The Dragon - Short story
Written as part of a short fiction contest I judged. I did not enter said contest,
but I wanted to participate and this fell out of my head.
The opening line was part of the contest.
By Samuel Blondahl.
It was a dark and stormy night. Two men sat on a grassy hillside overlooking a small rural town. Thunder broke in the sky above, and cold rain beat down in furious torrents, but neither man seemed disturbed by the foul mood of mother nature. Around them, the trees bent in the wind and dropped their remaining leaves in cascades. The storm was late in the season, coming in late October on the brink of winter. Below them, the town lights went dark as the storm knocked out power lines feeding electricity to the distant homes and businesses.
The first man, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, with heavy looking black boots, pulled a can of beer out of a small canvass bag laying beside him, and passed it to the other. This man, bearded and wearing a beige wool sweater and black jeans, took the offering and opened it unceremoniously.
“I used to be a dragon,” the first man said, his voice rich with sorrow. “I remember what it was like to fly, and to burn from within.”
The bearded man shook slightly and huddled up against a hard burst of wind. “I know how you feel, but we can’t speak of it. Even here, it’s not safe.”
“Damn it, it will never be safe. I need to talk about it, I am going crazy Richard,” the first man opened his own beer.
“I know Charles,” Richard sighed. “Alright, I can’t imagine anyone will overhear. What happened today?”
“Elliot was sick, so Principal Hawthorn asked me to cover Phys ed,” Charles said.
Charles drank again. “I thought it would be fun you know, throw the ball around for a while, then the damned rain started and we had to use the gymnasium. Inside that depressing brick cube with a hundred of those snivelling brats…”
“More like twenty,” Richard interrupted.
“Whatever,” Charles snarled. “I made them do a few laps, warm up you know? Then dodge ball. I’m not sure if we are allowed to teach them dodge ball anymore, but I’m just subbing right?”
“Sure,” Richard agreed, drinking from his can again.
“Anyway, when it’s all done and the bell rings they charge out like stampeding elephants into the change room, and this one girl comes up to me and she has blood all over her shirt. I didn’t even notice it, but one of those little buggers put a ball right into her nose, the thing broke like it was made of glass.”
Richard laughed suddenly, beer spilling from his mouth. “That’s why they can’t play dodge ball. Those animals can’t go five minutes without breaking something.”
“Yeah, well here I was, having no clue how to deal with it. Jeeze, I used to know what to do with a helpless bleeding maiden.”
“Wow Chuck,” Richard said, still giggling. “That could be misconstrued.”
“You know what I mean. I used to eat these lowborn beasts, now I have to teach them how to do addition and clean up their bloody noses. What happened man?”
Richard sighed, and his expression fell. He drank again before answering. “The modern age. We demons are the useless ones now, immortal but aimless, kingless and powerless. I am just glad I have some authority, teaching English might not be as good as commanding the legions of the damned across the ravaged plains of Pangaea, but at least I have some authority and a decent enough home to crawl back to.”
“You were always the content type,” Charles scoffed. “I was a dragon Richard! Can you imagine for even one second what it’s like for me? I have been here since the late Precambrian period, ruling with impunity all that crossed my path and leaving nothing but chaos in my wake! For millions of years!”
“And then..” Richard threw his now empty beer can in the general direction of the town below.
“And then one day the Gods make peace and retreat from the fertile soil to their sterile heavens! Only guess what? They leave us the hell here!”
“Preach it sister,” Richard cheered sarcastically.
“They leave us here, bound to this stinking flesh! Weak, soft, tiny, always hungry and cold, or too hot, or….”
“I was a demon to be feared once!” Richard raised his voice. “I was a burning ogre, thicker around than a redwood and taller than a ships mast. My blood was lava and my eyes glowed with the very embers of Hades most fearsome realm. I know how it feels to be confined to weakness Charles. I may not have been a dragon, but I know.”
Charles drained the last of his beer, and stared out over the town. The rain seemed only to grow heavier, and the sky darker. Finally he sobbed, and turned his head down to his chest. “I remember flying,” he said through his tears.
“I know Chuck,” Richard sighed, and put a hand on his friends knee in sympathy. “But now you are a high school math teacher. Honestly, in the end I think that’s more terrible and loathed than a dragon could ever be.”
Charles laughed, and hiccuped. Then wiped his face, the rain and the tears were so mixed that the effort was futile, but it made him feel a little better. “I just wish I could fly again. I wish I felt the heat of my heart again, burning like it did.”
“Maybe someday Chuck,” Richard said.
“Maybe someday,” Charles agreed. “Every religion has an apocalypse right? They can’t all be wrong.”
“Yeah, Ragnarok, Armageddon, maybe a nuclear winter. Something will bring the Gods back, and when they come, I will teach them proper grammar and how to punctuate.”
Charles laughed again, harder this time. “I’ll terrorise them with geometry and algebra! They know not what they unleashed upon the earth when they abandoned us! They will fear my dodgeballs!”
Richard clapped his friend on the back. “Let's get Chinese food tonight Chuck, I’m sick of your cooking.”
“I’m sick of my cooking too,” Charles agreed.