The Musurana

5 Oct

Dario Soares was a native Carioca who never enjoyed having to leave his city of birth, Rio de Janeiro. He could claim to know the metropolis of twelve million better than most of its resident. His profession was a rare one, that of a herpetologist, a scholar of reptile biology. For him, the focus was upon Brazilian snakes.

After doctoral research at the serpentarium on the Institut Butantan in San Paulo, Dario won employment as a curator in the Herpetology Section in the Vertebrate Department of the Museu Nacional, located back in Rio de Janeiro. His own post-doctoral research continued in the Atlantic Rainforest of the nearby Serra do Mendanha highlands that bordered the Guauabura Bay basin.

He was happy continuing his research into the unusual tropical snake named the Musurana.

An odd-looking elderly man with silvery gray hair visited Dario one day in early summer. He introduced himself as Senor Alberto Goes.

The two men sat in the biologist’s small office surveying each other.

“I need your assistance because of your special knowledge of a certain variety of snake found here in Brazil, sir,” said the stranger, staring into the chestnut eyes of tall, spare, dark-haired Dario.

“If I can help you with what I may know, I certainly will,” said the snake expert with a cordial grin.

Goes lowered his voice to a near-whisper. “My interest is in the species called the Musurana. I have been told that your studies have been centered on that rare, long constrictor that resembles the boa, but is not considered a danger to human beings who confront it.

“I have a need to find how to catch and tame one of that variety of snake. That is why I have come to see you, sir.”

Dario gave him a look of surprise. “You wish to have a musurana in your possession? May I ask you the reason for such a desire by you?” He looked at the visitor quizzically.

Goes forced himself to smile. “People can often want to have unusual pets. I have heard of individuals who own so-called exotic forms of life. Often they do not have a rational reason for pursuing such an aim. It just exists, and that is it. Who can explain everything that occurs in the human mind? I certainly am unable to do so,” he jokingly said in a gentle voice.

The biologist looked down, considering what he should now say or do.
What were this man’s motives underneath the pleasantries being mouthed about a personal whim or hobby of some sort?

Dario was puzzled, at a loss as to how to answer this extraordinary request from a stranger. He decided it best to delay judgment, saying neither yes nor no in a final sense.

“I shall have to think over what you propose, Mr. Goes. There are a number of different factors to consider. One should not go ahead too fast on anything so unusual. Can we meet again in about a week? I can tell you what I intend to do when you return.”

Having no alternative available, the one who wanted to own a musurana snake accepted the offer, excused himself, and quickly departed.

Dario lived in an apartment located in the Flamengo neighborhood that looked out on Guanabura Bay.

One early evening, as he was reading a biological journal, a knock came at his door.

Rising and going to see who it was, he found a giant, middle-aged figure in a light blue tropical suit. The man introduced himself in a deep, authoritative voice.

Excuse me, Mr. Soares. I would like to speak with you in private. I am an investigative agent of the Policia Federal. My name is Detective Jose Cabral.”

Dario felt suddenly faint. “Yes, sir,” he managed to mumble, “Please come in.”

As soon as the two men were seated, the large law officer began to explain why he was there.

“Let me explain to you the reason why I came here to see you. I have learned from others that Senor Alberto Goes came to your place of work at the Museu Nacional and had a meeting with you in your office. That fact has raised my own interest, because Goes has been a subject of an active investigation of which I happen to be the chief.

“Alberto Goes has, for a time, been the focus of a probe I am involved with. The man is under suspicion for participation in suspicious actions that pose danger to the lives and safety of certain prominent citizens who reside here in Rio de Janeiro. I cannot tell you too many details about why this man is a threat to so many ordinary people, but I assure you that there are adequate grounds for believing that Goes has hostile ideas which he is fanatical about. His abnormal system of ideas have made the man involved with the care and nurturing of wild Amazonian snakes and exotic reptiles.” Cabral paused to draw a full, long breath of air. “Alberto Goes aspires to using a great tropical snake to destroy persons whom he sees as his enemies.”

Dario felt an invisible knife slicing into his inner mind. He could not think of anything to say.

“Has he told you why he seeks to own a dangerous snake?” asked the investigator.

“It is the Musurana variety of snake that this man wishes to have under his control. He approached me because he learned that I have studied that species of serpent for a number of years. His claim was that the snake he wants would be a pet that he takes care of. He did not tell me more than that, sir.”

The detective made a slight grimace, then smiled. “I cannot asked you to do anything specific for me, sir, but I can inform you that if you learn anything shows any criminal threat originating with Alberto Goes, you are most welcome to call and tell me of the matter. I shall give you my official number at this moment.”

The police officer arose and moved close to Dario, taking a printed card out of his jacket coat pocket and handing it over to the biologist.

“Good evening, Mr. Soares,” he said. “I can find my own way out.”

Dario sat staring at the card he had been giving, his mind focused on the impression that Alberto Goes had made upon him.

Until the return of Alberto Goes to his office at the Museu, the biologist wondered about the true motives of the man.

Did he have in mind some kind of criminal use of a Musurana? What precisely might that be?

