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Author Topic: EP331: Devour  (Read 8290 times)
Dem
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« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2012, 11:18:38 AM »

Are countries' leadership structures really that brainless?

I can't speak for any other countries, but that does seem to be the general opinion of our "leadership" here in the US. Here's an article on a fairly recent poll that speaks to this impression.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/american-public-to-congress-get-out-all-of-you/2011/12/14/gIQABY8vvO_blog.html
That's the thing though - the inconsistencies and vagaries of the public make it increasingly difficult for extreme views to get a hold, and that's without social media. Somebody said recently 'It's been a bad year for dictators' and what were the undermining influences? Joe (and Jo) Public on Facebook and Twitter. Where's there's app, there's hope, methinks!
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« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2012, 02:01:59 PM »

Are countries' leadership structures really that brainless?

I can't speak for any other countries, but that does seem to be the general opinion of our "leadership" here in the US. Here's an article on a fairly recent poll that speaks to this impression.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/american-public-to-congress-get-out-all-of-you/2011/12/14/gIQABY8vvO_blog.html
That's the thing though - the inconsistencies and vagaries of the public make it increasingly difficult for extreme views to get a hold, and that's without social media. Somebody said recently 'It's been a bad year for dictators' and what were the undermining influences? Joe (and Jo) Public on Facebook and Twitter. Where's there's app, there's hope, methinks!
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To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
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« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2012, 09:11:30 AM »

This was a difficult story for me to get through.  My spouse is dealing with a disease that currently has no cure, only treatment, and is slowly degenerating her joints, and may eventually take her life.  Even though she's only had the disease 3 years, she's getting worse, and this story really hit home for me.  I may have to make the decision that Bruce made one day, but with the unplugging of machines rather than a shotgun.  How do you make that decision?  How do you decide "Now is the time to say goodbye forever"?  I try not to think about it, but this story brought it forward in a very realistic way for me.  When I say realistic, I mean that the reactions of the people involved was realistic, not the actual situation itself. 

Kudos to Dave on an excellent, emotional reading, I think he really caught the feeling of the piece. 

The only complaint I have is the ending, with the humanization and "love conquers all" of Patient zero.  It seemed a bit contrived to me, and I think the story would have been better(albeit more depressing) if the story ended with patient zero bringing Bruce tight to him.  It could have been brought in for a hug, or to crush his spine. 
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« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2012, 12:59:40 PM »

Well that was depressing.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  It was a really good story, well told, the pertinent details revealed at a good pace so that it was neither info-dumpy nor confusing.  With the opening scenario I suspected lycanthropy (chaining up the werewolf so he can't hurt anybody), but the actual reveal was much more interesting.  Lots of interesting food-for-thought here from deteriorating loved ones and deciding if/when to let them go, the effectiveness of weapons to inspire terror vs. their effectiveness to kill or subvert the enemy, the tendency of biological weapons to be very hard to corral once released (and this one wasn't even contagious, but still impossible to consider it completely eradicated).

Dave did a really excellent job with the narration too, lots of good emotional expression there.

I didn't find the ending where love conquers contrived at all.  The reason is that the one who was swayed by love was not Patient Zero.  It was a merged personality of Patient Zero and Sergio.  He was designed so that his hatred would come through while retaining the memories of the infected, but with the memories came the emotions and personality of the person as well.  Sergio held very strong beliefs, and his love for the narrator was very strong, and both those things came through in the final result of the transformation.  This Patient Zero is still full of consuming hatred, but because his mix of past experiences is different than other incarnations, his hatred of his enemy in the war has become a hatred for the futility and random violence of his part in the war effort.

In the end, the result of this small encounter makes no earth-shattering difference.  Sergio still dies.  Our narrator still loses his beloved.  Patient Zero's mission is no less futile.  Which is all rather depressing, even though it fits the story. 

