- Vol. 08
- Chapter 07
The Wild Dancers
The Snake tribe settled by the Jade river a hundred years ago. This river, with its gentle current, ran from distant mountains, snaking through the forest. These people lived in caves hidden behind trees, not far from the place where animals often came to drink. Mostly they were harmless; hunting only when hungry.
One morning, the forest citizens were woken by a horrible noise. They craned their necks and saw ten bulldozers flattening the forest. Trees fell. Birds screamed. Some strange creatures got off the giant machines. They stood on two legs, glanced around and pointed in different directions. Their mouths opened and strange voices came out. Monkeys and chimpanzees were so shocked that they turned and ran away. Tigers, leopards and other animals followed. Young wolves and cats were overcome by curiosity about how humans could produce fire, so they stayed to become pets.
The Snakes, one hundred members with fifty babies, stayed quietly in their caves, conferring about what to do. After observing the invaders for months, they decided to peel off their skin and copy human behaviour. Female Snakes were excellent weavers and made clothes decorated to look like their skin. Their husbands spent time hunting rats, rabbits, hares and pheasants. Snakes built houses from brick which felt cool like their caves. Humans built houses and planted wheat, potatoes and corn on the new land. They hunted deer and boar, then exchanged meat for the Snake people’s clothes.
After a good harvest, the humans organised a festival in the village square. They brought out five hundred pots of liquid made from wheat and lit a big fire. They sang and danced to the sound of drums made from cow skin, stone musical instruments taken from the Jade river and flutes made from bamboo. The Snake people, although invited to join the festival, stayed at home. Snake wives forbade their husbands as they were afraid this liquid had special effects.
The Wild Dancers
They had seen men chasing each other after drinking that liquid. They held their breath, peering, from their windows, at people dancing. But Snake husbands sneaked out to the party. They were happy to accept drinks from the humans. As soon as the golden liquid poured down their throats, they felt a burning fire. Snake husbands bowed deeply, straightened again, then swayed from side to side. Humans felt numb seeing their neighbours behave so strangely. Snake husbands lost their balance and fell into the fire. Their skin burning and they rolled on the ground to extinguish the fire. They ran quickly into the forest. Snake wives and children rushed out of their back door, throwing themselves into the thick darkness of the forest. After a short time of bewilderment, the humans shouted and carried torches to hunt the Snakes. There were snake skins floating on the river on that dim moonlit evening.
From then on, humans eavesdropped on their neighbours to find out whether they were Snake people.