Snake Island :: By David Carr

Let me tell you a little about myself; and the story is far more true than you may think (although I write this as an allegory).

I was born on Snake Island, a little place miles from the mainland. Just like everyone born here, I cannot leave. It’s impossible to get off alive.

My parents were good people, but like everyone here they were victims of the snakes which infest the island and they carried the venom in their veins. And they passed it on to me; I was born with the same poison in my system. Everyone here is.

Most claim that it doesn’t affect them, because they look around them and see everyone else just like them. Because the main effects of the venom are obvious and very specific, it makes your head and right arm swell (so much so that in order to keep functioning most have to lean to the left). In fact, I have seen a lot of people nowadays with heads so swollen that their vision is obscured.

And some of these have never known anything different; they don’t know what natural sight is. They function by feel and natural instinct. And the pressure this swelling places on the brain causes many to unknowingly demonstrate some degree of delirium. Some even call their darkness light.

These symptoms are more acute as one allows the venom to have its way—that is, one’s heart inclination is a significant factor in the degree of severity and rate of progression of a person’s symptoms.

But what I see as a worsening problem is that many are wearing these deformities as a badge of honour.

In fact, more and more these days I see people actually looking for snakes so they can be bitten to increase their venom levels. Thus they grow bigger heads and develop more imposing right arms, never considering that these abnormalities make it increasingly more difficult to actually function in life.

At least in a life that has any worth in terms of their potential to ever reach the mainland and live there.

I used to be like that. I remember well how the delirium felt: the sense of superiority, of invincibility, and of false omniscience.

But then there was a day – and now I know why I felt that way.

Many years ago, well before I was born, the King of the mainland (and of Snake Island) quietly visited and left behind an unlimited supply of antivenom. While his sojourn was generally understated, he did train a few people as to how to use the treatment, and even helped them to complete the written instructions for its use.

Those of us who have applied the antivenom are known as the “AVs.”

And it’s through them that I came to know about the antivenom. In fact the instructions were well-known amongst my family and friends. I was blessed that way. And we all knew where the antivenom supply was – every AV already carried a little to give to others, and the instruction manual could also provide it if you laid it close to your heart.

And the most reassuring thing is that once the antivenom is in your bloodstream it will never leave. You can quench it. You can dilute it. But you can’t run out of it.

This was and is the only way to ever make it off Snake Island. If you have even the tiniest trace amount of the antivenom in your blood it is enough for you to be accepted onto the mainland one day. You will have a role to play in that place.

Sure, there are many who take it once but then pretty much forget about it. They change very little, their heads and arms still look much the same as everyone else most of the time, but within their bloodstream the antivenom is still at work. They are AVs for life.

So the opportunity is there for anyone who wants to partake. They can secure healing by applying this treatment, and from that point on the swelling would start to subside – gradually and non-linearly, and the fog of delirium would start to lift. There is no cost to accept this medicine, but of course as you begin to change for the better you begin to look increasingly different to everyone else.

And this is the point where some doubts can come in, and some derail their progress because of it.

This is also the point where I really start to get distressed because there are some amongst my AV family (that is their claim, at least) who have begun to advocate the policy of joining
in with those seeking to raise their venom levels so that they can be more like them and hopefully convince them of the need for the treatment. They swap the sweetness of the cure for the bitterness of the venom.

But this is insane! The more my AV family members take on the poison, the more delirious both they and their friends get—and the less likely they are to even realize there is any antivenom, much less want to take it.

Now this is shocking, but it’s not the most dangerous thing.

The most dangerous thing has been a problem from the beginning. It concerns those who can see that the venom works, and are comfortable living around those who have taken it, and even take on the lifestyles and mannerisms of the AV crowd. To many, they are simply one of us, an AV.

But the difference is they have not actually applied the antivenom. Oh sure, they know it works. They can tell you where you can get it, what it looks like, how to apply it and how important it is, but they have apparently never actually taken it themselves. All I can figure is that they mustn’t think they were bitten badly enough – “just a scratch” they think. Or they don’t understand the eternally destructive consequences of having that toxin in their system.

There are so many like this around. They sit with us in our meetings, proudly parading their swollen heads and giant arms, all the time wondering why the rest of us take the instruction manual so seriously—so literally.

We love them, we pray for them, and we try and explain to them the way things really are. But they always know better. Sure, as AVs we all step on each other’s toes and get in each other’s way at times—as we learn how to handle our diminishing heads and arms. But these guys seem to make an art form out of being an obstruction. Good is evil for them, and evil is good.

And while that grieves us, we know what the instructions teach us. We know that the day is fast approaching (the promised signs are all around us), and that the King is soon and very soon coming to take every last AV home to the mainland. On that day the snakes will have their way on the island—for a season.

I’m glad I won’t be around for that. I have much, much better things to do at home with my family.