FLASHVERSARY IS HERE!

CLOSED. Thank you for coming to celebrate flash fiction with me! The 25 stories moving on to Round 2 will post on Monday, Dec 9.

WELCOME, dear ones, to YOUR celebration! This Flash! Friday anniversary party is in honor of YOU, the international family of flash writers who have adventured and worked with me to build this spectacular community. The stories you’ve spun over the past year are wild and surprising and powerful and unforgettable. Thanks to your efforts and enthusiastic support of each other, writers and readers around the world can (and do!) know, love and appreciate you. Thank you so very, very much for being the wonderful writers you are, and for sharing yourselves with the world for a few words every week. NOW LET’S PARTY!!!

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JUDGES: Serving as Flashversary judges today are four writers whose weekly flash fiction contests, now retired/handed off to others, launched my love affair with the genre. Wakefield Mahon (Motivation Monday), Stevie McCoy (Tuesday Tales), Cara Michaels (Menage Monday), and Nicole Wolverton (5 Minute Fiction) continue to inspire writers everywhere with their work and support of the writing community. Read more about them here, and leave them love & warm fuzzies. Thank you, noble judges!

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SPECIAL AWARD 

HWPHaunted Waters Press Award. Captained by the fabulously talented duo of Susan Warren Utley and Savannah Spidalieri, HWP is the home of the stunning lit mag From the Depths. Susan also serves as one of the masterminds behind Shenandoah Valley Writers, and it is impossible to overstate the debt Flash! Friday owes her. THANK YOU, Susan, for your faithful support of writers and the enormous and invaluable part you have played in making FF what it is today. I love you dearly, respect and admire you deeply, and will be indebted to you forever. ❤

The Haunted Waters Press editors will read all Flashversary entries and choose their favorite to award publication. The selected story will be showcased online at Haunted Waters Press as part of their online literary content. To learn more, please visit Haunted Waters Press; join them on Facebook & follow them on Twitter.

GIVING BACK

826DCAlso partnering with Flash! Friday today is 826DC, a nonprofit group whose mission is to develop and nurture young writers. These kids represent the literary thinkers and dreamers of tomorrow. Discover more at their website and by following them on Twitter.

Give back! If Flash! Friday has been a help to you on your writing journey, please consider making a donation to 826DC in honor of Flash! Friday. They have a special donation page set up for this purpose. (Note: you’ll get a special sneak peek at the new FF logo…) And thank you!

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FLASH! FRIDAY PRIZE BOX

Grand Dragon Champion: One poster, eight flyers, and eight postcards of your winning story with the new FF logo (to be formally introduced on Dec 11 with the winners) as well as a FF commemorative poster, and (paper) copies of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction1st Runner Up:  One poster and eight postcards of your story, a FF commemorative poster, and (paper) copies of Strunk’s The Elements of Style and Brian Kiteley’s The 3 A.M. Epiphany. 2nd Runner Up: Eight postcards of your story and a FF commemorative poster Honorable Mentions: 1 Flash! Friday commemorative poster.

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FLASHVERSARY TIME! (Questions? Tweet @FlashFridayFic or email Flash! Friday here.)

Word Limit: 350 words, no more, no less. (Er, make that no fewer.)

How: Post your entry (one per writer) here in the comments. Include your word count (350 words exactly, exclusive of title/byline–a title is not mandatory but strongly encouraged) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one (if not, be sure to link your email address or some way for us to contact you).

Entry window: From 7:30am Monday, Dec 2, until 11:59pm Friday, Dec 6, Washington, DC time. 

Judging/results

*Round 1: The Flashversary judge panel will collectively select the top 25 entries to move on to the 2nd round. The top 25 entries will be posted Monday, Dec 9, at 7:30am Washington, DC time.

*Round 2: From the top 25 stories, the Flash! Friday team will select the top 10 entries moving on to the final round. The Top 10 finalists will be posted on Tuesday, Dec 10, at 7:30am Washington, DC time.

*Final Round: From the Top 10 entries, I, yes I, Rebekah Postupak!, will choose the Grand Dragon Champion, two runners up, and two honorable mentions. The winners (including the Haunted Waters Press award) will be announced on Wednesday, Dec 11, at 7:30am Washington, DC time along with the new FF look and logo.

And now for your prompt! It’s been a marvelous, miraculous, wonderful year here at Flash! Friday–let’s see what you, in your own genre and style (see the guidelines for content restrictions), can do with dragons (literal or figurative). And thank you, dear Flash! Friday family, from the bottom of my heart.

Dragon of Halong Bay (Vietnam). Photo by LoggaWiggler.

Dragon of Halong Bay (Vietnam). Photo by LoggaWiggler.

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291 thoughts on “FLASHVERSARY IS HERE!

    • The word count includes only the body of the story. Titles aren’t mandatory, but strongly, strongly suggested. 🙂

  1. The Dragon’s Gaze
    By Dan Radmacher @radmacher
    350 words

    The old man gripped his wife’s hand tightly as he stared at the stone dragon out in the bay, the chill of the Vietnamese morning sinking into his bones. He sucked his lower lip into his mouth and bit down on it as his heart thudded in his chest.

    The irony of the situation didn’t escape him. When he was 18, his tour of Vietnam was a nightmare that he had tried everything to avoid. Forty-five years later, he and his wife considered it the trip of a lifetime. They had spent a large chunk of their retirement savings to come here.

    They’d met up with two other couples, squad-mates he’d kept in sporadic touch with after the war and their wives. Over beers, they’d told the old stories, made richer by their location. He’d watched his wife while some of the more harrowing tales were told, and saw in her eyes the concern and empathy that made him love her.

    They’d even managed to find one of the meaningless hills their squad had held at great cost for no reason other than their orders.

    It had been the trip of a lifetime. But now, staring at the dragon, holding his wife’s hand, other memories flooded the old man. A girl’s faced stared back at him from the depths of time. She was young and beautiful in that exotic way. The Kansas farm boy who’d barely left his county before he got shipped halfway around the world was thunderstruck. From her first shy smile, he’d never had a chance.

    One weekend morning, much like this, they’d rowed a small boat out into the bay and tied up in the shallow water by that very dragon. They’d made love. His first time, and hers. The dragon had guarded the encounter, seeming to give their union his blessing.

    They’d never returned to that spot, but he would always remember it. Forty-five years later, every moment was etched deeply into his brain and his heart.

    He felt his wife return the squeeze of his hand, and he wondered if she remembered it, too.

  2. Title: My Eye Enjoys Watching Storms
    By Kevin S. Julien – @JSHyena

    “The sea’s calm today. How boring.” I said to the sky.
    “A calm sea is a safe sea, Midas. It means Dad can fish,” my older sister said, somewhere behind me.
    I thought I ditched her before hiding in this small boat. Clara has a nose like one of those hunting dogs I saw inland. Can’t say that to her face – she’ll definitely tell Mom and they’ll both take it the wrong way.
    “So your Dad can fish,” I corrected.
    Clara bared her teeth – just like those hunting dogs.
    “If I knew Mom would have told you, I’d have given you some rum,” she said.
    “I should’ve guessed,” I said. “No human would enjoy being out in a storm.”
    “You’re still human,” Clara said. “But you can’t breathe underwater. You can barely swim! What would be the point of joining your father if you couldn’t survive out there?”
    “There’s a chance,” I said.
    “We don’t even know if Tantalus is still alive!” Clara said, her voice rising. “And if he is, are you really going to leave me and Mom behind? How on Gaia are we going to tell Jasmine that her big brother is gone?”
    “I don’t know, OK!?” I yelled, finally standing up and looking Clara in the eye. “I just… I just want to see him once.”
    The sky shed tears for me. The wind yelled into the harbor. Heavier clouds were on the horizon and were moving quickly.
    Clara was trying to pull me out of the boat, but I wouldn’t be moved. The boat and the storm thought otherwise. I felt myself start to sink and drown.
    Suddenly, I felt my body being covered in a golden aura, and a giant golden serpent swam in front of me. It pushed me up to the surface and I sat on its head as I looked down at my sister. Her eyes told me she had seen this scene before.
    “I’ll be back, I promise,” I yelled over the storm’s voice. I hope she believed me as we swam out of the harbor, his time away fading.

  3. A Wyvern’s Tale
    Katie Kurtz @_katiekurtz_
    350 Words

    Dad and his girlfriend were fighting when David came over to tell my brother Troy about the egg. Troy knows everything there is to know about dragons and David said he wanted his extert ‘pinion about it. So Troy and me snuck out the backdoor and followed David down the alley to Mrs. Warren’s garage. David pointed next to the recycling bins and there it was: a real dragon egg! I thought it would look more like the eggs Dad makes me and Troy for breakfast with a super white shell except bigger but Troy said dragon eggs are more like a rock and speckled. Still shaped like an egg, though.

    “You’ll get germs on it,” Troy said and hit my hand away.

    David asked Troy a bunch of questions and Troy had answers for all them except one.

    “Could be a couple weeks. Could be a few months. Hard to tell when it’ll hatch without knowing what species it is,” Troy said.

    I begged and begged Troy to move it to our house but he said not to sturb it in case his mom came back. I asked Troy how he knew it was a him and should we tell Mrs. Warren and doesn’t it need a nest? Troy gave me his be quiet now look and I didn’t want him to send me home so I shut up.

    David and Troy decided nobody else should know about the dragon, especially David’s loudmouth sister, and quadruple swore me to secrecy. We run home so Troy could do more research and figure out when it’d be born but stopped in the backyard ‘cause Dad’s girlfriend was yelling and throwing things in her car. Troy said a swear word and dropped to the grass.

    “Damnit,” I said and dropped down next to him.

    Troy gave me his you are not allowed to say that look and started yanking out grass.

    “Whycome his mom left it there?”

    “Probably ‘cause she knows I’m the only one who knows how to take care of it,” Troy said and put his arm around my shoulder.

  4. The Last of the Dragons
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret Locke)
    350 words

    I have walked with dragons for a thousand years.

    It was they who bore me to Avalon, though they knew no mortal magic could heal me. It was they who brought me to Glastonbury, where my bones rest beneath the Tor.

    My spirit is not there.

    It is not with the Lady of the Lake. It is not in Camelot, not at Camlann. Mordred and Morgan are just shades of my past, Guinevere and Lancelot mere echoes of betrayal. Percival, Galahad, Gawain, all markers of duty, honor, loyalty, all lie now under the cold ground.

    And Merlin. Ah, Merlin. My master and my servant. My mentor and my maker. He, too, is lost to me, taken by the greatest of all forces – time.

    These names, these places, these events long past are etched across my heart, seared into it as if by dragon flame itself.

    I have borne witness to centuries of human history, to more wars than I care to count. Crusades. Revolutions. Civil wars. World Wars. I’ve stood as a shadow alongside Richard the Lion-Hearted, Henry VIII, Wellington, Churchill. I’ve watched the bodies pile higher and higher, grown weary of the carnage and catastrophe, the never-ending cycle of rage and retribution.

    Where is the peace for which I fought? Evaporated into the mist, an ideal rarely achieved, never maintained.

    We have learned nothing. For every Shakespeare there is a Stalin, for every hero a Hitler, for every Mother Theresa a Mengele.

    I am Odysseus on an endless journey. I am Sisyphus, forever pushing against a destiny I cannot escape, trapped between promise and purgatory.

    People claim dragons are myths. This disbelief slew the great beasts with more ease than any sword. They claim I am a myth. They are wrong.

