Abaxial

The badger sniffed at the termite mound and followed the mildewed aroma of wet earth to a hollow in the ground. Hidden under the piles of spent foliage, the hollow and its only occupant, an old snake, were suddenly revealed by the badger’s chin.

The snake slithered up through the abaxial veins of the once living leaves and blotted out the sun in the badger’s vision, a king of death, hooded and horrible, swaying like a pitch pendulum.

“If I die now,” thought the badger, “it will have been a silly sort of life, to end so abruptly with hardly an ordeal to my memories more confounding than their conclusion. But I suppose,” he went on, the snake venomously poised in its eclipse, “if I die now it is only to benefit the old snake. Strange way to live, grown up these two years in the savanna, each path trod over tall grass and burrowed underground meant, inevitably, to lead here at this appointed time to placate the hunger of my predator. And when he has swallowed me whole he will be fat and slothful for months while he digests the flesh I have spent two years laboring for.”

The snake struck behind the badger’s head and sunk its fangs deep inside his neck. The badger gave himself over to a tremor of fear and panic, gouging the snake’s eyes with mad abandon. The snake recoiled and retreated over the dust blindly, bloody anger oozing from its shattered scales.

The badger fell back, the poison coursing through his veins at the traitorous beating of his heart. “Well,” he thought in his final moments, “that was a rousing misadventure for us both.”

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