I MET THE SNAKE SERVANT
Snake servant came to visit me yesterday, in the afternoon. The noise from its movement startled me out of my sleep. I saw it crawl beneath the open end of my carpet which was close to the wall socket in my room. I only saw its tail, long and brown, and my heart skipped a beat. I carefully rose from my soft ten-spring mattress, tucked in the bed net and walked slowly to the entrance of my room where I kept the broom. I picked up the broom and hit the side of the carpet where I saw it hide and it ran out. Such speed! I jumped and let out a scream. My hands and legs suddenly began to itch. All the while, I was thinking of Agbo’s words when we saw one outside my window trying to find an opening into my room, “they are a sign that a snake will visit you. The snake sends its servants to check the condition of the house so that it can move in”.
The snake servant soon found a hiding place in a carton that served as shelf for my plates. When I overturned the carton, it ran but I was faster. I hit it with my broom, waaah! It was weak and I swiped it out of the room. While outside, it tried to move but was too weak so I stood and watched it. It’s soft skin had two shades of brown, it looked obese with distended stomach like a constipated little boy. It’s skin blended with the stones that were in front of the compound so that one who didn’t look closely wouldn’t know it was there. I knew it wouldn’t survive outside so I left it. They say the snake servant shouldn’t be killed else it will turn to a snake. I didn’t kill it.
Today, I heard a noise. I feared it would be a snake. I could clearly see a long, slender snake the colour of its dead servant, in my mind’s eye. It didn’t help that I had dreamt of snakes the past week. I remembered the morning my neighbour and I walked to the well in front of the compound to fetch water, he pointed to the floor and said a snake had passed. It left its trail, a long line on the sand, the width of this line was the size of my index, middle and fourth finger joined together, but if my neighbour hadn’t said it was made by a snake, I would think it was a very fat and long earthworm that designed the floor so. He recalled incidences of snake attacks in the compound. ‘Even one wey I see for front of my door when I go close window for night’. I was scared.
‘You mean a snake entered the house?’, I asked.
‘I think it passed through that other man’s room, I think you know say him room get hole?’, he was referring to my other neighbour. ‘See why I always say we should close the main entrance?’, he said. I agreed.
Today, I imagined the snake had found its way to my room. Surely, it would worry about its servant. But it’s possible it sent another servant to bring news of the first, isn’t that what ants do? What if it was a snake? What would I do? I lay still on my bed, frequently checking that my bed net was properly tucked in. I recited the memory verse mummy made us learn when we were kids and which I recited when I felt any form of fear: The name of the lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.
When I was younger, I would surround myself with my toys, using them as a fence. Then assume I was inside the Lord’s tower and was safe. This time, my bed net would be my fence and in it, I knew I was in the Lord’s tower and no snake would come near me. The prayers soon started: Lord, I won’t complain next time I see a scorpion, sniper can kill scorpions but I can’t kill a snake. Lord please, give me a sign that this isn’t a snake. Father, if you can just send this creature out of my room, I’ll give all of my next allowance to the church.
All these while, the intruding creature wasn’t quiet. It’s skin made shivery sounds as it touched my blue carpet. I still hadn’t seen what it was because it was hiding behind something in the messy corner of my room. I knew I had to find it so I left my bed and with tiptoe steps, found my way to the door entrance where I hurriedly opened my door in case the creature needed to escape, and picked up my broom in case it wasn’t a snake. I started lifting things carefully, the yam tubers, the water buckets, the cooking stove …then I saw it.
For a moment, I stood still, staring at it like a deer in the headlights. It was so relaxed, comfortable and sure it was camouflaged. I tried to move silently but it heard me and jumped, I ran as fast as I could to my bed, made sure the bed was ‘sealed’ and started itching again. I saw the rat run outside, my door was open. As soon as I regained composure, I went to shut the door, burst into laughter and then knelt down and thanked God it was just a rat.
Snake servant is the name we call the (five lined) skink.