What I really liked about the ending, though, is that Patient Zero redeems himself to some degree (at least in my eyes).  Before the ending, he is apparently a hate-filled killing machine.  But this repeated incarnation process supports a good argument of nature vs. nurture.  I got the impression that at the end of the transformation he will essentially be the same physical person he was, but with some physical enhancements and with other memories.  So physically, his nature is the same, but robbing a new set of overlaid memories from the host allows a change in nurture.  Most of the time, the Patient Zero incarnations have done violent and hateful things when they came to be.  But the fact that THIS one didn't suggests that the violent and hateful nature that shows through in most of his incarnations is not an inevitable part of who he is--if he had had a different upbringing he might have become a gentler and less hateful person. 

I don't know if this was intended at all, but for me the character arc of this story is centered around Patient Zero, not around the protagonist as one might guess.  And I thought it was done very effectively.  Even that is tinged with some hopelessness because other Patient Zero's will not remember this incarnation, but it reveals his potential for gentleness to the reader and to the narrator. 

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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2012, 01:06:50 PM »

I only had one problem with the story, and that was the love interests; being gay is getting repetitive and a bit boring. Perhaps the author could have experimented with the idea of a relationship by having a son/daughter with the illness and the spouse killed in a peace rally? Overall I really enjoyed the story

Being gay is getting repetitive and a bit boring?  I don't understand what that is supposed to mean.  I think it worked well as it is.  Sure, there could have been other family relationships here, but I don't think any of them would've been as effective as a life partner.  At the very least, the story would've been very very different, and I like the story the way it is.  I don't know that the partners being homosexual was strictly necessary for the story to work, I think it could've worked with a man and a woman.  But I like that aspect--there doesn't have to be a story reason for them to be gay, they are gay as part of the basis of the story and that is that.  Gay relationships are just a part of life, and so I like that in stories like this it is just a part of life, and the story need not hinge upon it.
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« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2012, 01:14:49 PM »

I think that the homosexuality was actually very important in this story. At this point in real history, China is a very conservative and homophobic place (not all of China, and certainly not all the time, but it's a theme). It wasn't clear that this was still true of future China, but it was at least implied. Forcing Patient Zero to emerge into a man in a homosexual relationship and showing that love can conquer even his ingrained homophobia and made the story even more poignant.
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« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2012, 01:15:26 PM »

Just wanted to pop in and say thanks to everyone for the kind words on the reading! I gave it everything I had - this story hit me pretty hard, too - and it makes me happy to read that some of you dug the narration Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2012, 05:05:18 PM »

When I brought up the fact he was gay I merely commenting on the fact a lot of authors are using gay couples, and well, I think, it's getting a bit repetitive. I would like something new, a different relationship. I think gay and straight relationships have almost been written to death; something new would be a nice change. I haven't got any problems with a gay couple and it worked well in the context of this story.
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« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2012, 05:16:58 PM »

When I brought up the fact he was gay I merely commenting on the fact a lot of authors are using gay couples, and well, I think, it's getting a bit repetitive. I would like something new, a different relationship. I think gay and straight relationships have almost been written to death; something new would be a nice change. I haven't got any problems with a gay couple and it worked well in the context of this story.

Mother of all lizards, are we going to have to have this conversation again?
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« Reply #29 on: February 22, 2012, 07:28:55 PM »

When I brought up the fact he was gay I merely commenting on the fact a lot of authors are using gay couples, and well, I think, it's getting a bit repetitive. I would like something new, a different relationship. I think gay and straight relationships have almost been written to death; something new would be a nice change. I haven't got any problems with a gay couple and it worked well in the context of this story.

Mother of all lizards, are we going to have to have this conversation again?

If you really must, go resurrect the old thread or something.  :-P
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« Reply #30 on: February 22, 2012, 09:23:28 PM »

Well I thought this story was just lovely. Scary and deeply sad. But sweet too. The relationship between Bruce and Sergio was well depicted, I thought.. I liked the little details, like the head-bumping-against-shoulders thing. And I found the end very moving - Patient Zero being unable to hurt Bruce because he remembered Sergio's love, and Bruce giving him the final gift of comfort. Great story!

