Wash it all away
Part 3 : The Naga
Her footfalls echoed in this network of caves. With little else to focus on, the single set of footfalls struck her as strange. Her captor, he seemed to make only the faintest dragging, shuffling sound. It was unnerving. The sense of dread weighed heavily in the pit of her stomach.
After some time of her stumbling along, blind in the dark, they came to a large alcove lit by moonlight filtering in from a few cracks in the ceiling. Where ever they were, they were closer to the surface now.
He bent his head close to her, his breath tickling her neck. She shivered, terrified of what might happen next. There was a painful, stinging prick on her neck, and she started. She felt his hand slip down her back, grasping the handle of the gun. The metal struck the stone floor some ways away from her as he tossed it out of reach. He let her go then, and moved away from her.
Her legs were suddenly wobbly without his support. She let herself crumple to the floor. Tiny plumes of dust swirled up around her and she felt her head spinning with the day’s events. As if to knock her completely senseless, her captor came around to face her.
At first, there was nothing strange about him. She recognized those chiseled features from earlier, reddened and blistering slightly in places from the flames she’d rescued him from. He bent forward, and she noticed, for the first time, that he wore little more than an arm cuff. His whole lower torso, previously hidden by rubble, was bare of clothing. But that wasn’t the strange part.
No, what she was staring at now was a brownish line of scales tracing from his mid chest, down his navel, until the rough serpent skin encircled his entire lower half. His body tapered down into a thick, muscular tail, which he was standing upright on. Though the strangeness of it hit her hard, her logical side delighted in the fact that now she understood why she’d only heard her own footsteps echoing through the dungeonous catacombs.
She raised her eyes to his, mouth and mind working to form some question, some thought. His strange, golden, slitted eyes held her captive, stilling all attempts at coherent thought. He grasped her chin, his gaze firm.
“Why was my sleep disrupted?” he demanded.
She shook her head, fearful under that inhuman gaze. He gripped her chin more firmly. “We... the...” she stuttered, at a loss.
His forked tongue flicked out, causing her to flinch, and she tried again.
“There was a cave-in...” she started.
He nodded slowly, encouraging her to go on. Her tongue was leaden in her mouth and she swallowed hard.
“We came to … “ she hesitated, struggling with her lack of Hindi vocabulary. “Study... to discover...” she stuttered.
He nodded, releasing her chin and turning his gaze from her. She watched him, both horrified and mesmerized. He was stunning, really; the scales of his snake form shone with an iridescent quality in the moonlight. His human half, was sculpted and muscular. Had she not been captive, terrified, she’d find him quite attractive.
“I slept in hopes that man would bring about his own demise. Now he invades my chambers, disturbs my sleep. My waters, my spring, is polluted with his filth.” he muttered, more to himself than to her. She struggled to keep up, understanding only so much of his utterance. He turned back to her, and she couldn’t help but notice the painful looking blisters on his cheek.
Some strange compulsion, caused her to speak up. “Your face,” she said softly. “It looks painful, I have medicine in my bag.” He watched her warily.
“You would help me?” his voice hissed with disbelief.
She nodded, and moved slowly to pull the pack from her shoulder, watching for his reaction before rummaging through it. He watched her carefully as she pulled out a spool of gauze and a small tube of ointment. She stood, her legs trembling as she did so, and approached him cautiously. Her heart was picking up its painful rhythm and she felt as if it would burst from her chest. She forced down her fear.
“This,” she held the tube of ointment out to him, “wash your hands, and then put this on...” she struggled for words again, gave up, and gestured to her face, in a a circular motion. She held up the gauze. “I will wrap afterwards.” Why she was so compelled, baffled her, as it did the creature.
“Do not move. Do not touch a thing,” he growled, taking the tube from her. “These chambers are sacred.” She nodded her head at his command. She couldn’t move if she’d wanted. Getting to her feet, taking those two steps towards him,were a feat in themselves. This was something more than simple shock, she realized. Had he done something to her? Her hand went to the place she’d felt that pin prick on her neck. It was hot, and stung when she touched it.
She grit her teeth, knowing it was best not to move, and let herself crumple to the floor once more. If she was lucky, he’d release her and she’d get medical attention... if not, she was likely to die down here like Darren and Adam. She hoped that the Professor, Heathcliff and Jerry, were not among the dead as well.
Water sprung from the farthest wall. A clear, beautiful spring in which he washed his hands as instructed and liberally, yet gingerly applied the ointment. Face glistening with the clear gel, he made his way back to her. He moved in a slithering, side to side motion. It was hypnotic to watch, this strange gait of his. On a snake, it made sense, but attaching the human torso to that slithering movement, was bizarre, mesmerizing.
“Already feeling it,” he muttered, noticing her crumpled position on the floor. There was a hint of regret in that statement.
She ignored the comment, and held up the gauze roll, a sort of peace offering.
“You have not mistreated me, I forgive you binding my hands. You were afraid. I will release you,” he reassured her.
She nodded in relief, tears springing to her eyes. With that small bit of comfort, she began wrapping his face. Once she’d finished, he had all but one eye covered. Her arms were trembling by the end, her vision tunneling. Staring at her handiwork, she was pleased she’d managed to bind his burns so neatly despite her condition. A rushing sound had been growing in her ears. It was quickly becoming deafening. The world tilted suddenly, and blackness greeted her.
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bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...