By Chris Picone, 2020

Jörmungandr, the world serpent, had not been seen on Earth for millenia. Some thought him dead, most thought him a myth, but the great ouroboros was neither. Deep beneath the Earth’s surface he slumbered, kept warm by the heat radiating from the world’s core. Jörmungandr was ravenous. After thousands of years without food his body was slowly eating itself from the inside. Yet he dared not rise to the surface until his terrible wounds were fully healed. It was man that had injured him so. Jörmungandr was older than the mountains and had stood vigil as many species came to dominate the planet, only to eventually be annihilated by the planet itself. Alone, Jörmungandr had survived ice ages and meteors and all manner of plagues. He had watched the evolution of the Sapiens. Watched as the Neanderthals were replaced by the Cro-Magnon, who were replaced in turn by the modern Human. It was a time of genesis, and it had roused his curiosity.

Jörmungandr had ventured out into the world then, exploring and feasting when – seemingly in the blink of an eye – mankind had created an entirely new kind of life on the planet. The world hummed and throbbed as enormous machines, the largest creations ever to exist on the planet save for himself, rumbled to life in servitude to the meek lifeforms that had built them. For decades after, he was bound to roam the scarred surface of the planet, pursuing an ever-dwindling food supply as whole species of animals and entire forests were wiped out, totally and indiscriminately. The pervasive humans had even changed the atmosphere somehow, as they adapted the very climate to suit their own peculiar needs, and for the first time in memory Jörmungandr struggled to breathe. He became weak. And then, the humans had attacked. Strange machines took to the skies, far larger than any aerial predator that had ever existed, and they fired rockets at him. The explosions rent the very air around him, forcing change at the molecular level, and eventually even his thick hide was not impervious enough to stop it all. A vicious wound was opened in his side and he had fled, retreating to the safety of the deep Earth.

He dared not surface again while the humans existed, but he did not fear. With that sort of power, they would construct their own apocalypse and he would outlive them all. Ashes would return to ashes, dust would return to dust. For now, he slept.