Close your eyes.
Go to sleep…
Imagine a thin, wizened man wearing hand-crafted jewellery and religious headdress.
Carrying a cloth-covered basket hanging from a pole over his shoulder, he wanders from town to town…
Stumbling upon a festival, the nomad sits cross-legged and places the basket in front of him, removing its shroud – a hiss emanating from within.
Retrieving a wind instrument fashioned from bamboo and gourd, he blows into it.
The pungi produces a shrill tone, underscored by a low hum.
A cobra slowly rises from the depths of the basket, its hood extended, swaying hypnotically with the nasal rhythm.
Bystanders stop and stare at the display, mesmerised.
One by one, they’re drawn to it, much like the snake.
Within their culture, the snake-charmer is held in high regard; believed to be a practitioner of magic, and a healer.
Having attracted an audience, he picks out his marks, selling them holistic medicines, amulets, and incantations.
Pockets now bulging with coins, the salesman bundles his remaining wares, shoulders his scaly hostage, then sets off for the next town.
Unlike his rubes and their pursestrings, the snake-charmer was never in danger…
The cobra, you see, can sense the music, but it lacks the appendages to hear it.
Sitting outside of biting range, he’d kept the snake captive in its basket, dehydrating it and causing it to move sluggishly. More drastically, he’d slyly sewn its mouth, allowing only the flicker of its forked tongue.
The snake, of course, inevitably later dies – but not before playing its part and serving its master.
A seemingly key part of the act, ultimately expendable and easily replaceable.
I’ve never seen you run your hands over a cripple’s legs and make him walk again. I don’t need to see you give him a pearl necklace, either.
You sell easy answers, putting a spell on the weak-willed and the vulnerable.
Your Snakes feel the warm comfort of your silky words, enveloping them and offering them security.
Were they to listen to them and hear their hollowness, though, they’d realise you offer nothing but empty promises.
Depriving them of external influence and stimuli, you coax them towards you, knowing they cannot harm you.
You really should double-check which basket you bring to Bad Attitude, though.
Having slithered into your midst undetected, I lie in wait.
Unlike the snake-charmer, you’re in mortal danger.
I don’t just hear your lies as they leave your mouth – I see them forming in your mind, before you’ve spoken a word.
There is no distance beyond my reach, for my rotting fingertips can probe the deepest and darkest of crevices.
You can sew my mouth shut, but I’ll bite through my restraints and pump you full of venom.
Exploiting your sluggish movement, having kept you prisoner within your own mind, I shall coil around you, constricting you, bending you to my will as we make sweet music together.
When my spellbound audience clamours for more, turning out their pockets…
I’ll sell them all snake-fang necklaces.
Sweet dreams, Viper.
One, two, Sandman’s comin’ for you…