The death came in two parts. The first was the physical one that came in the form of my master’s slow decline into the other world. It was sad, in a profound way to him – his family’s whole existence was devoted to protecting an inner light, one in the…what’s that word he used? Ah, yes – “mind”. In his rare moments of pride he would proclaim that it was that invisible object known as the mind that resided in the head of his family and in that of all people. None of us could ever find a visible example of this object – and trust me, there were some who risked opening their heads to do so. It was the inner mind of my master that allowed his control the of the glowing eyes and veins of the snake. I was taught how to control the heart of the snake, so in a sense perhaps I too have a “mind”.
The stories master would tell the rest of the clan were wondrous at first. He told of the World Before, when light filled the dead glass monoliths and the infinite blue canopy above the world housed silver birds the size of houses. A time where all of those with a mind could talk over long distances, much further than the tunnels we lived in. Of how we had the power to fight the fearsome ravages that plague our bodies.
Then he would tell us about how we as a mighty race still did not have the foresight to see the cliff, and how we did not have enough knowledge to understand the depth of our civilization’s fall. The Darkness, he would call it, a disappearance of light, in all forms, mind, body, and spirit.
“Disorder covered all,” the master would say in hushed and defeated tones. “Entropy of the mind, of the body…all of us almost fell into the Darkness.” He then said that we, the Clan of the Metal Snake, were descendants of those who left the chaos. Our ancestors braved that first descent into the shadows of the tunnels in order to survive the Darkness above.
“We ran because we thought,” was the first line of the tale. “We represented not just a threat – a false one, at that – but as an excuse, to inflict the pain so many had felt when the lights went out.”
He would never tell us the true cause of the Darkness, just as his father could not nor could his grandfather or the rest of his lineage. His answer was always the same: “I am still investigating it.” Lamentably, his search could not stop his coughs, growing stronger every day, or his inability to hold the controls of the snake. His reliance on my strength increased with his age. That is how the second death started.