That’s right, the jungle isn’t dangerous. Everyone you’ve met has been friendly. That whole thing about the food chain? It was just a misunderstanding. The actual food chain is just a, it’s like the food pyramid, your daily recommendation of food, on a, chain. Yeah. What were you thinking about?
Danger! There’s no danger in the jungle. Everyone just worries unnecessarily. As you ponder how you could show Bagheera the jungle is safe enough for you to stay in you hear a rustling in the leaves above. Someone is up here.
“Hello,” you say, in a very nonchalant and casual way that doesn’t at all sound like you’re entering a spooky cave. After all, everyone in the jungle is a friend. You stand up to reach the leaves, repeating to yourself under your breath that ‘tis some jungle friend relaxing in the leaves for sure, only this and nothing more. You reach up and push aside the rustling leaves you can’t ignore—darkness there and nothing more.
At a tap on your shoulder you spin around with a gasp. Before you now sits a lady laughing at your surprise—human above the waist but with a snake tail below wrapped across the tree’s trunk.
“Don’t do that!” you say between your teeth.
“Sorry,” says the lamia, holding a hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter. “It was just too perfect.”
You scowl and sit on the branch, holding your legs to your chin. That scare did not help your mood any, though you realize the sweet scent you noticed while climbing the tree is stronger near the lamia. “Who are you, anyway?”
It’s at this point the narrator realizes that they’ve been jumping between all these timelines without ever finding out what this lamia’s name is. I mean, she may very well be a different one across the timeline paths. It’s difficult to say. But what is this lamia’s name? Maybe it’s Hats. It’s probably not Hats.
The lamia raises her eyebrows. “No surprise or concern about me?”
Your face softens. Why would she think that? “No.”
“Never heard stories about lamias?”
You haven’t. In fact, I’ve just been using lamia for sake of ease. You assume, “Your name is Lamias, then?”
The lamia laughs and shakes her head and gives you her name. She spreads her arms out and lifts her human form higher to show her thick tail. “A lamia is what I am.”
You take a proper look at her for the first time. Her hair flows down her svelte figure nearly to her upper tail, round like hips but decidedly scalier. Her tail is as thick as the branch you sit on, and from the arc of it behind the tree it could snake all throughout the branches above. Her soft face smiles and looks upon you with dreamy eyes like she expects you to bask in her glory.
You just say, “Good for you,” then return to pouting.
This cool response deflates her a little.
“Aw, what’s wrong?” The lamia lies down on the branch before you, looking up into your face with sad, drooping eyes and yet a beaming smile. “Not feeling well? Can’t get to sleep?” You assume she’s trying to cheer you up and empathize, but you’re not in the mood. She couldn’t relate to you. No doubt she’ll live in the jungle all her life.
The lamia traces along your knee with a finger. Her smile and voice deepens. “Are you maybe lonely? Are you all alone out here in the jungle?”
Well. Huh. You know what. How do you answer that question? You tell me, because I don’t know. You could lie, but I don’t even know what the lie is! Bagheera is in another tree, you left him. Sure, you could see him if you climbed to the other side—the lamia might have even seen him anyway—but you specifically climbed to this side where you can’t see him and he can’t see you. So either you’re by yourself, or you’re still with Bagheera. Which is it?
-14a “Yes, I’m on my own out here.” (unfinished)
-14b “No, my friend’s just around the tree.”