The Dream of Snakes
Justin Lawrence Daugherty

Here's what Aurelio, the lizard-boy, tells us, here's what we know.

He wakes in the cacti flower bed outside his trailer. Needles in his palms. A tulip gnashed-down in his teeth. A man inside. The newest one. It is still dark. He hears his mother reading the man's fortune through her bedroom window. Early death, pierced lungs, scorpions in the heart. The man riots.

I'm only telling you what there is to tell, the mother says. Only what there is to be told. The lizard-boy stuffs a handful of rocks in his mouth. He garbles the yells.

The man screams for a new, better fate. Aurelio hears the smack, the explosion of hand on skin, the thrash of knuckles on meat.

The night before. The suitor handing Aurelio $10 to sleep outside. Them yellow eyes terrify ya mum, the man says. Plus, I'm fixin'a' shake the earth tonight, he grins.

She's told Aurelio before that she dreams he'll murder her with handfuls of cobras. This dream every night since the lizard-boy's birth. This promised end, this dream of snakes.

Aurelio tells about the sound of the rending of cloth, muffled pleas. Something else, something else, the man chants. Aurelio says he swallows a rock. And another. He presses cactus thorns into his cheek. His tail swivels, whips.

The door opens and the man emerges. Blood on his hands. Sobs like elegies through the window.

You'll tell me somethin' good, won't ya? the man asks. He presses a blood-soaked hand against the lizard-boy's face. Rocks tumble, some down his throat. Tell me, the man says.

And the lizard-boy says nothing as there is nothing to say. He does not tell us the man's name, how the man would shake with fear in time. Nothing of how we pay for our crimes. Naught of retribution, of revenge. He says nothing of the unknown world, what is to come. The lizard-boy does not tell us the man should fear him more than his scorpion fate, how this is true if nothing else is, how a caged thing seeks to be loosed upon the world, how we would all come to fear his name.

Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Omaha and has work in or coming from Hobart, The Collagist, Necessary Fiction and others. A chapbook, WHATEVER DON'T DROWN WILL ALWAYS RISE, is forthcoming from Passenger Side Books.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Bruce McAdam.

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