Episode 2: The Serpent That Was

In the cold dark depths of a still pond, that one your father warned you to stay away from, the one you heard rippling in the still summer heat, beckoning. Calling. It was that tempting from my subconscious mind when thinking of how to bring the Rainbow Serpent of Australia’s Aboriginal mythology to life that had guided my hand.

It started as it always does, with an innocent line on a flat crystal-light display. Slightly curved but untainted by any expectations as yet. In its naivety, it stretched. Further, becoming more curved until it was no longer just a line. It was complex, skirting on the edges of its 2-dimensional plane and threatening chaos if not let free. But I didn’t let it. It could no more breach a higher dimension than I could. So I fooled that not-so-innocent line, that stroke of curve that tried to hide its malcontent in the nooks of the edges of the small lines that made its form, the meta-scales of this dragon.

I let it have the idea of a new dimension and pulled out the trusty old trick of perspective. The line’s curve swayed with the slender form that would become the Rainbow Serpent, weaving in and out of the illusion of water I had given it to swim in, until it felt it had travelled deeper into its dimension. The line was content now. But lonely.

It had the form of the serpent but it lacked eyes with which to see, horns to defend itself with, spines  to navigate the waters. And more importantly, it had no sense of environment. It was this last complaint I addressed first. The would-be serpent had water, but only around the twists of its body that were meant to be submerged. It couldn’t feel it against its naked skin, unprotected by scales it yearned for.

All in due time.

Lily pads appeared, large at first but growing smaller the further the serpent’s body entwined on its plane. And with the lilies were ripples, some of which washed against the serpent’s scale-less form. It was pleased with this. Its first sense, or the suggestion of it as much as the restrictive 2-D dimension allowed.

But that happiness didn’t last long. With a feel for sensation, it craved more. Newer senses. The serpent form demanded eyes. But it was too soon. I satiated this need for a time by giving it scales to amplify its sense of touch and a tongue with which it could feel, taste, and smell. This placated the creature whose patience to exist was as thin as the screen on which it was drawn.

It was complete, as much as a being in this dimension could be. So I gave it eyes with which it could observe the environment. But instead, it first observed my work on its body. I was almost done giving it a mouth when it forced the digital brush to curve ever so slightly upwards. A smile? I heard no complaints and took this to mean the serpent was satisfied. But I was not. It had the perspective of depth but the illusion was not yet complete.

So I gave it shadows under its folds, between the scales of its underside, and on the looping of its form  over itself. It almost seemed alive. And yet, it wasn’t. Not yet. The serpent was curious when I loaded up the tray of paints. The colours were plain at first, delighting the serpent with a rainbow it had no way of comprehending. Shading and highlights soon lulled it into a sleep. And I couldn’t wake the serpent again. Or perhaps, it had breached the next dimension. Slithering in and out of the murky waters of the in-between.



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