Cardboard Fables: The Cobra and the Rattler

The Cobra slunk along through a dense underbrush like a lush forest—after all, for those who travel so low to the ground even unmown grass is a forest—scouring the world around him by the tip of his tongue, for a meal in such hunger that he barely acknowledged the rattle of the sharp taste that wafted from over a bush with a nest full of feathery squeakers, bones only.

The taste was dangerously spicy, a loud bitterness, but it was strong, from such a large creature, apparently as big as himself, though our cobra hadn’t even had that thought for the drive of his manic hunger, for his determination to feel sated, for his belief in the priority of his personal need.

But there was something else in the odor, the Cobra noticed, something earthy yet jolting that sent a shiver down his entire length, nostril to tail-tip, a notice and a warning simultaneously—oh, how he knew this subtler aroma, when even this season he’s given rise to a brood of young ones, but he’s kept himself away, too aware of the power his belly holds over him.

“You’re just gonna roll up, Mr. Cobra,” said the Rattlesnake.

“I am hungry!” spat the Cobra in reply.

“But I am not for eating. I am for befriending. Would you like to be friends, mighty Cobra?”

“Befriend this!” replied the Cobra, striking at the Rattlesnake, hoping to get it through the skull and taste the wash of blood from a brain in its final moments of consciousness, disappointed to discover that his strike had struck nothing.

But what’s worse: the Cobra hadn’t noticed a wall beyond his would-be meal, nor can we blame him really, when it’s so much more difficult to taste a brick wall on the waft of the breeze than to pick up the trail of a rattler—and how could a cobra be made to understand what ‘wall’ even means? It’s hopeless!—nor had he noticed that just over that wall, far overheard atop a maturely grown cactus, perched the ravenous beak of an eagle, who was about to make an attempt at a rattlesnake meal himself.

The Cobra was only gathering his coiling length for a second, more targeted strike, when suddenly he was airborne, falling into the sky; but with a particularly sharp snap under his jaw, soon he felt nothing, tasted nothing; simply but he no longer was, yet neither was he present to have to notice that he no longer was, or to have to think through the lesson of his fatal error or the insatiable hunger that brought him to it.

The Rattlesnake stayed put, content as she was, as she had been before she was interrupted by the slithering slunk of that Cobra. Now that the Eagle was gone, and the Cobra too, what more could stand in her way of fulfilling an urge higher than hunger, deeper than want.

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