9

Time seemed to crawl by. At first, the only noise to reach his ears was his own heartbeat. And then came the faint click of cooling metal as twisted car parts started to settle into their forced positions. Next came the sound of harsh wind whipping through the wreckage, a precursor to the dark clouds that hovered in the distance. Then finally the screams reached his ears; screams of intermittent tones that seemed to be smashed together in an impossible way. Sight came next, in snatches and snapshots that blinked in and out of existence; the cold, wet pavement, slick with car fluids; the old, flickering street lamp that cast a yellow light on the scene; the red blood that oozed out into his field of vision. For a few moments, people dashed into view and then they were gone in a flash of red and blue.

John found it hard to breathe; something was in the way, obstructing his lungs from expanding. Was it something physical that was holding his chest in this vice? Was it panic? He couldn't breath. His lungs wouldn't inflate.

No air.

~*~

John's eyes snapped open. There were tree's above him; crowding in on each other, fighting for the limited canopy space. The forest was ancient. Stringy moss hung off the branches. The air was still and warm. Moonlight filtered through the leaves and fog, casting an eerie greenish blue glow on the scene. A thick soft loam covered the ground, muffling the sound of footsteps. The air seemed to drone with a sleepy peacefulness yet a dark, unfriendly undertone hung in the ambiance.

John stepped forward with tentative, soundless steps. Confusion picked at the edge of his mind but stayed there, on the edge, as if being held back by something else. Trepidation crept into his body and he tensed. Something was wrong… The snap of a twig sent him whirling around and dropping into a crouch.

The bushes in front of him parted slightly yet nothing came forward.

His breathing grew rapid and everything screamed for him to run but his feet refused to move. He felt like he was stuck in a poorly made thriller movie. Finally, something emerged from the foliage. The long, thick, black body of a snake glided through the underbrush and into the clearing. It was freakishly long and nearly as bulky as a weightlifter's arm. The giant reptile stopped just short of reaching him and reared up, easily matching his height, a hood of black scaly skin stretched out around its head. The stench of death rolled off the creature in sickening waves. It hissed at him, revealing a mouth full of needlelike teeth. Its red eyes bored into his own, freezing him to the spot.

Things started flooding his mind; thoughts, memories, snapshots of his life. They came hard and fast. It was almost as if he were having a near-death experience. For a moment, it scared him; was he near death? But then he started to notice a pattern to the memories. John and his buddy 'joy riding' in their principle's car; John lying to the annoying nerd in college; John messing around with Wicca in his best friends basement; John inviting that woman into his apartment ; John inviting the other woman into his apartment the next day…so on and so forth.

What the—

The serpent began to sway back and forth like a cobra in a snake charmer's basket. Then it chuckled, actually chuckled. A deep, sinister chuckle accompanied by a thin toothy smile.

John shuddered. "Go away!" He shouted in a shaky voice. The Snake stopped swaying and cocked its head to one side.

"What's the matter Johnny boy?" It rasped. John blanched. The Snake was talking. Not in a Mr. Ed 'how-now-brown-cow' sort of way but in a creepy Jack Nicholson 'HEEERRRE'S Johnny!' sort of way. The smile grew bigger and the skin stretched tight over the Snake's head.

The air seemed to be electrically charged.

Slowly, methodically, the Snake slid forward and started to circle around John's legs. His lung's started to quiver and it was impossible to take a full breath. The thick mass of the serpentine body slowly continued its upward spiral around John. The deliberate sluggishness of the movements was agonizing. John felt like he was in a vat of ultra thick molasses that was slowly being added to, such was the feeling of pressure that was building up around his legs. Thick molasses that smelled like death and squelched against his legs. It sucked; pun fully intended.

By now, the Snake had wrapped its body up and around John's own, from his legs to his chest, pinning John's arms to his sides. John shook uncontrollably. He made no noise, couldn't make a noise as panic nearly swelled his throat shut. The Snake curled its neck around the back of his neck, laid its head on his shoulder and hissed low in his ear.

"Time to play Johnny. Time to die."

"Wh-wh…why?" John barely forced the pathetic word out of his throat.

"Because." The Snake's voice rumbled. "You owe me."

A thin, flickering tongue toyed with his ear. John shook like a leaf.

The Snake suddenly pulled its body tight. The air whooshed out of John's lungs in a great big gasp.

"You shoulda seen this comin' Johnny." The Snake scolded. "With all the crap you've been pullin', it's high time you and I were joined properly." It rubbed its snout on John's back for a moment the slowly cracked its mouth opened, pushed its jaws over the ridge of his shoulder and then proceeded to imbed its teeth into his flesh.

John screamed.

The Snake only added more pressure to its jaws and continued to pull the coils tighter and tighter. John bucked and twisted his body around, trying to dislodge the serpent but he only succeeded in falling over in an ungainly heap of limbs and snake skin. He was still screaming, his mouth stretched wide enough to the point of tearing the skin. And still, the Snake tightened its hold on him as it laughed mockingly into John's flesh, its greedy jaws not willing to let go to laugh properly.

Something snapped in John's chest, then another something, followed by another. White hot pain flared up and along his nervous system, spreading to all his limbs then doubling back with ferocious energy to swirl around his chest. John's throat squeezed shut, cutting off the screams to replace them with gruntal moans and sobs.

All of his energy had drained out of him and he simply lay in a crumpled mess on the ground as the Snake slowly killed him. It wasn't until that point that he actually saw the child standing at the base of a large tree.

The boy was dressed in a humble white robe, disheveled brown hair hung over his eyes. His eyes, such a deep, radiant blue, the kind that pierced one's soul, gazed at him sadly. Tears welled up in those eyes.