Or had the police detective imagined a fictional evil where no such thing existed in reality?

Dario was uncertain what course he would be taking until Alberto appeared and had to be confronted.

The two men greeted each other. “Please, sit down,” said the snake expert, forcing himself to smile.

“What have you decided?” abruptly asked the visitor.

Dario did not answer him directly. “There are many aspects of the matter to consider, no doubt about that.

“Are you planning to use a Musurana to make yourself a large amount of money, Senor Goes?”

The latter gave a shocked look. “Of course, I am not. My quest for this kind of snake is not selfish or mercenary, not at all. I am sorry and ashamed that such an idea might occur to you or anyone else.”

Dario frowned. “But have you revealed all that there is in what you intend to accomplish with a Musurana once you are in possession of one of them? Is there more to the story?”

The visitor looked down at the desk top for a short while, then raised his eyes and stared into the chestnut eyes of the snake expert.

“Long ago, in my childhood, I had a brother who was younger then me. We happened to be on a hike with other children up in the Serra do Mendanha when he was accidentally bitten by a dangerous, viperous forest snake. My dear brother did not survive the attack more than a couple of hours. He died very quickly from the noxious venom of that serpent. Our family tragedy was enormous and never really ended.

“Ever since that evil day, I have been the foe of poisonous snakes, large or small. Their destruction has remained my sworn aim. That is the reason that I became enchanted with the gigantic Musurana. In a way, I am a devoted partisan of that non-venomous, non-poisonous species. Like me, it is an enemy of the dangerous, evil killers who carry the deadly toxins and poisonous substances.

“The Musurana can be the ally, the virtual savior of human beings. That is the reason that I have a form of love for that particular kind of wild snake. I want to protect and preserve one specific member of that species.

“What could be wrong with such a dream and desire? I ask you.”

Dario sensed himself in a corner, with no way out of it.

“Very well, my friend,” he murmured. “I will help you capture a living Musurana up in the forested highland.”

In his own sturdy overland vehicle, Dario drove into the Serra do Mendanha with Alfredo Goes at his side.

The moist tropical forests of Tijuca remained within the boundaries of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Along the road stood stands of Parana pine, rosewood, pau, cassia, and tibouchina trees. The sandy soil named the Restinga was home to an infinite variety of flora and fauna. Spider monkeys, red-tailed parrots, and a multitude of snake species existed hereabouts.

Dario brought with him the largest drift-fence trap he could obtain in order to capture the intended target of this hunt. He carried a dart-gun capable of paralyzing any size snake with a soporific narcotic.

“I am heading for the precise vicinity of where I believe that a Musurana is most apt to be found,” he informed his companion. “Have no doubts: we will return with the snake that we are after.”

The biologist stopped at an isolated height he believed optimal for the project they were on. It took him several hours to set up the snake trap he had placed his hopes on.

When the job was completed, he spoke to Alberto once more.

“We shall return back home now, but early tomorrow morning we return to see if we have trapped a Musurana. It may not happen at first, but I am certain that success will ultimately be ours. We will gain what we are after, my friend.”

The two piled back into the truck-car and started back to the populated city of Rio de Janeiro.

Dario asked for and received a two week vacation so that he could devote a longer period to traveling into the Atlantic Rainforest with Alberto to monitor the trap fence he had installed in hopes of capturing a Musurana.

He was surprised on the evening of the third day of this adventurous hunt when Detective Jose Cabral turned up on a visit, as the police officer had promised he would.

Dario showed him in and began to speak as soon as the two of them were seated.

“I have to inform you of what Mr. Goes and I are up to…”

Cabral interrupted. “I know the you and he are leaving every morning in the direction of the Serra do Mendanha. It is pretty clear to me what the objective of these trips of yours are concerned with. The purpose of all this travel must be to obtain a Musurana snake for your new friend.”

“That is correct. He is eager to win possession of one of them, but has not told me the true purpose of the enterprise that we are engaged in. The aim he has in mind remains a mystery to me, but I hope to learn more than I know at this particular moment.”

The two stared inquiringly at each other for several moments.

“I am anxious about where this passion of Alberto Goes may lead him,” finally declared the investigator, rising from his chair. “I would be most grateful if you called me at my home number should anything unexpected or unforeseen occur. My telephone is written down on this card I prepared to give you.”

Inspector Cabral stepped over and handed Dario a card he removed out of his coat pocket. Then he turned about, said good-bye, and left the apartment.

The two snake-hunters returned to the Atlantic Rainforest inside the boundaries of Rio de Janeiro for a fourth time. Dario did not feel any optimism about results, although it was evident to him that Alberto remained eagerly enthusiastic as at the beginning of their hunt.

After parking on a clearing next to the unpaved road, the pair climbed out and walked to where the fence-trap lay.

Alberto was first to see the long, black and pink reptile caught within the wire meshes of the device that had been brought and set up.

He turned triumphantly to the snake specialist. “We have something quite long down there in the trap!” he gushed. “It sees us up here, but does not move or make any visible sign in any way. Are you going to put this Musurana to sleep, Dario?”

The latter nodded that he was. “You stay here and watch the snake without moving too much. I will go back and get the pellet-gun that is in the back of the truck.”

