Lachlan couldn’t see Jen from where he was lying, but the panic in Sam’s voice was enough to make him worry. He took a deep breath and tried to force himself to stay relaxed. Well, as relaxed as he could be under the circumstances.

He’d heard that if there was no hope of medical treatment, the best hope of surviving venom in your system was to stay calm and lie as still as possible for as long as possible to keep it from circulating. The worst thing you could do about a venomous scratch was panic.

It was hard not to panic, though. He was lost in an alien jungle full of hostile wildlife, he had some unknown venom coursing through his veins dangerously close to his heart, and now Sam was crying out Jen’s name in a way that suggested something was very wrong.

“Jen? Jen?! Jen, wake up! Jen?!”

Slowly and carefully, Lachlan turned his head to the side. The small movement sent a wave of vertigo through his body. If he hadn’t already been lying down, he suspected he might have fallen over. That couldn’t be good. He closed his eyes took another deep breath.

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.

When he opened his eyes, what he saw did nothing to ease his nerves.

Jen was sitting on her knees, curled up with her head touching the ground. Most of her skin was covered by her clothes and hair, or tucked under her body, but a little triangle of bare skin was visible on the back of her neck, between the top of her shirt and the part of her hair. A weak little beam of distant sunlight had fought its way down through the dense foliage, landing on that tiny patch of skin and reflecting back into his eyes. The reflected light–glossy with a faint shimmer–reminded him of looking out a bus window at sunset, when the sun was low enough in the sky to hit every window and car and bombard him with beads of white gold light, leaving him with spots dancing in his vision; it prompted him to wonder if he’d ever ride a bus again.

Human skin shouldn’t have reflected light like that.

“Well,” he said. “That’s new.”

His head was starting to throb. He hoped it was from the sudden assault of light and not from the venom.

“That’s new?” said Sam. “She’s–she’s shiny! She’s all shiny! And all you can say is ‘that’s new’?”

“What do you want me to say, Samurai? I’m a bit too busy trying not to die to be careful with my words.”

Sam buried his head in his hands.

“I just–I don’t know what to do. You’re… you’re envenomated, and now she’s–” he gestured at Jen.

“Hey. It’ll be alright.” Lachlan wasn’t sure whether he was reassuring Sam or himself. “It’ll be alright. We’ll think of something. Let’s start the steps of problem-solving over again. I’d say this qualifies as a new problem, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it does.”

“Alright. Step one. Step one is–“

“Definition of the problem.”



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Jen squinted at the dark space beneath the rock, fighting every instinct to keep herself from crawling back in. The wavering light filtering through the trees, the light that had felt like a dim, distant glimmer just minutes before now scorched her skin and threatened to blind her. She thought of a documentary she and Sam had watched together just a few days ago about the life cycles of stars. When a massive star reached the end of its life, it exploded in a powerful, catastrophic burst.

After all that she’d been through in the past through days, this was how she was going to die? In an alien supernova with her ex-boyfriend?

But why was it so quiet? She knew there was no sound in space, but surely an entire sun exploding would make some noise. There would be shockwaves or something.

Come to think of it, she didn’t feel any shockwaves either.

And Lachlan and Sam weren’t acting like they were about to be vaporized by a devastating radioactive shockwave. They were carrying on their conversation from before, going on about the problem-solving process.

No. No, the sun wasn’t exploding. Something else was going on.

She didn’t know what, and she didn’t particularly care. If the sun wasn’t exploding, that was good enough for her. She was satisfied with that. All she cared about was getting out of this light, crawling back into that cool, inviting space beneath the rock and nestling in for a nap.

She moved a fraction toward the rock. No. She wasn’t supposed to go back in there. She couldn’t remember why, but it had felt important.

Since crawling back under the rock wasn’t an option, she settled for curling into a ball, tucking her knees into her chest. The spines flattened, retracting into her body to make room for her legs, but she wouldn’t have cared much if they hadn’t. She had to protect herself from the white-hot explosion engulfing her.

She tucked her hands into her chest and pushed her face into her knees, shielding all of her unprotected skin from the light. She was grateful she’d changed out of her dress into clothes that covered her arms and legs. If she could be beneath the rock, she could at least be fully covered.

Whatever forgotten reason she’d had for staying out in the open was starting to seem less and less important. If it was really such a big deal, she wouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place.

She tried to unfurl herself and found that she couldn’t move her limbs more than a fraction.

Sam was kneeling beside her, while Lachlan remained lying on the ground. They were talking, but her mind couldn’t parse the words. They sounded worried, but not supernova worried.

She tried to speak–to tell them there was nothing to be worried about. There had never been anything to worry about. She was fine. Everything was fine. It wasn’t ideal that she was out in the open light, but there was nothing she could do about it now. It was time.

Time for what?

It was time.

She knew what she had to do. She rolled over so she was face-down, knees and head on the ground. She flexed her shoulder spines–those could still move, at least–and extended them, hooking them into the ground.

There. Now she could sleep.

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Schedule Update

Hi everyone!

I said last week I would try to resume weekly updates, but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem like it’ll be doable for me right now. I still really want to keep the story going, so I’ll be publishing chapters every two weeks going forward.

Thanks so much for reading and see you next week!



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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!


Hiatus Update 2

Hi to anyone who’s still here!

Don’t worry–I haven’t forgotten about the story!

I planned to start updating again on the first Thursday of the new year, but unfortunately, I’ve been hit by an awful respiratory infection that has just completely knocked me out, and I haven’t been able to do much of anything. (I was hoping to build up a nice backlog of chapters during my hiatus in case of something like this but that… did not happen.)

I’m still sick, and it’ll probably take a couple weeks to feel back to 100%, so the new plan is to resume updating February 2.

Thanks to anyone who stuck around, sorry for the long hiatus, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming chapters!


Hiatus update

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to give an update on my story’s hiatus since I originally planned to resume the story in September.

Unfortunately, with my workload at my job continuing to get bigger and more pressing, I have very little free time at the moment and I’m feeling very burnt out, so I’m going to have to extend the hiatus through the end of this year.

Tentatively, I’ll plan to resume publishing chapters in January 2023. I know I don’t have many readers, but I hope those of you who have stuck around this long will continue to do so, and I look forward to bringing you more of the story next year!

Thank you for reading! 🙂

~2 Month Hiatus

Hi everyone!

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this, but I’ve realized my responsibilities at work are getting to be too much to handle, so I will be taking a hiatus from updating this story for about two months.

I apologize for doing this so abruptly, but unfortunately, I have to put my “day job” first (yay capitalism) and that means put this story on hold for the time being.

I’ll resume updating as soon as I have the time to do so, which I’m tentatively saying now will be around September.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you all stick around for when the story comes back this fall (or spring depending on where you are in the world!) ❤