John reached out to the boy with a shaking hand. "Please…please help…me…" He muttered pathetically, not actually expecting the boy to hear him.

That's when the Snake saw him. For one sickening heart beat, the world stilled as the Snake just stared at the child at the base of the tree. John could feel the slight tremor that traveled along its body. The child's gaze remained fixed on John for a moment then the boy closed his eyes and spread his arms wide. His lips were moving rapidly but no noise came out of his mouth. Tears started to fall down his cheeks.

Tension hung in the air between them like a brick.

Then Snake shrieked with joy and its coils instantly loosened as it madly unwound itself. John choked out a cry of pain as the serpent jerked its body away from his own dying form and flung itself towards the boy.

The world slowed to a crawl as the Snake reached the boy.

The child screamed. The serpent struck. There was a sickening wet smack as bones snapped on impact. The child fell to the ground, whimpering and crying out in pain. The snake reared upwards, towering above the fallen boy. It struck repeatedly, tormenting its helpless prey. It rose up once more, a triumphant grin on its face as it threw folds of its body around the boy, trapping him, holding him upright. Then it dove. Its mouth closed over the child's head.

John snapped his eyes shut as he heard the muffled crack of bone. The cries stopped. Hot tears leaked out from under his eyelids. He waited for the serpent to attack him but nothing came. He looked up in time to see the last of its long body disappear into the undergrowth. A sickening blood stain covered the ground.

He lay on the ground for several minutes, listening to his own dying breaths until a new noise filled the heavens. A long loud wail rent the still night air. It rose in volume to consume everything. It was full of anguish and sorrow. It was unearthly and eerie. Several voices seemed to be melded into the main voice in perfect harmony. Perfect, disturbing, deafening, hauntingly beautiful harmony. John moaned. His body seemed to cry out with the voice. Every cell and atom was crying out in misery. Tears flowed out of his eyes on their own as if trying show proper remorse.

John lay there, on the ground, as the voice wailed on. It could have been hours since it all happened, days even, but in John's mind the boy was still there, still dying.

Guilt. It suddenly hit him with brutal force as he realized what just happened. The boy had taken his place. Without hesitation, the boy just stood there and let the snake kill him. It should have been John who should have died. It was his fault the Snake was after anyone at all.

It was raining, the very sky lamenting with the wailing voice. The rain drops plummeted down down down, thudding into his frail skin. Someone had loved the boy very much, John decided. That someone was crying now. And it was his fault.

"I'm sorry…" He muttered to whoever was listening. "I'm so so sorry." He moaned. "I'm SORRY!" He screamed.

"Don't worry Johnny boy." The Snake slithered into view, sending shafts of fear and pain shooting through John's body. "You'll get your chance to die. I wasn't finished with you yet."

The Snake slowly wormed towards him.

John…I love you John. I made you John and I love you…Do you love me?

The voice startled him. It came out of no where and rushed into his mind. The serpent didn't seem to hear the voice; it just continued its conquest.

I love you John. I died because I love you…Do you love me John?

"Who are you?!" John screamed. Now the Snake stopped and stared at him, curious.

"I'm you boy. I'm the monster in the closet." It sneered. John ignored it.

I am that I am. Do you love me? Do you want me to save you? Do you trust me?

John nodded dumbly. He did trust the voice. There was little choice in the matter. The boy appeared in front of him, smiling. John's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. The boy laughed. "My father wants to meet you John." He held out his hand. The Snake screamed. But John was no longer concerned about the Snake. He was focused on the one who loved him.

John tentatively took the boys hand. Instantly he was hurtled into light. Pure white light. All the pain was gone. All the heaviness and sorrow.

I forgive you John.

A great weight was lifted from his shoulders. He gasped as though receiving oxygen for the first time. All the guilt melted away. His eyes were wide with wonder.

Do you love me John?

"Yes! Yes yes yes!!" He cried. A huge smile split his face. "I love you! I LOOOVEE YOU!!" He pumped his fists in the air. A deep rumbling chuckle rippled through the air, making his cells vibrate in pure joy. A lighter, higher pitched giggle followed it and made the hair on his arms stand on end. Pleasure raced through his body at the sound. Deep intense pleasure. He laughed; howled with laughter. Pure joy flowed around him and through him.

I love you John, I love you. I love love love you.

John nearly cried in delight at the words being spoken to him. His maker, the creator of the universe was speaking his name! Elohim, El Elyon, Abhir. The Alpha and the Omega. Yahweh was calling his name.

John jumped into the air and wasn't surprised when he didn't come back down again. He laughed and kicked himself higher. He dove and spun in the air, his soul singing in pure joy and happiness. He thought he might burst with the excitement that bubbled up inside of him.

I love you John. Don't forget me.

"Never! I will never ever forget you! I LOVE YOU!" He spread his arms wide and gave a wild whoop. "I LOVE YOU!

~*~

"He's back, we got him."

John took a deep, shuddering breath. He looked around in confusion. Strange people were working frantically around him, shouting medical jargon and attaching various tubes to his body. John tried to sit up but someone gently pushed him back down.

"Sir, you've been in a car accident, you need to lie still."

An accident? He felt just fine. More than fine. Euphoria was still buzzing through his veins.

What had just happened? Did he just have an encounter with God and the Snake? John's hand wandered up to his bare shoulder. He fingered two small circles of scar tissue that he found there. Those hadn't been there before. A chill crept down his spine. But then he was smiling dumbly.

"Sir?" An EMT was looking curiously at him. "You're going to be ok sir." The woman said awkwardly. John nodded. He already knew that.

He was most certainly ok. He was more than ok. He was great and fantastic and wonderful.

And loved.

Fin.