--------------------------------------------------

Chapter 3

--------------------------------------------------

Jacob awoke in a dank smelly cave. But he wasn't a wolf anymore. He was himself again. He felt himself to make sure: short hair, moustache, casual clothes. He was back to normal. But he distinctly remembered a lifetime of being a wolf. But now it all felt like a dream.

He pushed himself up on his elbows, his head still throbbing. The dark cave echoed with primeval sounds. Water dripped from stalactites, reverberating endlessly down a long corridor. The dead air muted everything: the noise, his breath.

Jacob stood up, carefully balancing himself on the mossy ground. He inched forward to what he hoped was an exit, the telltale draft and the echoes of water being his only landmarks. He heard a soft crunching sound under his shoe. Cautiously, he lifted his foot, seeing if he could tell what he had stepped on. In the darkness, all he could see was a white blob in the middle of his vision. He reached down to feel the ground. It was carpeted by something. He picked it up. It was like a large canvas or something. He ran his fingers across it, feeling the texture.

Impossible! It was skin. A snakeskin, and a very large one at that. It was this skin which was creating the musty smell. Some giant snake must have shed its skin here. But if it sheds here, then that meant…

A terrible fear gripped Jacob as he realized his fate. He was in the lair of some monstrous snake, and he didn't know the way out.

"Hissss!"

The frightening sound behind him confirmed his fear. He turned around to see the vague shape of a snake towering above him in the darkness. He held his head in disbelief, trying not to faint, "No…it can't be. Shala?"

But Shala didn't answer. She had already detected the scent of the human. She could smell him. She could taste him. She lowered her serpentine head to his shoulder, flicking out her forked tongue. Quick as lightning, she struck a gash in his arm with her fangs.

Jacob cried out in pain, his arm burning with an unbelievable ache. He pleaded for his life. "No, Shala. It's me. It's Jacob. Don't you remember? We ran through the portal, and now we are here."

She gazed at him, her monstrous eye filling his vision. She jerked her head away when loud noises interrupted the silence. The sound of many footsteps could be heard stomping throughout the cave. A deafening cacophony of voices filled the air. Lights appeared in the cave as the men grew closer, illuminating the scene. As the men entered the room, Jacob realized that he recognized the man with a short white beard. It was his father Joshua!

Grim determination shown on Joshua's face. He pointed a hunting rifle at the gargantuan snake. "There it is, boys! Take it down."

Jacob held out his hand in defiance. "No, wait!"

But it was too late. The sound of gunfire already filled the cave as half a dozen men unloaded everything they had into the beast. Bullets tore into the serpent's flesh, a mess of blood and tissue raining down upon the people below. The snake crashed into the stone floor, shaking the ground upon impact.

Jacob shook back and forth in a fit of rage. "No…no…this can't be happening. She's dead. Shala is dead."

Joshua scratched his head in confusion, hoisting the rifle across his shoulder. "You even named it? I'll never understand your fascination with these creatures, my boy. But let's get you back to camp. Pretty soon that venom will set in, and you won't be able to tell up from down. But you'll be right as rain in a few days, and ready to finish the safari."

"No. No." Jacob pushed his father away, his head already dizzy from the snake venom. "This can't be happening. This can't be happening…" He passed out, unable to remain on his feet.