In the Snake Pit

Key to staying alive in a snake pit is stillness. People who do it for religion or sport have learned to pare the repertoire of the animated entity down to its basics. They can only allow themselves the motion of breathing. Of seeing: in the snake pit, looking is a luxury.

Now and again someone falls into the snake pit by accident and will be ignorant of the rules of the place. He learns quickly. He learns that he’s more likely to get away with a spasm in the hand than with shifting his weight from one numb leg to the other. This is the case because the snake’s eyesight is average, but it excels at sensing vibrations in the ground. Progress comes easy when every movement is penalized with a bite; the logic of safety in the snake pit is straightforward. Fearful that movement begets aggression and knowing that he is defenceless, the captive sheds everything that’s accessory to life. Character, enthusiasm, ideas, these things are short-lived here. And then, when there’s little left of the human but an immobile husk, the game will be over because you’re boring, my dear, you’re flat and you’re boring, and frankly, I’m more than tired of you. Snakes want live prey.

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