Only thing I'd say otherwise is I don't think if it came down to China vs. U.S., that the U.S. would win. I wonder where all the other world powers stood, though.

When I brought up the fact he was gay I merely commenting on the fact a lot of authors are using gay couples, and well, I think, it's getting a bit repetitive. I would like something new, a different relationship. I think gay and straight relationships have almost been written to death; something new would be a nice change. I haven't got any problems with a gay couple and it worked well in the context of this story.

Mother of all lizards, are we going to have to have this conversation again?

I think he was rather saying he'd like to hear more stories outside "normal" relationships - like say a polygamous couple, which is an interesting point. Thing is the 'casts kinda roll with what gets submitted, and I seriously doubt very many high-quality stories with poly relationships in them get sent in. Tongue

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« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2012, 09:23:46 AM »

I think that the homosexuality was actually very important in this story. At this point in real history, China is a very conservative and homophobic place (not all of China, and certainly not all the time, but it's a theme). It wasn't clear that this was still true of future China, but it was at least implied. Forcing Patient Zero to emerge into a man in a homosexual relationship and showing that love can conquer even his ingrained homophobia and made the story even more poignant.

Fair enough.  I hadn't realized there was a particular Chinese cultural stigma against homosexuality.  If that's the case, I agree that it was important to the story (though obviously it made no difference to me when I was listening since I didn't know about that).

I think he was rather saying he'd like to hear more stories outside "normal" relationships - like say a polygamous couple, which is an interesting point. Thing is the 'casts kinda roll with what gets submitted, and I seriously doubt very many high-quality stories with poly relationships in them get sent in. Tongue

Ohhhh, okay.  I admit I was a little confused over the phrase "I think gay and straight relationships have almost been written to death" but polygamous, polyamorous, asexual, etc make sense.  I think Talia's probably right though, that it's just a matter of what people are writing.  I vaguely remember an Escape Artists story that had a relationship claimed to be polyamorous--I think it was Podcastle's Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery?  I also think it didn't seem a particularly good example of polyamory (I don't think both partners really liked the idea).  I could be remembering that wrong.
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« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2012, 11:17:04 AM »

I think he was rather saying he'd like to hear more stories outside "normal" relationships - like say a polygamous couple, which is an interesting point. Thing is the 'casts kinda roll with what gets submitted, and I seriously doubt very many high-quality stories with poly relationships in them get sent in. Tongue

I'm actually working on a SF story with a poly relationship in it. Admittedly they're aliens on another planet, but still, poly. Maybe it'll get picked up by a podcast when I finally finish it.
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« Reply #33 on: February 23, 2012, 12:16:24 PM »

Tell me about the Mother of All Lizards - I want that story!
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« Reply #34 on: February 23, 2012, 12:53:52 PM »

I not against people being gay, and I have several gay friends. I listened to this story after a week of being ill and reading a lot. I noticed, especially in short stories, that authors tend not to explore family. They use spouses a lot and I was trying to suggest to any author who comes across my post that perhaps they should try something new. Maybe two best friends with similar experiences, or two strangers. It's just something I noticed.

I was amazed that I got this many posts from my comment. That was my first ever post like that on the internet and that move was inspired by the fantastic and colourful story. My last word is that, Devour is definitely in my top ten stories I have heard on escape pod.
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« Reply #35 on: February 23, 2012, 06:36:30 PM »

Tell me about the Mother of All Lizards - I want that story!

Well, I don't know the story of the Mother of All Lizards, but I can tell you a story of the Father of All Lizards. Hatanku, the Lizard Who Ate the Fish, creator of the world, and eternal enemy of Uknatah, the Fish Who Ate the Lizard. This is the story of how Hatanku almost ate the sun.

