The Watchful Cell
C J Stark

What if, like me, one day you inexplicably found yourself restricted to a cell that was small, sparsely furnished and confining. One corner of this room, you notice, is occupied by a sleek, black, glistening snake quietly coiled and lying very still. It might be any snake but for it’s hooded throat. This observation proves, only too clearly, it is not any snake, it’s a cobra. The cramped quarters of the cell, the oppressive closeness and lack of light or air by itself are enough to cause some tense anxiety. And with the presence of a cobra in there with you as a cellmate, well, I damn near soiled myself at this prospect. At first, I figured I’m as good as dead. But, shortly, I think to myself, it’s only a snake, and not a very large one at that. The actual problem here, clearly, is the bite. It’s only the bite that’s to fear. So, as long as the snake lives in his corner of our communal cell, and I live, respectfully, in mine, why be overly concerned? If I should notice the snake sliding over to one of the nearby corners, I just move myself, gently, to the far side from that one. In a way, it all almost feels dreamlike.

There are times, of course, at night, in the dark, I know the cobra knows exactly where I am from the warmth of my body. Snakes are like that, you know. And I can almost feel where he is in the dark, from the icy cold stare of his beady, yellow eyes, which are always open in a stare-like gaze, even while he sleeps. Sometimes, in the early dawn glow of our mutual cell, I can see one of those yellow eyes fixed on me in a stare. Cobras always stare. They’re like that, you know.

This cobra is potentially dangerous, as any cobra might be. I could, if I chose, attack and kill it. It’s only a snake, you see and, as mentioned, not a particularly large one. But this would, of course, expose me to his bite. I would quickly vanquish him, but then would begin a long, slow, painful demise of my own from his venom. No, this arrangement we’ve come to at present, seems to be the best. He knows I can harm him and I know, of course, what he can do. We just move from cor