He opened his eyes with enormous effort, as if all strength had left him, as if only the sheer habit of having to open the shutters onto the world made him look up. He struck the match. Strangely, the hiss that brightened the room also took him down its flickering flame, down the spiral of memories, until he heard, from years ago, the hiss of the cobra. Contrary to what one might think, it had nothing to do with the fanged demons of nightmares; it was really an old sod, the most gentle of creatures. He was lying beside his mother that time as the cobra emerged from the dense undergrowth that surrounded the hut under the canopy of wild fig and palm trees tangled up in climbing creepers. In his childhood in that hut he always felt surrounded by the primeval green of a giant forest. Suddenly thunder and lightning made him open his eyes and he heard the hiss of the cobra amidst the pattering of rain. It went, as always, slithering as if the last thing it wanted was to disturb anyone's sleep, then past the mud hut with corrugated roof, across the plain of tall grasses, towards the great swamp. For reasons known only to himself, the old cobra never failed to keep a precise time between the waning of the moon and the cry of the jackal. He wasn't scared of the cobra, and he fell asleep in the hiss and the pattering of the rain.



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