he tried to look he couldn’t see his own features. He can in photographs, though. He remembers how jarring it was to finally see his own face. It was a family picture from when he was in high school. A barbecue. He had a thin nose, but nostrils that flared out rebelliously. Hooded lids that tried to cover his eyes, trying to hide the world from seeing the evil within. Pale cheeks. Cheekbones that stood out enough to make him average, but not enough to make him seem attractive. He was fine with that. He would probably kill his date if he ever went on one. He felt the water pour over him, loosening up the blood that had dried on his skin. He didn’t have a lot on him, mostly just on his hands. He always shoves them in his pockets, though. No one would be suspicious this time. He looked down at his feet. The runner waved one last time before she disappeared down the drain.

It’s normally a waiting game at night. Him, laying awkwardly in his bed, staring at the ceiling. Waiting on the snake to slither to it’s normal spot on his spine so he can sleep. He can’t sleep if its anywhere else, its too uncomfortable. The snake knows this and uses it against him. Some nights he won’t sleep at all. The snake will make laps inside him. Crawling up to his forehead, then back down to his guts. Swishing around his insides just enough to make him feel nauseous, but not so much that he vomits. Luckily, the snake was satiated by today’s achievement that he did not toy with him and assumed his spot on his spine, right underneath his left kidney. Soon, he was able to sleep.

“Wake.” He sat up. Something stirred it in the night. “Let me see them.” It wanted the eyes. He blinked to shoo the sleep away as he swung out of bed. A few steps was all it took. The door let frost escape into the air. There they were. He swiped a hand over the jar to reveal the eyes from the chill that had gathered overnight. The water was almost completely frozen through. The eyes stared back at him. The snake cooed. One eye slanted downwards, if they were still in her head she would have a lazy eye. Most of the miniscule vessels in her eyes had burst open at this point, leaving nothing of the whites of her eyes. He was revolted. The runner could see him. She could see his average apartment, with his average life. She demanded to know why he was allowed to have this but her apartment was now empty. Will always be empty. Just like the holes in her face. Empty. He could hear her voice inside his head. He screamed and dropped the jar onto the ground. The snake hissed.

“Pick it up, you idiot.”

“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this.” He gripped at his own eyes, trying to squeeze them shut hard enough to block out the horrors of what he had done. His voice was low, a frantic whisper. One octave away from being hysterical. The snake curled at his throat violently.

“You are nothing without me. Pathetic. Weak.”

“Please, just leave me alone. I can’t do this anymore.” He still had his eyes shut as he made his way to the drawers, tripping over the jar. He just needed anything. Something. The snake lunged.

“WEAK.” The scream knocked around in his head. He gagged. Trying to throw the snake from his body. Regurgitate him onto the tile floor. He stuck two fingers down his throat as he tried to force the convulsions. “Stupid boy, you tried this already.” The snake laughed. He knew it was right. He still refused to open his eyes. He threw his hands around him, feeling for the drawer. The snake knew what he was doing. It laughed even more. Cruelly. “You coward, you couldn’t even do that without my help. You didn’t cut deep enough.” He found it. He felt the cold steel against his hand. No matter what, he thought, just keep slicing. Don’t stop, because maybe one will be deep enough. He could feel the laughter behind his eyes now, the snake wanted a front row seat.

“WEAK.”

He sliced. He felt his skin come apart. Felt the cold air against his insides that had always been insulated.

“COWARD.” He sliced more. Maniacally. He didn’t even open his eyes to see where the blade would land. He just kept doing it. Each contact with the blade ripped him open more and more. The snake got quieter and quieter. He could still hear the laughter, but it was moving. Where was the snake going? It wasn’t until he hit bone and the knife bounced back that he realized: it was draining away. The evil was washing out of him. Dripping out of the veins he had ripped open. The snake was weak, faint. He could barely hear it now. It was sliding out of him onto the floor. Pooling there, staring up at him. He was the one to laugh now. “I won.” He yelled. The snake didn’t answer. The room was growing darker. He felt heavier. He stumbled onto the couch.

Finally, staining something with blood that wasn’t someone else’s. His own. He watched ripples of his blood escape onto the carpet. He smiled. “I finally won.”