At the shallowest crossing, I passed over the creek still full and rushing from the morning’s rain shower. The valley was wet and dreary, and I felt something evil about the way I was headed. Dawn had broken hours before but the dark clouds seemed to keep the night from escaping. The trail was washed clear of debris. Fallen leaves, loose rocks and twigs had slipped off to the side and the path before me was brand new Earth. I kept a steady pace despite unsure footing and followed the trail up a small hill into a tree-lined stretch with no branches above. Ahead, coiled in the mud, the serpent waited for me. He was a brilliant orange — a color unlike anything in the wild that day. He lie there, watching. I kept my pace, to my surprise, unafraid of what disaster or temptation he might bring. Through his slithering tongue, he asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” and he watched for my reaction with round black eyes as cold as glass beads. I could sense he had planned to say something more, but was surprised by my boldness. I began to feel that evil was nothing more than fear, and that if I wasn’t afraid, there was nothing that could consume me. I looked down and saw a faint white circle on his back that seemed to be a sign of his weakness, and I buried my heel into it — a deep strike clear through to the damp earth. I moved my boot and the serpent was instead a tree root, exposed by the fresh rain and washed clean. The sky was still overcast but after this confrontation, the forest was more filled with light. I went on walking and left the dead root to rot in the gloom.