I was condemned to die. These are the events as I remember them.
I ran into S at the trailhead and all he had to say was, "What are you going to do with your climbing rack?" (See Poste B.)
I hadn't given it much thought. As much as I tried to like S, I despised his reptilian essence. He had thin lifeless lips and was wearing a hooded gray sweatshirt even though outside it was at least 100 degrees.
In the end it didn't matter to whom I left my rack, but I decided I would rather be buried with it than leave it to that snake S. Such was my mammalian will.
My friend P, who was a park ranger, was assigned to carry out the order. Despite our platonic relationship and the fact that she was half tortoise, I had always thought she was beautiful. In stark contrast to her plain uniform, she had a full body and flowing hair. I wanted to run away from the idea of her as my executioner, but not necessarily hide. I explained to P that my instinct was characteristic of human nature. I told her that she should do it when I was least expecting. She was doing things behind my back, like loading the gun, while she consoled me.
I sat at the base of a cliff expecting to die at any moment. Vultures circled overhead forming ∞-shaped orbitals. The colors were brilliant and everything appeared vivid and clear. I was euphoric -- in last-request mode. What did I have to lose? I told P that I had to have her. This was my last request. She was reluctant. Somewhere in the park literature she had read that crossbreeding was against the rules.
"There are no rules when you know you are going to die," I said. "Come on. I won't tell anyone because I will be dead."
P beat around the bush but eventually brought me to her cabin. She told me to wait outside and left the door open. She struck a pose -- all her weight was on her right leg. She held her left hand in the air, the other rested on her thigh. I knew these were telltale signs of molting, but I still followed her inside and she shut the door. P said, "Let me bathe first."
This got me to thinking that I wanted to die clean. I jumped after her into the bath -- actually a large geothermal lake. We dove under and took off each other's clothes. A lot was going through my mind. If I got P to love me, then she wouldn't have the heart to kill me. But then the meaning of this whole experience would change. Besides, we had a different number of chromosomes so we couldn't reproduce any of each other with our selves. We were holding our breath, heading for the source of the hot spring.
At this point, things got foggy. We both became wet laboratory mice. A hooded cobra caught us both at the exact moment that we became mice. S had been waiting with a sickle raised over his head. This caused us to regress even more in a self-feeding spiral. The snake convulsed and regurgitated P, but not me. P's shell had hardened back into a tortoise shape. Before I died, I saw P and S walking into the sunset and knew this had been their plan all along.