Girl Guards and Their Snakes

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.   

Girl guards and their snakes.
By Ezra Azra.
Copyright 2023.
It's a warm, sunny day, twelve-to- fourteen hours away from the daily deluge that will bring down temperatures to cool-to-cold for the following eleven-or-so hours.

In a forest, a native girl crouches behind thick foliage in amusement, as she munches on a fruit and keeps her eyes on a man in a clearing at the bottom of the hill.

Her irises shine like polished chrome. Her thick yellow curly hair is untidily bundled up on top of and around her head. She is naked down to her shoeless feet. Her complexion is whiter than ordinary. Her cheeks and lips lightly pink.

She tenses. Stops chewing. Listens intently for a few seconds. She slowly raises herself to stand. Without moving her head, she moves her eyes cautiously to look in the direct of the man. Another native girl suddenly materializes.

The first yelps in shock as she jumps. The second girl grabs hold of her to prevent her from falling. They giggle. The first girl nearly chokes on her mouthful of fruit. The second girl gently thumps her on the back to help.

The second girl could be an identical twin, except she is blacker than the usually blacker-than-night. As black as her skin, is her thick long curly hair which when at times it catches light at special angles, fleetingly reflects a bluish tinge. She wears it in a single plait. She, too, is naked down to her shoeless feet. Her irises are silky green like wet new leaves.

The second girl peers at the man through the leaves and branches. "Ah. Another one." "There are others?" "Suddenly, all over our Market Village. We're keeping close watch on them, from afar. Like you."

"What's so special about him that I have to keep him in sight? Isn't he just another new-comer searching for a place to have us help him build a home?" "That's what the snakes thought at first, about all eighty of them. None of them is native to our Market Village."

"Eighty?" "At least. So far. The snakes detected them first. Ignored the first few, but got alarmed when news came in about them arriving all over the Village at about the same time. That's when the snakes told us."

"Why can't they be just new-comers wanting to stay? Look at him. He's harmless. I was about go make friends with him."

"Has he been making notes about the location of homes, and numbers of native people?" "Could be. I don't know. But, you're right. He does stop at every home and writes in a small book."

"Does he make himself known to the people he is recording in his book?" "Uh, no." She has finished her fruit, and is staring in the direction of the man. "Let's just go ask him."

"No!" Her voice involuntarily increases in loudness. The yellow-haired girl's eyes on the man open wider instantly in startlement. She dives down to a crouch, pulling at the other girl. "He heard us!" The second girl dives down, too. Both crouch motionless for a few seconds. As one, they slowly unbend, peering all the while in the man's direction. The first one whispers.

"Okay. He's not sure what he heard. He's relaxing. I still say let's go ask him."

"No" whispers the other. "If they are up to no good, he will lie, and he will know we are onto them." "No good? Like what no good?"

"Nobody knows, yet. But there are too many of them behaving in the same manner, although they are not in communication with one another. It's like they are working to plan."

"When did they start?" "The snakes think sometime early yesterday just after the nightly storms." "That would be about three in the morning!" "There! See? If they are from the other side of the ravine, they must have entered Market Village under cover of the storms." "In all that lightning and cloud-burst rains?" "Pretty determined, huh?" "Some of them must have died in those storms. Even the snakes take cover from twelve to three in the morning."

"Precisely! Those coming from the north moved south about fifteen miles, and then turned back. The others did the same coming from the south." "So, all of them are on their way back. Like this one." "Yes. So far, the only good sign is all of them are unarmed. If it's mischief they're up to, they can't mean to harm us. Must be some business lands scam they're planning."

She fixes her chrome-coloured irises on the green ones. "Why haven't the snakes alerted me to all this? Seems as if I'm the last to know."

"Because they are like the rest of us. We know how much you don't like being serious. The snakes are to you what you are to them, toys. Forever playing some game in the bushes, up the trees in the rivers and lakes."