It was winter in the land, and Hatanku was very unhappy. Like all lizards - even those who are also gods - Hatanku has always hated the cold and the dark and loved the heat and the light. Being a clever and ambitious lizard - even for one who is also a god - Hatanku decided that he would climb up to the sun to bask. Surely, in the heavens, it would be warm enough!

Hatanku set off. He crawled up the tallest mountain - inch by lizard inch - and came to the First Gate of the Sun. There, at the First Gate of the Sun, was Uzuzdu the Beetle, who is the least among the the Sun's guardians.

Now, Hatanku is not a reputable god, and he knew it, so before he came in view of Uzudzu the Beetle, he changed his shape. Instead of his beautiful sand-yellow scales, proud and regal beard of spines, and long manly tail, Hatanku wore the glossy green-black shell and delicate wings of the dragonfly.

"Hello brother dragonfly," Uzuzdu said.

"Hell brother beetle," said Hatanku.

"Where are you going in such a hurry?"

"I am seeking passage through the First Gate of the Sun."

"And what is your business of the heavens?"

"It's so very cold, brother beetle," Hatanku whined, "too cold for a dragonfly like me. I was hoping that you would be kind enough to let me through the First Gate. If I could get even a little closer to the sun, it would be so much warmer."

Uzudzu smiled. "Why, all you have to do is ask. I let all my cousins through - where do you think all the insects go in the winter?" With that, Uzudzu the Beetle stepped aside to let Hatanku pass.

As soon as Uzudzu was out of sight, Hatanku resumed his natural shape and continued to walk through the lowest layer of the heavens. It was warmer here, but not a lot warmer. Hatanku continued to walk until he reached the Second Gate of the Sun, which was guarded by Razok, the Golden Hawk, the middlemost of the sun's guardians.

Hatanku knew that his antics had gotten him a bad name, even in the lower heavens, so he changed his shape again. This time, he became a little sparrow - though he was careful to turn himself into a particularly bony and unappealing sparrow, since Razok was not above hunting his littler cousins.

Razok narrowed his eyes at the little sparrow he saw.

"What is your business beyond the Second Gate of the Sun?" he demanded.

"Why, it's so cold on the earth, and I was hoping-"

"The higher heavens are not for the likes of you!" Razok snapped.

Hatanku, always adaptable in the face of adversity, changed his tactics. "Oh, Razok the Golden Hawk, he of the most beautiful feathers and sharpest beak, I only hoped that if I came to bask in the radiance of the upper heavens, I could maybe become half as handsome as you!"

Now, these words grated on Hatanku's tongue as he spoke them. Birds and lizards have hated each other for a long time, and Hatanku and Razok were no exceptions. If Razok had known who he was speaking to, he would have snatched him up in his beak then and there.

But, Razok - never the brightest creature in the world - was taken in. He preened and smiled down at Hatanku.

"Better say a third as handsome as I."

"Oh yes. Barely a quarter. But it would still be an improvement to one so miserable as myself. Why, did you know that last mating season I-"

Razok interrupted again. "Please, spare me your romantic difficulties. You may pass through the Second Gate and bask in the light of the upper world, but don't stay too long and try not to annoy anyone."

Hatanku fell over himself with apologies and crept through the Second Gate, pausing to make a rude gesture at Razok's back as he passed.

The upper heavens were very warm, and Hatanku cold have been happy - or at least happier than he had been on earth - but he had come to far to stop before reaching his goal. At last, Hatanku came to the Ultimate Gate itself, the most glorious golden gate, beautifying even the upper heavens with its presence.

Before the Ultimate Gate stood Biorkas, the Guardian of the Sun. Biorkas had the form of a man, tall and strong. His spear was a sunbeam and his armor was made of gold and electrum. He laughed at Hatanku's attempt to change his shape and returned him to his natural form with a wave of his hand.

"Little lizard who made the world," Biorkas said, "you are far from the earth that is your home. Without your guidance all manner of things are going wrong. Why are you here?"

"I'm here to bask at the sun," Hatanku said. "It's so cold down there!"

