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Young Writers Project: Ophidiophobia

Ella Woodruff is this week's Young Writers Project author.

Ella Woodruff, now an eighth-grader at Charlotte Central School, says she wrote this story “Ophidiophobia” (serious fear of snakes) at the end of seventh grade “because the day we were assigned this in class, my cat had shown his hatred for me, which reminded me of the original reason why he disliked me so much – the first snake.”

By Ella Woodruff
Grade Eight, Charlotte Central School

It was a warm summer’s afternoon, and I was blissfully enjoying it, relaxing upstairs. My mother was due to come back from the store soon, and then, surely we would do something fun. What could ruin a perfect day like that? I was just settling into total relaxation, when I heard my mother yell, “Ella, come downstairs!”

“Whaddaya want?” came my barely audible reply.

“I got something for you. Hurry up,” she called.

“Is it good?” My brain was whirring through the options. What could it be? I had been asking for this stuffed animal for weeks.

“You’ll see,” she said, “Just come down.” I hesitated, not certain I was ready for the surprise. But then my curiosity won out. I got up and barreled downstairs.

As I passed my mother, she told me, “It’s in the kitchen. I’ll be outside,” and then left through the screen door.

I skidded into the kitchen and looked around. There, lying on the floor was something that would make all of my dreams come true. I could finally scare my sister. It was absolutely perfect. I bent over and leaned forward in order to get my chubby toddler hand around the perfect S-shaped reptile, which I assumed, incorrectly, was plastic.

I had just successfully lifted it off the floor, when it suddenly squirmed. Later, I would learn that it was a garter snake, which certainly wasn’t poisonous, but the only thing going through my brain was, “This is a snake. It’s alive, not plastic.”

I was surprisingly still, frozen with terror, until I heard my cat meow. I threw the snake down, coincidentally, right on top of my cat, and started bellowing at the top of my lungs. The snake was immediately removed from the vicinity, by whom or what method I never knew, to the outdoors.

The surprise turned out to be an Orangina, which was totally not worth picking up a live snake for.

Four years later, almost exactly to the day, with the same kind of summery, perfect, lazy weather, I was running through my friend Lilly’s yard. We had just been crossing the driveway, and my first step onto the soft grass was full of sweet relief, after the sharp gravel that had dug into my heels. My next step was the one that scared me.

It was a perfectly regular step, headed straight towards the ground, as any normal foot would do, when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. But it was too late.

My foot came down just behind the snake’s head, but he managed to keep slithering. His smooth back made contact with the bottom of my foot, causing me to panic, but again, all I could do was freeze. I stayed perfectly still until his tail flicked my foot and he was gone.

Then the panic that had been isolated when I was still, rushed through my body. The one coherent thought I could form was, “It’s the same snake. He just got his revenge.”

If you had been at Lilly’s house that day, you would’ve heard the sounds of my screams and her laughs, echoing off the treetops. All I could hope was that the snake had decided that he had scared me enough, but to this day, snakes still haunt my dreams.

Learn more about the Young Writers Project.

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