"I'm capable of seriousness, too." "Of course, you are, when you don't have a choice. Come on. That's okay. We love you especially for that about you. Things are so naturally dismal in these our Market Village bad lands, we need more like you. Your kind is rare around here. This place needs you more than it needs us. You have a choice right now. Now that you know there is a possibility he is bad, you can get more fun out of tracking him. I have to go, now." They hug lightly and briefly.

"I still say let's take some snakes and frighten the truth out of him."

"And what if they are working with bigger people on the other side of the ravine? We will expose these, but those others will still be there to plan better next time. No. Let this play itself out. Let them think they have succeeded. If, when they get to the ravine, they try to cross back over, that's when we will pounce. We pounce on both sides because if they try to get back, there will be somebody waiting for them across the ravine."

"Uh, will I be included in the pounce?" She avoids eye-contact. The other one looks at her sternly for seconds, and then breaks into a smile. She hugs her, kissing her lightly on the cheek before breaking off. "Whatever you want, baby. You might want to know that all the snakes want in. However long the pounce lasts, there won't be any snake friends available to you for games."

Chrome-coloured eyes glint in joyous excitement. "In that case I have no choice. Count me in."

"Good. Now, instead of babysitting him, why don't you head for the rim where he is headed. Wait for him there." "If I don't follow him, how will I know at which point on the rim he will arrive?" "You're right. I forgot that. The snakes think each one is working about five miles of territory, from the rim to fifteen miles to the centre." "Seventy square miles." "Uh-huh." "Wow! Eighty men that fit? Must have been a lot of training for this." "There you go. They have a plan."

"Okay. But since I found this one on my own, I will follow him by myself. No help from snakes." She looks up and around into the trees. "You hear that? Back off!" The other girl hastily puts her hand over the yellow-haired one's mouth, whispering urgently, "All right! We hear you! You're on your own. Just be extra careful. None of us has ever done this alone."

A few hours later the sun sets suddenly. Unusually, there is no twilight. The stark naked yellow-haired girl is caught off-guard by the onslaught of total darkness. She loses track of her quarry, and is plunged into disorientation. She pauses and is motionless. She slowly peers through foliage in different directions looking for her man. She raises her head slightly and sniffs the air in different directions. She stops. She has detected something of special interest.

She cautiously reaches up and slowly pulls down a branch. From it hangs a cluster-bunch of fruit. In her excitement at the find she forgets to keep her voice at a whisper. "Oo! Guava-grapes!" She plucks a few and stuffs them into her mouth. She raises herself on her toes as she tries to break the bunch from its branch. It's harder than she expects. She lets her exhausted arms fall to her sides.

Someone hugs her violently from the back, pinning her arms to her sides. She instinctively screams but instead of vocal sound emitting, she explodes into a paroxysm of choking on her partially swallowed guava-grapes. Her assailant, the man she has been tracking, instantly lets go of her, bends her over and thumps her on her back. She coughs up bits of fruit; and spits. He steps back.

"Sorry. I didn't expect you to choke. Are you just a little girl? Naked?" "Who are you? You are not a native."

"You are right. I am not a native. I am the one you've been clumsily tracking. With skin so white you were not hard to detect after sunset. Next time rub some dark coloring on yourself if you have to be naked, or wear dark colored clothing."

Sensing he means her no immediate harm, she relaxes a little. She replies without facetiousness.

"Thanks. I'll try to remember that. Who are you?" "Uh-uh. Me first because I caught you. Who are you?" "I live here. You've been skulking around. I have been following you to discover why." "So, my instincts were right. I thought I heard something suspicious back there. That was you, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Now, who are you? Are you going to hurt me? I'm just a little girl, as you have noticed."

"Just? I doubt that. I first detected you by the reflection of sunlight off your eyes. At first I dismissed it as just an animal. But then I remembered being told there are no animals here in these bad lands. Then, when it got dark, your White skin betrayed you."

"All right. All right. You're better at this than I am. But I am just a girl. I don't go around doing this every day. Now, why are you prowling around here?"

"I am not a native. I am a foreigner in this Country. I and others are foreigners who were lured to come with our families to this Country by false promises." "Who made the false promises?"

