The freezing midnight wind pierced Omar’s skin. He had been trudging the desert for hours since sunset. The lifeless body of his son on his back felt heavier with every step.
“You madman,” he remembered his wife covered her face with her palms, shaking her head furiously, “He is dead. Please, let me bury him.”
“No,” Omar hugged the corpse tighter, “I told you about the cave before. You have to believe me!”
“There is no cave to revive the dead!” his wife screamed, “You are just doing to spite me. You won’t even let me bury my dead son by sunrise. Omar, you – you cruel, cruel man!”
“There is!” he roared, “I saw it, I swear! I told you this many times – when I was a boy and lost while playing alone, I saw a man and a woman carrying their dead, bloody child in the cave. They waited outside and soon the child came out running! I swear!”
But she wasn’t listening to him anymore, so he went alone.
Omar’s tears cleared his sandy lashes and an image resembling a cave came to his sight. He felt a thump in his chest. Hope. He moved his son’s body to his arms and ran toward the cave as fast as his weak legs could.
Omar stepped into complete darkness as he entered the cave. He gripped his son’s body tighter as his vision slowly returned. As he knelt to ground and lain down his son, Omar felt a misery like never before. He had not let go of his son’s body at all since his death.
He took few steps back to exit the cave when he heard a hissing sound. Before he knew what happened, Omar felt a stinging pain on his ankle, a loss of balance of his body, and a heavy thud on the ground. When he opened his eyes again, a pair of glittery reptile eyes was watching him eerily. A snake slithered its body on his son.
Where is the man’s wife? It did not ask with its mouth, but Omar knew this voice in his head is the snake’s, and it was asking him. He tried to speak but his throat felt like something is choking him.
She did not wish to come, Omar answered mutely, she did not believe in the cave.
The snake looked at him with pity and Omar’s fear of it immediately ceased.
His son will be alive again.
Omar felt a rush of relief and gratitude. He wanted to kneel and bow and kiss the ground, but he could not move his limbs at all.
One mother and one father. The snake looked at Omar with even more sympathy. Half of both lives to trade for a child’s life. The cave will revive the child, alive under sun and moon every day. The mother will live only under sun. The father will live only under moon.
The snake’s head crept closer to Omar now. He could feel his limbs now, but he did not move his body further from the reptile.
One father means his one full life to trade. My poison will take his life come next midnight. If he chooses for his life, I will bite him the second time.
Omar thought of his poor, malnourished wife who was born with rotten luck into marrying him. Omar thought of his clever, curious son who was born with rotten luck into dying so young. Omar thought of himself – a famished, impoverished, old man who was born with tremendous luck of having a second chance in reviving his dead son, of having one more day with his son.
He made his choice in his heart. He had recovered from the initial shock and could open his mouth to answer the snake. But before he could say anything, the snake glided away back into the darkness.
Beside him, the corpse of his son wriggled. Omar smiled.