Biorkas nodded understandingly, though his customary mocking expression did not fade. "I'm afraid that I can't let you pass. The world is disordered enough by your absence, little lizard. Please return the way you came. Summer will come soon enough."

Now, Hatanku had not come all this way to fail now. He puffed up his beard in annoyance, then pulled it back in again.

"But Biorkas, it's so cold. Maybe I could bask for a little while?"

Biorkas shook his head.

"I can make it worth your while?" Hatanku finally offered.

This aroused Biorkas's interest, because there are few things as valuable as a boon from Hatanku, the Lizard Who Ate the Fish. Although Biorkas tried to keep his face impassive, Hatanku could tell that he had found an opening.

"It must be very hard to stand guard at the Ultimate Gate," Hatanku said. "The sun must be so very hot upon the back of your neck whenever the door opens."

"It's true," Biorkas admitted warily. "The sun is very hot."

"Let me make you an umbrella out of my skin. In return, will you let me past the Ultimate Gate?"

"Won't it be difficult for you to live without your skin?"

"Oh yes," Hatanku lied. "It will be a terrible hardship. But I'm so cold that I don't care. Do I have your agreement? In return for an umbrella made out of my skin, you'll let me past the Ultimate Gate?"

With a sigh, Biorkas agreed. Before the Guardian could change his mind, Hatanku wriggled out of his skin, and with a few sticks, fashioned Biorkas an umbrella. In case you do not know, every lizard has an outer layer to his skin, which he sheds when it becomes too dull, worn, or simply too small. This layer does not have the depth of the lizard's true skin, and is as delicate and translucent as rice paper.

Biorkas gazed at the umbrella in disbelief. "How will this protect me from the fury of the sun?"

Hatanku shrugged - if a lizard can be said to do such a thing, even a lizard who is a god - and said "that is none of my concern - you agreed to let me pass in return for an umbrella, and that's what I have given you!"

Biorkas laughed again, honored to have been tricked by Hatanku, the Lizard Who Ate the Fish and creator of the world, and let Hatanku pass through the Ultimate Gate. To this day, it is said, Biorkas carries the umbrella with him as a memento of humility - not that it helps, much.

Beyond the Ultimate Gate, Hatanku found the sun, a golden ball of light and heat that finally - finally! - drove warmth into the bottoms of his bones. Hatanku laid himself out next to it and soaked in the heat.

But the sun was so beautiful that Hatanku couldn't resist the temptation to crawl a little closer.

And the sun was so delicious that Hatanku couldn't resist giving it a little lick.

And it was so tasty, that with a guilty look over his shoulder at the Ultimate Gate, beyond which Biorkas still stood guard, Hatanku ate it.

Immediately, the whole world was plunged into chaos. The levels of heaven fell into each other and the depths rose up to swallow the world. Chaos and confusion reigned everywhere.

As for Hatanku himself? He fell all the way down, through the heavens, through the sky, and into the ocean. Everywhere around him was dark and cold, but inside himself was so much light and warmth that he couldn't help but be contented. Hatanku sat happily in the ocean, which bubbled and frothed around him. All the life in the world huddled close to him, too happy to have found a way to survive to be confused at the fact that all the world's heat now came from a lizard.

Then, something shifted uncomfortably inside Hatanku's insides.

Hatanku wriggled in dismay.

The something shifted again.

Hatanku gulped and puffed out his beard.

Perhaps Hatanku would have kept his meal inside him, but at just that moment his old nemesis - Uknatah, the Fish Who Ate the Lizard, who lives in the depths of the ocean and longs for the dark and cold of the emptiness before the world - could not help herself. Hatanku's glowing tail, resembled one of the worms Uknatah loves to feed upon. She bit it, breaking Hatanku's concentration. With a terrible noise - and a terrible smell, to be sure - Hatanku shat the sun back out into the ocean.

