Salazar the Snake Eater

Contributor: Michael Albani

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“Johnny,” said the younger runaway, “I really don’t think we should be hanging out around here.”

“Carmine, don’t be such a freakin’ baby,” Johnny ordered. “I mean, where’s your sense of adventure? We could never find a place this sweet back in Philly.”

Johnny and Carmine were brothers. Johnny was 16. Carmine was 14. They had both run away from home and were travelling together across the country.

Well, perhaps “run away from home” is not the right phrase. After all, “home” is an abstract concept, a warm and comforting state of mind. There was nothing warm or comforting about the run-down house in Philadelphia that Johnny and Carmine came from.

Johnny and Carmine were raised by a drunkard father who could not hold down a steady job. He was a mean drunk who took out his frustrations on them before slithering back into his bottle. They both knew they had to escape from that Hell hole.

The latest stop on their tour across America was an abandoned carnival. The sun was setting and the whole place was cloaked in dusk. It was a dirty place, littered with half-torn tents and ancient popcorn bags. There were rotting game stands with headless stuffed animals resting on the shelves. A rusty Ferris wheel and other rides enveloped in overgrown foliage dotted the landscape.

“Johnny, how could you think a place this creepy is sweet?”

“Aw, whatsa madder?” Johnny asked in baby talk. “Is my baby bwudder ascared?”

“No!” Carmine yelled. “I just don’t think we should be hanging around a place like this at night.”

“Ha! You’re scared.”

“Am not!”

“Are too.”

“Am not!”


“And what’s wrong with being scared, my boy?” someone interjected.

Startled, the brothers turned around. An old man was standing a few yards away from them, and a strange old man at that. The abandoned carnival was in the middle of nowhere, but this old man was dressed to kill. He wore an immaculate white suit with a matching shirt, tie, and shoes. In his right hand, he clutched a stunning ivory cane with a silver head. A black mourning band was affixed to his left arm.

“What was that, mister?” asked a bewildered Johnny.

With a sinister smile on his face, the old man slowly approached the brothers, speaking as he walked. “Well, my boys, I just said there’s nothing wrong with being scared, especially in this place.”

“Who are you, mister?” asked Carmine.

The old man laughed. “That’s not important. What is important is that you boys should be getting home. The stars will be out soon and so will Salazar the Snake Eater.”

The brothers both looked confused.

“You boys don’t know about Salazar the Snake Eater?” asked the old man.

The brothers both shook their heads.

The old man tightened his grip on his cane. “You boys must not be from around here. Everyone around here knows the legend of Salazar the Snake Eater. Sit down. I’ll tell you the story.”

The old man disturbed the brothers, but he did not appear dangerous. They decided to do as they were told and took a seat on the grass.

“Well,” began the old man, “many years ago the abandoned grounds over there were the site of a thriving carnival. This carnival had a Freak Show. Its star was Salazar the Snake Eater.

“Salazar had a very strange act. He would bite the heads off of live cobras and suck out their venomous blood.”

Upon hearing this, the brothers’ stomachs churned.

“Some people loved this act,” continued the old man. “But many more were disgusted by it. They called Salazar an abomination, a monster. This made Salazar very sad and very angry.

“One night, Salazar wished upon a star for a way to get revenge on all those people who looked on with revulsion. The star he wished upon was called ‘the backbone of the Serpent’ by ancient peoples. In fact, there it is right now.” The old man pointed a single bony finger into the air. The sun had set and a solitary star shined dimly in the sky.

“Well,” the old man continued, “when Salazar woke up the next morning, he discovered he had grown three times his size! This made him very happy. Some say he still lives on the carnival grounds, waiting to bite the heads off of any snakes that would dare call him a monster.”

For a moment, the brothers were speechless. “Well,” Johnny finally said, “thanks for the story, but I think it’s time for us to go.”

The old man smiled sinisterly. “Alright. You boys just remember my story.” The old man turned and walked away, disappearing into the trees.

“That was really creepy,” said Carmine.

“Yeah,” agreed Johnny. “So, you ready to turn in for the night?”

“Turn in for the night? Here?”

“Why not? I’ve always wanted to sleep under the stars.”

“But that old man…”

“Aw, is my baby bwudder ascared of some old man and his fairy tales?”

“Stop it! Fine, you win. We’ll turn in here tonight.”

After a few hours of sleep under the stars, Johnny felt a few drops of rain falling on his head. He turned over in his sleeping bag to shake Carmine awake. “Wake up, Carmine. It’s starting to…

Johnny stopped. His brother was not in his sleeping bag. Instead, there was a corpse with a bloody stub where the head should have been.

“You really should have listened to me,” someone said.

Johnny jerked around to see the old man lying next to him with his signature sinister smile on his face. More rain fell on Johnny’s head. He looked upward and was horrified to find that it was not rain that was falling on him. It was drool.

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My name is Michael Albani and I am a native Michigander and a student at Albion College. I am the founder and editor of the new online environmental fiction zine Appalachia Fiction and Fact and I have previously been published for my horror fiction in Flashes in the Dark and Deadman's Tome.
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