Here’s another old piece. A rare, finished story, written from a prompt during an acting workshop I briefly attended (The tree was standing tall, but leaves were falling. A girl was enjoying herself under the shade. I saw a boy approaching towards a snake. Suddenly, with a log, he tried to strike …) Jan, 2017
The tree was standing tall, but leaves were falling. A girl was enjoying herself under the shade. I saw a boy approaching towards a snake. Suddenly, with a log, he tried to strike the cobra. He missed! Instantly, the cobra turned towards him and reared its hood, hissing viciously. He stood still as a stone, paralyzed by fear. I took an abortive step forward, but it was too late. With a cry of pain, he fell to the ground. The cobra slithered away. The girl and I shrieked at the same time and rushed towards him.
The boy had lost consciousness. There were puncture marks on his leg, but no blood. The girl had his head on her lap and was weeping hysterically. I had heard that snake bite victims had to be treated within two hours or the wound could be fatal. I also vaguely remembered reading something about a tourniquet. Apart from that, my snake-related knowledge was frustratingly sparse.
“Pull yourself together,” I commanded, sharply. “We have to get him to a hospital immediately.”
The girl’s breath caught on a sob. “W-w-we d-d-don’t have a v-v-vehicle.”
I held my cell phone up against the sky and squinted at it. There were no bars.
“Do you have a phone?”
There were no bars on hers, either.
We were three hours from the nearest town and at least as much from the nearest hospital. We had trekked into a forest in the Western Ghats with a tour guide. Although we were a large group of more than twenty, we had gradually dispersed. With an hour or so to sunset, I stopped at a tranquil spot near a magnificent tree with strong, ancient boughs. If I’d paid more attention in biology, I’d have known its name. I settled on a large rock a safe distance from the tree (who knew what creatures nestled in its depths?) and, thinking scattered thoughts about school, biology and creatures, dozed off. Waking up intermittently, I saw that a young couple had joined me. I watched them, wondering languidly if I’d ever been that young. The girl said something to the boy and he wandered off. I dozed off again, and when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a snake and a boy with a log.
“Are you from here?”
The girl, having calmed down a little but still emitting tiny sobs, replied that she was.
“And are snake bites common here?”
She seemed to remember something and her sobs picked up in frequency and volume again.
Alarmed, I changed tack.
“Just keep an eye on his breathing while I check to see if there’s anything about snake bites in here.”
I retrieved the pamphlet we’d received before starting out and scanned the pages. I hoped we’d find something, because my tourniquet idea was suspect. I suddenly remembered where I’d read about tourniquets: an adventure novel in which the victim’s sister ties a tourniquet around her brother’s big toe (the site of injury), cleans the wound with a knife, and then sucks the poison out with her mouth after making sure that there are no cuts or sores in her mouth. I shuddered.
“Nothing here except ‘Call an Ambulance,” I said, throwing the pamphlet to the ground in disgust.
My companions were nowhere to be seen. The girl had ceased crying and was now staring ahead blindly. The boy was still unconscious and barely breathing. The sun had set and it wouldn’t be long before it was completely dark. Who knew what we’d face then?
I knelt down and gently took the girl by her shoulders.
“Listen, I know you’re upset and scared. But you need to keep it together for his sake. What do they do here when a snake bites someone?”
She looked at me and the haze seemed to clear a little from her eyes.
“We have to make sure his leg is still.”
There didn’t seem to be much danger of it moving with the boy still passed out. Still, we tore a strip off the girl’s sari and fastened his leg to the tree.
“Ok, what else?”
“We could tie a band around his leg above the wound, but then if we don’t get him help in time-”
She paused here as if the rest was too hideous to say and stroked the boy’s fine black hair, defiantly healthy.
“He could lose the leg,” she whispered.
I looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes had already passed.
“Alright,” I said briskly, “here’s what we’ll do. I’ll keep him as is and monitor his breathing. You try to get back to town as fast as you can, and hopefully you’ll meet someone on the way who can help. In the meanwhile, I’ll have to tie the tourniquet. I don’t know how long it will be before we can get help, and better his limb than his life.”
The girl took a shaky breath and nodded. She looked better now that we had a plan of action. I kept my reservations to myself. If the cobra or something else returned, of what use would I be, with my rheumatic limbs and slowing reflexes? And I had my doubts that the girl could get to town and back in the dark in time to be of any use.
No point in thinking about that now.
I used a towel from my bag to tie a tight band around the boy’s leg. I set his head on my lap, as it had been on his sister’s. It occurred to me that I didn’t even know his name. Poor kid. The moon was full and vigorous, in mockery, but the stars twinkled in sympathy.
Then I waited.
After one of the most harrowing hours of my life had passed, in which I’d prayed, begged, supplicated, raged and strained my eyes in increasing paranoia, I saw some figures approaching.
I’ve never felt as relieved in my life as when I saw that the girl was among them. I was fairly weak with it. No doubt, if I’d been standing, my knees would have given way.
The girl ran ahead and put her fingers to the boy’s throat.
“He’s still breathing,” I said, quickly.
The men behind her were carrying a stretcher and came up soon after. They hoisted him onto it and hurried towards the waiting ambulance.
I wasn’t going to hold back now.
The girl and I both got into the ambulance with the boy.
“I think he’ll be just fine,” said the nurse, kindly. She examined the snake bite and slowly loosened the band.
“There’s no venom in the bite. It’s just shock. He’ll be completely fine by tomorrow.”
Note: I looked it up to make sure, and I based this off of what is called a “dry bite,” in which no venom is injected. I do my research!