She led them towards a park bench, white and marble and shaded by a tree with obscenely green leaves and lemon yellow bulbous flowers. She thought it would be pleasant to sit down underneath the tree and tell them a story before they could go buy ice cream. She had pocket money for all of them. She had at least remembered to grab it from her desk before they left. The children were excited to be here, outside instead of in the planked wood classroom, thrilled to be able to stretch and yell and hop on one foot for an extended amount of time should they wish to. They were all around five. They were all perfectly small and sweet in their little white Peter Pan collared uniform shirts and navy blue shorts. The girls had bows in their hair. The boys were solemn sometimes. She loved them very much.
When they reached the bench she noticed a long, thin, green tree python curled up in the tree that shaded them. As she got closer to the tree she realized it was a tulip poplar, which wasn’t native to the area, the country, the continent. Non-native trees were unusual here in Cameroon, and she wondered if some lonely person from the American South had planted it to feel less lonesome. The python was unusual, too; they were from Australia, Indonesia, definitely not from Africa. Its color was typical of the species, bright acid green in adulthood. She bent down to gather the children around her and they looked quizzically at her, the poplar, and the python as she explained native species and natural habitat. How you normally would only see these things in a zoo or an arboretum if you didn’t live where these wild things were born. The children started looking even more confused; her back was toward the python and the poplar. She kept talking, foolishly now and rambling, knowing she would move the children away from this oddity that was she now realized was obviously here for something sad, for some dark purpose that could end it all for her and for them. She kept talking to keep the children calm and steered them away, but she didn’t do it fast enough.
The python slid from the poplar and waved in the wind before it struck her. It bit her clean and sharp on her smooth ivory neck before it went down to the children, who were screaming now, and struck then bit them each in turn. They all screamed so loudly (her included in that cacophonic symphony) that it alerted someone with a cellular phone, who then called the paramedics, who arrived in time to stretch the children and their teacher out while they convulsed and spit while the poison raged through their small bodies.
She woke up in her own bed, still convulsing a little, and a male nurse patted her forehead and walked away to sit in a chair nearby. The room was dark and lit with candles that smelled like magnolia. The starched white of the nurse’s uniform made his skin look like glowing ebony, and there was an ethereal glow to his skin that calmed her down a little. She started to jerk less as he assured her that the children were fine, she was going to be fine, they didn’t know where the python came from or how long it had been there. She started to ask about the origins of the foreign poplar, but was overcome by the drugs he had administered and fell asleep into midnight blue and black.