Herpetological Footnote

When I wrote in the previous post that I don’t have “any especial herpetological interests”, I meant: except for Komodo dragons.*

A Komodo dragon can run down a deer over short distances. They’re cannibalistic, and fight each other standing upright like goddamn Sleestaks. They wear bonemail armor (osteoderms) under their hides. Their mouths are full of sepsis-inducing bacteria to which they themselves are miraculously immune. They can unhinge their lower jaws and consume 75% of their body weight in a single meal. They can swim in the ocean, climb trees, subsist on as few as twelve meals a year, and reproduce by means of parthenogenesis. And oh, yeah. They hunt in groups. The idea that there are thousands of these creatures – some ten feet long and weighing more than 150 lbs – creeping around the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia is nightmarish. Imagine being a Homo floresiensis settler there 200,000 years ago, when darkness was truly dark, sitting inside a shallow cave and realizing your terrible terrible mistake.

*And maybe dragons more generally.

In 2015, my sister and I dragged our then-seventy-three-year-old mother to the ruined fort atop Dinas Emrys to try waking up the dragons asleep beneath the hill. My mom stood well back. You know, just in case. Afterward, something interesting happened. Standing over the foundation of a collapsed tower (pictured here), we started hearing two voices conversing in Welsh. It came as quite a surprise, given that we hadn’t seen anyone in the surrounding woods, or on the (only) trail up, or on the summit as we circumnavigated the ruins. So I ran around the hilltop trying to figure out where they were coming from, but didn’t find a soul. What I did see was an open cave mouth where it hadn’t been ten minutes earlier, in a shady depression beneath the circle of tumbled stones in which the dragons were supposedly confined in 100 AD.

A year later, in the Lake District near High Tilberthwaite, Jay Owens led me to a cavelet she and Ella Saitta had found with a curled dragon made of slate inside, beside a scratched stone reading: WAYNE WAS TASTY. The, ah, long tail of the summoning?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s