The fiery serpents were always present. No matter how fast he walked, no matter how tight he shut his eyes, their rattling, slithering and hissing spread from the gates and across the cobblestones as if they were all tentacles of one single menacing and tenacious hydra that had infected the buildings and thoroughfares in the city of rain. They were not lethal or metaphysical like their ancient ancestors. The modern serpents feared neither heaven nor earth and knew nothing of the nehushtan, asklepian, aegis or cadeuceus. They could only make you sick, indebted, unemployed or homeless. To ignore them brought some degree of safety—they were known to strike the fearful repeatedly, laying them low with fevers, chills, tachycardia and depression. To heed them was also wise—one wrong step off a stair or curb and one could find a serpent plastered to an arm or leg, burning like a portuguese man-of-war. The man walked quickly, almost insane with suspense. Would he decide to be cautious or oblivious? Would they strike and bite him or not? The man never knew whether to pray for safety or good judgment. Through the gaps in the concrete colonnades, he could see the crimson coils burning into the wet black landscape.