I have seen the entrails of a lizard float by on the lachrymose air of Van Diemen’s Land, a perilous pearl of lugubrious luminescence that swooned numinously on the summer breeze; I have seen the pendulous jowls of a lascivious lemur wag discreetly at its mate in the inmost depths of the Malagasy desert; I have seen newts copulating in Borneo, their pupils ecstatically slitted and their livid maws half open in a wild surmise. But this took the biscuit.

Ere I proceed it would be best to disavow any intention of being mawkish or lurid. Sober reportage, reader, is the be all and end all of the present endeavour, and if it strikes you as we proceed that there is anything outlandish in my narrative you may rest assured that it all took place just as I relate it in sober fact. Embellishment is no part of my enterprise. With this admonition I proceed.

She lay spreadeagled on the reed mattress, bare as a twig, with an expression of the utmost felicity on her ruddy visage, gazing gleefully at nothing; and entwined briskly if ponderously round her sprawling limbs was — dare I say it? — a sinuous and majestic specimen of the Andaman Devil Python. I knew it by the lozenge in its crest.

The monster was twenty ells in length if it was a farthing, and muscled and besinewed like nobody’s business. And this slithering beast had wrapped its inexorable coils around the innocent girl’s every limb and aperture, and was in the very act, as I plainly saw, of squeezing the life’s blood out of her.

I whipped out my pistol with a shout; but before I could aim I felt a sudden sting in my right biceps, and as I went weak in the knees I had just time to see the ranee, with a lurid leer in her fevered eye, put aside a little wooden pipe before yielding again to the devilish embraces of the serpentine brute.

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