Now that it was autumn, it was getting quiet on campus. Not just from the slowly disappearing students, but also because animals were going into hibernation and emigrating for the winter. Activities were going on inside more often than outside now, so there wasn’t so much noise and commotion out there. It was for this very reason that Heraclid and Innocent enjoyed picnicking at this time of year the best. No interruptions. No errant Frisbees buzzing by their heads. No bugs on their sandwiches. No birds taking aim at them while flying overhead. Just peace and quiet.
Which is why they were so surprised to see Beck, Aquillea and Aphrael tromping through the lawn nearby. They had baskets and were picking at the ground.
“What on earth are they doing?” Innocent mused, not sure whether to be curious or irritated.
“You guys lost?” called out Heraclid, who was definitely on the curious side.
“Acorn hunting,” Beck replied, then went back to her search.
“Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”
“We want to use them for a craft,” Aphrael answered.
“What, like a spell?” asked Innocent.
“Not *witch*craft, sweetie, arts and crafts. ” Aquillea halfheartedly threw an acorn at them.
Innocent was now on the irritated side. “That just landed in my iced tea.” She fished it out and threw it back full force.
It hit Beck in the leg. “Ow!” So she took an acorn from her basket and flung it back. Soon it was an all-out acorn-throwing spree.
As previously mentioned, there were usually very few animals around. Which is why there was yet another surprise when Aphrael went to pick up an acorn and ended up staring at her hand, which was holding a snake. She froze and stammered, and did not move or speak even while being pelted with acorns. She could only stare at the head of the snake grasped in her fingers while the snake stared back at her. In a moment the others realized what was happening, and they also realized that this snake was not alone. There were more. Scores of them were hidden in the fallen leaves and were slithering steadily toward them. Even those who weren’t really scared of snakes weren’t sure what to do, because there were so many, and the question remained as to whether they were poisonous.
Surprise again: Heraclid began to sing.
“You must be my lucky star,” he crooned in a weirdly high voice. “Cause you shine on me wherever you are…”
“What is he DOING!” Beck growled.
“He sings when he’s nervous,” Innocent said calmly, eyeing the snaked as they crept ever closer.
“I just think of you and I start to glow…”
“But Madonna! Seriously!!” Aquillea wanted to laugh, desperately, but couldn’t find enough breath in her lungs to do it.
“And I need your light, and baby you know…”
“He’s freaking me out,” Aphrael cried. “Please make him stop.”
“Shhhh,” said Innocent, concentrating.
“Can’t you just—”
“SHHHH!” She cut them off and watched. “Look…they’re listening to him.” Sure enough, as he sang, the snakes paused, looking at Heraclid, and stopped in a circle around the five of them. Aphrael placed her snake carefully on the ground, and indeed, it joined the others.
Heraclid stopped singing to clear his throat. The snakes began to coil in an agitated manner. They appeared to be most unhappy.
“Keep singing!” Innocent urged, frightened.
“You may be my lucky star, but I’m the luckiest by far…” The snakes went back to their calm state, swaying ever so gently at the sound of his voice.
“Well, well, we’ve got our own St. Patrick here,” said Innocent quietly.
“What are you talking about?” asked Quills.
“Legend says St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. Heraclid seems to be a pied piper for snakes.”
“By singing Madonna. This can’t be for real.” Beck looked as though she was ready to throw up or laugh hysterically. Maybe both.
“He always sings it.”
“Whyever would he sing that song?”
“He lost his virginity to it. Good memories, I guess.”
“Oh. Well, then.”
“It was the Beer Barrel Polka for me,” said Aphrael fondly in a faraway voice. They stared at her, and she looked back at them, startled that she’d said it out loud. “What’s the big deal? It was just this one time at band camp…”
“All right, nevermind. Heraclid, you’ve got to get up and lead them out of here.”
He nodded that he understood, and went back to the beginning of his song. Then he stood up and walked slowly to the edge of the wood, figuring he’d leave them there, and they could make a run for it to the nearest building.
“You must be my lucky star, cause you make the darkness seem so far. And when I’m lost you…you…” Heraclid paused, and his wide-eyed panic made it clear that he had forgotten the words.
“Go on!” the girls urged desperately, seeing that the snakes were once again taking an aggressive pose.
“I can’t!” he cried.
“Sing something else then!”
“I can’t!!” He was frozen, and the snakes struck. Question answered: Yes, they were apparently poisonous. All five Debs dropped to the ground, rather unlucky after all.