"The Prime Minister. "We came to this country because we were offered a lot of money to train for this job. They trained us for many days. Paid us and fed us and our families well. We were trained to map out the locations of homes over an area of seventy square miles in two days. At midnight the second day we are to help an army Captain and his soldiers to cross the ravine. We have to guide them to the locations we have mapped." He stops. There is silence for seconds.

She speaks softly. It is not a question. "You are to guide them to murder the families you found." He nods silently. He realizes, in the dark she cannot see his nod. He speaks, haltingly.

"Sorry. I'm sorry. None of us is doing this willingly, but they have our families hostages. Midnight tonight is when they are coming. Go warn as many as you can. It would be easy if there is someone in charge here. Is there?" "I'll tell you later. Come with me." "I must not. I have to meet them tonight, or they will kill my family. If I'm not there, they will murder my family."

"Nobody is going to murder you or your family."

"You're just a girl. Go. Warn your family. Warn as many as you can. I have to go. Oh, by the way, they hate you natives more because they say you are primitive worshippers of snakes." The girl showed surprise as she smilingly replied.

"We do not worship snakes, sir. We are genetic friends, if not of the same species. We haven't worked out yet whether we are like they, or they are like us. At the annual Olympic games here between us and them, the medal count, so far, is always just about equal."

He hurries off. She turns to go in the opposite direction. She pauses. Turns back, leaps up, grabs the branch with the bunch of guava-grapes, pulls down and bites on the stalk of the bunch. The bunch falls into her hand. She lets the branch go.

As she hurries off, she mumbles to herself, "Snakes! Never around when you need one." She pops guava-grapes into her mouth.

It is a moonless raining night. Eighty army Captains are seated in a large assembly room in an army barracks. None of the eighty knows the reason for this assembly.

Five army Generals are seated at the table. Botha stands and addresses the Captains.

"Gentlemen, you have been in commando training for the last four weeks. The special project is one conceived by our esteemed Prime Minister himself long, long ago." He pauses in the spontaneous eruption of hand-clapping and cheering.
"Unknown to you, you have been screened and chosen from over seven hundred candidates. You have been chosen for only one reason. That reason is your hatred of the native snake-worshippers in this country.

Spontaneous eruption of hand-clapping and cheering.

The General walks to stand beside a large map on a wall. On a table is a wood pointer and other objects. He picks up the pointer.

"Pay close attention, gentlemen. You have to memorize everything because there is and will be no written record of any of this." He moves the pointer across the map as he speaks. "This area is about two-hundred miles from East to West, and about thirty from South to North. Only filthy oily indigenous natives live there. In order to save the rest of the country from the diseases natives spread, Mother Nature has insulated the whole six-thousand square miles with a bottomless ravine continuously on three sides." He traces the sides on the map.

Spontaneous audible responses of disgust from the Captains.

"The red lines divide the territory into eighty south-north rectangles, forty along the south margin, and forty along the north. Each rectangle is roughly five miles by fifteen. This yellow line east-west line in the middle, is the fifteen-mile mark. Beginning midnight today, each of you will lead a group of fifty armed soldiers through each rectangle, killing every snake-loving native you find."

Spontaneous eruption of hand-clapping and raucous cheering. By morning tomorrow, all of you and your soldiers will be back here enjoying the most enjoyable breakfast you have ever had."

Spontaneous hand-clapping and cheering.

"You will carry nothing to eat. Each one of you and each one of your soldiers will carry two bottles of water. As you are already aware, in that cursed territory no modern equipment works because of radiation out of the ground. So, you won't have firearms, compasses, phones, vehicles, or flashlights. All of you will be armed with machetes. Like this."

With his hand that is not holding the pointer, he picks up the weapon from the table of objects, and, with a malicious grin, in slow motions, demonstrates chopping and slicing.  Spontaneous sniggers of approval from the assembly.

"Each one of you has a choice of three weapons, one or three, as you prefer." He puts the machete and the pointer back on the table. He picks up a hand axe, and an army dagger. He holds both up to be seen. Spontaneous vocal sounds of awed approval from the assembly. He returns the weapons to the table. He picks up the pointer.

