The serpent continued to starve. Several times, she tried to visit the campus and kill a big fat bird, which she managed to drag away from the paddock. Once, she succeeded, but the walls of the fence became twice as high, and despite being over eight feet long, the reptile could not climb up over the barrier. The snake scanned the fence around the perimeter, but the lower edges of the mesh were flooded with concrete and it was impossible to climb under the baseboard. The snake heard a little dog yapping, and after a few minutes, the dog was gone. The reptile retired to its nest.

The cemetery was old and folk had stopped burying people there. The snake had chosen a home under a huge granite slab. The kinfolk had not watched the monument for a long time, the rains and wind had done their job; a gap had formed, in which the snake had settled.

Visitors who went to pay respects to their deceased relatives left food on the graves that attracted small rodents and stray animals. These unfortunate creatures became easy prey for the snake. The reptile did not touch people; she realized that there could be trouble from them and, with the sound of voices, crawled away and hid in the grave.

Michael was homeless. Laziness and alcoholism had done their job. He lost his job and did not try to find a new one. Michael was a Iraq war veteran. He was slightly injured there, but this was enough to receive a small pension, sufficient for a bottle of whiskey per day and a snack.

Michael loved to wander. He traveled around the country, spending winter in the warm Southern states and summer in the cool Northern states. During his travels, Michael liked to stay on campus, where hospitable students often allowed him to wash, spend the night, and listened with interest to the veteran’s stories about Operation Desert Storm, rewarding him with alcohol, snacks, and donating old but good-quality clothes.

Michael spent three days on this campus. He would have stayed longer, but the assistant sheriff warned him that no strangers could live on campus, and Michael promised him he would leave. Students asked for permission for him to tell his story about the war, and management allowed it, promising to pay a couple of hundred dollars. Overjoyed, Michael put himself in order, and the lecture took place.

The morning sun had already risen high, but Michael was not far from the campus. After the lecture, students gave him some booze, and now he could barely move his legs, periodically taking a sip of whiskey from a bottle. There were no passing cars, and he hobbled along the highway, trying to hide from the hot sun in the shade of trees.

Michael saw the shrine from afar. He still hobbled for a good hour before he went to the wall. He realized that people were rarely here and decided to have a bite to eat before moving on. Michael found the grave away from the entrance. Near it were a table and a bench. The man laid out his simple belongings and began to eat. The onset of stomach fullness made Michael sleepy. He stretched out on a bench and fell asleep.

Michael woke up because something was crawling on him. He opened his eyes and saw a snake head in front of his face. The man tried to wave it off, but the snake immediately spat in his eyes. A terrible pain pierced the man and he jumped up, but at the same moment, he felt the snake bite him in the leg. Seeing nothing, Michael, stunned by the pain, began to fall. Not seeing where to run, he cried out in pain and felt another bite. Around was no more air. Michael spasmodically tried to breathe with his mouth, but his paralyzed lungs refused to work, and the man fell to the ground.

The police officer was angry. Initially, scientists decided to independently search for the escaped snake. It’s good that no one was injured except the animal. Perhaps this mongoose was bad if the snake was able to get rid of it. Now a tramp. He was a good guy and gave an explanatory lecture on the Iraq war. But what the hell brought him to this cemetery and why was he bitten by a snake?

The dead tramp was found accidentally because a stench emanated from him. People who came to visit the graves of their relatives smelled this bad smell, went to see where it was coming from, and found the corpse. Examination revealed that the tramp died from snake bites.

A police officer phoned Toddy’s father:

“Mister! I understand your concern for the fate of the snake, which was very expensive. But the fate of the inhabitants of the city and the campus worries us more. We have already found a second corpse. Animals disappear without a trace. I ask you to stop attracting untrained people to search. We will either invite snake catchers from Kenya, or we will summon an army unit that will clean up the territory and save us from the escaped snake.”

Toddy’s father came home gloomy and taciturn.

“Something happened, dear?” asked his wife.

“The police forbade me to invite people to search for the snake,” her husband answered her.

“And what’s wrong with that? Let the police search. Let them recruit whoever they need.”

“The snake cost $150,000. And it is still unknown when the Kenyan government will send experts to help catch the snake.”

“These are university problems, dear. It’s not your fault that they recruited an idiot who released a snake so he could take a selfie.”

