Even at age five Satya knows snakes are dangerous. That you shouldn’t touch a cobra. But it’s bleeding and the faint gold bands in black seem to be fading away. So carefully, slowly, gently, she approaches it.
“Hi,” she says quietly, holding her hands open. “I’m going to help you Sri Nag.”
Carefully she picks it up, the small cobra not even twitching or hissing at her and that scares her a bit. How hurt is the snake? And what hurt it? Amma would know! She helped with the animals at the hospital.
“Amma! Amma!” she whisper-shouts, drawing her attention. “I found a Sri Nag and he’s hurt!”
“Satya, what…” Amma stares at her in befuddlement before her gold eyes go wide. “Satya! You know better than that! Sri Nag could have bitten you,” she scolds. “But put him down on the table. I will get bandages and we will try to help your friend.”
Satya gently puts Sri Nag on the table and accepts the small cup of water her Amma hands her. It’s clean, and she feels guilty that some of the clean water they use for drinking is going to Sri Nag, but they have to help him, and dirty water won’t do.
“Now, dip the cloth in the water and make sure it doesn’t get too wet. Then wipe away the dirt and blood,” Amma instructs. Satya carefully follows the order, hands steady, and tongue sticking out slightly in concentration.
Slowly she wipes the blood away, and she can see Sri Nag’s injuries aren’t bleeding too badly any more. She puts down the cloth and looks up at Amma, who’s smiling slightly at her efforts.
“Now, here is how you bandage Sri Nag,” Amma says, and Satya just as carefully follows that order. “Once you have him wrapped, I will make a box for him to heal in. You must catch him several mice a day so he can eat and rest and heal. Do you understand?”
“Yes Amma!” Satya chirps, still focusing on bandaging Sri Nag.
For three weeks Sri Nag rests in his little hospital box, Satya dutifully feeding and watering him. Appa isn’t too happy with her and Amma giving Sri Nag some of their precious clean water, but he still lets them. Priti won’t go near Sri Nag after he hissed at her, her older sister declaring the snake ‘mean’ though he never hisses at her or Amma.
But once three weeks pass, the injuries are finally gone and Amma declares Sri Nag healed. Satya picks up his box and follows Amma to one of the run down parks, an area that may have once been an apartment complex before the Crisis began. She gently tilts the box over and Sri Nag slithers out, but pauses after he’s completely out.
For a moment, it feels as if he is studying them, but Satya doesn’t think that’s right.
“Bye Sri Nag! Be safe!” Satya says, waving to him as he continues to slither away.
“Come along Satya, we must get home before dark,” Amma says, taking her hand.
(“It seems a debt is owed.”
“Yes, it seems to be so.”)