    The dragons know my name. I am Arthur Pendragon. The Once and Future King. A beacon of hope in a world of darkness. A symbol of salvation, yet I cannot save myself.

    I am the last Dragon. Believe in me, so that I may return. So that I may, at last, bring eternal peace. And find it.

  5. This ISN’T MY ENTRY–it’s sitting for a day so I can edit it–but I wanted to share the process.

    All day yesterday, I was frustrated because this great photo sparked nothing in my imagination, and I was pretty down when I went to bed last night. Then, I actually dreamed about the photo, and I woke this morning with these words in my head:

    “Every night I dreamt of tracer rounds lighting the sky like fireworks, of mortars pounding like drumbeats (or heartbeats), and the dragon who breathed no fire.”

    I haven’t dressed yet or had breakfast or caffeine because I had to write the story which follows that line. I ❤ being a writer. 😉

    Story will come later today or tomorrow.

  6. TRANSFORMATION
    The oriental dragon carved of wood brooded over the waters of Halong Bay. The sky and sea were tinged pink by the light of the setting sun. A mist slightly veiled the dark rocks strewn around the bay. Night fell and darkness ruled. Magic unfurled. A brilliant red spark blossomed inside the dragon’s eyes. Wood changed to flesh, bone, and blood. Brown warmed to gleaming colored scales. Synapses fired. The mighty heart began to beat. Lungs bellowed and the dragon took a giant breath. Muscles tensed and relaxed. The great beast came to life. A centuries old intellect surveyed its surroundings. Satisfied , he plunged into the waiting ebon waters. Sinuously he slithered through the waves. Sharp white teeth shone as he opened his massive jaws wide. He dove and snatched at mouthfuls of fish, ravenously gulping them down. The shadow of a ship darkened the water of the bay. Strange noises camr from the instruments it towed. Curious he rose to examine it. He heard a shrill voice say. “Search the arrea, I’m after a dragon!’ Quietly he submerged. Carefully he considered his options. Descision made, he took action. He playfully nudged the boat, causing it to roll in the ocean. darting in and out he led it a merry chase. The dragon easily eluded the slow and cumbersome vessel., snaking swiftly through the water. The junk hired by the cryptozoologist scanned the area in vain. he headed out to see. The dragon heard the so-callled scientist cursing the Veitnameses crew. “Proof! I need solid proof!” He screamed in frustration. All night he played tag. letting the crew get brief glimpses of him, but never remaining still long enough to be photographed. The coming of dawn heralded the end of the dragon’s fun. He left the junk behind. Regretfully he dove deep and snaked away. He swam back to the bay and resumed his pose. The best way to hide was in plain sight. He remembered the slaughter of the whales. Safer to be thought a myth or legend than reality. He gathered his Mgic and invoked the Transformation.
    350 words @EmilyKarn1

  7. The Perpetual Truth

    I don’t remember when I was first born. The memory fades after the first few hours of life and then, like frantic waking from a vivid dream, one turn of the head and it’s gone. One is left with a sort of spiritual hangover, echoes of…something… but the harder I think on it the weaker the recollection becomes.

    Except this time. This time I remember everything. Every last bite.

    I was beautiful. I moved with graceful arrogance, hues of vermillion and cobalt danced across my shoulders in a tango of fire and night. My allure was my sustenance. They thought I was their creator, a part of their eternal soul. With awe they spoke of me and sent their bravest to seek me out. When they saw me they froze, numbed by my majesty. I would stare at them, motionless, one wide, marbled eye drawing them in. They couldn’t resist me, stalking a little closer each time until their fingers opened like an emerging butterfly to hover over my life-giving scales, believing one touch would trigger their immortality. Fools. In lightning screams, I pierced them and felt their life-blood drain on to my snaggered tongue. A sacrificial silence echoed into the skies.

    I did it for sport; it amused me. Simple pleasures, you see.

    I was the fool.

    I fester here in karmic misery. Fully aware of the sensations of my past life, yet unable to taste them. Immortalised in a wooden nirvana. Cracked and faded, submissive to the jeering wind and salty bile of the sea. My servants have become my masters and the universe is trying to teach me a lesson I refuse to accept.

    For I know that even though I am sentenced to this static existence, I will become legend. My beauty will live on. They will parade me through the streets and dance in my honour. They will paint me in gold and illuminate me with fire. I will manifest under many guises and become the nemesis of samurai, princess, knight and slayer. And forever more they will write stories about my splendour.

    350 words
    @_sarahmiles_

  8. Argh! Pretty please can I change the last line to:

    And forevermore they will write stories about my splendour.

    Still 350 words and sorting out that pesky forevermore….dammit!

    Thank you x

  9. The Promise
    350 words
    Bcopeland52@aol.com

    I felt the familiar heat on my chest as I looked out over the water. The dragon was pleased. I put my hand on the small cabochon to cover the ruby so no one would see it glowing. As I did that the eyes on the dragon head of the boat began to change color. Immediately I stroked the smooth head. I looked around. I was alone.

    “Stop Dragon before I get caught.” I whispered. I heard a hum so low and soft I smiled. This dragon was going to be happy and I was going to know it. I just hoped no one else heard his song.

    The boat was going to be docking soon. It was a bittersweet journey for me. I would finally be free of the constant reminder of my grandmother’s mistake but I would also miss this strange companion. It had been with me every day of my life.

    “A promise is a promise Dragon.” The coolness of the fog should have chilled me but instead I began to sweat.

    We neared the landing point and I held on as the small boat bumped the dock. There were four others on the tour. They had stayed in the little cabin because of the fog. I stepped down from the boat onto the dock and walked toward the cave. It was just as my grandmother described. I excused myself from the group under the pretense of visiting the rest room. When I got to the door I went inside to the back of the room. I put my hand on the tile with the red dragon eyes. Just as my grandmother had described the wall melted in front of me. I walked forward amazed at the colors I was seeing. This was no earthly place.

    Then I heard it. The breathing was so slow and so soft I strained at first to recognize what the sound was. I began to panic.

    “Welcome daughter. You have grown up well. Show your true self to your loving father.”

    My eyes began to glow.

  10. The Ruse
    @todayschapter
    350 words

    Infernicus stared at the weedy creature prancing around before him. The insignificant ant had the nerve to taunt him, “Prepare to die foul monster!”

    The dragon concentrated and melded with the hive mind, “Brothers, are you certain this is the path?”
    The oldest and wisest of them responded, his voice echoing through time, “We are certain, the knowledge of the ages has spoken. These humans will one day pose a worthy challenge, but for now they must think we are slain so they no longer live in fear. You must play your part youngling.”

    Infernicus turned his attention back to the knight, who had jumped down off his horse and was preparing to strike. He shot off a half hearted fireball to keep him occupied.

    “Are you sure I cannot eat him? He is so arrogant.”
    “This is both their ultimate strength and their greatest weakness. They think they can do anything. This one believes he is a dragon slayer! It will not help our ruse if you devour him.”
    “Can I at least wound him? It will help to sell his victory.”
    There was a moments silence, followed by grumbling agreement, “We suppose, but be gentle.”
    The knight chose his moment to charge, thrusting his meagre sword at the dragons chest. It bounced harmlessly off the thick leathery scales. Infernicus bit off his attackers arm in retaliation.

    The knight stared at the stump for a moment before letting out an almighty scream. His agony was drowned out by a chorus of sighs in the hive mind, “That was not gentle.”
    “Don’t worry, it wasn’t his sword arm. He can still defeat me. I am sure it will grow back.”
    “You have much to learn of humans, they are fragile beings. Hurry up and be slain before he bleeds to death.”

    Infernicus slumped his face to the ground, placing his eye within range of the knights sword. He prepared himself for the long sleep, his brothers already hiding in plain sight around the world. He hoped for humanities sake that they developed better pointy sticks in the next thousand years.

  11. THE METAPHORICAL TRUTH? by T. J. Blake
    350 words
    @TJBlake93

    I lean over-board, seeing my reflection down in the ripples the dragon creates.
    I look ahead to see a hexagon piece of blue sky, and the sun beginning to be smothered by the clouds.
    The irregular sizes of land around us scattered unevenly, as we bobble in the centre of the lake.

    I stand behind the dragon feeling its layered, semi-circular scales on the top of its head under my flat palm.
    “It isn’t real you know?” I hear Dad say behind me, containing his laughter within his chest and throat.
    “He is.” I sigh.

    I continue to stroke him, looking at the land nearest to us on my left. I watch a teenage boy and girl holding each other, gazing into each other’s eyes. She wears a white and blue hatchet dress; he wears his knight’s uniform.
    He steps away from her on the high land, her eyes widen. Her light pink lips open as she takes a step back. He kneels down, his mouth moves like a prayer.
    She smiles, runs up to him and he lifts her up as they kiss.

    The dragon continues to glide along the water, moving closer to the clusters of land. I see the tops in destruction. The edges crumbling, the grass burnt, people fighting with swords and bows and arrows. A king is hiding behind his knights, until they are tossed aside, some in the water and others hit the rocks. The king begs I hear his screams echo towards me, until an arrow pierces through him, hitting the dragons left side of his neck.

    I see a body in the water, a young knight and a blue and white hatchet dress floating on the water.
    I blink, the arrow disappears.
    I look across the water to the knight to see tangled seaweed floating over the ripples. I look away from it and instead look ahead at the route the dragon will take. I stroke the dragon’s head and move my hand down to the left of it, feeling the hole of the arrow.
    I look behind to dad, he’s gone.

  12. A Viking Song
    Ian martyn @IBMartyn
    350 words

    ‘Are we dead, Olaf?’ Erik’s paddle slid into the murky waters. A sinuous shape disturbed the surface close to the boat.

    ‘You’ve asked me that seven times,’ Olaf said peering through the rising mist. He kept his voice low, for no reason other than the place seemed to demand it. ‘The answer is the same, I don’t know.’

    ‘And seven times we’ve returned to this place. We must be dead. These waters are the strangest I have ever seen, so calm, so flat. It has the stink of death.’

    ‘How would you know, Erik?’ Sigmund asked. ‘It’d be hard to tell against the smell that follows you around. Anyway, if we’re dead where are the halls?, the drinking and the women?’

    ‘I think we must be dead,’ Erik said, ignoring the laughter.

    Olaf ignored Erik in turn. They had tried each channel, except one, and each time they had returned to the same spot. He didn’t feel dead. He ate, he slept, his muscles ached from constant pulling on the oars. ‘That one,’ Olaf said, pointing. Behind him, the rhythmical sound of breaking water, stopped. The muted lapping of water against the prow lessened as the boat slowed. The distant song seemed to grow louder, stronger in response. Voices in sweeter harmony than was humanly possible. Perhaps Erik was right. The mist was clearing, but only to be replaced by an unearthly glow.

    ‘Towards the Sirens?’ Sigmund asked. The boat seemed to shudder, as if in sympathy with the men that rowed it.

    ‘If they are Sirens,’ Olaf said. ‘Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps, they aim for us to paddle our way to starvation.’ He pointed again. ‘That way.’

    ‘And if you’re wrong?’ Erik said.

    ‘You’re the one that thinks we’re already dead. You can’t die twice.’

    ‘And the Sirens?’

    Olaf drew his knife. ‘I only ever liked drinking songs.’

    Sigmund laughed. ‘Onward, onward men, let us drink to the devil,’ he sang.

    ‘Onward, onward,’ the men behind chorused. The oars cut the water like swords through flesh. The boat surged forward and the song on the water was their song.

