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The Ouroborus

The Ouroborus

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Published by Dominic Sargent

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Published by: Dominic Sargent on May 26, 2012
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The Ouroborus 1
The Ouroborus A little more than an eighth, but a little less than a quarter of acentury ago, there was a small girl called Esme. She was a verylucky small girl, and often very well-behaved, but, I am glad to say,not always. She got lots of presents on her birthday from herparents and grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins andfriends. She had five god-parents, which is rather more than anyonereally needs, but who loved her very much and mostly rememberedto send something on her birthday too. If they didn’t, her mother,who was very thoughtful, reminded them.On her fourth birthday she received an unusual present. Itwasn’t really unusual in itself, and it wasn’t even an unusualpresent for Easter, which had just been, for it was an egg. It wasquite large, and there was no card or message with it. But the nameand address had been engraved on the egg-shell, and next to theaddress was a stamp, with a picture of a white and gold unicorn ona blue, red and green background, and a purple postmark justcovering the left hind hoof and writhing across the surface of theegg. Her father examined the postmark for several long minutes.‘It’s from China,’ he said at last.‘Who do we know in China?’ said her mother.‘Nobody, I don’t think. Perhaps it’s from one of your god-parents, Esme, gone to explore the mountains and deserts and learnancient languages.’But Esme wasn’t listening. She was staring at the egg, whichhad rolled over, creasing a loose corner of the brightly colouredstamp. The egg lay there, doing nothing, but promising everything.They put it on her bedside table so that she could see it when shewent to sleep at night and again when she woke up in the morning. As it was quite large they moved the bedside light. They piled thebooks and the toys in the angle between bed and table to make a
 
The Ouroborus 2
staircase up to the egg.‘Just in case it wants to go somewhere in the middle of thenight,’ Esme said.But the egg was still there the next morning, and the next. Infact it did not move or do anything except gather dust for a whole year. By the time Esme’s next birthday came around, when shewould be five, she had got so used to the egg that she hardly everlooked at it, and thought about it even less. The staircase of bookshad long ago been read and the toys played with or put away.So she was surprised when she woke that morning to find the eggon the floor, its top neatly removed as if someone had quickly,surely swiped it off with a sharp knife. Next to the egg, curled upwith its tail in its mouth, was a small, wrinkled, brown-greencrocodile. Now and again it would let go of its tail and raise itshead, snapping its narrow jaws together to test them out.When her father came in to wake her up for breakfast, henearly tripped over the crocodile and Esme cried out in alarm. Butthe crocodile just lay there calmly, its tail in its mouth.‘It’s called an ouroborus,’ he said, 'Because it has its tail in itsmouth. It’s a symbol of something, I can’t remember exactly what,though.’‘It’s called Esme,’ said Esme.Esme forgot about all her other presents that day, and playedin the garden with the crocodile. There had been a heavy fall of snow in the night, which is quite unusual at the end of April inEngland, but much stranger was the fact that everywhere thecrocodile went the snow melted immediately, not into water, butdirectly into steam, and then quickly vanished.That night Esme rebuilt the staircase of books and toys, andthey both climbed it and curled up, the small girl in the bed and thecrocodile on the table. Esme didn’t have a tail to put in her mouth,but she imagined that she did.
 
The Ouroborus 3
‘Good night!’ said Esme. And Esme snapped her jaws in theair once or twice, before they both fell fast asleep.The days became weeks, and the weeks became months, and themonths became years, and Esme the girl and Esme the crocodilegrew and grew. The girl went to school, made friends and wasinvited to parties, learnt to ride a horse and to play the drums andto look after sheep when they were lambing and to clean out thechickens. She was joined by two little brothers, Diggory and Louie,who were funny and boisterous. Esme spent less and less time withthe crocodile, and the crocodile slept more and more, andeventually, when it became too big for the table, it moved under thebed, where you could sometimes hear it snoring softly in the middleof the afternoon.Eventually Esme didn’t think very much about the crocodileunder the bed, and when she did, she only thought how ugly anduseless it was, and got on with the important things she was doing,like homework, or mucking out the ponies, or organising sleepoverswith her friends, or driving lessons, or working in a café so that shecould pay her car insurance. Esme changed rooms so that there wasmore space, and her old room became the guest room, but nobodythought to move the crocodile too. They had all quite forgottenabout it.‘It’s called amnesia,’ her father might have said, if any of them had remembered that they had forgotten. But none of themremembered even that; every thought of the crocodile under thebed had vanished.But one day, fourteen years after the egg had arrived from Brazil,and thirteen years after it had hatched into a little crocodile, Esmewoke to a distant rumbling, like a train going through a tunnel, orthe sound a gas boiler makes when it fires up in the morning.‘It’s my eighteenth birthday,’ she thought. ‘I’m grown-up. Of 

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