The main character is (very) loosely based on a friend. I should probably tell him this sometime…

On a belichened rock not so far from a shallow-mirror pool, a snake lay dying. Stretched out on its side, head lolling, its jaws permanently dislocated and gaping in its effort to draw air.
He prodded it with one long finger; it responded with a flick of its twice-forked tongue and a lazy hiss. Its death-baby-rattle shook once, a warning to the inquisitive that, though dying, here still lay danger.
He moved closer, and prodded it again. Curiosity lit liquid blue eyes and he giggled, reached out a tendrilled hand to break this meal’s outstretched neck.
The snake’s head snapped up, a sudden miracle-revival, snatched from the doors-of. It reared up on four long legs whose knees bent far above its head before descending and ending in sharp toe-points, like some ballet-spider-grotesque. What followed was far removed from the lazy hiss of seconds ago – if it had owned a voice, what followed would have been a roar.
It advanced swiftly; he leaped up from his crouch and staggered backwards, too quick, losing his balance. One foot came down on the surface of the pool and some hitherto obscure current sucked him down.
The world became a noisy, bubbling and delayed affair and he wondered dimly, as he dropped and the water-air grew dark, where all this new depth had been before.
His plummet slowed, stabilised and then ceased, and he hung in the clear suspension as small damp creatures went their unconcerned way about him.
One, a fish, built like a sideways triangle and striped like two-tone grass, stopped in front of his face and backed water. It opened its mouth and what should be rights have been a tongue slowly emerged, but its shape was more unexpected.
The minute camel’s head blinked solemnly at him and opened its own mouth.
“You shouldn’t be so down here, friend,” it said, and at once the boy began to ascend, and the world got lighter and became air again.
As he broke the skin of the water and choked and coughed and spluttered ’til the tears streamed from every hole in his head, the question of whether the voice that had spoken to him had belonged to the fish or the camel (and whether, really, there was any difference) was knocked from his skull.


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