Once upon a time, there was a boy and his name was Ouro.
As a baby, he was perpetually putting things in his mouth. His mother’s pearls, his toys, the household slippers. Anything he could get ahold of, was treated to a dollop of saliva and a firsthand experience of mastication.
The doctors said this was normal. Reassured his mother, in fact, that this was a result of teething. And so, laughing (albeit nervously), she would tell her friends to hide their car keys and cell phones because “There’s just no stopping him!”
Unfortunately for the doctors and his mother, Ouro’s fascination did not stop in infancy and persisted, indeed, throughout his adult years. It was bewildering, this mania to taste, chew and swallow whatever he could find. No one was more confused than his mother who had many a time, rushed him to the Emergency Room swearing up and down that she had seen him swallow a figurine, a Christmas ornament or a kitchen utensil just minutes before.
The first few times, the doctors panicked, but Ouro exhibited no signs of constipation, no abdominal cramping, and no discomfort of any sort. A scan of his intestines later revealed nothing out of the ordinary and soon, his mother and him began to be treated as delusional, rather endearing (but really more bothersome) frequent guests in the ward.
As a young man, Ouro became something of a food connoisseur. He reviewed the most expensive restaurants in town, took no offense at eating at the dingiest of food stands and became known for his vast appetite and ruthless critiques. For all his consumption, Ouro remained disturbingly thin. A skinny twig of a man, he brought to mind the words “emaciated,” “undernourished,” and occasionally “cadaverous.”
Should you have visited his home, you would have been amazed to find it sparsely decorated and reminiscent more of a jail cell than the abode of a well regarded semi-millionaire. The truth was that Ouro could not stand the sight of anything for too long before the longing to ingest it overcame him. His dining room chairs had huge bite marks in them. His toothbrushes had to be replaced twice a day. His refrigerator was as bare as the day it arrived from the store.
It seemed that he was resigned to a life of eternal dissatisfaction and isolation. His belly rumbling into the dead of the night as he fought the incessant gnawing in his gut.
“More,” he thought at the moon.
“I want more.”
This seemed it would continue into eternity until one morning when he woke to find that one of his molars had fallen out. Ouro had never experienced the pain and wonder of the tooth fairy. As yet another anomaly in his life, he’d maintained all his baby teeth from the moment they’d erupted. Poking around the back of his mouth, he felt the sharp point of a canine begin to emerge. As a man, whose life was largely incongruent with normal human growth developments, Ouro decided this wasn’t worth his time to worry over and proceeded to eat his morning toothpaste, toothbrush and disposable comb.
Throughout the day, more teeth continued to resign themselves from him as still more began to grow. By 5 pm, Ouro had a mouthful of sharp jagged pearly whites (three rows of them, actually) and not one lonely buck tooth.
Even more disturbing was the sharp prickling he felt down his back. It rustled his fitted Armani suit and spread down the posterior of his thighs, his calves and his heels. A quick inspection revealed a new hide of scales, magnificent in deep turquoise and vibrant green that, even in the dull backroom of his office, shimmered brilliantly. Ouro beat a quick retreat to his apartment where, crawling on his hands and knees, he shed all his clothes and proceeded to eat the tiles of his kitchen, the cabinets from the walls and the pipes under the floors.
“More,” he thought to himself.
“More, more, more.”
Ouro ate all the way through the 3rd, 2nd and ground floor of his apartment building. Lobby guests and the doormen were terrified to see what appeared to be a large serpentine man with ever shortening arms chow through the revolving doors and vanish into the sewer.
“I’m going to eat all of you,” Ouro declared to himself.
“I’m going to eat everything.”
“I’m going to devour the world.”
He ate through the city’s water ducts, munched through underground subways, gobbled and gorged on entire train stations. And all the time that Ouro had not grown, he made up for now. First he was the size of a Boa constrictor, then an Ameritrack train, an adult sperm whale, then something that could only be compared to a dragon of days long past. Ouro ate and ate, all the way down, through earth and oil lines and hot hot magma. All the way to the center of the Earth where no living thing has ever been.
Your science books will have you believe that the core of our planet is hot. 5400°C hot to be exact. Too hot for anything other than hell, or hate, or a very specific iron-nickel alloy. The truth, as Ouro soon discovered, was that in that ball of incredibly scorching heat and light, there was a rock. Cool, primordial, and perfectly silent from the rest of the universe. Here, where the beginning of time began, Ouro found himself suddenly, inexplicably, tired.
So, our great snake, by now the size of a small continent, ate himself a cavern and arranged his many coils in circular concentric formation.
And then, finally content and with the rest of the planet falling in behind him, he slept.
“Tomorrow,” he dreamed,
“Tomorrow, I eat the world.”