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She watches him from her place in the dirt. Cloaked by her guanine crystals. Not even another of her own kind will be able to see her camouflage in the purple sage. A few scrawny branches tickle her tail, but she does not move. Chin flat, breath disturbing still ground into dry puffs that tickle her sinuses. But she does not twitch, or sneeze. Energy flutters through her head. She hears the molten core of the earth spinning. Her chin hums, the Great Mother kissing her there. Life, one mother to another. She thinks of her son a few hundred yards behind waiting for her, ready to meet a new father. Will this man do it?     

She watches the man eat a can of cold soup even though he has built a passable campfire, griping that he has nothing to cook it in and he isn’t going to “hold the can over an open flame with my bare hands.” Humans. They do not appreciate their own lives very much. This helps her conscience, and she does have one. Perhaps it is a curse of the mammalian, which she is half. Snakes, or lizards and the like, have no minds—they just kill, eat, and choose their mates with no regard for what is called depth of feeling. She has that depth. She knows it deep within herself. 

He eats quietly. She sniffs the night for his odor. He smells about the same as he looks but that is a plus. Musky and dark, a bit salty like the netherworld. For her, it’s better if a mate does not stink of soap, which burns her skin. Quite the turn off.

She inhales seven short puffs, filling her respiratory chambers with prana until the cache of venom in her skull chills into stone. The ignition of the stone gives her charm without her having to do anything but lie still. She exhales, willing to connect to the man’s eyes and catches a name from the echo, Troy Bender. Troy is buying an item wrapped in a brown bag from a jittery man. What is it, drugs? She hopes not. Her heart quickens, her belly sinks, wishes fly through her mind. These are not her emotions, they are Troy’s. Troy Bender is looking for a genie in a bottle but wouldn’t know what to ask if the genie cared to know. 

That, she fully understands. And will alleviate, for a while. 

She inspires her iridophores to glow, chasing off the shadows. Troy stops muttering. His head whips upward, and she zeroes in on his eyes, quivering orbs in dull sockets, their shift erratic at first but then traveling over her position. She bids her crystals shine and leaps from the sage, swift over scabrous sand until she reaches a tangle of hackberry. Breasts to the ground, she slides behind the brush. She focuses only on Troy. His feet planted. His stance is solid. This man isn’t afraid. He looks much more curious than afraid, or anything else, but his hand remains in his pocket. Maybe a pistol? A steel cylinder flashes through her mind, from the dealer’s hand into Troy’s. But he isn’t going to shoot.

Cajoling, she turns up the glow.

Instead of pulling the heater, Troy rubs his mouth, inching a bit closer to the hackberry. After an unintelligible pep talk he begins a tentative approach. The only word she discerns is aliens and now he draws the pistol. 

“Troy Bender.” Her voice; a newly rosined violin string. 

She gives off a blinding flash and swims through the sand on her belly, working the ground. Time to attach the psychic echo that stitches puppet strings to any target brain. She slithers behind Troy, flexing her head, eyes on the nape of his neck. An orange dot appears there and she exhales, directing her energy there. He turns only fast enough to see the sandy smoke of her escape.

“Who is that?” Troy asks. He gestures with the pistol. “Say who it is, or I’ll wind up shootin’ y’all.”

“It’s just me.” Her voice, soft reeds under clouds. 

Troy cants his head, balking for a moment. His eyes narrow, but his hand remains in his pocket. He hustles in her direction, cocky. She sounds the same as a human woman, yes, and she projects harmlessness. His strut calms into an easy gait, too fast to be a stroll but not aggressive. 


Instead of letting him finish, she shows herself. He sees a mirage: a beautiful woman’s figure with slightly strange, colorful skin. She is close now, spinning, allowing her breasts to slide across his chest, sidling behind him, grasping his belt line with her claws. She plants her tactile lips—courtesy of her human DNA—on his neck, flicking her bifurcated tongue over the sensitive skin there. She nuzzles him, and he turns like a man about to go with it; her firework flesh whips her victim into a salacious fever. She is leading him; they come to a smooth patch of ground and go down, down.


“Do you have ways?” she asks when it is over.

“Ways?” Troy asks. “What, like religion? Or like tribal ways?”


“Honey, my only way is to stay alive.” He scoffs. “Guys at the bum’s camp wouldn’t believe me about you if I told them. You’re like a reptilian, aren’t you? I thought y’all were just a theory.”

She is sly, eyes narrowed for playtime. “We don’t run your country. That part’s a theory. But I do want to take you home. You can be with me. See how we live.”

“There’s more of you? How many?”

She finds it obnoxious that he is more curious than smitten but tucks the evaluation down into herself where the unpleasant emotion will stay hidden. “We are vast, like you. But much quieter.”

“They won’t be angry? Your kind?”

