Living in the Surrey Reptile House wasn’t bad, thought the python as he lay still on his favourite rock. His enclosure was nice and roomy, and it was handsomely appointed with lovely plants and rocks for him to lie on and bask under the bright light of the sunlamps in the ceiling. It even came with its own rock pool for his to have a dip in when the mood took him.
In return, all he had to do was move every once in a while and get stared at by the humans. It took a little while to get used to being stared at for most of the day, but he got used to their stares soon enough. He got fed every day, so he couldn’t complain.
Well, up until these humans came along…
“Make it move,” came the voice of an absolute brat, aged maybe around eleven or twelve. The python didn’t see many of the more irritating children, as they tended to like fluffy things more than scaly things, and didn’t really venture into the reptile house, finding them scary or otherwise unappealing.
A second later, there came half-a-dozen sharp knocks on the plastic partition.
“Move!” said the older voice of the boy’s father, presumably.
No such luck.
The boy then banged his fist a few times off of the partition impatiently.
“MOVE!” he screeched.
The python stayed still.
“He’s asleep!” Now this voice sounded much nicer than the previous two voices; younger, kinder, and, more importantly, showing that brat what a little twat he was being.
The python chanced a small glance towards the source of the noise. Thankfully, his big mop of thick, black hair was strewn over his face, so they couldn’t see his eyes moving.
There were four humans on the other side of the plexiglass: one man, one woman and two boys.
The man was quite rotund, with a flat cap, a big brown coat and a wiry, grey moustache that looked to be made out of old Brillo pads. The woman’s horsey face appeared to be made of straight lines and leather. The eldest of the two boys, like the man, was a bit porky, and was filling out his red argyle jumper.
But the second boy was unlike these other three. He was small and thin, with unkempt hair, round spectacles and a purple-ish plaid shirt that was far too big for him.
“He’s boring,” the fat one said, and left with the large man and the horsey woman, leaving the python alone with the bespectacled one.
“Sorry about him,” he said, looking into the enclosure. “He doesn’t understand what it’s like, lying there day after day, watching people press their ugly faces in on you.”
At this, the python slowly raised himself up on his forearms and fixed his lamp-like yellow eyes on the boy, and winked.
The young lad’s own blue eyes widened considerably.
“Can you hear me?” he asked in a hushed whisper.
Tongue flickering, the green python nodded slowly as the boy continued to talk.
“It’s just… I’ve never talked to a snake before.” The boy hesitated for a second, before carrying on. “Do you, I mean… d’you talk to people often?”
The snake blinked, and shook its head.
“You’re from Burma, aren’t you? Was it nice there? D’you miss your family?”
In response, the python’s slit-pupiled yellow eyes travelled to the left and he flicked his black-haired head in that direction, indicating for the young human to look.
On the far left wall was a white plaque that read:
IRON PYTHON – BRED IN CAPTIVITY
“I see,” said the boy, turning back to look at him. “That’s me, as well. I never knew my parents, either.”
But before the boy could continue on with his outpouring of feelings, the air was shattered by the call of a wild beast.
“Mummy, Dad, come here! You won’t believe what this snake’s doing!”
At once, the round, bratty human boy from before had charged from out of nowhere and arrived in front of the python’s enclosure. Without any inclination towards the notion of safety, he roughly collided with the nice young boy that had been conversing with the serpent, shoulder-barging him so hard that he flew through the air and landed in a heap a few feet away, down and out of the snake’s line of sight.
Meanwhile, the older boy was leaning up against the plastic partition, his hands splayed upon it, almost pressing his nose up to it as he stared down at the snake. His expression was both wondrous and smug, as though he alone had caused the python to move.
That was, until the plexiglass vanished.
In a moment that would completely flummox the staff who would check the security camera footage for many months after it happened, the plastic partition separating the pythons enclosure from the outside world simply ceased to exist.
This was unpleasant news for the rude, rotund boy, whose whole weight, which had been pressing on the partition through his hands, provided him with enough momentum to topple forwards, over the railing and headfirst into the python’s rock pool with a great shout of surprise.
He thrashed about in the water for a few seconds, coughing and spluttering and sending the liquid spraying about everywhere courtesy of his flailing limbs, but, in peril though he was, he quickly ceased his movement…
…because the python was moving.
Moving his great green-and-cream body forwards, the snake slid over the place where the partition used to be, over the railing, first one leg, then the other, and he landed on all fours on the floor, directly at the feet of the younger body, who was still lying where the bigger lad had pushed him over, and who was now, like the aforementioned boy, absolutely frozen with fear due to the python’s presence.
Strangely, this fear did not abate when said python decided to stand up.
The serpent was much bigger standing than he looked when he was prone. His green scales and yellow underbelly glistened under the lights in the corridor of the Reptile House, thanks to the water that the bigger boy’s flailing limbs had cast on him. His slit-pupiled eyes stared at the young human unblinkingly from underneath his great mop of wet black hair, and his mouth was split wide in a large grin, revealing huge fangs.
“Cheers, mate!” it said in, oddly enough, a Scottish accent.
“A-anytime!” the boy managed to stutter out, still looking up at the enormous reptile, who suddenly looked up and towards the door.
In a flash, he was making great strides towards the open door to the Reptile House, apparently taking a great delight in hissing and snapping his jaws at the terrified humans, who ran and scattered before him, with many a screech of “Snaaaake!”
The young boy watched the serpent exit the building to another shrill round of general pandemonium, before slowly getting up and looking over to his cousin who was still soaking wet from his dip in the python enclosure.
What would Uncle Vernon have to say about this?