In the nights leading up to a full moon, Eli Serra often dreamed of the swamp.
His dreams took him to the fertile soil of a riverbank, where he crouched and waited as transformation neared, toes digging into the silt, ears tuned to the whine of a thousand mosquitoes. The ache began in his mouth and traveled down his spine in increments as he stretched and thinned, bones snapping and reforming. At last the snake emerged from Eli’s clothes and glided onto the taut, green surface of the water, a sinuous mass of fang, scale and muscle.
A long hunt ensued as he followed the scent of prey or a mate. His reptile eyes detected the heat of other organisms in the deep, ever watchful for predators greater than he, but on most nights he swam alone, a temporary king in an ecosystem of dangerous beauty.
When he awoke, his human body felt limited, heavy, weak. Eli couldn’t understand the years when transformation was a thing to be feared, or why his human self preferred the speed and clamor of the city. Then the confines of his apartment in the French Quarter stifled him. He kicked the covers off his long legs and stumbled to the open window. As he stood there, he thought only of the bayou, the sensation of the water, the snap of his jaw, the smells on his flickering tongue.
Unable to get back to sleep, he dressed and prowled the streets, still a serpent in a man’s clothing.