  13. Erin McCabe

    @disturbiakiss

    350 words

    ☯ Yin Yang ☯

    Ha Long Bay has been my treasured home for centuries.
    Its glistening surface casts the illusion of tranquillity, but it is deception.
    I sense the truth, I feel its vitality; to be moved by the constant exertion and stir is to know the formidable heart that beats between these flooded mountains.
    Endlessly the seawater carves cracks and crevices into the Limestone rock, venturing forth to compact and conceal, before falling back in revelation.
    This ever-changing terrain is evidenced by the high water marks adorning the cliffs; imposed impressions incrementally etched through time.
    Each morning as I watch the sun rise over Bai Tho Mountain; the advancing, dancing shards of golden light, still fill me with incomparable wonder and awe.
    During my life I have been both feared and revered, both loved and loathed.
    I have had countless names, in many languages; Hùng Vương, Long Đỗ, Water God, Dragon. But my favourite, remains my current; Yin.
    As King I fought bloody battles and won brutal wars; in spirit, I ascended to live within the quiescent space where earth and sky meet.
    No longer do I crave splendiferous battle, nor seek the forbidden love of a beguiling goddess; I have descended to corporal form, only to bear witness to the beauty of the Bay.
    Carved from a single ancient gnarled log, my soul has sheltered within this varnished vessel for over one hundred years; impervious, portentous and primordial; their representation of dragon.
    Although my wooden eyes remain motionless and inexpressive, from the bow of this elaborate Guang-chuan junk ship, they are always watching.
    In recent times, I have experienced the growth in foreign visitors and founding of floating villages; I know the fish are dying, I taste the pollution choked water.
    Observing silently, I am filled equally by caustic disappointment and vitriolic rage; I pray for change, but their time is short.
    Devoured by this darkness; I will soon break my ironwood bonds, rising to purge; to cauterize the landscape with heat and flame.
    On that day, whoever has sown wind shall harvest storm.
    On that day, they shall call me Yang.

  14. Fruitless Labours

    Curvaceous, once, you, now, lie an S shape on the sofa. I sit upright, my legs supported by the ottoman. I suggest we have afternoon tea, one of our little rituals.
    I make it sweet and strong, the way you like it.
    I help swing your legs round, and you sit, your spine still bowed. We hold our china cups with shaky, knotted hands and sip our tea with concertinaed lips.
    Our passions have mellowed into deep kindnesses: a blanket offered to warm cold bones, an instinctive hand that comforts before pain grips, a dozen easy conversations in a day…

    Contemplating the room, I notice how our furniture has dated, but it is too young to be antique, except for that one ornament. You hate it when I call it that….. the Dragon vase you fuss over as if it were a child itself: tracing your fingers over the intricacies of the painted intertwining images; polishing with spit and cloth the smudges on its fragile surface.

    Many, many hourglasses ago you haggled for this artefact. The Dragon’s mark upon it seemed to promise vital powers of fertility within it. We journeyed a treacherous road, to the City long lost.
    We were cursed you said. Infertility was a relentless, nagging, aching void that we would live over and over again. We needed magic; no medicine would work.

    A boy, young and beautiful with tales of fruitful Dynasties, sold you this fresh hope. You came back renewed, certain our fortunes had changed.
    You organised another nursery made up of whites and pure cottons. You lined up tiny shoes and hats.
    But that nest lay empty …nine… eighteen.. twenty seven months before your rage ripped through it. Only the vase stood. You cradled it, and it soothed you. Perhaps it’s for another lifetime you said.

    That hollow look is in your eyes again as we reach our barren conclusion. You pray for the Power of the Dragon as we prepare to be reborn. I help you find your position on the sofa. I tuck in beside you, my body tracing yours. Bent double.

    350 words @Elaine173Marie

  15. To Dream of Legend
    350 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    No matter what happens, they never look up.

    The water draws them downwards, without our help. It mesmerises them, with the flipping and flicking of a tail here, a rising head there.

    And if ever the water should break and thrash, they may glimpse what they swear is reptilian skin, gleaming and rolling beneath the foam.

    And they chatter of the rising and surfacing of what must have been the Monster, picturing her surging up from the deep for a brief, playful gasp of pure Scottish air, and then submerging, to swim once more along the murky loch bed.

    They do not look up. They don’t pause, for a moment, to replay in their minds that strange, swift javelin of wind, moments before. They fail even to imagine an invisibly fast, joyful dive, straight from the clouds.

    We play our part, of course. It is in our interests, too, to keep their attention focussed on the loch. We gather them around it and sell them our tartan landscape, woven of underwater caves and elongated prehistoric necks. And we take them out onto Loch Ness itself, where they clutch binoculars, and shortbread, and a growing hope, staring down into the opaque black water as if persistent eyes might penetrate what light does not.

    Back on land, we’ll add soda to their Scotch. Water onto fire. Beside roaring flames, we’ll bid them relax, and think themselves brave- to contemplate an animal that has swum against the tide of evolution!

    But we will not feed them the courage to dream of legend.

    We will not carve her pearled, glistening scales on the wet, smooth skin in their minds, nor paint the glint of talons and the arc of wings onto clumsy flippers.

    And we leave, uncorrected, the convenience of “Monster.”

    We will look up, always, when her soaring presence circles and scorches the skies. And we will forever distract the crowds with weak, watery myths, whenever she desires to plunge and swirl her fiery form through the cool, onyx waters of Loch Ness.

    She is more magnificent than this world could ever bear.

  16. Two Missionaries
    350 words exactly
    @CharlesWShort

    I have spent my life on this island, hiding behind these dragons. They were carved out of wood and spaced around the island to scare off any unwanted visitors.

    Today the dragons are aging. The wood is cracked and broken; and so also, is the community behind them.

    We were content to follow the old ways. We fished for food, made our tools, and worshipped our ancestors. We found comfort in these ancient patterns of life. Centuries back, my family was selected to be the guardians of our way of life. It is a sacred duty and we have always been zealous to keep it.

    A man came from off island. I liked him, and became good friends with the man. But then I realized he was challenging the way of life I was called to protect. He was a missionary, attracted by the dragons.

    I did my duty. But the incredible part was—when he knew he was about to die—he forgave me. He told me he was sorry he couldn’t prove to me his God was real.

    He died well. He had no anger, no fear, and no regret. At that moment I wanted to be like him. Dying well, he had proven something to me. Loving his killer was proof enough for me.

    Today I see the boats coming with more missionaries. He told me they would come. I have made a decision. I will not oppose them. When they arrive, I will encourage my people to listen to them. The power of their faith is stronger than death. I will no longer hide behind these toothless dragons. I have been protecting the wrong way of life.

    But I also know my son is next in line as guardian of the dragon people. He is anxious to prove himself a faithful protector of the people. The minute I speak on behalf of the missionaries, it will be his responsibility to kill me. I trained him to know and love these traditions. I know he will proudly do his duty.

    I hope I will die well, too

  17. The Dragons of Ha Long Bay
    (350)

    Every century, when mist covered the Bay in a silver curtain, the village elders would choose the comeliest and most virtuous maiden, tie her to the mast of an elaborately carved junk, and with many incantations and prayers, push the boat out into the water.

    Muffled through the obscuring mist, the sound of snapping wood, a shriek, and a loud splash satisfied the elders and they would leave the Bay secure in the knowledge that the Dragon God had accepted the sacrifice; the village would reside for another century of peace and prosperity.

    *

    The mist danced and whirled as a light wind breathed across the Bay. A large shape raced beneath the surface of the water, swimming across the Bay in swift graceful movements. Upon the opposite shore, the form exited the Bay in an explosion of droplets that glittered like jewels in the diffused light.

    A taloned foot clawed furroughs into the damp clay; scales shivered and sloughed off revealing smooth pale skin. A moment later, the slender body of a young maiden collapsed onto the red soil. She writhed in agony as water-logged lungs struggled to draw in air. Harsh coughs bounced off the stones that hid the small inlet.

    A gentle hand drew soothing circles along the maiden’s back until her body accustomed itself to breathing air once more. Strong arms helped her onto her feet and a silk robe was wrapped warmly around her form. “Welcome, Sister.”

    “Sister?” the voice still rough from coughing nonetheless held a musical quality, though the maiden gave a gasp as she stared into the other’s face.

    Bright emerald eyes with slitted pupils gazed serenely upon her. “All those so given to the Ha Long are Sisters.” Slender fingers tucked wayward strands of hair behind her ear in a comforting gesture. “Ha Long has granted us many gifts for our companionship, though we can stay by his side but for a short while as he counts time. I was the last given; in a century, you will welcome our next Sister.”

    The maiden smiled, her own green gaze shining brilliantly.

  18. The Pursuit of Peace
    350 words
    @jujitsuelf

    The cries of birds greeting the slow-rising sun shattered the still air. Silky mist lay over the water, its tendrils creeping toward the land only to retreat as they touched warm earth. It was too early to move, too early to think. A day to breathe in the scent of peace.

    Closing his eyes, the warrior drew a breath. It had been too long since he’d tasted that morning mist. The pursuit of blood and war had drawn him away from this most magical of places. What a crass, mindless fool to seek peace elsewhere when he’d already glimpsed it once.

    “My Goddess,” he breathed, “I am come home.”

    “Are you?” A soft voice said, full of life and chilling mockery. “Why?”

    The warrior bowed his head and kept his eyes closed, sight was irrelevant now. “I have done as you asked. I found my peace.”

    “Have you, indeed?” the goddess spoke lightly but aeons of power resonated within her tone. “And how many men have died for you to find it?”

    “Too many,” the warrior replied honestly. “I have fought with good men and bad. Regimes have risen beneath my hand and fallen at my whim. I have lived a thousand lifetimes yet finally I find the peace you bade me seek when I was a broken soldier dying on a field in a battle that meant nothing.”

    “You loved war too much,” the goddess said. “You needed to discover the meaning of peace.”

    “Yet peace is found through war,” the warrior gave a gentle smile. “You play games, my Goddess.”

    “Why did you come here to ask for your release?” her voice was sharp, waspish at the faint rebuke.

    “Where better?” the warrior replied calmly. “Vietnam has known death and rebirth, I feel a kinship to it. Please, release me, let me die.”

    The goddess was silent. Birds flapped overhead and the wind blew mist into the warrior’s face.

    “I will miss you,” she said eventually.

    The warrior looked at her, relief heavy in his stomach and the scent of death already in his nostrils. “Thank you.”

  19. A gust of sea breeze kicked up, threatening to knock over the lights on the simple movie set. A tinge of cool, crisp winter had crept into the air. The setting sun, hiding behind grey clouds, offered no warmth. A hazy mist hovered along the shoreline.

    “It’s ironic that she should drown,” the director said. He gestured to the beach, and the ocean beyond. “Even more so that it happened here.”

    Detective Bowman had watched the playback several times. Though he saw with his own eyes what had happened, he still had a hard time believing.

    “Why’s it ironic, Mr. Stephens?” The detective’s gaze riveted to the ship that loomed at the water’s edge, a bloody mark smeared across it’s chin. This was what had knocked the star unconscious, and into the current that quickly swept her out into the ocean. An actress portraying a witch wore an emblem on her dress that bore the same shape as the ship, a dragon.

    “Before he died, her grandfather told her the story of a witch’s curse, as his family had told it to him. His grandfather was supposedly the one who’d condemned the witch to death. Drowned her with his own hands, they said. At this very beach.” He gave the detective a script. “These were her last words.”

    “I have only ever served the light.
    My death will be taken as an act of violence
    against the white, and punished accordingly.
    May your God have mercy on your soul,
    for mine will have none on you or your line.”

