A jagged scream violently slashed through the silent fabric of the savannah dark

David shot up out of his sleeping bag; only to have his eardrums ricocheted back and forth off an imaginary barrier as the same high-pitched sound hit them for a second time. Rubbing the sleep from his emerald-green eyes, David forced himself up, wondering what on earth it was now that so desperately needed his attention from Brianna.

‘A split end probably’ he chuckled to himself. He often wondered what on earth a person like Brianna was doing on a zoology course, and the fact that she even opted to go on this field exercise in the middle of the African tropics astonished him. David felt that she was far better suited to hairdressing, in contrast to becoming a wildlife connoisseur. Kicking aside the unsanitary sack of grime and grit that had pretty much become his home over the past fortnight – his sleeping bag – David attempted to locate the luxury of the tent in which Brianna now lay, by only the light of the stars and the smouldering remains of the previous nights fire, which were still erratically flickering.

The tent was 15 metres or so away from where David stood, and he groggily advanced to it, in some small part hoping that something had happened to Brianna so that at least he could be rid of her for the rest of this safari. Amidst his lethargic thoughts, David tripped over a vine protruding from the lushly vegetated ground and fell to the soily earth. He bled – quite heavily – a gash had been cut into his palm and for a moment, he contemplated going back to plaster his wound before attending to Brianna’s dilemma. ‘Later’ he thought to himself – as soon as Brianna would stop bothering him the sooner he could get some much-needed sleep.

The pain of his injury seemed to awake David into a more alert more agitated state, yet he proceeded, incensed, blaming his cut on his insomniac colleague. David very much doubted the seriousness of the situation in which he was about to find himself placed, and was totally unprepared for what he would discover behind the flaps of the tent which he trudged ever closer through. 2metres … 1metre … and Gerald poked his unsuspecting head inside the tent …

Black Mambas were Africa’s most feared snakes, known for their aggressive nature and deadly strike precision. Black Mambas grew up to 5 metres in length and could outweigh a fully-grown man by one and a half times. At that moment, the shimmering scaly serpent body of a Black Mamba lay spiralled inches away from Brianna, and already had a tight grip on Gerald’s fear organs. Gerald had read about this species 3000 miles away in England, but never in a million years had he dreamed of actually encountering one where he currently was in Africa. Totally defenceless. Totally unwitting. Totally vulnerable.

‘H-Help me David, please.’ Brianna managed to half -stammer half-cry out. David’s response came – swallowing what seemed to be a ball of fear – ‘Don’t worry – I will.’ The sheer sight of the snake was enough to make David quake with apprehension, but he had to keep his cool – he was Brianna’s only hope of saviour. ‘Think David – you can figure this out’ he whispered to himself, ‘Think’. Remembering an assignment that he had to do in his first year of university, David recalled that most African snakes are forceful, and when made to feel smaller than another male they would attempt to compete with it, in order to gain superiority. A hasty plan formulated in David’s head and he decided on what he was going to do – risky as it may be.

‘Bri, I’m going to try and intimidate it’ David croaked. ‘You can use it as an opportunity to escape’. Silence was the only response that David got from his partner. He waited. ‘Don’t David’ Brianna finally countered, ‘Y-You’ll get yourself killed’ – but it was too late. David wasn’t listening to her any more. Instead he found himself slowly rising, stunned even by what was either his own boldness or stupidity. He didn’t even seem to be in control of his own body anymore – it just found itself acting out the underdeveloped plan David had laid out in his head moments before. What if the snake attacked – what then? Did he dare continue? Did he really dare risk his life on a hastily made gamble? It was too late to go back now though.

His heart racing, David finally caught the Mamba’s eye and it unnervingly jerked its head toward him, staring at him, vacant-faced. Then … slowly … the Mamba too began an ascent of its own, its fork-like tongue silently hissing at what it now saw as its competition. ‘What have I gotten myself into?!’ David panicked. The hissing of the Mamba grew gently audible and David unwittingly backed off slightly at this, but then spread his arms out to make his size appear even more exaggerated. The increasingly louder hissing of the snake seemed to reflect its infuriation and then – something that David feared – it broadened its hood. The snake’s war sign had been initiated. The creature would now not stop until either it lay dead, or David did.

‘Back off D-David’ Brianna shrieked – ‘can’t you see that its ready to attack?’ David was numbed with fear. David couldn’t think of anything to say or do now, which could get him out of the situation he was in. Black Mamba courtship fights were famed in the zoological world for being the most hostile of any species of snake and now, he found himself facing one of these creatures in a situation similar to that which he had read in books. The difference here however was that David; unlike his adversary was not a highly poisonous fanged snake.

The Mamba now towered imperiously above David by around 11 inches. David could only idly watch as it commenced to draw its head back and hiss – like a bow being drawn back with an arrow – a poisonous fanged arrow that was the Mamba’s head. Slowly … Slowly … the snake drew its head back and then …the bow was released and the arrow went flying towards David …

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