The Watchers of the Woods
Snake haunted Simon’s dreams again, just as it had so many times before. He had long since grown accustomed to the sensation of it sliding through his brain, the strange, unpleasantly moist softness of its metaphysical skin rubbing up against his thoughts, and thus, he scarcely cared.
While he slept, Snake took him to the city once more. Simon had lost count of how many occasions it had seen fit to bring him here in the past, but it didn’t matter. Snake took him here to scare him, but Simon wasn’t scared.
Snake didn’t understand that.
In fact, Snake didn’t understand Simon in any way, shape or form.
And that was fine by him.
The city was vast. The city was dangerous. The city was strange. The city stank. But to Simon, it was beautiful.
“This,” began Snake, just as it had every time it had brought him here, since the first time, when Simon was thirteen years old, “is what your world shall become, if Time is allowed to proceed as it pleases. Behold the filth.”
Simon saw the filth—but there was filth in his world, too. He had lived ankle-deep in it for two years.
“See the indecency.”
But Simon saw no indecency. He saw women wearing trousers. Women, he concluded, looked good in trousers.
“Violence is rampant.”
As it was everywhere, home included.
“Families are broken.”
Had Simon ever encountered a family that wasn’t broken in one way or another? He couldn’t recall ever meeting one.
“Religion is disregarded.”
But Simon did not think so. The city’s structures—great towers of metal and glass, shaped like strange gems and crystals—demonstrated otherwise. As did the horseless carriages and flying machines. The people here worshipped a god, and that god’s name was Science.
“Immorality is allowed to strut without fear of consequences.”
Simon didn’t look this time. He knew what he would in all likelihood see. Instead, he focused all of his energy on Snake’s invisible presence and addressed it directly.
“What gives you the right to define immorality? You’re a fucking parasite. You live off the life-force of others. I’m afraid that sounds rather immoral to me, old chap.”