The goanna wanted an egg. It had climbed a few metres up the trunk of a large cabbage palm and was looking at me: egg. Its nose pointed down, its eyes looked up, like a begging dog, and – distinctly unlike a dog of any kind – it flicked its forked tongue against the bark: egg. Although I was in possession of a carton, I declined the request. I have seen a goanna (Australian for monitor lizard) eat an egg and they have no idea how to do this in a normal way. They crunch the snack whole, a dull look on their faces, as most of the yolk dribbles down the sides of their mouths.
Of course, the best monitor lizard – and champion of disturbing feeding habits – is the Komodo dragon: a big beast that lives on small islands such as Indonesia’s Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang (50,000 years ago, Komodos lived in Australia, too). As the cult internet comic strip Achewood puts it, “Everyone knows that a Komodo Dragon is the biggest, worst lizard of the modern day.”
What is the Komodo dragon in your mind doing? There are many horrifying scenes to choose from. For example, Sharon Stone’s then-husband was once attacked by a Komodo at the LA Zoo. For me, the most vivid lizard is a giant, buff body, viewed head-on, skin hanging loosely over chunky muscles. From my ur-Komodo’s mouth hang various strands of toxic drool, lightly coated in dust.
They lead a dusty life. Eating a monkey whole – head first, so that halfway through, the monkey’s splayed legs and tail stick out from its jaws – in the dust. An entire horse. A deer. Very occasionally, a human being. Fighting one another, their torsos lifting in a way that makes me certain they are perpetually tensing their cores, forever in a push up, a plank pose: muscles burning, burning, burning.