    The detective cast a skeptic eye at the director after reading the script. “So, what? Her death was the vengeful act of a long dead witch?”

    “Every member of her family for the last two hundred years has drowned. In the tub, in cars that went over bridges. Her own mother jumped from a bridge. She had no blood relatives left, so she kick started this whole project as a way to prove the witch’s guilt.”

    “I guess she proved they were wrong.”

    “I think she proved they were right.”

    Witch Justice
    @West1Jess
    350 Words

  20. @blackinkpinkdsk
    350 words
    Death’s Barometer

    The murky depths of the bay flow beneath me as I hover above the jagged rocks. I can feel my pulse thickening in my throat and try to swallow. In an instant the perspective has changed, moments before the rising sun. I teeter on the edge of a crag near the waterline with the heavy fog rolling in. It stares at me, the fog, as I watch the billows waft by. I read invisible lines of verse within the poetic sea smoke and oddly wonder, does it also see the poetry in me?

    The plunge is ice cold and comes as a shock every time, though it shouldn’t. The inky water fills my lungs as my hands grasp at nothingness and flail about, causing me to sink more quickly. Just before death, I see the massive wooden carved dragon, with the jewel it holds in its mouth, emerge.

    Then I wake.

    A constant amount of noise is always present, alongside my gasping for breath, at 3:34 in the morning. The dream remnants cling to my bones in the preferred hours of silence when I’d rather be asleep. The fragments are palpable, though seemingly meaningless, amongst a hum, or a buzz, or the crash of ice as the automatic ice maker empties, but there is always noise. Noise used to provide comfort and lull me into a false security, allowing sleep to take hold for the required rest a body needs.

    Now, the noise is an omen. It foretells of the continued restlessness as I lounge in the depths of insomnia.

    I’ve Googled dragons and images and rock formations relentlessly and have learned, the place I visit, but have never actually been, is in Vietnam: Ha Long Bay. The gem in the Dragon’s mouth is a châu, a symbol of knowledge. To the Vietnamese the dragon can breathe smoke easily transformed from fire to water at will.

    I spend my sleepless hours, on these nights, writing poetry. Mists and tides carry my pen until the hour I can phone her.

    “It’s going to rain today.”

    “You had the dream again?”

  21. One Day Child, One Day
    350 words
    @mj51day

    One Day Child, One Day

    “Peter! Get down this minute before you hurt yourself.”
    “But mum, it’s not real. It’s just a dragon made of wood. It can’t fly, or breathe fire or do anything magical. Look, even the teeth are wooden.”
    “Peter. Take your hand out of that mouth and get over here at once.”

    *********************

    Yes Peter, do as your mother tells you. What’s wrong with children nowadays? The clamber all over me, tugging at my wings, putting their grimy fingers in my mouth. It’s all too much. Wouldn’t have happened when I was in my prime. Oh no, they wouldn’t have dared. The only thing going in my mouth back then would have been him. No wonder my teeth are blunt. It’s ages since I’ve had a decent child to crunch on.

    Of course it’s all the fault of that Dragons Guild. Used to be worth belonging to once upon a time then it got bogged down in rules and regulations, health and safety, risk assessments. First they stopped us breathing fire. Next came those ludicrous rules making the fighting of knights next to impossible. Then, if things weren’t bad enough, they banned the eating of children.

    The final straw was when some bright spark on the committee thought it best all remaining dragons became ornamental. Before we knew what was happening the guild’s chief wizard was out turning us all into stone or wood. That’s how I found myself here, a tourist attraction, stood peering out across the bay. Oh what I’d give to have my wings back and fly off over those mountain tops.

    Now what’s this child doing? Surely he’s not trying to …..? He is you know. The little bugger’s trying to knock out one of my teeth with a stone. Probably wants it to show his friends. Cheeky little sod.

    *************************

    “Peter! Put that stone down, you’re going to hurt yourself. Get down now and I’ll buy you an ice cream.”

    As Peter dropped the stone and started to clamber down he could have sworn he heard the dragon whispering his name and saying, “One day child, one day.”

  22. Fire and Ice
    350 Words
    @ZachJPayne | Zach@GoodPeopleTheaterCo.org

    “How the hell did Cass know about this place?” I spoke into the satellite phone. “Are you seeing this?”

    This was the expanse of cold-iron water called Ha Long Bay, punctured with huge rock formations that brushed the sky. I could imagine what the view would be like at night, resting on top of one of those monoliths, watching the stars and the waves. No light pollution here. I would have to talk my escort, Van — a combination bodyguard and translator — into letting me do that.

    “I don’t know, Izzy,” Charlene said. “And yes, it’s amazing.” My guardian and aunt-in-law was ensconced in her office back on the other shore of the Pacific. There was a time when being somewhere as foreign as Vietnam would’ve scared me shitless. But no more: Cass had changed that.

    Cass. My Cass. There were still times when thinking about her brought about the black ice, a physical sensation that would cover skin and bones, freezing me body and mind, locking me inside that single instant of pain and grief and terror.

    “We must go, Ms. Charlene,” Van spoke into the phone that I was holding. He put his hands on my shoulders. By now, he knew me, could tell when I was freezing over. And now, a human touch was just what I needed.

    “Be careful.” Her terse farewell. She knew better than to wish me luck or a good time.

    “Van,” I asked. “Can you get the envelope out of my backpack?” We might as well get to it: the reason we were here.

    He handed me a manila envelope. Ha Long Bay was written in Cass’s shaky hand. This was the end of an expensive, world-crossing pilgrimage. I fished inside for a card. Cass had written these, too. Each card had a prayer. She wasn’t religious, not really; it was only in her effects that we’d seen her spiritual side.

    This prayer was simple: “O Dragon, protect me, warm my bones.” A prayer I could get behind.

    I poured the last of my girlfriend’s ashes into the tide.

  23. The Sacrifice
    350 words
    @Jackie_Castle

    “Sebastian, don’t do this.”
    “Already done, Cecilia.” I steered away from the burning rubble that was once my city. A strong gust caught the sails of the ship I’d just conjured in desperation to save her. Foamy spray splashed around the dragon masthead. For a moment, I could have sworn the black marble eyes glowed with her normal fiery orange.
    Go, go, go! Not much time left. My spell would only hold for a short while.
    We’d lost the battle. The enemy had me surrounded when Cecilia flew into the fray to save me. She took a spear into the one unprotected place over her heart. In my fury, I cast the transformation spell to save her.
    “Why did you do it, Cecilia? I would have gotten out, you didn’t need to….”
    The ship lurched over a swell causing me to tumble forward. My arms wrapped around the dragon’s neck, now wood instead of scales. “I’m so sorry, Cecilia. I’ll not let you perish.”
    A pulsating thrumming vibrated under my splayed, blood-stained hands. Her soothing voice seeped into my heart, escaping through the cracks in the polished wood. “We’ll be separated forever.”
    “At least I’ll know you still live.” Up ahead, spires rose through the salty mist. Dragon’s Isle. They’d help her. They’d make her whole again. I only needed to get close enough to bring their attack. The dragons always protected their one last refuge.
    “Sebastian?”
    “Their fire will bring you healing, Cecilia.”
    “But their fire might…. No, don’t do this.”
    Winged creatures soared into the sky, blocking out the sun.
    “I’m scared, Sebastian.”
    “Don’t be afraid. You’ll be free now. I love you, Cecilia.”
    “I love you, too. You’ve been my best—”
    Flames poured from their mouths. I dove over the side. Heat seared my back as I plunged into the waves. When my lungs threatened to burst, I resurfaced a safe distance away. Cecilia soared into the sky and disappeared behind the black spires.
    With a sigh of relief, I floated in the water. Now all I needed to do was find a way back home.

  24. The Journey
    By: Allison K. Garcia
    350 words

    Once upon a time, I wandered through life. Scared, broken, and alone, every day was the same for me, a barrage of emptiness and despair.

    Then one day, a voice came to me in a dream. A deep, fiery voice that invaded my skull and shook my entire body. “You must take a journey to find me.”

    “Where shall I go?” My quavering voice seemed small compared with the majestic roar that commanded me.

    “Your faith shall guide you.”

    Heart racing at the sheer thought, I asked, “How can I leave behind all I hold dear?”

    “One step at a time.”

    I awoke with a jolt and my eyes sprang open. For a moment, on the ceiling of my dark room, an outline made with fire flashed in the form of a dragon, then disappeared. In my heart, I knew it was not merely a dream but also my destiny.

    With a small bag filled with items most important to me on my shoulder, I headed out towards the rising sun.

    Following the blaze that burned my very spirit, I traveled over mountains and across rivers, through woods and along the sea. My journey took me through towns and cities and villages, where I relied on the kindness of strangers to help me on my way.

    Along my voyage, I found others moving in the same direction, others who had heard that same fiery voice and had seen the mark. We banded together, and I no longer had to journey alone. Some chose to stay on the road, others parted ways and made their own path, forgetting their true purpose.

    My companions and I helped each other discover gifts the Guide had bestowed upon us. Some had the gift of service, others of music, others of words. I had the gift of listening, which I slowly learned to use to help other voyagers and those who we spoke with and invited to the Path.

    One day, I saw again that flash of fire and met the Guide in true form. Having reached my destination, I was grateful for the journey.

  25. The Dragon Boat
    Laura Carroll Butler
    350 words

    Linh was six when she left Vietnam with the other orphans. Placed with the nuns when she was three, she remembered little of her life before and little more after, until she came to America where her kinky hair and green eyes would not identify her as the daughter of the enemy.

    In high school, when she just wanted to look like everyone else, she was struck often with how different she was. She was an American, but she was also Vietnamese. Her history teacher once pointedly asked what she remembered of her homeland. The class suddenly looked at her and Linh knew she’d never really blended in.

    Deep in the hazy vagueness of her childhood memories, she recalled the dragon boat.

    In college her sophomore year, she saw the photograph of the dragon boat at a traveling exhibit on Vietnam. She sensed the limping man before she saw him, passing him with an odd feeling of knowing that she didn’t understand. She saw by the wrinkle in his brow as he looked at her that he felt it too. Linh smiled uncomfortably and left the exhibit quickly.

    As he reflected on the photograph, Vincent thought of the world he’d come home to in 1969. He’d gone to Vietnam a rudderless boy and came home a man with a purpose. He’d gone to college on the GI Bill. He limped from his injury, but he had a wife, a family, a normal life. Vincent knew he was one of the lucky ones who’d survived physically and mentally.

    In the picture was Hoa’s boat. He remembered how he’d wanted to marry her and bring her home. Then he was injured and in the stateside hospital, he knew that it had been unrealistic. Hoa would never have been happy married to a black man, living in a Southern town. His mother would never have welcomed a Vietnamese daughter-in-law. He never questioned his path, what he left behind until the moment he felt the physical pull that drew his attention to the young girl and he saw his own eyes in her face.

  26. The Dragon that Delivered Her From Grace
    350 words
    @drmagoo

    The Dragon of Lost Hope glided smoothly over the water, concealed by a cold and heavy fog which darkened the hearts of the most innocent of children. This summoning had been particularly alluring, and the Dragon knew that it would feed well.

    Grace was an unusual name for a hurricane, and those who lived in her path felt the lash of God’s own hand as she swallowed them into its maw. No one would ever get an accurate toll of the dead, and many of the survivors viewed them as the lucky ones, so complete and wanton was Grace’s wrath.

    Mariah and Benji were the only people left from their village, which two days before had been a warm and boisterous hub of the local fishing trade. They walked over barren ground, as the majority of what had been their lives had been blown miles out to sea. No Red Cross food trucks were going to make it to this devastated a place any time soon, and the sea was still too roiled up with debris and death to release its bounty of fish.

