A bit of flash fiction.
New York Bestiary
The Mannahatta Serpent: Technically, this is not a snake, but a giant slug (Slimax giulianicus) that inhabits the sewers, storm drains, and the more viscid puddles of the streets of New York, almost always in the major tourist zones. Sightings of this creature began only in the 1990s, and it is believed to have been formed from the feelings of acute disappointment of out-of-towners on discovering that the tourist areas had been cleaned up and Disneyfied, and no longer resembled the decadent sleaze pit they had thrilled at seeing in movies and on TV (though they rarely left the tourist beaten path to seek it out). These feelings are thought to have sunk into the depths of the intensely organic, semisolid puddles that characteristically collect in the gutters of the city, and in this toxic, nutritive broth coalesced into the serpent as we know it.
The slug’s size led to its initial misidentification as a snake, as it can attain the length of a human forearm, though it tends to be somewhat thicker. It is a mottled greenish-brown color, blending in well with the stagnant water of the puddles and storm sewers where it lurks. It lacks all external features except a gaping, toothless maw. It is coated in a thick slime, which gives it its characteristic odor, similar to the vintage urinous breath of subway tunnels. Its speed is also a contributory factor toward confusing it with the snake family. It habitually lies in wait for its preferred prey, invariably a traveller from elsewhere, preferably middle America (it seems to consider Republican conventioneers an especial delicacy), and will flip itself out of the gutter with a powerful salmonlike leap, latching on to a wrist or ankle. There it will do its very best to gum the unfortunate tourist to death. This does not work, but is very icky and gross. The tourist reacts accordingly, flailing the afflicted limb around and shrieking like a banshee, while their companions and random passersby scream, laugh, hoot, or film the event on cellphone to download to YouTube. Invariably the victim ends up shaking off the attacker, which slithers back down the storm sewer, leaving only a discolored green-brown circle on the arm or leg, which is easily removed with soap or dry-cleaning. No one knows what the serpent gains by this. The tourist, however, is left with the invigorating aftereffects of an adrenaline dump and a story to tell his friends that will happily confirm their preconceived notions about the thrilling vileness of the city.
A similar phenomenon is the Black-Tailed Harmwarbler, believed to be the unholy product of illicit relationships between various metropolitan avian species. Genetic analysis has found traits of the shamelessness of the urban pigeon, the verbal talents of the Brooklyn parrot, and the unique mockery of the New York mockingbird, which is capable of sweet nightingale-like tunes but generally prefers to sing imitations of car alarms at 2 am. The Harmwarbler, a nondescript grackle-sized filthy-looking bird, has the habit of fluttering up and settling silently on a nearby tree, fence, or sometimes even the shoulder of the tourist in question. Then at the moment with greatest potential for startlement, the bird will begin to screech loud monologues, usually long and senseless but fluent riffs on the solitary conversations of the louder specimens of the city’s homeless and unmedicated, in which the word “fuck” often appears, used as a verb, noun, adjective, prefix, suffix, and all-purpose conversational placeholder. The bird’s eloquence is utterly unparalleled in the U.S. territories.
The rumor that both these creatures were genetically engineered by the Bloomberg administration in a misbegotten attempt to restore the cachet of New York as the Big Bad City without actually doing anything that might remotely harm the tourist and therefore damage the trade is undoubtedly an urban legend, as are the rumors that with the coming of harder times, these creatures have turned to less harmless habits.
Nor has there yet been any confirmation of recent reports from Brooklyn and Queens that in the darkest, earliest hours of the morning, when the subway trains almost cease to run, four-legged sections of elevated train tracks tear themselves loose and go wandering through the night streets like creaking, rusted brontosauri. Thus far, they are said to only go for brief strolls, returning seamlessly to their places before the next train comes, leaving a spoor of potholes on the street below as the only trace of their passage.