Within less than half a minute, Dario returned with the projector of soporific compounds. He aimed it straight at the head of the unmoving serpent and pulled the control trigger.

Within seconds, the Musurana had collapsed into a seemingly lifeless dark object lying within the fence trap. It appeared to be a hose-like thing completely different from what Dario and Albert both knew it to be.

“It will be heavy to carry,” said the biologist. “But I believe both of us can haul the whole trap back to the truck and put it in the back.”

The two moved to opposite ends of the holding structure and lifted it up with considerable effort, then slowly moved it to the back of the vehicle.

“We have not yet decided where to keep the snake,” said Dario as he drove out of the forested highland into the populated city. “What do you think would be wisest to do for the sake of safety and security?”

“I do not want to use my own residence, for it is known to my personal enemies. Would you be willing to keep it in the car garage you use close to your apartment? That would be a totally unknown location to anyone who wishes to harm me and ruin my plan.”

Dario felt confused about what exactly his companion was referring to, but thought it best to keep his doubtful thoughts to himself.

“Yes, if that is what you wish, I can do it that way, Alberto. It will be possible to maintain a constant watch on the Musurana, and feed the reptile some simple food from time-to-time. That is the way we will do it, then.”

The driver took the car-truck into the Flamengo section of Rio de Janeiro and back it into the garage provided to tenants of his apartment complex.

“Let’s come back as soon as possible after we eat a lunch,” said Alberto with a hint of fear. “I don’t want to leave the Musurana alone too long. It could awaken from its stupor at any moment.”

“I gave it a strong dose of sleeping narcotic,” noted Dario.

“One cannot predict the way such a snake will react to anything,” said the other with a shade of warning in his voice.

After a quick meal at a nearby lunch counter, the two men came back to the garage and the sleeping Musurana.

But the snake was not alone. Standing beside the back of the car-truck, a metallic bar in his hand, was Detective Jose Cabral of the Policia Federal. He looked at the pair with a look of surprise and panic.

It was Alberto who was first to say something. “Pedro!” he cried out. “What are you doing here?”

Dario turned to his companion. “Do you know this man? I don’t understand. He has visited me as Inspector Cabral, an officer of the police. He asked me many questions about you, Alberto. Why are you calling him by a different name? I don’t know what you mean.”

“Tell him who you are, Pedro,” shouted Alberto, gazing in fury at the intruder. “This happens to be my older brother, Dario. He is the reason that I sought you out and convinced you to help me locate and capture a Musurana. It is very difficult to explain in a few words, but he has been infected with a certain strange kind of snake that has its origins in Ancient Egypt. It is hard for me to describe his abnormal condition, but there is a dangerous snake of limitless evil that is alive within his body, deep in his entrails. It comes forth when he is asleep and attacks the innocent, wounding and at times killing them.

“I had need of a Musurana in order to have it keep watch over Pedro. The snake that we took from the rainforest is bigger and stronger than any Egyptian snake. It is a magnificent constrictor capable of capturing and squeezing to death the internal snake that my brother carries inside himself. My only purpose in all this is to liberate Pedro from the demonic snake that dwells inside him and appears when he is unconscious in deep sleep.

“We must not allow him to do any harm to our Musurana, Dario. It is necessary to take that heavy bar away from him because he is forced by his internal serpent, through unconscious coercion, to protect the monster that he holds inside his body.”

Dario and Alberto faced each other, allowing the pretender who posed as a detective to approach nearer to the fence trap within which the caught snake was located.

The Musurana was no longer asleep, awakened by some mysterious inner instinct that placed it into a state of defensive initiative.

Dario and Alberto watched in astonishment as their Musurana burst through the wires of the trap that had held it till now. The long, sinuous, crawling reptile made directly toward the back side of the man who could not see it, the one who Alberto claimed was a brother with an ancient snake from the East hiding within him.

The two witnesses observed in terror as the Musurana swiftly rose up behind the false policeman and brought him down to the ground.

They watched with horror as the great snake took a merciless hold of the large man and constricted him to death within seconds.

Once the victim of this attack lay on the ground, his lungs collapsed and no longer breathing air, the Musurana used its wide mouth to take hold of something protruding out of the man’s mouth.

It soon became evident what the victorious Musurana was extracting out of the dead brother. The object was a smaller snake escaping out of the throat of the one who claimed to be a detective.

Indeed, there was a yellowish-green serpent inside the one called Pedro by Alberto.

He told me the truth, realized Dario, all of a sudden.

Alberto is not a babbling idiot, he is not insane.

He knows the truth and just minutes ago told it to me.

The brother is dead and so is the Egyptian snake that he held internally.

We have to get rid of the bodies, both the human one and the dead snake, both of them killed by our all-powerful Musurana.

I can never tell what has happened to anyone else, concluded Dario.

Alberto and I will alone share knowledge of this fantastic event here today.

Dario noticed that the Musurana had on its own returned to the fence cage and was resting here.

“Let’s go up to my apartment and rest,” he said to his partner. “We can dispose of the two bodies tonight, when it is dark.”

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