Three hundred and twenty years have passed since my father kicked the crate: the crate that held Margaret Bingham, an accused Salem witch. I will never forget the devil in her voice when asked for her last words.
Looking at my father, she spoke. “Enjoy the last evening with your son Thomas Mallon before he slithers out of your life for good.”
I could see the droplets of spit fly from her mouth as she growled and thrashed against the rope. Her body’s weight only pulled the noose tighter against her throat, and the bucket rolled off the platform, landing eerily at my feet. It seemed almost like a warning that my twenty-year-old life would be ending prematurely.
If any of the other villagers saw the ruby glow in her eyes before midnight black pupils spread, covering any speck of white… they said nothing.
It was business as usual in Salem, 1690. Witches. Some real, some imagined, were burned, drowned, and hung. Hysteria ran rampant, ridding the world of innocence and innocents, families forced to watch their loved ones die. My stomach lurched every time I heard the snap of a neck or the desperate screams as the fire rose to envelop its victim.
Even those who held real magic in the tips of their fingers were generally harmless, practicing their craft in secret or not at all for fear of persecution.
As I said—most meant no harm. Margaret Bingham, on the other hand, sought revenge and summoned the devil to do so. Her eldest daughter, an innocent, was burned at the stake, accused by a village rival, claiming her flawless beauty could only be the work of witchcraft and black magic.
None of the Bingham women held a shred of magic between them, but the night her daughter’s wretched screams echoed through the smoggy night air, she summoned magic blacker than the soul of the devil himself.
Closing my eyes after saying goodnight to my mother and father, I never could have dreamed—even in my darkest nightmares that I would never speak to or hug them again. And I certainly never dreamed that I would live my life as an immortal serpent.
The next morning I awoke, coiled on my bed, covered and protected by the warmth of my wool blanket. My father hollered up the stairs, “Alexander, the sun is about to rise. Some chores need to be done.”
I answered. Well, at least I thought I did, but what escaped from my mouth weren’t words, but a long, drawn-out hiss. I kept trying with the same result.
“Alexander!” my father hollered, his heavy footsteps bouncing up the stairs. The blankets were yanked back. The sun burned my eyes, making me coil tighter. My father bellowed for my mother as he tossed the wool back over me, bundling me up inside, using the blanket as a sack.
I heard my mother enter the room.
“What is it, Thomas?”
“Have you seen Alexander? He did not answer me this morning when I called, and I found this demon serpent in his bed.”
“Thomas, I haven’t seen him. What if something’s happened to him?”
My father sighed. “Come now, Aggie. I’m sure he is just out at the barn tending to his chores. I will take this outside, and then I will go have a search for Alexander.”
I felt sick as I bounced against my father’s back, desperate for air in the tightly wound, makeshift sack. The small rocks and pebbles from being dumped on the dirt scraped my skin. A hiss was all I could muster as my father kicked me with his boot.
“Leave Demon before I take a pitchfork to you.”
I knew what I had become, but my reflection off the back of my father’s shovel still startled me. Black scales layered up my winding body, patches of black and purple glistened in the sunlight. My split tongue quivering in and out of my fanged mouth. A snake, a serpent, a biblical totem of evil. That’s all I was now.
But that was three hundred and twenty-eight years ago. I have spent the better part ofthree centuries dodging predators, changing machinery, and modernization—sometimes evenlosing, only to wake up again, alive and cursed.
The only motivation in my meaningless life is the chance at ending this immortal existence. Scouring the far corners of the earth to find an antidote proved fruitful for me a couple of centuries ago.
Only a witch with black magic coursing through her veins can converse with a serpent. I was lucky enough to share a cave with one. Charlotte was her name. Charlotte was on the run from her sister, seeking to end her so she could obtain the last of her family’s magic.
She informed me that when a full moon falls on All Hallows’ Eve, the curse can be broken by inhabiting the body of a descendent from the witch’s line who cursed me and ending that life. If I do that, my own life will end, finally releasing me from this dreadful hex. Easy enough, right? Wrong.
To inhabit the body of a Bingham descendent, they must be void of magic. I’ve tried for over two hundred years to occupy every descendent of the Bingham line only to find traces of magic in their system. Apparently, before Margaret was hung, she imbued her powers to her youngest daughter, Clara. The magic lessened as the years passed, and the bloodlines muddled with non-magic humans. It was only a matter of time before the magic vanished from their veins for good.
And tonight was the night. Samantha Ivy, descendent of Margaret Bingham, with veins void of magic. Tonight this curse would end. It’s just a shame I have to take an innocent life with me.
The moon lit up the night sky, casting a shadow on the leaves as I slithered through the bushes, up her cement steps, and through her cat door. I searched around on high alert for the catthat had already ended my life once.
Slithering down the hallway to the first bedroom on the left, I stopped at the crack in the doorway, watching her as she slept soundly, nestled under the covers. Her jet-black hair surrounded the pillowcase like out of control vines. Even as she slept, there was an air of grace about her.
This wasn’t the first time I laid eyes on her. I’ve been watching her for years, waiting for the right time.
I coiled my body around the legs of her bed frame, lifting my body as if I were about to strike at my prey, then plopping myself down on the foot of her bed. I slithered up the comforter. Creeping between her legs and up her stomach until I reached the opening of her mouth.
It was now or never.
I struck forward into her mouth, entering her body as she struggled to remove me. She was strong, but I was stronger. The magic in my scales numbed her, sending hero dying into a deep slumber from an overdose of black magic. This was when I took control of her body.
I led her to the door and out to the hallway, picking up a leg just to stare at it, remembering my three centuries without legs or feet. It felt powerful and safe, finally being at the higher end of the food chain.
I shuffled down the hall until we were finally standing in front of a drawer. I pulled it open, retrieving a knife, large and glaring in the nightlight underneath the cabinets. Catching my reflection in the blade took me aback. Not only was I not used to being a human, but I had never before been a female.
I shook my head, quieting my conscience. This was three hundred and twenty-eight yearsin the making, and backing out now would end my chances of ever extinguishing the curse,leaving me an immortal slithering snake forever.
As the moon’s beams soaked through the window, illuminating the kitchen in a dim glow, I raised the knife above Samantha Ivy’s head, blade pointed directly between her breasts.
“Why are you doing this?” The soft voice invaded my own thoughts.
“I have to,” I said aloud. “I can’t live like this anymore. People who fear death don’t
know what it’s like to live forever.”
“Please, I’m begging you. Don’t do this.”
“I’m sorry, Samantha,” I cried as I plunged the knife deep into her chest.
The pain was excruciating as the body I overtook fell to the floor. Her quiet, dying cries echoed through my mind, our thoughts, and emotions linked in that very moment.
Numbness crept in as I watched the moon through her kitchen window, its shape blurring as our lives faded. In mere moments this eternal life would be eternally ended. I will finally be free.
I sucked in one last jagged breath, wrapping my arms around the dying body, quieting Samantha’s cries. The light faded, the whimpering stopped, and I ended two lives in the light of the full moon on Halloween night.