(with apologies to Virginia Woolf)
The rustle that is obvious to your ears was nothing to her. A distant susurrus, hidden under the drumming sensation of many bodies moving against each other. And rather than hear, she felt. Outside, the warmth had begun stretching longer; the sun undid the snow into runnels of water, spreading little spikelets of green on the ground. Deep in the den, the changes were smaller, yet enough to shake her torpor away. The earth flexed its supple spine shrugging off the winter and set the urge upon her.
Her ancestors had come to this northern land when it was still under water, covered by a lake the size of a small ocean. In this fresh water, there was food for all; frogs and fish, snails and insects had kept their bellies full and them healthily glowing in their radiant shiny, smooth skin. They had thrived and become many. The water that had brought them abundant food also fissured the earth’s interiors into dens, one of which she was now waking up in.
Her sleep had been a long one, she spent more time under the ground in these dank caverns than above on the surface where her kind belonged, under the suns burnishing gaze. The winters in this northern land were cold and the icy fingers of frost reached deep into the earth. Her forbears had escaped into the dens that lay below the frost line, a meager but necessary oasis of survival in a winterland. For mere survival it was; of earth’s trip around the sun, she was condemned to spend only a third above. She cursed Proserpine her fortune every chance she had.
And yet time it was, the sun advanced, her blood ran faster and the cave warmed up with the motion of a few thousand waking bodies. She could feel her mood lift as she thought of the sun after months of immobility and hunger, the promise of release made her mind scream with impatience. But before release, before sunshine, before warmth and food, she remembered there was always the final test. She prepared herself for the coming task.
And then when she felt ready, she dove into the thick coils of the many that were making their way to the exit of the den. As her eyes adapted to the new brightness, she saw those she had known would be awaiting her arrival. They saw her and began their onslaught. Not a few, but hundreds at once, they began approaching her at close quarters, circling her slender body closer and closer, they flicked their tongues at her, smelled her skin. What they smelt seemed to prod them further into action. Like her they too had slept long and hungry, yet they had woken earlier and waited for her holding their hunger for food at bay. They announced their intentions by rubbing her body with their heads, coiling closer all the while. She did not repel their advances, her smells were calculated to elicit and encourage them. They climbed onto her, one upon another in a frenzy of hope, until she was the centre of tightly packed ball of bodies.
The bodies wrapped around her provided her with much needed warmth after the winter sleep. They worked faster and better than the feeble rays of the sun. The men, now wrapped around her, had left the den earlier, soaking the weak sun over days preparing for her exit and that of the others like her. Now they pounced on each woman they could find hoping that they would be the chosen ones.
This many-coiled embrace that she had willingly accepted, even encouraged, slowly melted the cold bones of her body. The pressure they exerted forced the air from her lungs and the winter seemed to leave with it. She had passed the test; her ruse had worked again. She remained there calm, nothing could be taken from her, she knew that it would stop when she wished. And as easily as she had turned it on, she began to turn it off. The mass of men around her, sensed it only a little in their frenzy. They rubbed her smell off as they continued to seek her favour, the female they could no longer surely identify. To them it seemed that they lost the scent of their quarry; that the alluring female had merely moved a bit further from them. They felt no anger, merely confusion as she faded from their senses. Quietly, imperceptibly, the slender body disappeared into the ball. Slipping coil over coil, by merely trying less, it surfaced above the tightly packed mess of bodies.
Like a rope uncoiling from a spun top, picking momentum and warmth from his former embracers, he disappeared to look for someone his own to hold and have. He went off in his own direction searching for the smell that they all followed. Warmer now, at their expense, the glint off his scales had the look of the twinkling of an eye. All he hoped for now was not to be had and as he had had them.