I reached down to touch him and then froze. A loud hiss and then the distinctive rattle of a diamondback told me it was a bad idea. I backed away slowly and then peered into the darkness. I could just make out the coiled body of a very large rattlesnake on Ronnie’s still form.
I moved further away cursing myself for having left him alone. What the hell was I supposed to do now? As I stood there trying to think Ronnie moaned and I heard his boot scrape the ground. He was moving. The diamondback hissed louder this time and I could make out its head rearing back. It was going to strike if Ronnie moved again.
I called out softly in the gloom. “Ronnie, don’t move man. There’s a snake on you.”
I couldn’t tell if had heard me or could understand what I was saying but he remained still. My ankle was killing me but I didn’t want to sit down in case the rattler took an interest in me. I needed to get the damned thing off of him but there didn’t seem to be a way. If I pissed it off it would strike and that would finish him off for sure.
I realized his body heat must have attracted it. The situation was hopeless. I could do nothing but wait. I felt around the floor of the cave to see if there was anything I could use to persuade the snake to leave but there were only a few small rocks. Throwing rocks at it was only going to get Ronnie killed. Not that he wasn’t half dead already, but I was still clinging to the hope that I could save him.
After what must have been half and hour or more I sensed movement and I inched closer and saw that the rattler was moving off of his body and away down the passage. I moved in close to him and felt for a pulse. I found out why the snake had decided to leave. Ronnie wasn’t warm anymore.
I collapsed onto the ground and felt my energy drain away. My will to live was draining away with it and I just couldn’t bring myself to give a damn. My best friend was gone and I was lost in a goddamn cave full of rattlesnakes. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. Every time they drifted down I imagined I heard a rattle or a hiss and I snapped back to attention.
I had been many hours in the cave. It must be late at night so of course sleep was calling but I couldn’t bear the thought of waking up with a diamondback on top of me just waiting for me to move so I could end up like Ronnie.
I pulled myself upright and rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t help thinking that I was getting a preview of Hell. My folks always told me that was where I was going if I didn’t mend my evil ways. I wondered what they would have thought if they could see me now. Maybe they were looking down from Heaven shaking their heads.
My stomach was growling. I hadn’t eaten since a few hours before we held up the check cashing place and I hadn’t had time to think about food since we’d high-tailed it out of there but now that I had time to pay attention to other matters I was really hungry. Worse than that my throat was parched. No food, no water, a damaged ankle and nothing but a dead body for company. That was when I remembered the guns.
Part 5 Tomorrow