Colin Hinckley '14
Near the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, a viper rests on a rock, bathing in the cold Russian sun. It flits its tongue lackadaisically. It is a Vipera Kaznakovi, more commonly known as a Caucasus Viper. But with its minimal intelligence, it knows itself by another name. To translate into English, the closest approximation would be “Lo.” Though his intelligence is minimal, it exceeds any other snake or reptile by a staggering amount. He is aware of himself and aware of his intelligence. Lo is disquieted by his awareness. He is vaguely aware that his intellect supersedes that of anything or anyone he has ever known.
He lifts his head to the sky. A sensation ripples through his long, slender body. He does not know it, but he is experiencing longing. The sky is perfectly blue and seems to Lo impossibly infinite and grotesque. He coils himself tighter, disturbed, bewildered. He holds a distant memory of himself flitting through the undergrowth, chasing a small rodent, blissfully oblivious of anything but a hunger that pulsed through his body. The memory troubles him, as he cannot precisely place when he stopped hurtling through the grass and became conscious. He remembers devouring a small mouse and feeling it twitch in his mouth until it lay still and cold in his gullet. He knows somehow that he will one day lay still and cold. The thought terrifies him and a small sound trembles in his throat. Lo twitches his head in surprise. He has never made such a sound. He tries to replicate it and is rewarded with a sound close to a gurgle. Lo uncoils himself and raises his head, delighted. Thoughts of his own mortality are momentarily forgotten and he begins to repeat the noise in a sort of primitive song.
However, he quickly tires of his new found skill and he lowers his head to the warm rock. He momentarily ruminates on his hunger (he has not eaten in several days) which he thinks of as (grossly translated) “Yurlow,” the sound he hears in his head when his gastric juices churn. He smells a mouse move some distance away, but he cannot find it in himself to give chase. The same existential despondency washes over him in a great wave. He abruptly recalls a relative of his being carried away in the talons of some ferocious raptor. More vividly, he recalls feeling a momentary jolt of terror, and then nothing as his sister was spirited away to be devoured. His own callousness and apathy disgust and horrify him and he experiences a sudden and severe sense of guilt. The emotion confuses and hurts him and another sound escapes his small mouth, a sound eerily akin to a grown man moaning in pain.
He slams his head against the rock and the shock of pain sends him reeling. He stares at the rock. A bright splash of blood, his blood, glimmers in the sun. Fascinated, he repeats the motion, another wave of pain hurtling through his skull. He feels dizzy, delirious and does it again. The moan turns into something akin to a laugh, but sharper and more staccato. The sound echoes in the dead valley. Lo slams his fragile skull again and again and stops. He twitches once, twice, and lies still. Silence permeates the valley. Lo’s eyes loll toward the sky, which has turned a violent, crimson red. His last thought is of his sister in the claws of the ferocious bird and how relieved he is that that will not be him. His eyes go dark and he lies cold and still.