"You already know this six-thousand square miles has violent electric storms every night from about midnight for two-to-three hours. Like clockwork. You will enter the territory under cover of such a storm at midnight tonight. You will commence your killing those filthy snakies during the storm."

He picks up a small black object from the table of objects. He holds it up and turns it around slowly for them to see. It appears to be a tube of toothpaste. "Gentlemen, this is not toothpaste." Laughter and mock groans of disappointment throughout the assembly.

"It is skin coloring. Apply it to your face. It will make you look like a native." Chuckles and, again, mock groans of disgust. "Uh, please apply it before you put your gloves on." He grins. Obnoxiously, they grin in return.

"After you have exterminated the native vermin in those Bad Lands, this great country will have no native problem that has plagued us throughout this great country's existence."

Ebullient outburst of self-congratulatory loud ugly glee from the chosen eighty.

"Now for the bad news." Sudden silence greets this announcement. The General smiles. "Well, only somewhat bad. First, each group of eighty plus, will have as a guide an Imported Foreigner we have especially trained to help us." Scattered vocalizations of puzzlement.

"This just has to be in order to ensure you do the job in as short a time as possible. Without a guide, it won't be easy for you to locate the native homes. Especially because most of the time you will be operating in thunder, lightning, and violently blowing rain.

We found eighty I.F.s, Imported Foreigners, prepared to work for us. to betray their native kind. "Even as I am speaking to you now, those eighty I.F. men are completing two days of secretly mapping locations of native homes you and your soldiers will be visiting. Each one of you and your group of soldiers will be transported at midnight to the ravine. When you are dropped off on this side of the ravine, look for a match-light signal waving at you from the other side of the ravine."

The General strikes a match, and slowly waves it above him.

"That will be your Imported Foreigner guide who will have already rigged a rope bridge by which you will cross the ravine.

"Be extra nice to the I.F.s because when you reach the fifteen-mile limit from which you have to turn around and head back to your drop-off location on the ravine rim, you must kill your I.F."

Ecstatic hand-clapping and throat-eroding cheers.

"Okay, then. That covers it. Any questions?"

A Captain stands. "Sir, from the map, two groups at the fifteen-mile mark, could move east only ten miles instead of going all the way back fifteen miles." General Botha nods, and traces the locations referred to by the Captain. "You're right, Captain. We noticed that, too. But we discovered the thirty-mile south-north wall of the ravine on the native side is a sheer wall, and about three times farther from our side. Impossible to rig a rope ladder." The Captain sits, satisfied with the answer.

"Other questions?" There is none.
"Good. Then, this briefing is over. Thank you."

The standing applause is deafening and prolonged. The General checks his wrist watch.

"Gentlemen, it's 8.44. Trucks outside will transport you to your ravine locations. I'll see you back here for breakfast in about ten-to-twelve hours. Have fun!"

Cheers as they hurry to the doors. Some pause at the table to shake hands with the generals standing around.

About an hour after the soldiers have boarded army trucks on their way to eighty locations on four-hundred miles of Market Village's four-hundred and thirty miles perimeter, the five Generals of the Armed Forces are back in their homes.

They wait to hear the good news that, at last, they will be able to build their nuclear weapons facility on those Bad Lands emptied of all the native inhabitants who are the first inhabitants of the country from many thousands of years ago.

At about midnight, at eighty locations along 400 miles of Market Village's three-sided perimeter of four-hundred and thirty miles, during an early-morning daily storm, the two East-West sections of the ravine became the open graves of four-thousand and eighty soldiers.

Each is the victim of numerous poisonous snakebites on the face. Their death screams are virtually silent in the elementary fury of roaring winds, deafening thunder, and pounding rain. For brief seconds at a time, bright flashes of lightning light up bloody faces contorted in terror as they fall into a bottomless black void.

Within the next few days, eighty families, new to Market Village, are rowed across Blue-serpent lake to begin a life of peaceful contentment among snakes and natives.

Surveying them from a faraway mountain forest, are two naked native girls distractedly struggling in giggling competition with snakes, to reach branches of ripe guava-grapes.

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