Maybe in the Next Life...

Translated by Krystyna Steiger, edited by Nicole Powell

Slithering along the beautiful female body, the boa constrictor was trying to do everything right. According to the routine, he was supposed to wrap himself around her waist, poise elegantly on one shoulder, smoothly crawl onto the other, perform a few other feats, and at the end of the number, raise his little yellow head and, ruefully and meaningfully, look out at the audience. Alongside the stage, a tipsy patron tried to touch the girl with the boa, but she’d nimbly take a step back from naughty spectators.

Following their next performance, the boa felt miserable. He couldn’t stand himself in this life. Unfortunately, the life, in which he was satisfied with everything, had ended instantly and tragically.

‘Why on earth did I let her take the wheel?’ thought the boa, adoringly looking at his mistress. ‘She’s still just as beautiful... She got away with a scar on her forehead, which she carefully hides under her hair. For which sins did I end up being long, slithery and yellow?’  

He never expected to see her again, much less imagined that they’d be living together once more.

“You’re my darling,” she said, running her warm hand along his smooth skin, at a complete loss to understand the reason for his melancholy. “Do you want a little mouse?”

The boa sighed. He wanted something else entirely. But what he wanted was beyond his power in this life.

‘What torture it is, to lie beside your beloved woman and be a huge, long boa constrictor!’ he thought, grievously and meaningfully looking into the eyes of the one who’d accidentally killed him. The boa loved to bury his little head under her hair and touch the birthmark on her neck that, for some reason, always embarrassed her. Whereas he, on the contrary, liked it very much.

“It’s so amusing – round and smooth, like an egg,” he’d once joked, kissing it. “Maybe it’s some kind of sign? For instance, that in your past life you were a bird?”

“Not only birds carry eggs – snakes do, too,” she joked in reply.

 ‘Some joke...’ he gloomily thought, staring at the way the girl wiped the sparkles off her body after yet another performance. ‘She’ll never realize that it’s me and that I still love her. It’s a pity I don’t have a birthmark that would carry over from life to life. How absurdly everything turned out,’ deplored the boa, stealing under the blanket.

“Hey, sweetheart, what are you doing in there?” she giggled. “It tickles...”

The next day, it was the same thing all over again. The bright light in the eyes, the waist, the bare shoulders... Their joint routine, so abruptly interrupted in his last life, would have continued in this life too, if HE hadn’t come into the picture.

The boa gave a start; the intruder strongly resembled his own self. The way he was, before. Especially around the eyes.

‘She misses me,’ the boa contentedly thought, scrutinizing his ladylove’s new suitor. ‘Although heightwise, he’s a little shorter,’ he gloated.

“Your boa is looking at me rather oddly,” the guy observed. “As if he were jealous.”

“It’s just that he isn’t used to seeing anyone here besides me,” said the girl with a smile. “But don’t fret, you’ll become friends,” she added, stretching towards him for a kiss.

The young man clasped her face and tenderly pushed her hair back.

“What an interesting birthmark you have on your neck, smooth, like an orange,” he said and kissed it.

The boa felt a stab of jealousy. It was his mark. For him, this mark was like a brand that meant: “This woman is – mine.”

His beloved’s new relationship developed swiftly, and a mere week later, they were living as a trio. Before long they were discussing how she’d do better to leave her job at the nightclub.

‘If she quits her job, she won’t need me anymore,’ the boa concluded and, thinking about that, he grew even gloomier from day to day. He didn’t have a chance to steal under the blanket anymore: his spot was taken. Once, having tried it, he was banished into the neighboring room, where there was a terrarium set up for him.

“Don’t be insulted...” the girl soothingly said, coming into the room to feed and to stroke him.

The boa could see that his rival didn’t like such affections. Once, when the two of them were left alone, the guy walked up very close to him and grabbed him by the neck, as if he were preparing to strangle him.

“You’re the odd man out here, understand? You behave as though you, and not me, were her boyfriend.”

The fellow lifted him by the head and tried to hold on to him. The boa was quite heavy, and they stared into each other’s eyes for all of a few seconds. It was very strange – as though he were looking into his very own eyes, as the man he’d never be again... Having been flung onto the floor, the boa heard:

 “Anyway, you’ll soon be going to live in a zoo. Or a circus.”

They guy abruptly walked out of the room. The boa was beside himself with rage.

‘I could just choke him to death, of course, but after all, she’d never forgive me...’ he reasoned.

A plot began to hatch in his head. He already knew his rival’s precise height; the only thing left now, was to think through the details.

Every evening, the couple splashed around in the bathtub together. The boa knew what they were engaging in there. From the sounds wafting out from behind the door, he could accurately describe the expression on the girl’s face. He’d seen it so many times!

If, previously, he’d tried struggling with his jealousy, it was combined with hatred after yesterday’s incident, and this grim mixture of feelings engulfed him. The man always came out of the bathroom first. Drying off his head, he never looked down at the floor. The boa had it all figured out...

“We’re out of shampoo...” he suddenly heard.

“There’s a new one in my purse, I bought it today.  I’ll bring it in a second.” 

The bathroom door opened, and two wet, bare feet showed up on the floor in the corridor. The boa didn’t have time to slither away. Tripping and flying over her late lover, the girl hit her head, hard, against a heavy statue which, at that moment, lay, for some reason, on the floor...

‘How could I have not considered the fact that everything could go wrong, and that they were the same height?’ lamented the boa, who was being driven somewhere in a special cage. ‘What a hapless fate. How could it have turned out, that we accidentally killed each other?’

In the darkness, he reminisced about the time when they were together: the day he first saw her, dancing, on the stage, how he walked up to her later; he recalled their first date, their first kiss... After what had happened, he despised himself even more.

Now the boa lived in a terrarium in the city zoo. He ignored all the females he was thoughtfully offered for the purpose of mating. He continued to reflect, asking himself questions: ‘And why didn’t I propose to her? And why on earth did I let her get behind the wheel? Why, in my second life, did I continue to think of myself, and not about the happiness of my beloved?’

Years passed. The zoo-keepers had already given up hope that the fussy snake would ever like anyone.

One day, they brought a young female boa into the zoo. She was a gift to the city zoo from another zoo where, for some reason, she happened to be superfluous. The female had the exact same coloring as he. 

“Maybe this time?” said the terrarium workers, exchanging looks.

The boa lay coiled into several rings when, without his permission, they brought yet another female into his cage. Not wanting to get into a conflict right from the start, the boa decided to pretend he was sleeping. The female behaved modestly; she didn’t insist on an immediate acquaintanceship and, quietly, just settled into another corner of the cage.

Several hours passed, before the boa opened his eyes. He was hungry. The mouse, which he was ready to eat, lay alongside the head of his new cellmate. She was soundly sleeping. Trying not to make a sound, the boa slowly drew near and flinched. Slightly below his potential friend’s head, just where a person’s neck would be, there shimmered a small, dark mark, smooth like an orange, resembling an egg.


Copyrights © 2015 — 2022
Hope Silver (Nadezhda Serebrennikova)
Publishers:  Evolved PublishingThurston Howl Publications

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