A Bestiary

By Tim Pratt

Nidhigg

It has been said that everyone is a world unto themselves,
and to stretch a metaphor, that implies
subterranean depths, and biological equivalents
to geological structures, and at least the possibility
that myths about the world might apply
on a more personal level as well.

Consider the corpse-grinder, monster of the North,
dragon of envy, a beast with the jewels of dead warriors
adorning its teeth, with scales as milky white
as permafrost, who lives beneath the Earth
and gnaws forever at the roots
of the tree of the world, constantly killing
the living thing from which all
existence grows. Take a short leap
and imagine your brainstem, your spine, your nerves
growing through your own firmament like roots. Imagine
the world tree of your life, and think
of the caverns beneath the meat, the dark places
within you, the taproots growing
down through treasure caverns, Morlock holes,
abandoned bunkers, through underground
lakes filled with the blind cave fish
of your lesser impulses. Does a dragon live there,
gnawing at the endings of your nerves, shitting
in your stillest waters, eating the corpses
of your memories, poisoning your wells?

Everyone is a world. There are monsters
beneath the world. Apply the transitive property
and consider the results.

 

Copyright © 2003 Tim Pratt

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Tim Pratt is a poet and fiction writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Clarion in 1999, and now works as an editorial assistant for Locus, and also edits Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. His work has appeared in Asimov's, Strange Horizons, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and other nice places. His previous publications in Strange Horizons can be found in our Archive. For more about Tim, visit his website.

Author's Note: In my ongoing Bestiary series, I try to find new perspectives on mythic creatures while remaining respectful of the sources from which they originate. "Nidhigg" is the corpse-tearer of Norse mythology (also known as Nidhogg), one of the primordial dragons who seeks to destroy the roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasil.