by Ueda Keisuke (植妥慶助)
illustrated by jpegasus
The warm air of the jungle is still thick with the storm that’s just passed when Vasuki uncoils from the hollow of the tree where he spent the last night. Today is the third day of his quest, the last day before he must return to his people, armed — hopefully — with a vision, with some knowledge of what his purpose in the nest will be. The first day, he did almost nothing, his scales still tender from the shed that marked the time for his adulthood rites. The second day, he gave in to temptation and killed a young wild pig down by the river, then spent the entire afternoon basking on a flat rock, with the sun warming the meal in his belly. Today, he must stay alert, must find some sign that he can carry back with him to his tribe.
Vasuki sets out through the jungle, heading up the river along the traces of a game trail, his spear ready in his hand in case of trouble. The path is well-worn, a favorite of the little wild pigs like the one Vasuki hunted yesterday, and if he follows it far enough, past the great twisted tree that marks the turn toward the monkey people’s village, past the dark hollow where children say that the ghost of the tiger king can be found at night, it will come to the great rocks, where the river falls from the mountain. Perhaps from there, high up enough that he can see over the trees, he might find some clue that will lead him to a worthy vision.