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There was only ever one of them, made from the sloughed skin of a venomous serpent, more a translucent puppet, a one-armed costume in which to perform a solemn rite.

Anyone who dared to slip their hand into the opening, allow their fingers to slide into the head of the phantom snake, to draw the sheath up their forearm, anyone who wore the snakeskin glove, was also worn by it.

They felt the old skin tightening, a scale growing over their eye; they felt the urge to strike out.

The need to split the casing grew so urgent that they were tempted to writhe in a wild dance, but at every gyration the skin would tighten.

To wear this garment required a rare composure, the ability to constantly quell a sense of panic. The wearer had to move, slowly and deliberately towards the barb, the spike that would pierce the skin to the right depth. Too shallow a cut would leave it a mass of tattered ribbons. Too deep a cut would bloody the new skin underneath, scarring it for life.

The wearer of the glove must find the thorn that will make the first rip, the single thorn that allows the old skin peel off in one sinuous movement.

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