You said that your baby died because of a snake.
Yes, I did.
Was it because of a snake bite?
I don’t understand. How could this have been so?
He died because of a snake in the house.
A snake in the house! Oh, my goodness! Where was it hiding?
In a rolled mat under the bed.
How did you find out?
When I found fresh snake skin in the house.
But I still don’t get it.
Why did the baby die because of the snake?
Because it brought bad luck?
Bad luck? But how?
By hiding in the house.
This is crazy… but what snake was it?
Oh my God!
How did you know?
From the colour and the length of the skin.
Why was it there?
The snake changed its skin.
So what did you do?
I yelled and screamed “Ada ular!Ada ular dalam rumah saya,”* and the neigbours hearing my cries rushed into my house.
What happened then?
The ladies rushed out in fear shouting, “Ular, ular!” but the men came back with smoking logs and smoked the snake out.
Then I saw the snake: wicked and black, it appeared slowly, gliding out of the rolled mat, as it slid out of the room… and then it was out in the garden in a few seconds.
“Kill it! Kill it!” screamed my neighbours.
Together they hit it with long sticks, till it moved no more – blood was splattered everywhere! A ghastly scene it was and I puked; the baby in me, nearly full-term, turned and twisted, as I recoiled in horror. I have to get rid of that dead snake, I thought, as I felt cramps in my stomach and perspiration dripped down my temples.
So, I dug a deep hole in the garden and buried it, piling lumps of mud above it. I then poured some milk on this grave and threw some flower petals on it and begged for forgiveness, for what appeared to be a cruel murder.
Thank God …end of the story I thought. Phew!
My baby was born a few days later; fair and handsome with a black mop of hair and bright, sparking eyes, looking like a prince; but he was still born. The doctors heard no heartbeat. He failed to cry, though he looked perfectly fine. His heart was silent, as if filled with stone and he kept absolutely still.
I didn’t stop weeping for days for my heart was broken to pieces.
“The baby died because of you,” some people whispered. “It’s all because you killed a snake,” they said.
“You killed Naga,” my Indian friends lamented. “It only wanted a home. You should have invited it to leave and let it be; for in the wilderness it is king.”
“Its life you took and it took the one inside you; for revenge is sweet.”
The cries of the baby will not fill my home but the sound of hissing under the bed will!
Translations (In Bahasa Malaysia)
Header image by David Clode on Unsplash.