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It had been raining snakeskins for days. The cool air dried them on the parched earth, and the wind sent them floating into the night like paper lanterns. In the morning we found hundreds of them hanging like fragile ribbons from the trees in our yards.
These snakes were imposters, giant pythons from other lands. They were netted in jungles, plucked from nests when no bigger than worms, and sold here as pets. That was neat. That was exotic. But in a matter of months they grew too big for their tanks. They tipped them over with the weight of their bodies—like muscled arms, and found refuge in our murky swamps. They grew fat on deer and our largest gators. But it wasn’t until a single skin the size of a bed sheet was found fluttering from a telephone wire that an official call was made.
The snakes were hunted by canoe and kayak. They were lassoed to the surface of brackish water—their hides punctured with spears, and curled into coolers to stifle the smell. They were dragged back to shore in the dead of night. We lit fires and watched as hundreds of them were tossed into pits, for counting in the morning.
After it was over we carried torches back to the swamp and ringed the water’s edge with light. We pried open rusty beach chairs. There was singing and chanting—the drumming of knees. Someone pointed to Pisces, but clouds crept in and blocked the stars before the rest of us could see. We didn’t care. We stared up at nothing until our eyes ached. It felt like eons ago. When the singing stopped, we told stories—ghostly tales of ancient beasts that crept from oceans on sprouted limbs, in search of something nameless.
Sara C. Thomason holds an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. She was awarded second prize in the 2012 Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest, and she has received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train. This is her first publication.
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