Thus does the evil of Uknatah, the Fish Who Ate the Lizard - who longs only for destruction - prove its own undoing, while Hatanku - the Lizard Who Ate the Fish and creator of the world - can do no lasting harm, despite his mischievous nature.

The sun immediately rushed back to its place in the heavens, and the order of the world was restored to it. Uknatah fled back into the depths and all the living things of the world was carried back to their proper places by the enormous wave produced by the sun's passage. Even Hatanku was carried back to his customary rock, where he blinked in confusion and then began to sulk.

After all that, it was still winter, and he was still cold.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2012, 06:39:52 PM by ElectricPaladin » Logged

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« Reply #36 on: February 23, 2012, 10:00:53 PM »

I was amazed that I got this many posts from my comment.

You had the misfortune to sound - to casual skimming - like you were complaining that there was "too much gay" in the stories on the podcast.  We have been down that road before here on the forums, and it was an unpleasant experience for pretty much everyone involved.  No worries; some folks are just a little sensitive about that kind of thing.

Welcome to the forums.  :-)  :-P
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« Reply #37 on: February 24, 2012, 05:32:14 AM »

Tell me about the Mother of All Lizards - I want that story!
<snipped>
The upper heavens were very warm, and Hatanku cold could have been happy - or at least happier than he had been on earth - but he had come to too far to stop before reaching his goal. At last, Hatanku came to the Ultimate Gate itself, the most glorious golden gate, beautifying even the upper heavens with its presence.
<snipped>
Fixed that for you Smiley
And the Mother of All Lizards was the only one who would put up with Hatanku's antics and agreed to settle down with him, under condition that he cease his mischievous ways at once.
Hatanku promised, and to his credit he tried, but as many of us know, a leopard does not change his shorts and although a lizard can shed his skin, he cannot change who he is (even if he is a god).
And so, the Mother of All Lizards, Who Agreed To Cook The Fish Even Though She Thought It was Quite Silly As Lizards Don't Eat Fish married Hatanku in a noble and futile effort to maintain order in the world.
And that is why we celebrate Mardi-Gras, to celebrate the end of winter and the warming of the world so that Hatanku will not be tempted to swallow the Sun again and The Mother of All Lizards can finally rest a little from her vigil.
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« Reply #38 on: February 24, 2012, 09:43:32 AM »

I not against people being gay, and I have several gay friends. I listened to this story after a week of being ill and reading a lot. I noticed, especially in short stories, that authors tend not to explore family. They use spouses a lot and I was trying to suggest to any author who comes across my post that perhaps they should try something new. Maybe two best friends with similar experiences, or two strangers. It's just something I noticed.

I was amazed that I got this many posts from my comment. That was my first ever post like that on the internet and that move was inspired by the fantastic and colourful story. My last word is that, Devour is definitely in my top ten stories I have heard on escape pod.


What scattercat said.  I misinterpreted what you had said, and so was looking for clarification of what you meant.  I see now what you were saying, and I appreciate the clarification.  I don't know that I necessarily agree--I have seen plenty of stories based on strong sibling relationships, friend relationships, parent-child relationships, and the like, enough that I don't feel that spousal relationships are too heavily weighted.  But, thankfully, I don't have to agree with everybody, and I appreciate again that you took the time to clarify.  Smiley
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« Reply #39 on: February 24, 2012, 10:59:20 AM »

Tell me about the Mother of All Lizards - I want that story!

Well, I don't know the story of the Mother of All Lizards, but I can tell you a story of the Father of All Lizards. Hatanku, the Lizard Who Ate the Fish, creator of the world, and eternal enemy of Uknatah, the Fish Who Ate the Lizard. This is the story of how Hatanku almost ate the sun.
......
After all that, it was still winter, and he was still cold.

Crafty, calculating (and surprisingly numerate) Hatanku; that must have been some heartburn! I'm betting the Mother of all Lizards was down the shops and gave him a right pasting when she got back.  Thank you for this unexpected delight  Smiley
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Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.
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