“Every few generations we may choose a human mate to keep our DNA mingled. If not, we’ll produce full-blooded lizards after a time.” 

“Really?” he asks. “So—”

“You can hear more from my people. I choose you. They’ll accept you.” 

Troy shrugs, chuckling. “Alright, I’ll go. Let me pack—”

“You’re not going to need those things anymore. They’re all dirty anyway.”

He stands, dusting himself off. “True that. What’s your name?”

“Nagamani,” she lies. Knowing that isn’t her name, but the name of her venom stone. Knowing he can’t pronounce her name with his heavy tongue.  

They walk together past the curved slashes in the dirt made by her entrance. She glances at him once, noting his wide eyes, almost childlike, ready for a new life full of wonder. A light burst of energy runs from her belly to her head, preparing her to strike. She fills her chambers with air to stifle it, projecting a comfort she does not feel at Troy. Her telepathic pumice hums and heats, drying her eyes, which well up with tears she knows will look grateful. He fetches a happy, excited sigh. Snakes his arm around her. Lovers to be, enjoying the singular joy of infatuation.

She punches through the small of his back, grabbing his spine. Troy coughs, surprised, and shudders once; flicking her wrist, she separates the vertebrae. As the crack echoes, his arm slides down her shoulders. Troy’s face plunges into the sand. Now he screams, a muffled, pathetic thing choked by dirt. She kicks his shoulder, pushing him onto his back so he can breathe. He gargles soil and rock from his throat into his mouth but cannot clear it with his face surrounded by dirt. She kneels, tilting his head sideways.

Troy hawks the earthy obstructions from his inflamed windpipe, gagging from the exertion. “My legs,” he said. “Why’d you…what did you do to me?”

Hissings ride the night, piercing the still nothing of the blank desert. Troy tries to move his head, but it disobeys. As it turns out, he doesn’t have to. A smaller reptilian, this one a child, enters his field of vision. Dust devils swirl along the child’s sides as he swims through the sand, leaving a similar wake to the one Nagamani—the child’s mother, he is certain—made on her approach. Troy closes his eyes, howling, choking, crying at fate. 

The child reptilian says something in his true language, a quivering, tinny speech meant to inspire panic with its vibrations, nothing like Nagamani’s cooing. 

“My son is talking to you,” she says. “It’s his birthday, Troy. We don’t eat cake and I imagine he’s tired of mice…so you are the cake.”

“More fool you, I won’t fit,” Troy says. “You gotta eat me whole! Kid’s still too little, I can tell just by—”
A pressurized pulling sensation ripples from Troy’s lower region, traveling up his gullet. Coughing again, wavering toward death, hypnotized dupe dying on the anonymous landscape, his tears flow. Pale, taut moonlight under the glassy firmament; he sees this first and then he sees his dismembered leg slam into the dirt at the child’s feet.

“You’re right, Troy,” Nagamani says. “And I am a mother. I don’t like anything to unduly suffer, not even food. I knew I had to take you apart, so…crack, break your lover’s back.” She kneels in front of him, raising his head until their eyes meet. Leaning forward, she plants a kiss on his chapped lips.

Troy lets it happen, unable to do anything else. In his peripheral vision he watches the child pick up his leg with one scaly, segmented talon and rip the booted foot away from the dead ankle. The child shoves the end of the leg into his hanging maw. Troy shuts his eyes. Slimy, stretching sounds. A sharp pop, and he moans to drown out the rest, but it's no use. Moist clicking, the hungry gulps of a child enjoying his birthday feast. It is torture, the finality setting in, but Troy cannot scream anymore. He's too tired.

Nagamani rubs her belly. “I want you to know you’ll live on. As you see, our kind are not cruel. I will not send you to be judged in a mindset of derision.”

Troy wails.

“You’re free, Troy,” she says. “Fly.”

Nagamani plunges her claws into Troy’s throat, gripping the bones between the muscles. After snapping his axis in half, she pulls the whole sphere away from the structure, holding it aloft. The shredding sounds return to her from the humpbacked mountains. She grins. Her son’s eyes blaze with glee as he urges Troy’s leg down his throat with his little hands. He will molt after this dinner and grow big and strong—her kind wasn’t allowed to eat humans very often, only during mating season. Mostly mountain goats on the menu. The occasional big cat. Mice, of course, for snacks.  All that fur. Troy’s body isn’t very hairy, his head fuzzy from a recent shearing. This is pleasing. Dislocating her own jaw to join her son in the feast, she thanks the Great Mother for this synchronicity. Her son’s father had a long, luxurious mane that had been very painful to pass.


BIO: Robert Tannahill is a writer living in Northern Nevada. His work has appeared in Tabard Inn, New Kink (Strange Sex 3) and Down In The Dirt. He writes whatever comes to mind.


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