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Lachlan felt Sam slide out from beneath him.

“Venomous? I know you two haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot, but that’s pretty harsh.”

Lachlan laid on the ground, trying his best not to move. It was difficult to stay still–the ground was hard and lumpy, and a rock was positioned just under his tailbone as though it had been strategically placed to maximize his discomfort.

“No, I mean she’s literally venomous. As in she is capable of producing and injecting venom.”

“She’s–oh, no.”

Sam sat behind him on the ground. He was just out of Lachlan’s field of vision, but Lachlan could hear the concern in Sam’s voice.

“Yep. Oh, no, indeed.”

“Can you get up? Do you need help?”

Jen let out a faint, but distinctly annoyed-sounding ‘mmm’ from beside him.

“No, but I think Jen might need help,” said Lachlan.

“No,” Jen mumbled. “Could’ve offered, though.”

“Sorry,” said Sam to Jen. Then he addressed Lachlan. “So why are you lying down?”

“When you get bitten by a venomous snake, you can slow down the venom if you lie flat and try not to move,” Lachlan explained. “Jen’s not a snake, but I imagine the same principle applies.”

“Okay,” said Sam. “How do you know she’s venomous?”

“My shoulder is numb where her spines cut me.”

“You’re not having any other symptoms?” said Sam.

“Not yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. It’s only been a minute. Maybe this’ll be the only symptom, or maybe…”

“Maybe you’ll be dead in half an hour,” said Sam.

Lachlan inhaled deeply, trying not to tense up at Sam’s words.

“Thanks, Samurai. You always know just the perfect, soothing thing to say.”

“Well, you might be. Not saying it doesn’t make it less true.” Sam leaned forward, his face coming into view as he examined the bite. “Lift your arms up.”


“So I can take your shirt off.”

“Shouldn’t you buy me dinner first?”

Jen let out a soft “ugh” sound.

“Shut up,” said Sam. “It’s so you’re not constricted if it starts swelling. I tried to pick up a copperhead when I was six. I don’t remember it much, but my hand and arm swelled up so much they had to cut my shirt off.”

Lachlan carefully lifted his arms above his head, and Sam began pulling the shirt off. It was difficult to have someone remove his shirt while he was lying flat on the ground and trying to stay immobile; he had to strike the right balance between shifting around to make Sam’s job easier and staying still enough to keep the venom from spreading faster.

The shirt was tight enough on his shoulder that it stuck there, momentarily covering his face before Sam removed it all the way. Lachlan could see through the corner of his eye that the skin on his shoulder was already beginning to swell and redden.

“Why did you try to pick up a copperhead?”

Jen gave an almost inaudible snort that made Lachlan suspect she knew the story already.

“I was playing a game I invented called Snake Laboratory,” said Sam.

“I’m sorry, snake–what?”

“Laboratory.” Sam didn’t elaborate any further. “So we don’t know where the rest of the group is and neither of you can move. I guess we should figure out a plan.”

“I’m still stuck on the ‘snake laboratory’ thing, but you’re right. We need a plan.”

Jen mumbled something.

“What is it, Jen?” said Sam.

“I… I… I said…”

Jen mumbled slightly louder, sounding as though every word was a struggle to get out. It reminded Lachlan a little of how he’d spoken while the drugs he’d been injected with were still wearing off.

“I said… if y’all start… with…with that seven steps of problem solving crap… I’m gonna venomize you both.”

“There are five steps,” said Sam.

“The word is ‘envenomate’,” said Lachlan at almost the same time.

Jen let out a high-pitched whine.

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Hi, everyone! I’m finally back with a new chapter!

I’m hoping to continue updating weekly from now on, but since I’m still pretty busy, I’m not sure as of now whether my next chapter will be a week late or not. As of right now, I’ll aim for another chapter next Thursday, but if that turns out not to be doable, I’ll let you all know.

Thanks so much to anyone who’s still reading and who’s stuck around through my extremely long hiatus!



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