Wednesday 13 May 2020

The Haunted Hollow

Michal Reiben

Snake-bite cocktail 

The day is bathed in sunlight, and sweet smells of spring fill the air as Doppy and I are strolling to the crater which we kids call, The Haunted Hollow. The path we are following runs through a tangle of woodland and tinder, on our way, we also have to cross a large sewer. We carefully tip-toe endeavoring not to get our soaks and sandals wet in the polluted, foul-smelling water, although Inevitably they do become somewhat damp. Soon we arrive at the top of the crater, on its steep slopes Rhododendron bushes grow in thick perfusion. We slide down in between the web of bushes and knotted roots to the bottom of the crater which is overgrown with a mass of bamboo plants.

“Let’s build Wigwams,” I suggest.

“Go ahead, I’m tired. I’ll just pick one of those Giant Rhubarb leaves and go to sleep underneath it.”

With so saying Doppy leans over the snake pit and picks one of the gigantic leaves which grow up from inside it. The leaf looks like a giant’s hand with stubby fingers. He places the leaf upside down on the ground.

“Be careful a snake doesn’t bit you,” I said,

Doppy looks around and finally picks up a pathetic looking stick from off the ground.

“If a snake shows up I’ll fight it off with this stick,” he said and waves it around. 

Then he slowly crawls underneath the leaf until only his feet are poking out.

I busily set about building a wigwam, cut bamboo sticks and branches from the Rhododendron bushes with a knife I’d previously stolen from the dining room. After a while I pause from my project for a few minutes, glance over at Doppy’s leaf, notice it’s been turned over, and that he is nowhere in sight.

“Doppy, Doppy,” I shout.

He doesn’t answer.

All of a sudden I see a large grey snake with black zigzag patterns along its back, appear over the top of the snake pit. As it slithers in coils along the ground, it’s scaly skin shines in the sunlight, and its black tongue flicks in and out of its mouth. In a panic, I flee with my heart racing. I scramble up the crater’s wall, pull at roots and branches. I am scratched but don’t feel a thing.

The awful picture of Doppy being devoured by snakes in the snake pit conjures itself up in my mind.
By the time I arrive back at school I’m panting and my ribs are heaving up and down. I immediately make my way to the kitchen, for its Doppy’s safe-haven. He is the only child Matron allows into her kitchen, save for her children, because he is bullied by older kids. I stand at the door and peer in, and am overjoyed to see him placidly sitting on the kitchen floor munching a crust of bread. The burden that had been weighing me down evaporates.

“Doppy, why didn't you tell me you were leaving?”

“You were busy and I was bored.”

“An enormous snake slid out of the snake pit. I was petrified it might have bitten you.”

“You needn’t have worried, I’d have whacked at it with this stick,” he said banishing his little, useless stick at me.

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