    Benji broke first, as the reality of what had happened to his family burst through the protective layers of disbelief his mind had created, and nothing Mariah could do dislodged him his internal darkness. Faced with the prospects of dying in this place, her stomach eating itself from the inside while her only companion howled silent tears at nothing, she did what her mother’s mother had taught her to do.

    Mariah knew that Benji would pose an irresistible lure for the Dragon of Lost Hope. Beings of its kind rarely got to feed on ones so young. The old, beaten down by years of worldly abuse, gave up easily, and the inherent optimism of youth released a particularly potent elixir when it was crushed so rapidly.

    While feeding, the Dragon would be distracted.

    Like any good fisherwoman, Mariah stepped to the water’s edge and set her hook. Grace had sent her to hell, but she would ride to the future on the back of a dragon.

  27. @StephenWilds
    “War”

    “My dad was in Vietnam, not long after the war,” Jonathan said to his friends. “And he told me a story about when he was in charge of the ammo depot there. They kept weapons and ammo in the building near the edge of the city he was stationed at, but outside of the building they had a big pit where they put all of the ammo that had misfired or gotten wet, anything that they didn’t want to risk firing.”
    Jonathan’s friends had not seemed too interested in the story, not yet at least.
    “Well one night the new guy was on what they called main watch. His station was to look over this pit and he had a mounted gun. Well that was the night a group of guys tried to break in to steal that ammo, because they can scavenge it to make some working bullets.”
    Jonathan began using his hands to bring them into the story even further, realizing that everyone was interested now.
    “It was his first night, so the new guy freaked, sounded the alarm and shouted a warning. He never saw the shot, wasn’t sure if they shot at him or someone shot at them, but when he heard the shot, he opened up on them.”
    “Did he get them,” Bobby asked excitedly.
    “Well he was shooting a fifty caliber gun at a large pit of gun powder, so there was an explosion. So yeah, yeah, you could say he got them. All five of them in fact, because body parts went everywhere and my dad just talked about the smell when he got out there of burned hair and flesh, and how the new guy was vomiting for a half hour off to the side while everyone else cleaned it up.”
    “Oh god,” Emily gasped genuinely.
    “Dad said that every time the new guy had a shift after that, he’d ask not to be put on main, and he would show up early each day, stopping at that dragon statue, like he was praying that nothing bad would happen on his watch.”

  28. Qinghai Dancer
    By Andy Smart (@strohsandy)
    350 words

    “I desired dragons with a profound desire.” –C.S. Lewis

    When the dragon began his serpentine voyage through the crowd, I breathed in his fire.

    He wasn’t the flaccid cartoon of my youth; rather, he was fluid, regal, not at all clumsy. His comic book cousins had three large-muscle-group movements: Up, Out, Down. They flapped their grotesque wings, cleared the kerosene from their sinuses, and obliterated the pesky humanoids below. Then they shared a yawn with the readers and trundled off to a lair that resembled my basement. I could not root for these flying Neanderthals, despite my best efforts. I couldn’t, even as a kid, wilfully suspend my disbelief: there could not possibly be that many ignoramus villagers to torch with abandon.

    I knew, in the cockles of my nine year old heart, that dragons existed, but I was irrevocably unable to believe they were airborne oafs. So when I heard tell of the Dragon Dance at the Chinese festival, I was all over it.

    I marketed the event to my friends with all the gusto one might expect. There would be ninjas, Samurai, and, of course, the Dragon, I told them; this appealed to the universal, albeit culturally misguided, interests of white kids in my hometown. My salesmanship was enthusiastic, but ineffectual. Watching a paper puppet, populated by a few dozen people, meander down Main Street wasn’t as exciting to my peers as I had hoped. I had to go it alone.

    But I went.

    Throngs of Chinese immigrants, first generation Chinese-Americans, and innumerable Anglo-Irish-Franco-Mutt locals lined the parade route. Drums and a frenzy of color. The dragon was upon us. I could only see his massive head: yellow, green, red, orange, constantly in motion. The men inside the multi-colored beast were a vehicle for pure magic. I could only see their shoes- matching white sneakers, but I imagined their eyes: closed tight, bodies united in doing the creature’s bidding. The men inside the belly were drenched in flame, and yet they did not burn. The dragon laughed and flexed his grandiose figure for his subjects.

    I was there.

  29. The Dragon’s Fire
    by A J Walker
    @zevonesque (350 words)

    September
    1st
    Since I first heard about the dragon I’d anticipated this day. It has surpassed all expectations. The dragon is real. A true giant standing proud on a table mountain, lording over the jungle.
    Nothing prepares you for the night when you first see the dragon’s fire, a scarlet flame shooting across the sky.

    2nd
    The expedition left later than planned due to my oversleeping – local hooch last night, which I’ve inevitably christened “Dragon’s Fire” – Beware!!
    Still, progress was better than I could have hoped. The village men seem keen to deliver me quickly to the base of the mountain – they have families to return to (and some of my money).
    Made camp in a spot where the dragon could watch over us.
    Kept away from the hooch.

    3rd
    The jungle thinned out as the terrain became rocky and we made fine time. I agreed that the men could go home – away from their cursed mountain.
    I camped alone comforted by the noises of the jungle and the dragon’s glow.

    4th
    Climbing. Climbing. Climbing.
    It was a day of nothing else. Hard work but good progress. This trip seems blessed, this dragon benevolent. No sign of a curse.
    I could not see the great dragon, nor its flame from my tent – but I dreamt of it.

    5th
    Climbing. Climbing. Walking.
    I made it up unscathed. Tomorrow I will touch the dragon. Touch the fire. Take it.

    6th
    Today I touched the dragon’s fire!
    I put my arm down the mouth of the dragon and touched it. As I suspected it is an unrivaled ruby. There is some sort of light behind. A trick of geology or biology? Whatever, at night it is the ruby’s light that makes the fire from this ancient dragon.

    My arm is now trapped by some devious stone mason’s device. I know I’ll not leave here until my body has withered, the dragon snapped and my bones blow to dust from this mountain.

    Please let it be known that I (signature illegible) was the first recorded person to reach the dragon and touch its fire.

  30. Checkmate

    For a century it slept: planning, lurking, resting. In the darkness of the lake bottom it fasted, waiting. In the trees, it crept slowly: a butterfly drying its wings, testing a new place, a new time, a new game. Yearning for the next move it would make, the life it would consume.

    The fog was thick that morning.

    Its reign had come, its fame (or perhaps its infamy) now turning Fate upon its head: life itself was twisting.

    The fog, like smoke, drifted: blurred the peoples’ vision.

    The mist recharged its master.

    Faith would die that day.

    His hundred years of prison lifted, the beast set on his mission. Gaining strength with every swallow, his power became his shield.

    He started with the lonely, feeding upon their misery: severing feelings, Humanity left hollow, depleted, destroyed, revealed.

    Second he absorbed the irate, each too consumed in hate to notice their lives were floating on that lake—now they were drowning.

    His favorite were the children—how they screeched—as he lapped them up, limb by limb, a smile here, the laughter there: the innocent, by far, made him the strongest.

    The monster smiled amidst their shrieking, and, one by one, their screams completed him. It gulped the old, slurped the strong, crunching bones and crushing dreams.

    Nothing could avenge its hundred years of slumber, nothing could satisfy its hunger.

    Hope, that day, around so long, dissipated into the streams, burrowed into the ground, disappeared amidst the breeze.

    The beast at last faced all that was wrong. It smiled, knowing this feast would pass with little effort or trial: evil was, indeed, the beast’s name. This last meal was where the beast belonged.

    He did not know it would be his last.

    Inhaling, the beast breathed in violence, murder, betrayal, and rape: and, for a moment, he was satisfied, smiling to himself and knowing that this fulfilled his needs.

    But, something inside began to quake: the beast began to panic. It was then he remembered what the Wise once had said: “Evil will destroy evil.”

    And in moments, the beast was dead.

    @nXgWVteacher
    Word Count: 350
    Genre: Prose Poetry 🙂

  31. Depths

    I was never allowed to play by the lake. My mother used to pull me past it, urgently, on our way back from school. Her grip would tighten around my fingers as I dragged my feet and looked longingly over my shoulder. The water was so still, so calm; the mountains rose up beyond, slumbering myths. I wanted to push a boat out and watch it drift.

    Making lunch, I asked her why, again. As usual, her face gave nothing away. She folded pastry skins around her chopstick, twisted them in her fingers, and dumplings dropped rhythmically into the bowl, one-two-three-four. I mixed up the vinegar and soy sauce while she worked, putting in a good pinch of Sichuan pepper.

    My mother’s name is Ai Zhong, ‘Love China’. Lots of babies born in the Cultural Revolution had names like that. Qiang Guo, ‘Strong Country’. Dong Feng, ‘Wind From The East’. My mother uses a different character, now, and her name means ‘Love Loyalty.’

    Granny ate her dumplings slowly. I giggled when one slipped out of her chopsticks on its way to her mouth. I got told off in the kitchen for that.

    While my mother washed up, I sat next to Granny, eating creamy White Rabbits. They’re too chewy for her teeth, but I offered her one anyway. She said, suddenly, ‘We tried to melt them down.’ I held my breath, so as not to disturb her train of thought.
    ‘There was no milk. What could we give the babies?’
    ‘Why wasn’t there any milk?’
    ‘They sent us to the country, to work on the farms. Re-education. To learn from the peasants. There was nothing. People died.’

    And she told me that in the towns, the Red Guards took hold. They went to the University, and pulled the teachers from their beds. In the morning, bodies floated in the lake. I thought Granny had been an only child; that my mother had no aunts or uncles.

    My daughter’s four. She doesn’t play near the lake, either. For the moment, I’m telling her it’s because the stone dragon might eat her.

    350 words
    @accidentobizaro

  32. The Craftsman
    350 Words
    @hackerverse

    The Craftsman swung his mallet one last time. A final chip of oak floated to the ground, leaving behind a perfectly-formed scale on the head of the beast. He set down his chisel and stood back to inspect his work–it was perfect, and dreadful. An exact likeness of the one haunting his memory; the ship that came and took everything away.

    The Craftsman looked at his son, the Warrior, and called him over with a nod of his head.

    “It is finished?”

    The Craftsman nodded.

    “Excellent! This will carry me to glory, Father. When I return, they will love me. The slaves, the women, the treasure I will bring, they will love me for all of it.” He smiled, and slapped his father on the back. So proud.

    The Craftsman nodded again. He wished he could tell his son what he really thought. He wished his tongue had been the only thing he lost all those years ago, when these people ripped him from the bloody embrace of his mother.

    “Father, what is the matter? Are you not pleased? This is most fierce! It will put fear in the hearts of all who see us emerge from the mists.”

    The Craftsman dropped his eyes to the ground. The Warrior reached out and lifted his chin, looked him square in the eye. “Your gift will bring us glory, Father. Your work will be the last thing they see in this life. And those who live, will never forget it. That honour is yours!”

    The Warrior returned to his men and ordered them to prepare for the morning. The Craftsman watched him go, wishing the stump in his mouth could do more than groan. He took one last glance at his creation, then could bear to look no more.

    He lifted a wooden box and went around collecting his things. As he put away each tool, hammer, chisel, scraper, gouge–the implements of his beloved art–his heart sank further, weighed as heavily as the box.

    Despite his vow of so many years, he had just turned each of these tools into weapons.

  33. THE CROSSING

    “I’m not ready to go.”

    “No one ever is, honey.”

    The water lies calm, waiting.

    My father has taken a step back on the bank, just out of reach. We will not touch each other again. Everyone else forms a semicircle a few yards behind him. I’m still feeling his heavy, sure hand on my shoulder. Our last contact.

    Mother is back at home. I picture her pressing the contents of a medicine bottle into her mouth with her palm, pills of various shapes and colors clattering on the floor. No, this is not a day for Mother.

    There’s enough food in the boat for a two-day journey. That’s what the stories specify. No one has ever come back to tell us, no, it’s a week, it’s a month. So we stick with two days.

    Yesterday the younger kids drew boats with dragon heads, flying through the air. They folded them up and dropped them in the lanterns, their ashes flying high and wrapping around the wailing good-bye voices of the elders.

    I was painted in gold, shining flakes falling from my skin onto the dirt. There’s still a little gold under my nails. And black paint smeared under my eyes. I tried to get it off, I don’t want to look stupid when I arrive. Just want to look like a regular girl who can take care of herself.

    One more glance back. My father’s face has frozen, his mouth is a line and his eyes have hardened into his skull like stones. He holds his hands folded in front of him. Hands that smoothed a big, square bandage over my knee when I was six.

    My mind flutters like a trapped wild bird. So I place my thoughts into a box and fix my eyes on the water in front of me. This stark landscape is a blank sheet of paper on which I am to make my first mark.

    I place my oar, and push forward. V-shaped ripples form in front of me. The rocks bid me welcome, and say to me, come and see.

    @betsystreeter
    350 words excluding title

  34. Legend (350 Words)

    “This is what is known. Before the world was formed, there was the Old Father, a mighty god who formed the heavens and earth from his ever-burning forge.

    “He took the Moon as his wife, and she bore him dozens of children. But the children of the Old Father grew envious of their father’s creation. These Young Gods conspired against their father and threw him into his forge. The Old Father became the Sun while their Mother wept, and her tears became the stars.

    “The Young Gods came down to the world and unleashed great misery and sorrow. They spawned witchery and chaos. Beasts and monsters were born in this time, the worst of which were dragons.

    “Our people suffered for centuries in this age of darkness until a great hero emerged: Lorgar the Red, a giant of a man who was strong as the mountains. Lorgar set out to free the world of the Young Gods.

    “The Young Gods sent their favorite dragon, Mathruul, to kill Lorgar, but he slayed the beast with his bare hands. He then fashioned a greatsword from Mathruul’s bones and teeth.

    “When the Young Gods heard of Mathruul’s death, their chieftain, Draitho, challenged Lorgar to single combat. They fought for a whole day and night before Lorgar triumphed. With Draitho dead, the Young Gods cowered in fear. As they begged for mercy, Lorgar cast them into the greatest forge in the North.

    “When the spirit of the Old Father saw this hero, with his remaining strength, he made Lorgar the Red a god. In the forge of the Old Father, Lorgar forged a new blade, Draitho’s Bane.”

    “Is it true, grandfather? Did Lorgar really kill Mathruul and use his bones to make a sword?”

    He smiled at the interruption. “Come with me, Beathrag. Look out over the bay, and tell me what you see.”

    “I see a great carving of Mathruul guarding the bay.”

    The old dragon patted his grandson’s head. “Human’s need these stories to make themselves feel like dragons. We are the eldest. We were first, and we shall be the last.”

  35. Answered Prayers
    350 Words
    @LadyHazmat

    Sometimes, Nahla thought, the dreams and wishes of childhood became the nightmare realities of adulthood.

    When she was eight, Nahla would have given anything for a dragon baby. Lying awake at night, she prayed to the goddess Echindna to send her a fire-breathing beast with eyes like emeralds and wings of gold. She would be the envy of the village, a mother to a god.

    As Nahla grew, those dreams were replaced by more practical desires—a husband, a home, and children of the human variety. When she ceased to bleed and her belly began to swell, Nahla lay awake at night, praying now to the goddesses Eileithyia for a strong and healthy son. She would be the envy of the village, a mother to a prince. The whimsical yearnings of youth were all but forgotten. She’d forsaken her childhood prayers, but they’d not forsaken her.

    Nahla pushed and wailed, and as her child’s head emerged from her womb, the midwife, Sita, shrieked and fled the room, abandoning Nahla to deliver her baby alone. She staggered to her feet and, reaching between her legs, pulled the screeching infant from her body. A hand flew into her mouth, blood and sweat mingled, choking back a scream.

    In her arms, Nahla held the dragon baby she’d so desperately wanted as a child. But instead of beautiful onyx scales and golden wings, his body was covered in sickly diamond plaques. His fingers were misshapen, ineffective claws. Instead of emeralds, his eyes were soft, swollen things that wept angry red tears as he cried. No ears. No nose. Only hollow black holes where both should be. He was an abomination.

    Outside, the villagers were gathering. Unintelligible murmurs seeped through the windows like vapor and shadows born of torchlight writhed on the floor like mad spirits. Nahla’s husband entered the birthing chamber. His eyes fell upon the malformed infant wailing in his wife’s arms.

    He cursed her. Turning slowly, he left to confirm his people’s worst fears.

    Nahla wept for answered prayers.

    She would be the shame of the village. A mother to a monster.

  36. Let The Only Sound (Be The Overflow)
    350 words

    Robert curled himself into a ball as he hid, ignoring the bramble that clutched at his skin. He could hear the pounding footsteps of the other boys pass his hiding place and he exhaled when none of them stopped. He clenched his eyes shut as he waited, scarcely breathing.

    “Please don’t let them see,”

    The mantra circled in his head but a few seconds later the bushes were yanked apart and Bobby screamed as cruel hands reached in and grabbed him. He kicked out, trying to fight them off but there were too many and they were so much bigger than he was, his efforts were no more effective than a butterfly rising up against a lion.

    Tears coursed down his face as they dragged him from the woods and his struggles became even more frantic when the soil beneath his feet grew damp.

    “I wanna go home, I want my Pa!” Bobby screamed as waves lapped at his feet but the jeering just grew louder. Mocking mimicries of his voice rose from the group as they pulled him further out into the lake.

    They knew he couldn’t swim, that he’d never stepped foot into the lake with his Pa close because he’d promised that he’d never be lost to the same cruel maiden that had stolen his mother.

    The water was at his chest now and Bobby scrabbled at the person holding his hands, nails tearing at skin and cloth as he threw himself backwards. His momentum sent them both crashing into the waves as the boy lost his footing and the waves rose up around him.

    Icy cold water poured into his mouth as he sank like a stone and Bobby gasped, taking in even more of the liquid until his chest burned with the pressure.

    Then it came, rising up from the depths like something out of a story. Its body glinted emerald and amber as it raced towards him and Bobby clenched his eyes shut but instead of teeth, soft fingers caressed his skin and when Bobby opened his eyes, his Ma smiled back at him.

  37. Here

    It had to be here. Here is where it all began.

    Every contour of this jagged shoreline is etched into her very soul. She stands looking out to the horizon desperate to catch a glimpse of a time that will now never come.

    Though she cries, her lips twitch into a small, bittersweet smile as waves of memories flood through her. Carefree games of hide and seek beneath the watchful gaze of the boulders standing proud on the headland. Clandestine meetings under the stars and an awkward first kiss full of clumsy adolescent ardor. An exquisite proposal on the water’s edge, met with tears of joy.

    I remember them all too. Especially that day. When I promised to be her companion for life, her protector. I placed the ring upon her finger and swore to be her dragon slayer, her defender. Until my dying day.

    She pushes the wooden boat on to the lake where the moon casts a milky sheen over the ripples. Her ivory skin reflects the silver light, her beauty simply captivating, as she allows the boat to drift slowly out into the waters.

    I kept my promise. I fought the demons of self-criticism and dragons of self doubt that dwelt deep within her, counselled her through troubled times, took care of her. And in return she bestowed upon me the most beautiful love a man could hope to know.

    And now we are here again and she must do what she came for.

    Her tears fall silently. She removes the lid, and in one swift movement a cloud of dust is scattered into the night….

    ……and I become everywhere; the breeze upon which her hair dances, the water that is all around her, the current that pulls her safely back to shore.

    She hugs her knees to her chest, fearing that by setting me free she has lost me.

    But I surround her. I protect her once more. I am complete.

    And what she doesn’t yet know is that she is not alone. For in the soft, imperceptible, curve of her belly, I live on.

    @dragonsflypoppy
    350 words

  38. Happiness Instead
    By Jake Kuyser
    @jakekuyser
    350 words

    A mother and daughter sat by a carved figure of a dragon. The smiling girl wrapped her arms around the wooden dragon’s head. “I love you, happy dragon!”

    “Don’t be silly Anne. It’s just a piece of wood.”

    “Silly mummy. Dragon does love us.”

    “Lets take a selfie with her. Smile!” *Click* *Flash*

    “Hmmmm. Ummmm. What? Ohhhhh. What? What do you want? I’m sleeping!”

    Mother and daughter look at each other. “The dragon… spoke? Ohhh, it’s a wind up! It must be some kind of trick. Has someone left a phone here? Is there a hidden speaker?”

    “What is that flashing device? Some kind of magic?”

    “It’s just my phone! Mummy, dragon is speaking”

    “Noo.”

    “My name is Liathara and you woke me up with your flashing.. err.. phone. How very rude.”

    “It’s a clever trick. I can’t see a speaker or anything. Very smart… Liathara, you nearly had us fooled!”

    “Well, how about this for a trick? HARRUMPH!” Fire coughs from the dragon’s mouth.

    “OH MY GOSH THATS HOT. Anne, back away!

    “Are you OK? I’m sorry. I haven’t done that in oh so long. Please don’t run away.”

    “Oh…”

    “Look, ahh. OK.” The dragon seemed to change and move. There was an old woman sitting there, stretching and yawning. She smiled at the startled pair.

    “Who…”

    “Please sit down. Repeat after me. “I am Liathara of Woodley and I feel no fear. You’re not Liathara. I am. With your own name. Louder.”

    “I AM ANNE OF SEAGROVE AND I FEEL NO FEAR!”

    “Good. Very good. I really am sorry. Now. Feel happier.”

    Mother and daughter smile at each other. “We do feel happy. How did you do that?”

    “When I was very young like you, my world was frightening. Wolves, bears, dragons and, worst of all, men.”

    “That sounds horrid, doesn’t it mummy?”

    “I became frightening myself.”

    “Yes, that does sound awful.”

    “After many years I found I could spread happiness instead. So I sleep and I spread the happy.”

    “That sounds much nicer.”

    “Yes. I bid you good night.”

    Liathara disappears…

    “Mummy, will daddy believe us?”

    “About what?”

  39. Professor Pummel at the Temple of Draygone
    350 Word
    @ShawnCowling

    “That’s it. That’s the lair” Professor Pummel shouted as he leaped from the helicopter to the cold sandstone below.

    “This ends today” he muttered as he lifted his face from the cobbled path. He could leap like a champion; landings were a different story.

    The Temple of Draygone, long ago lost to history only to be rediscovered by a villain most evil, was the last place Professor Pummel wanted to be this day. It was Tuesday. Tuesday meant pizza night. He had to make this quick.

    The pathway in was draped by vines and spiderwebs. Professor Pummel could only say, “icky” as he lumbered his way into the temple.

    “No henchmen? No traps? You’re making this too easy, old man.” Pummel’s nemesis always had some trick up his sleeve though; this was no time to let his guard down.

    The corridor was wide, open and tall. In the distance, Pummel heard the faint sound of footsteps and walked toward them.

    “So, my long time enemy finally calls on me at home. Pity this will be your last visit, Professor!” The cracking, cackling voice of his true rival filled the corridor.

    “Dr. Agon!” Pummel called into the void, “show yourself and we shall see who will one day visit the other again.” Pummel was never one for witty report.

    As soon as he finished speaking, a cage of bone and twine dropped on him. “Jokes on you, Dr. Agon, this is only the second most disgusting cage I’ve been trapped in” Pummel said with a cocky laugh.

    “The cage is simply a distraction, Professor,” Dr. Agon was now in full view just meters away. “Now, you will fall into my trap!”

    Dr. Agon pulled a device from his cloak and pressed a button. Then pressed it again. Finally a third time.

    “I worked on this all week too” he said jabbing at the device.

    “It’s probably best to surrender now then” Pummel said.

    “Yeah, yeah, probably. It was going to be really neat though. Big winged lizard from the ceiling and everything” Agon opened the cage and walked with Pummel outside.

  40. Glad and thankful I can be a part of this! To another year!
    _____________________________________________

    The Bay of Huxum

    The stillness of the water was disturbed, a gentle quake that spawned ripples, which chased away the thin layer of fog nesting on the surface. From beyond the smog a ghostly silhouette emerged, a mass reeking of sea and gunpowder. The ship sliced the waters as it neared the quiet bay; a king amongst pirates, “The Greedy Corsair” was preparing to anchor.

    A song echoed. It was a powerful chant that called upon the dead.

    “Ahoy brothers
    Down at the depths
    The bottles we sink
    We pour for your sake
    Drink them me hearties
    Yo ho ho
    The sea yar grave
    But horizon yer birth
    Yo ho ho
    Raise to sail
    Yo ho ho
    Raise to drink”

    Ahead lay an island, a jungle of wonders and dangers, and somewhere in its midst an X marked the buried treasure of an extinct world.

    “I’ve heard there’s a myth about these parts.” a bearded sailor said, as he was loading his pistol. “Us blackhearted sailors are cursed er’.”

    “And cursed we shall walk the shores.”
    Captain Alastair Kant stepped on the deck. He was a tall man and his eyes were as damp and gloomy as the sea itself.

    “There was a sacred beast, a dragon named Huxum. The Vietnamese called him Con quỷ đen, the black demon. He was a vicious creature and the settlers elected a warrior to challenge him. After defeating the dragon its body fell in these waters. The settlers then build a ship from the bones and the scales. “The sailing demon” they called it.”

    The captain smirked at the silent crew.
    “Move it you good for nothing drunks!

    But the waters became restless and the ship rocked. A roar erupted. From above a fearful skeleton ship covered in black scales was descending. “The sailing demon” was flying towards Captain Kant’s crew, and it had Huxun’s burning eyes. As the crew rushed to load its guns, the ghost ship breathed its fire upon them.

    The bay was shaken by a blast that saw the Corsair sink into oblivion, engulfed in ancient flames.
    The waters became still again.

    @Raptamei

    350 words

  41. E.A. Wicklund
    http://momusnews.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/advancement-flash-friday/

    Advancement

    “Be honest, Quan. You desire to replace me one day!” raged Minister Kiang.

    “Not true, Minister!” squeaked Quan.

    “I could squash you like a bug! I will DIE before you replace me.” He gestured dismissively. “Now, the highway must continue. Yet, not all the necessary land is procured.”

    “Yes, Minister,” stammered Quan. “One piece remains. It is a beautiful garden”

    “Have it razed.”

    “The owner will not vacate, honored minister.”

    “Have him jailed for insurrection,” growled Kiang.

    “But he is very old, sir!”

    “Do this or I will, and you’ll never hold this office!”

    ***

    Quan returned with four soldiers to the Gardens of Delun. He passed waterfalls and Ornamental Cherry trees and flower beds bursting with color. Old man Mok sat slowly on a bench, his cane wobbling as he moved. “So you return,” he said.

    “Respected elder,” said Quan. “I suffer to ask you again, but please leave this land.”

    “I cannot. My family tends these gardens for the pleasure of the dragon, Chao-feng. They are his.”

    He’s obviously lost his mind, thought Quan. “It pains me to do this.” He turned to the soldiers, “Arrest him.”

    Before the soldiers took one step, a voice like a thousand lightning bolts erupted from the sky. “ENOUGH! Send him to me.”

    Reverently, Mok gestured to an archway and Quan walked through it.

    He returned on wobbling knees. Numbly, he sat on the bench beside Mok.

    “Your hair has turned white, Magistrate,” said Mok.

    “I know.” Quan gazed into the distance. “He is beautiful and terrifying all at once. His eyes are like stars.”

    “It is not easy to speak with a god,” murmured Mok. “What did Chao-feng say?”

    “He said the next one claiming his garden will die an infinitely painful death. If I arrest you, I die. If I don’t, Kiang will halt my advancement.”

    Mok grinned maliciously. “Sometimes one problem solves the other.”

    ***

    “He refuses to leave,” said Quan.

    “You FAILED!” roared Kiang. “Very well. I’ll handle this personally. I will show you what it takes to advance in the world.”

    “Yes, Minister. Show me,” smiled Quan.

  42. Summoning
    (350 words)

    Fiona went down to the water to pray, and like always, I followed.

    “This time, Nick. This one.”

    I looked over the bay, wondering how many times she’d said that, how many of her beautiful pieces lay charred and lost in those unforgiving waters. I’d long lost count, but Fiona never even tried; keeping track was too close to admitting defeat.

    She opened the cap of her Da’s battered hip flask, took a deep swig, then spat it into the foaming waves at her feet, shouting, “You like that, you great lizardy gobshite? You fancy another taste?”

    Her prayers were unconventional, but no less fervent for it.

    The sacrament was followed with an offering, a long line of paintings or sculptures all destined for the relentless tide. This time it was a wooden carving, long as her arm, at least a month’s work; it too received a benediction of warm whisky, straight from those full lips, then into the flame and onward to the foam with it, turning a graceful glowing arc as she hurled it towards the skeletal remains of the oil platform.
    It disappeared beneath the waves with a faint hiss, like her Da when he leapt from the rig.

    We waited in silence for a reply, but still none came, and eventually we sat on the wet sand. Her ritual over, mine began. I comforted her, holding her as she sobbed and raged, stroking the tattooed serpents which coiled around her smooth arms, brushing her molten red hair.

    I know what they say about us in town, the dragon girl and her daft besotted tagalong boy, but I don’t care. I know what Fiona says she saw, and I know what all the teachers said, but who’s to say that it couldn’t be a helicopter and a dragon? Maybe the right people can see the world that is and that should be all at the same time.

    Maybe that’s why I see a world where she stops thinking about what she’s lost and notices what she’s found.

    But in this world, we start planning for next time.

    @Karl_A_Russell

  43. Evermore
    350 words
    @mishmhem

    The dragons of the deep stand still
    Where the water drinks its fill
    Mist kissed mountains guard the shore
    Where I wander evermore.

    Ian sat on the shore as he watched the setting sun. The only thing that would have made the moment better would have been if he’d had his guitar with him, but it was back at the hostel with the rest of his belongings.

    Back home he was the musician’s musician: the go to guy when you needed a guitar player, but here he was just a pilgrim on his way to Halong Temple: a seeker, nothing more.

    Looking at the dragon carvings that dotted the shoreline he felt humbled. His woodworking skills as a luthier were more functional and couldn’t compare to beauty that had greeted him on the secluded beach. His fingers ghosted over the dragon’s scales and horn as he studied the intricate work.

    The artist hadn’t carved the dragon into the wood as much as coaxed it into being. From the distance the dragons had looked real and even now he could sense the essence of the dragon the craftsman had tried to capture.

    He took a deep breath and smiled as he felt a song well up from within him. His left hand flexed and stretched to form the accompanying chords. Without realizing he was singing, his voice echoed across the bay, dancing between the waves.

    He smiled. It was the purest form of music; the reason for his journey. He was looking for the ultimate song. He found it once before when he was playing harp and an oncoming storm had set the strings to vibrating and he’d been looking for it ever since.

    Now, as then, he heard a song in nature that reflected his own: enhancing it and turning into something beyond him. As always, it left him humbled.

    As the song faded, he saw a woman emerge from the water, her song echoing his.

    He had just enough time to register her presence before she vanished with the setting sun.

    “Tomorrow”, he promised himself. “I’ll bring the guitar.”

  44. “Richard Thornton”
    350 words
    @kristenafc

    I stole a name from the wall. I said, “Richard Thornton,” like I uttered it all the time, like I whispered, “Richard,” in dark back seats on Friday nights.

    But they were pressing me again, teasing me, asking, “Have you ever even kissed a boy?”

    I hadn’t. We were on a class trip, standing in front of the Vietnam memorial. I looked up and my eyes found him. “Richard Thornton,” I said. “I met him at a mixer at Kennedy Prep.”

    They didn’t believe me, those girls with their peach skin and shiny lips, the curls that fell in perfect ringlets, like they were drawn by an artist. They walked away then, and I stomped my foot, took my soda cup and threw it at the wall.

    The passers by glared at me, their eyes wide and angry, so I hurried to pick it up. That’s when I noticed the lady staring at me.

    “Sorry,” I said. “That was so rude of me.”

    I used the sleeve of my sweater to wipe the drops of soda from Richard Thornton.

    “Sorry,” I mumbled again.

    I was walking away when she spoke.

    “He was mine,” she said.
    “What?” I turned back.
    “Richard,” she tapped a slender finger gently against his name. “was my high school boyfriend.”
    “Oh God, I’m such a jerk. You heard me?”
    She nodded her head.
    “I didn’t mean to,” I said.
    She laughed then, even though her eyes were sad.
    “I think he would’ve gotten a kick out of you using his name.”
    I took a step toward her.
    “Yeah?”
    “He would’ve said, ‘don’t let those gals put you down.'”
    “Was he a good guy? Was he sweet? Romantic?”
    “He was a boy,” she said. “He could’ve been all those things, but I never really found out. He sent me a picture once, of a statue of a dragon by a beautiful body of water. I wrote back, but, well, you know.”
    “I’m sorry,” I said.
    She squeezed my hand and walked away, following the length of the wall, which seemed to stretch on and on for miles.

  45. The Second Test

    “The dragon-face is a bit stylized, don’t you think? You look nothing like that.” Amalia said, flipping her tail in the water and swimming around the simple wooden boat Erimentha had Changed into moments before.

    Erimentha tilted that stylized head in thought and looked at her proctor. “I’m imitating human craftsmanship. I’ll be unnoticed.”

    “Not because you blend in!” Amalia interrupted, laughing. “*That* head on a dinghy? It’s a good thing no one comes among The Gravestones anymore.” She completed her inspection. “Odd. Most dragons choose something a bit more ornate when they transform.”

    Erimentha faced the treacherous spires that rose from the sea. She would’ve flapped her wings in nervousness if she’d been in her natural form. A dragon was made for action, not submission. “Can we get started?”

    “Ha! That sounds like a dragon! On with it then! You know what is expected of you?”

    “I must not Change, or I fail.” She must learn to release control if she wanted to be a Seer. She would endure. She’d made sure of that.

    Amalia smiled in anticipation as she directed the water to carry Erimentha into The Gravestones, “Don’t worry, not a single dragon has passed this test the first time around. I take my job very seriously.”

