Snake 1 was a badass, by all accounts. He came highly recommended from the agency for his tight curls and on-the-mark tongue flicks. You can't teach that. Snake 2 knew that, and felt honored—and a little self-conscious—to get the call.

Snake 2 hadn't proven himself in a real way yet. He'd nailed that Samuel L. Jackson scene a few years back, sure, but had been picky with his roles since, and his agent had rightly grown frustrated with his lack of drive to stay relevant.

This was it.

When Snake 2 heard the phone ring, he had literally been tail deep on a field mouse, and had to cough it up to answer. Oh well, he'd have to skip a few meals to make weight for the shoot anyway. He'd heard Skake 1's name kicked around in film school as a rising talent on the Nat Geo circuit, and even brushed scales with him on the set of a Dodge commercial when they were miscast as vipers (they both had to laugh) early in his career, but he had never felt like he was a legitimate peer until now.

He did a couple lines to celebrate.

On the day of the shoot, he showed up early, but waited in his car for a few minutes so he didn't appear too anxious. The cold floor was a shock when he slithered in, but he'd just done a sizable bump to keep his focus sharp, so he hardly even noticed the discomfort. Snake 1 was already in place, milling around the quarter-operated horse-ride machine.

"It's weird, that thing," said Snake 1. "I just rode that horse for fun, but in real life, it'd scare the fuck out of me."

"Totally," said Snake 2, trying to sound natural.

The actor in a green jacket had laid out the fake leashes for the snake-as-pet arrangement. Yeah right, guy, he thought. I'll let you have this one 'cause it pays right. There was music playing—some kind of spacey avant-rap—and it was weirding him out. He couldn't hold his spot for the camera, plus, was that fucking horse looking at him? Just before his panic reached critical mass, the photog said she had it. The third shot, she said, was the one.

"Nice work," said Snake 1. "I thought you were gonna lose it, but that tension played well." Snake 2 smirked with like he had planned it all along, and even though the cold tile was noticeably slowing down his blood flow, he never felt so damn alive.