The Snake Downstairs

Nomyezo Mqhele

© Copyright 2023 by Nomyezo Mqhele

Image by JD from Pixabay
Image by JD from Pixabay

I had not been out of the apartment in a week. It might have been the shadow of the Mercury retrograde, or the upcoming solar eclipse, but my energy was at an all-time low and my anxiety was peaking. The dirty laundry was piling up and the clothes that needed drying sat in the laundry basket, funking up the place day by day. The heavy energy was tangible, and something needed to be done. Something had to change.

That morning, I woke up at 5: 30 am and donned my jogging gear. The sun was climbing over the horizon as I hit the road, around the block. I got back from the jog buzzing from the ‘runner’s high’ and decided to clean and clear my space. Dishes done, floors clean and plants watered and dusted.

Now for the laundry. The dirty clothes in the washer and me, on my way to the washing line outside with the freshly rinsed clothes. The sun was shining, and the air felt crisp as I carefully went down the stairs.

As I got downstairs and turned the corner to head to the communal washing line, something popped up on the edge, where the grass meets the pavement; a baby cobra! Or it might have been a fully grown one, but I did not have the luxury to take a longer look. I quickly galloped a wide turn to the washing line, making sure I stayed on the pavement, the grass became lava.

My heart was beating and my skin crawling, I hung those clothes at record- breaking speed, glancing at the direction the serpent might come slithering through.

Once I was done hanging the laundry, I made a quick roundabout dash to the paving opposite the stairs to my apartment, scouting the snake and creating strategies to go back into my apartment.

This is why I do not like leaving the house!”, I think to myself.

And there it was, the creepy little thing. Writhing with its mouth open and hood expanded. I watched as it twirled and twirled its shimmering brown- black skin, each winding movement making my hair stand on end. As I watched the seductive serpent, a curious neighbor approached to question my weird behavior. I frantically told him my story and pointed at the snake as it slithered off towards the fence into the bush.

We have snakes in the complex now, something has to be done”, I say.

I think it just ended up in the wrong place, its going back home now. This is not even a comfortable habitat for them here, too many humans. Don’t worry about it”, he responds.

He was absolutely right. It was odd that the snake was in a residential area, more so with so many humans and their activity going on. Perhaps it found its way from the neighboring farm and hiking trail and all the way downstairs.

We agree on the strangeness, and he manages to calm me down- I pretend to be calm- before I dart up two flights of stairs with my empty basket to my apartment. I got inside and locked the gate AND the door! My heart still racing, and the snake scene playing in my head. I was creeped out and thrown off by the morning. This is not the kind of environment to have snakes! Should I move?

The snake is feared because it is thought to symbolize danger, deceit and violence. We call liars and lawyers snakes. We associate the creatures with low vibrations. The snake is the root of evil, the initiator of the first sin and the cause of humanity’s suffering and downfall according to Christian doctrine. Ophidiophobia is one of the most common phobias and a dream that involves a snake is a terrible nightmare and a bad, evil omen.

Or is it?

The funniest thing about this encounter and my reaction, is that I have a tattoo of a snake on my forearm. A viper slithering on a bed of beautiful, exotic flowers. Apparently, I resonate with the creature, I channel its’ magic, so why fear when it appears? Especially since it did not even seem to have meant harm to me- just popping up for a young gyration in the morning sun.

I made a cup of coffee and stared out my window, at my balcony with my plants and then even further, at the wild forest beyond my gated community. Still shaken up and texting everyone I know to tell them about the morning, flashing back to that snake dance. I thought about what my tattoo means to me, and what this strange occurrence could mean.

Once you look past the negative snake PR, the symbolism these enigmatic creatures have is truly powerful. The snake is a symbol of healing, rebirth and transformation. It reminds us of the impermanence of seasons and the necessity for change.

To evolve and become a better, more beautiful version of ourselves, we must shed the old skin and embrace the new one. We must be willing to leave behind what no longer serves us, and what weighs us down so that we may move forward with a new identity. It might be uncomfortable or even shocking, but it is a necessary process.

After days of being stuck in a rut, I woke up that morning and decided to change my routine. I chose to do something different so that I could improve my mental health, to create positive energy. To feel rejuvenated and energized, the blood rushing through my veins.

I’d like to thank my snake friend, and his snake dance for a jarring but memorable moment. A lesson not only inked on my skin but that is now etched on my memory. A reminder to keep moving, evolving and to reject stagnant energy. Face the thing that fills you with fear.

I thought I would be afraid to step out of the house again, especially in the mornings or in the dark. I’m happy to report that I have been on a two- week running streak and I feel so much stronger and alive.

Nomyezo Mqhele is a human rights lawyer and writer. She enjoys writing short stories and poetry, her favourite themes being afro- futurism, social commentary and social justice. She is also currently working on her first manuscript, a non- fiction book. She is a plant parent and yogi who aspires to become an instructor in a few years.

Contact Nomyezo

(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher