• Georgia Garfield-White

Ouroboros



 

“Life lives on life. This is the sense of the symbol of the Ouroboros, the serpent biting its tail. Everything that lives lives on the death of something else. Your own body will be food for something else. Anyone who denies this, anyone who holds back, is out of order. Death is an act of giving.”

— Joseph Campbell

 

At the bottom of the ocean, stars burn in their watery home. Bioluminescent marvels with sharp teeth and spiny fins and lures that flare and flicker and fade and die, drifting down to the ocean floor, like a hundred thousand of their brothers drifted down before.


The sand is ghostly here against the water’s icy darkness – if you have the light to see it. It rises and falls in ridges and mountains and veins that span far beneath the waves. It shifts, and ripples, tumbling down, the first sifting grain triggering an avalanche that topples down to bury the latest falling star. The cave in revealed a great cavern, the nostril of a giant. As more sand falls, scales are revealed, rugged and worn with the wispy ghosts of a long-ago shed still clinging stubbornly to their creases. Colour means nothing here and the slight shifts across that harsh scale could be the echoes of a pattern, or merely a rippling shade.


The sands move again and there, beside that mighty head, a tail curls like a dead thing against the ocean floor. In places, the flesh is gone, open wounds that no longer bleed, the damage too great, too long-standing. A glisten of skeleton in the deepest wounds, bare and exposed to the empty void.


The rest of the body is invisible, hidden on the ocean floor and spanning the world. The Midgard-serpent. Lonely. Giant. Restless. The earth moves with him, a crust that rumbles and groans as he clenches like a fist around it. He turns his head, and a hundred waves race to distant shores.


The ocean is emptier now. Though the greatest, he was far from the only giant in these waters. Scaled and soft-skinned beasts once fought and fed far above his head, their remnants drifting down to his resting place in a mighty feast. Those days are gone. The ocean is emptier now. Only the lucky whale-fall and the tiny, firefly flickers of light (those that still drift too close) to sustain him.


It has been a long, long time since the last whale.


He takes his tail back inside his mouth, and bites.

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