Microfiction: A serpent’s tale

Inspired by this very odd painting by Hans Thoma.


Titus was angry. He was not very bright but he knew that he was not meant to be here. Nothing was like the beautiful tepid swamp where he had hatched and learned to hunt. The air was dry and the sun too hot, drying his skin mercilessly until it cracked. They wouldnโ€™t let him in the lake where the white robes floated in their white barques singing their monotonous songs. And he didnโ€™t like the attentions of the small ones that pestered him constantly and tried to feed him flowers. They called him Titus, and even that was not his true name. Green Biter was what his sibling had called him before he chased her away.

Time flowed in a strange way here, night and day rattled past and nothing changed. Except his hunger. That grew and grew with every moment. Where were the giant dragonflies that skimmed the surface of the water, the fish with squirmy legs that hid in the mud, the two-legged lizards that raced away, almost too fast to catch? Here, there was grass and hard earth, a cold lake that was forbidden him, and floating white gowns. And beneath the gowns he smelled something strange, something tempting, a blood that coursed hot and thick.

Was it his fault if he had eaten one of the little ones, the pesterers? They had reproached him though, and taken him to be punished by the white robe that kept them all under her sway, with her tedious strumming that vibrated in the air like dragonfly wings.

Titus narrowed his eyes and flinched from the touch of the little one. He was hungry again and the temptation was growing to drag this one into the green prickly bushes, whatever the consequences. But the strummer was gazing at him and although his anger was no less, he lost all desire to anger her. She was speaking to him, her thoughts sinking into his small brain and making him listen, like it or not.

I have a mission for you, serpent, in a world far from here, she said. You will find plenty of hot-blooded creatures to eat, but you will listen for my orders.

What Titus do? he asked.

Nothing. Not yet. You will be told, when it is time. And remember, your name is no longer Titus. From now on, you will be called Satan.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

31 thoughts on “Microfiction: A serpent’s tale”

  1. Perfect explanation — what better than a lizard to watch, wait, hunger, and snatch — the unwary person, or their unwary soul.
    Nicely weird and twisted take on the picture. And, yeah to lizards where-ever they may be.

    1. That’s what I thought. All that wandering about blindly and the deformed kids who look as though they’d sell their grandmother for a pat on the head from teacher. No wonder Titus looks murderous.

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