She parted company with him and wound her way down to the River. There, she curled up on a warm flat rock and inspected her scales in the sun. They were dirty and rough, calloused and hard from scraping along the floor of the Garden. They carried the marks of punishment - tree bark scrapes and grass blade nicks and bruises from stones. "So it is the way of things. I cannot expect to be as beautiful and bright as the birds."
Then she looked down into the River and admired the way it wound through its bed - smooth and flat on top, but constantly moving underneath, carrying the secret current of life as it meandered effortlessly through the Valley. It washed away the dirt from the shoreline when it grew fat in the spring, leaving smoothed and polished rocks behind for the summer sun to bleach. "Perhaps I should rest here until the River washes me as well," she said. She coiled herself around the rock and waited. Before long, the skies filled with clouds, and rains fell forth. The River began to swell. The snake was bitterly cold through the torrent, but she squeezed close to her rock and watched the water rise with hope. She hissed her lullaby, and closed her mind to sleep....
But the water never reached her. Though the rains fell and fell, the River carried the rising water away. When the sun finally burst forth and burned away the remaining clouds, the snake awoke to a misty haze and realized that she was not washed smooth like the rocks below. "So even the River forsakes me," she sighed.
"Not forsaken, groundling," came a Voice above her. She jerked upright, assuming a defensive posture. "Go away," she spat, "I am a danger to you!" She bared her fangs and searched through the haze for the Speaker, and found she could see nothing in the blinding whiteness of the new sun. "Peace, daughter. I am no danger to you."
"Forgive me," she said, recoiling warily, "I didn't realize it was You." "You have grown much since last I saw you." said the Speaker, with a hint of amusement. "The Devil has many assignments for me," she admitted with a lump in her throat. The young mice were still there. "So he does," said the Voice, more softly, "it is the nature of things." "I understand my role in this," she said, as she gestured towards the Garden. "Yes. You are fit for it. That is why you were chosen. You are the Messenger and the Collector. You, of all creatures, bear the greatest burden, though your form would belie the weight of it. And you perform dutifully and faithfully, as expected. You have overcome many obstacles and matured much. Uncoil yourself from that stone and receive this gift from me."
Still blind, but curious, the snake obeyed and cautiously unwound herself from her rock. As she did, she felt her scales catch on the bottom, and her skin pulled away from her. It was an odd sensation, but it did not pain her. As she continued forward, the skin on her nose broke open with a little pop, and it peeled away from her face. A sudden clarity poured into her vision, and the world was alive around her. She burst forward, amazed at the beautiful colors.
"Be free of the sins your skin carries, child." She whipped around to find her Maker, struggling with the last inches of her old self. But there was no one but herself and the blue, clear River. Around the rock was a white translucent shell of her body, with all its imperfections, crumpled and deflated. It rattled dryly in the soft wind. Alive with wonder, she looked down into the water of the River and beheld her reflection. Her bright new scales gleamed in the sunlight. She had been forgiven.