And so it was one day before this, he decided to roam among the trees as he often would in such difficult circumstances. Walking around and over the contents of the dead forest, as it were around this time of year, he stumbled upon a flower. However, this was no ordinary flower. This flower was divine life among an abundance of forsaken foliage. His sun-brightened denim sank in the cold dry leaves as he knelt before the radiant blue blossom. Far beyond the flower’s beauty was his desire to pick it, perhaps, to help soothe the somber situation from which he had escaped momentarily. He carefully clipped the bottom of the stem with his deadly fingernails and held its grace in the air to get a proper look. It had to be perfect. He spun the blossom between his fingers ever so carefully and took in a deep breath of the cool mountain air.
“Maybe I can fix this,” he thought. This flower did bring him a wondrous sense of optimism with its rarity. He turned about, and hunched over the flower, protecting it from anything that it may touch. The trees’ low dead branches loved to pick and snap at the face of any given wanderer. Even through his extensive examination, he could not match the allure of the blue petals to anything he had ever seen before, and he was quite learned in Mother Nature’s children. But, his elation was interrupted, not long after he began his return. A loud hissing from below alerted him of danger made very vivid. He immediately stopped where he stood; knowing that what lie on the leaf-bed was a rattlesnake. Slowly tilting his eyes downward, and then his head, he looked down upon a small, bright, multi-colored serpent. The snake slithered under a stack of leaves and then back to the surface. It eyed him with its little triangular head the entire time he eyed it. It moved closer, twirling and gliding between his feet. Coiled, and ready to strike, it looked up into his eyes once more for a cold, terrifying moment, then back down, and jolted his ankle.
He screamed, and immediately collapsed onto one knee, clamping his leg with a rock-hand. He rolled onto his back, cracking and crunching the deceased sticks and frond. He panted and sighed loudly, leaking warm breath from his lung. It floated visibly in the air before him, giving him a chance to savor the beauty of the swirling cloudy breath, as he knew he would most certainly die. He lay his head down onto the freezing forest floor. The snake stood above him on a large rock, coiled once more, and stared below into him.
Of course, with the dryness of eyes, came the man’s urge to blink, and the closing of his eyes. He opened them to find the lifeless canopy above distorting itself, flickering and shifting like static. There was music too, there, accompanied by a sharp ringing. It sounded beautiful. The music, being quite pleasant, echoed of groovy drumming and crunchy pentatonic guitar scales. He blinked incessantly and stared back into the bright snake as the world melted before him.
The forest became consumed by darkness, with an occasional red or purple streak leaking from the trees. The music quieted and he began to choke and cough on his own saliva. Realizing that he could no longer move his body, or breathe, he panicked.
“Where is my flower?” he heard a deep voice ask politely from behind him. He struggled to speak, but could not, and wrestled himself on the ground.
“Do not try to move… this will only kill you faster.” And so then, he conjured the strength to quit struggling. He sighed, and the snake appeared in his field of vision, moving directly towards him. Its skin was much darker in complexion then, and appeared in a very glossy, semi-shiny coat. It was also much… much larger. The snake pushed its nose into the man’s space, and breathed slowly through its tiny nostrils.
“These are our tests, and as you can see, they are quite effective at weeding out the… non-believers.” Losing oxygen, his eyes began to close. He panted heavily as the snake slowly slipped and danced away from him – as snakes do – into the darkness of the melted forest.
“Goodbye,” the snake said, out of sight then. He closed his eyes for the final time and a bright flash of light struck him almost immediately. He could no longer tell where he was, but it certainly was not the forest. Sometime in an expansion of the everlasting paradigm in which he briefly crossed, his legs became fully extended and his body shifted upright into the standing state. Wherever he was, in that bright land of warm traitors, he sank into its base surface. Attempting to walk, he fell to his hands and knees again, as an infant would – often resorting to crawling – which he did. When he finally opened his sticky tired eyes, he looked below himself to see that he had been placed within an ocean of sand, but this was no desert. The ocean’s concept was certainly not one of transparency, as there was none like it on the face of the earth. The sand rippled as water would, in small waves, crashing here and there. They crashed all about him, sending small clouds of sand-mist into his air, and he constantly coughed inside the unforgiving nature of miniscule crystals. Still on his knees, he looked above to see a wave the likes of which his brain had no capacity to imagine. The enormous column of broken pebbles rolled over its allies directly towards him. It moved slowly, but contact was eminent. Showers of glimmering sand fell from the wave’s crest into the surface below. He looked upon the wave in horror as it came ever so near him, and he closed his eyes. A sudden smacking of gritty sandpaper scraped across his face, and caved his chest inside itself in an instant. Yet he did not die, and he felt every bit of pain that the sand had prepared for him. It threw him around in circles, breaking bones and tearing skin within the tumultuous swell for quite a while, until the sand’s waters became calm again. There he lay, as a pile of organs and bones, loosely held together by a skin coat inside a vast world of dune-matter. Unlike water, however, the sand was not kind enough to leave his semi-lifeless body floating, but instead, swallowed it whole into a pit of dark, wet pain.
“Why are you not listening?” said the snake from inside his head. The man could not speak as he was sucked into the blackened hole, inside of which there was no daylight. Only ricochets of the fire’s reflection remained inside this old land, within which he regained his consciousness and his ability to move. A great fire raged on, bearing lifetimes of suffering upon everything in its path. He could see he was in some sort of city, or town rather, but its inhabitants could do nothing to escape their homes, and they withered and burned. Looking on, his eyes skipped from building to building, apartments, small businesses, large businesses, government buildings; anything that could be found in the average American town. It all burned in the fire, that scorching scarlet beauty that engulfed all that humanity has worked towards. There were no goals anymore, no money, no friendships, and no families; it all died before him in screaming melting pain. All of those goodbyes that had not been said, the unrequited love, the missed celebration, and all of life’s beautiful surprising splendor was cremated. The snake spoke from behind him:
“You see what you have made for yourself, here. Think and it shall be truth.”
He could not do more than stand where he was and look on in shock at the smoldering ruin of community. He knew then what must be done, but it was too late, and the snake had already bitten him. He could not return home, nor live as he saw fit, now, and had no chance to take another path.
“I cannot change man, but I have tried,” the snake said, slithering to the man’s right side. Everything became quiet then, yet the flames still raged on, and the screams and the happy crackle of the hungry blaze persisted. He stood there, still until he felt a snap upon his neck, and his vision went black. The snake had bitten him once more, this time around his neck. His feet twisted from the ground and he fell on his chest and face.
It seemed that years had passed before he awoke, returned to the forest. It was much brighter than he remembered, as he noticed the very second he opened his eyes. He gradually lifted his sore body into a sitting position and rubbed his palms about his body. He knew that he was alive, and gave a sigh of relief before lying back down on the forest floor. Remembering, suddenly that he had been bitten; he raised back up quickly and grabbed his leg. He peered into his ankle; the bites were miraculously gone. Turning around, he saw the snake, tiny again, still sitting coiled on the same rock as it was before. It stared him directly in the eye just before sliding off between the trees. It was right then that he decided he would stand up and walk home.