Snakes, and why they scare me:

photo of snake
Why’d it have to be snakes?

At about the age of three I contracted Scarlet Fever. A brief visit to Old Rex Hospital, where I was born, the nearest hospital emergency room saved my life. That hospital was over ten miles away. I have no memory of the trip, but the motion of the car induced the first fever dream I ever had.

The dream began in a familiar place,. My father worked for a propane delivery service, and I pictured myself in the back of one of the white painted work trucks he drove. I comfortably bounced around a few times in the truck bed, dreams don’t have to make sense when we’re awake. My fever may have spiked at this point, because the truck bed was suddenly filled with pins and needles which bounced around with me. They hurt.

The tailgate of the truck fell down. The pins and needles, and I fell out together. The truck left me behind, in a swirl of red dust, like the red clay I’d known from my front yard up until then. I landed (amid more pain) in a red clay desert landscape, completely unlike the pine forests I grew up around. But the cacti and scrub brush didn’t hold my attention for long, every square inch of desert moved.

All around me slithered every kind of snake I’d ever seen. Granted, I hadn’t seen many real live snakes, but my imagination is one of my most potent attributes. There were big snakes, little snakes, medium snakes, and my tormented and feverish self image. They slithered closer, they hissed, they bared their fangs, and snapped at my sweaty, incoherently frightened body. I’ve hated, and been unreasonably afraid of snakes ever since then.

As an adult, the fear this dream represents shows up in what I write. Danger, disorientation, pain, and mind numbing fear writhe their way into scenes that need it. Years later I use my lingering fear as a source for my characters reactions. I hate snakes, like Indy, but they help me write anyway.

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