“I have to save the reptile. This is a valuable serpent.”

“But finding a snake in the grass is very difficult. While you explore, the reptile will hear your steps and crawl away or hide.”

“What do you suggest?”

“I suggest using drones to search for snakes. We won’t need to walk, we won’t get tired, and we won’t be in danger.”

“Once upon a time, our university used webcams to study the flight routes of eagles. But the eagle cannot be forced to fly wherever we need. And we can set the flight route of the drone ourselves. We will buy four drones and several batteries. As soon as we find traces of the snake, we will track its route and look for a nest. Find a nest, go there, and try to catch the snake. In this way, we will save the reptile and save the university’s money,” the kid’s mother concluded her speech.

Buying drones took a lot of time. The parents of the kid chose four search drones: three main drones and a spare cargo drone, which, according to the design of the kid’s parents, could drop some kind of signal device, such as a smoke bomb or a sound/light beacon. The seller knew about the search for the escaped snake and tried to help his customers make the best choice.

Managing the drone was not easy. Toddy’s daddy spent the whole day mastering the aircraft. The control panel was connected to the computer, and an amplifier with an antenna was connected to the computer. The receiving-emitting element of the antenna had to be installed on the roof of the house or car.

Toddy learned to control the drone faster than Mom. The child often played computer games with friends and had a good command of the joystick and pedals. After only half an hour of training, his drone confidently made pirouettes in the sky and was obedient to the will of the kid, climbing high up or swiftly diving down.

The drone transmitted the image of the Earth over which it flew, its coordinates, the direction of relocation along the compass, and the speed of movement. All this was displayed on a computer screen. The scale of the image of the earth could be increased and decreased. The drone could distinguish between moving objects and objects that differed in temperature from the environment.

They decided to start the hunt the next day. The father distributed the territory between the hunters and made a plan in case the snake was detected. Mom would stay at home and continue to monitor the snake, and Dad would go to the location of the snake to catch it with the kid and the mongoose. Dad would catch the reptile, and the kid would keep in touch with his mother and report what is happening. Dad installed the same antenna on the roof of the car as on the roof of the house and checked it. Everything was ready for the hunt.

The first day of hunting did not bring good luck. No one found a single snake, and only lizards and birds sometimes came into the view field of the drones. The kid was bored with this occupation, and he began to have fun by chasing birds. Dad, who noticed this violation of discipline, did not scold his son, but at dinner, he told him that if the kid did not fulfill the survey plan, then he would have to take another observer instead. The kid was ashamed before his parents and promised not to be distracted.

The next day, the father was the first to find a snake. But it turned out to be an ordinary water snake. The reptile lay on the shore and basked in the sun. Then she crawled in the river, and everyone noticed that the trail left by the snake in the sand looked different than the one the campus keeper showed them. Dad called the drone seller in the store and the salesman said that the same image might look different due to visual effects.

Mom saw a black-tailed hare right away. Bald eagles often hunted these rodents. But this hare did not run anywhere, but lay on the ground, frantically jerking its paws. A few seconds later, a long snake crawled out of the grass. The woman called her husband and he immediately said: “This is our runaway…keep watching, do not scare her. I’m goin after her.” The scientist wrote down the coordinates from his wife’s drone and went into the car.

The reprisal against the hare was fleeting. The animal stopped twitching, but the reptile could not shove it into its mouth. Although the hare was small, the snake was not able to swallow it, and she began to wrap the hare’s carcass in her rings and break its bones so that it could stretch its body and make it smaller in diameter. After a few minutes, the hare’s carcass became shapeless, and the snake began to swallow it.

The scientist saw a drone hanging in the air from afar. Approaching it, he asked his wife what the snake was doing. Upon learning that the reptile swallowed the hare, he realized that it was hard for her to move around. The man put on safety glasses and thick rubber gloves and pulled out a hook for catching snakes. Finally, he saw a snake.

Dad forbade the kid to come close, but said that according to the sign of his hand, the son would release the harness on which they held Rainbow. The snake saw the mongoose and began to raise its head and inflate its hood, not noticing Toddy’s father, who approached her from behind. The scientist crocheted the hook on the snake’s head. The reptile began to wriggle, but the scientist took his fingers at the base of its head and threw the snake into a special bag. “At home, honey, home!” he said quietly to her.


For all installments of “Chase,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1