Snake Rattled

“…and the whiskey is in case the snake bites you,”  Tom heard someone’s voice to his left before he opened his eyes. When he did, he found himself in the driver’s seat. He was holding a bottle of whiskey in his right hand, his left hand held a small metal thermos-like container. He turned toward the voice. A burly thug in a white tank-top was staring at him. “You didn’t get any of that, did you?” he sighed.

“Sorry,” Tom sat up in his seat. “First time,” he said. The thug’s eyes widened slightly. “First time? Why you doing this one, there’s a ton of easier jobs.” Tom shrugged.

“I learn faster if I jump in the deep end,” he said. It was how he lived his life and how he ended up as a driver for one of the largest crime organizations on the planet. He could have started small as a neighborhood thug and worked his way up, but he had the opportunity to jump in head first. He did. The thug nodded with a shrug.

“Whatever, I’ll give it to you again. This…,” he reached in through the window and tapped on the metal container. “…is powdered uranium. You’re taking this and the snake-..” Tom quickly turned to look at the passenger seat, then the floor, then down in his lap.

“What snake!?” he asked with more than a little bit of fear in his voice. ‘Jumping in the deep end’ was his life’s motto, but he wasn’t stupid about it. He would not, for example, lock himself in a small souped-up Volkswagen beetle with a loose snake.  Even if he was perfectly safe, the thought made him uncomfortable.

“It’s in the back seat,” the thug explained. Tom looked up at the rear-view mirror and saw a dusty brown rattlesnake in a small terrarium.  He sighed with relief.

“It’s timed. Deliver the uranium and the snake to the old-,”

“It’s marked on the GPS, right?” Tom interrupted as he reached for the small glassy rectangle in the center console. He tapped it and the display lit up to show a red arrow pointing forward. He swiped the arrow upward and it appeared on his windshield. A timer appeared below the arrow that said 15:00 minutes. “15 minutes? That’s all I get?” he asked the thug. The bearded man chuckled.

“Hard mode, Mr. Deep End,” he grinned.

“You said the whiskey was for a snakebite?” he nodded.

“Yeah. As the timer counts down the chance of the snake escaping starts growing. It can escape before the 15 minutes are up, but it definitely will when the time runs out.  “If it bites you, drink the whiskey and you’ll be good.”

“But, it hurts, right?” Tom asked.

“Like you’re on fire,” the thug grinned. Tom quickly shook his head.

“Nevermind, I’m out.” Tom tried opening the car door, but the thug leaned against it and held it closed.

“What do you mean, ‘I’m out‘? he asked. “Don’t be a chicken, a little bit of pain is good for you. What about jumping into the deep end?”

“Yeah, I do it when I can; obviously I won’t do it if the pool’s empty, you know?”

“But it’s not-,” the thug tried to explain something but Tom interrupted him again; he knew what the man was about to say.

“I know it’s not. Doesn’t matter, I don’t want to feel the pain so I’m not going to.” Tom touched the GPS again. The arrow disappeared from the windshield, then the entire car disintegrated into white powder around him. He stood up as the roof dissolved above his head; then, he looked at the thug.

“I don’t think this game’s for me. What else can we try?”  The thug grinned.

“It’s the AlterNet, we can try anything.”

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