Just under the blaring heat the snake soaked cool quiet. The desert had been still as stone all morning so she had stretched long and longer for a long lazy time on her way under the sandstone, her vertebrae thrumming one by one from her spine in perfect tune and time like scales on a concertina, the music of her bones singing back through her muscles and guts, making her scales shiver.
She was peaceful under the rock but slept only as every hunter sleeps, half her brain scouting. She put out her tongue in a dream, tasting hot sand and rabbit scat, baking sage.
She drew down tight in the shadow of the rock, scales sliding one under another, bones folding in her flesh. Her intestines contracted, released waste, then contracted tighter. Her pupils expanded. Her tongue went searching, over and over, slipping out and up, out and down, for more.
Then, the uneven pounding. Not so many of them today.
"Well, I want to walk in back of you. So if a snake comes you can yell or push me out of the way,"
"Mom, I've never seen one in fifteen years of hiking out here,"
Then another voice, deeper. The one the snake knew well. Sometimes other voices called him "The Indian guide". Some said "Miguel".
"We got snakes out here. Lotta snakes," said Miguel.
"But-well, my Mom is scared of snakes, so-"
The pounding came to a stop.
"Well," Miguel said, "You better come up one in line, then. You don't wanna be third,"
"See, I'm the guide. So I'm first. The first person wakes the snake up,"
There was a brief silence.
"Then the second person pisses the snake off,"
"Oh, my God,"
"Mom," this voice was laughting, "He's just trying to-"
"Then the third person gets bit," Miguel was near. His feet shifted, grinding in the sand as he looked back and down. The snake watched his eyes dancing over the stones around her. She put out her tongue, tasting the brain-tanned leather of his boots, his stinging soap, the tang of his blood sugar.
"But, it's pretty rare out here. I mean, when was the last time-"
"See these hiking boots? That's why we wear tall boots," said Miguel.
"Should we go back?"
"We're almost to the Eagle's Nest, Mom,"
Miguel's eyes found the snake's. He blinked slowly, licked his lips. He breathed out.
The snake put out her tongue. Coffee, aspirin, tobacco.
They went on.
The snake loosened her coil and slept, but only as a hunter does.
This is a flash fiction piece inspired by a prompt from one of my writing gurus, Chuck Windig. Here's that link. I was also inspired to choose the number 19 from my horror gurus, Drew Daywalt and Joss Whedon.