    Erimentha was whipped around the spires. The terror of smashing into splinters overwhelmed her. She reached for magic at her core, but pulled back, frustrated. No. She couldn’t.

    “It’s no shame,” the mermaid taunted, “everyone quits the first time.”

    After an eternity, Erimentha was slowed and brought back to the beach.

    “Impressive,” Amalia said. “A dragon’s need for control is second only to her desire for Power. I’ve had dragons through this test the maximum seven times who were still unable to do what you just did. You pass. Do you mind if I ask how you prepared?”

    “I didn’t give myself the option to fail.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “I want this more than anything. I couldn’t let myself stand in the way.” She paused and smiled. “I’m unable to Change. I drained myself of Power before we began.”

    @lissajean7
    350 words

  46. Dragon’s End
    Iza ruled the valley. With vibrant, iridescent wings, she captured the rays of the sun and fed the fire inside her. Hungry, she hunted over her land. A black cloud swooped toward her. Invading her territory, Zarden darkened the sky above her.
    Unafraid, she flew at him and snatched the goat from his grasp.
    He arched his neck, hovered in front of her, and blew out a fire that charred the animal in her claws. She dropped the burning meal and matched his stance. Four huge wings beat as one, creating a current of air so strong the trees below them bowed at their prowess.
    Iza accepted him, and they ruled the fertile vale. The cowered land inhabitants set out sacrifices to feed them. A pitiful attempt at a bargain that they’d not take one of the two-legs. Zarden remained content. She wanted more.
    Months passed. Zarden refused to fly with her, and instead, he remained in the den to watch over the coming little ones. Jealous, Iza huffed, her flame coming close to his brood. Zarden smoked her and ordered her to hunt for food.
    She zoomed out of the den, anger fueling her speed and fire chamber. The sun warmed her back, giving her energy. Iza glanced at the den. A dark idea slithered into her mind.
    Fury made her belly hot she soared over her valley. Hers. She’d fought for it and owned it all. Until Zarden. Spotting a shepherd, she swooped down, passed the goat, and grabbed the man, stabbing him in the heart with her claw.
    She flew to the den and threw her catch before Zarden. He roared. Rocks tumbled down and beat on her back. Iza stumbled out and dropped a thousand feet before her wings governed the air. With sadness, she watched the mountain entomb Zarden and her future.
    Instantly, the decree came down from the Throne. Banished.
    Iza slipped through the murky water and shuddered at the mounded black remains of the others. Her fire chamber went cold. Her wings hardened. Head down, she slid into the dark sea. Frozen forever.
    350 words
    @Pacjac

  47. Clara’s Dragon by Von Rupert WC 350 @vonrupert

    Clara’s mother found her in the gift shop. “Sweetie, you know better! Dr. Lou says you’re not strong enough to leave the floor.”

    “Gramps told me about the dragons. I needed to see them.”

    The dragons watched from a shelf. The tiny amethyst one spoke first. “I want her.”

    The tallest dragon, carved in jade, shook his head. “You’re too young, and she’s far too gone.”

    “Don’t say that. I see much life in her eyes.”

    The black onyx dragon replied last. “The child will choose. We shall comply.”

    Clara studied the figurines. She wished she could hold each of them, but her fingers trembled, and the dragons were too precious. “I want the purple one.”

    “Are you sure? Its face is frightening. You’ll have bad dreams.”

    Clara’s hands fisted. She had nightmares every night, but her family didn’t like to hear about them. Skeleton wolves ravaged her dreams. Their razor teeth ripped skin from her bald head and tore the veins from her arms. “I want the purple one!”

    Her mother grumbled, but bought it for her.

    #

    After everyone had left, Clara snuggled in the blankets holding her dragon. It purred with warm static. “You’re magic, aren’t you? I’ve smelled toasted marshmallows since I met you downstairs. Will you help me? I can’t fight them alone anymore.”

    The dragon glittered to life and filled the room. Clara was not afraid. Dragon wings caressed her scalp, a lullaby encircled her, and she fell asleep. For the first time in years, the wolves were gone.

    The next morning, Clara’s family surrounded her bed. The doctor explained, “She’s sleeping so deeply, I wanted you here. It might mean something. “

    Clara’s dragon cradled her to sleep every night. In one final dream, the skeleton wolves returned. Their bones fell to the ground like rotted limbs. Clara crushed them beneath her feet.

    One month later, Dr. Lou spoke to the family. “Take Clara home for the weekend.” When Clara’s mother began to cry, he hugged her. “Sometimes it happens like that. The immune system suddenly grows stronger. She’s definitely turned the corner.”

  48. A Story
    (350 words)

    Motivational shouts echoed throughout the factory, along with footfalls on metal as managers made morning rounds. Deb took a swallow of coffee and placed her mug in the little space beneath her conveyor belt station. She thought about a movie opening in theatres that weekend and wondered if she could get anyone to see it with her. She decided she probably could; she imagined taking a date to the movie, then remembered when she with old classmates, laughing, were kicked out of a matinee for throwing Skittles.

    “You alright?”

    Deb saw her manager, tablet in hand and headset on head, staring from across the idle conveyor. She offered a standard workaday reply: “Livin’ the dream.”

    “Good, ‘cause we got high volume today.” The manager resumed strafing the assembly line. “Remember, guys, work safe, keep your areas clear of tripping hazards, use two-point visual inspection before assembling…”

    An alarm sounded, lights switched from red to green, and the conveyor lurched to life. Deb glanced down the oncoming belt to the chute from which limbless figurines would spill. She saw the first wave of colorful monsters and didn’t doubt their horde was inexhaustible. Up the line people (some she knew, others she hadn’t seen before Monday) attended to them quickly and without speaking.

    It was impossible for Deb’s mind not to wander as she snapped in arms and legs. She recalled how getting hired at the toy factory had been exciting in a quirky sort of way. Friends thought it was neat—calling her “Elf” in her yearbook—even after she’d made it clear the job was no longer glamorous.

    Deb used to like monsters. Now even the grandest from myths were lame. Years ago she considered writing a story about the behemoths that patrolled the edges of the world, how from loneliness and surroundings of never-ending stone and sea they laid down and died, so that when explorers finally came they found skeletons with sadly-snarling skulls. But it wasn’t a very good idea, and she knew she could just spit it out onto a computer if she ever changed her mind.

      • Thanks so much, Von. I wanted the part about how Deb thought she could just “spit [her story] out onto a computer” to represent the misconception I had (and I asssume others have had as well) about how easy it would be to take an idea from the mind and put it into tangible form. My first and only novel took three years to complete, and at the beginning I thought it would be easy and take a month, tops.
        I have to add that I loved how your Clara’s dragon “glittered to life and filled the room.” You crafted a robust, dynamic moment with skill and economy.

  49. When the Dragons Descended
    @cozmania
    350 Words

    We’ve roamed this landscape for millennia. From the time the Jade Emperor commanded us to safeguard the Viet from the northern invaders, we’ve remained here, always watchful.

    On the day of our arrival, sanguine skies burned and dark waters raged. The air was fouled by the stench of sulfur and the screams of the dying. We raised high above the earth and our vast wings blocked out the sun. Our war cries struck fear into the souls of our enemy and made blood run cold. Hour after hour, pass after pass we continued to soar above the bay. The invaders attacked us with reckless abandon. The myths are true, their archers were deftly skilled, but their arrows stood little chance against our thick scales. We continued to drop thousands of gigantic pearls into the sea, each one making a sinister hiss, until the bay was finally secured by an impregnable chain of keys rising toward the heavens. Today this place bears our name still, and the islands created by our endeavors continue to stand in soaring testament to our victory.

    We’ve served as their guardians ever since.

    Throughout the ages, tides have ebbed and flowed, raiders have come and gone, and through it all, we’ve borne witness.

    The great Kublai Khan, himself, was no match for our defenses. When his hoard of Mongols came, it was these atolls that shielded the people from the Khan’s awesome power.

    Centuries later, the Westerners came with their Iron War Birds and Steel Whales. They inundated our bay with their charges, some of which still remain, but like those before, their advances were eventually rebuffed.

    None of them understood these people. None of them understood this land. None of them understood that this realm was protected.

    From our posts we’ve witnessed both beauty and destruction and know first-hand that the legend is true, one always requires the existence of other. Am-Durong the Viet call it. Our kind calls it The Compact of the Universe.

    So here we still stand as stony, silent sentinels and a vigilant reminder of a time when the dragons descended.

  50. Becoming

    The dragon becomes the crags in rock, the bow that cuts through still waters, the eagle that soars, the dolphin as it dives, the murderer, the protector, the villain, the hero.

    What the dragon can never become is real.

    It’s blood will never run, it’s heart will never beat. Conquer it, and it morphs to dust before you. Lest you momentarily forget your vigilance, and it returns for yet another go. To badger, to impale with doubt, to grasp you in its talons and drop you from the clouds to land with a thud and a roll in a cloud of grit that coats your teeth.

    The weapon that will momentarily do the deed is ever-changing. What once worked, becomes Excalibur in Uthar’s hands. Fire becomes ice, rich becomes poor, complete becomes a dream that cannot be attained. Only the ruthless survive. The tireless, the bottomless, the feet that continue to climb despite the bloodiest blisters, the hands that feel for the next hold, the next crevice, the next root. The heart that beats with the thump of belief, with rhythm of tides, or flutter of wings.

    The weary will try to hide, behind employ or enfant. But the stories will need to be told, the words will sway and swim, creating chaos of mind and of making. They will one day erupt in torrent or tale, in flash or in song, reaching for the page in a shower of sparks against the black of sleepless eve.

    When first did you meet your dragon? In a closet of fear? In a classroom of shame? On a field of loss? Or perhaps in a home of desertion? Who’s voice does it own?

    Yours must be louder. Yours must ring truer. It is your voice, and yours alone that must own the stories that bellow to be told. For only the life you give your words can silence those of the dragon. Only your imaginings, your make believe or your truth can stop his coal hot breath from stirring the doubt at your nape.

    Only your words set free can become Arthur.

    350 @KimJGaneWCPosse (Whew!)

  51. -Dragon’s Fury-

    (This is the place.)
    “Here?” Will whispered to his sword.
    (Yes. Raise my blade high.)
    Will stepped out on the rocky shores of a small island in the middle of Dragon’s Lake. Mountains rose around the lake like talons from a dragon’s claw. The mountain peaks speared through the sky. The water was clear as crystal, but shadows clung to the depths, refusing to give way to light.
    Will’s dark hair was unkempt, falling around his eyes. He wore leather garments. Hardened leather formed protective pads over his vital body parts. White cloth made up the rest of his uniform. On his back was the symbol of a soaring red dragon, the symbol of power and courage.
    Will took the silver blade and pulled it from the sheath. He held the hilt of the sword and pointed it skyward over the lake. Silver light pierced the depths of the waters, causing the shadows to stir.
    (Are you ready?)
    The ground shook. Tremors erupted as waves on the surface of the lake. A form clothed in shadows appeared from the depths. It swam with a serpentine motion and approached the center. The head of the beast emerged from the water, latching its claws into the sand under the water.
    The dragon roared its defiance against the silver blade. Its scales were scarlet. The eyes that glared at Will were terrifying, the iris resembling pools of blood. Teeth like daggers protruded from the dragon’s jaws.
    (To bear my name?)
    The dragon jumped from the water. Its massive red wings cast a giant shadow over the lake. Its serpentine body circled above Will. It tilted its head towards the surface and spouted a mountain of flames. A cloud of incineration rained down on Will.
    (Become the Silver Knight.)
    Will swung the sword through the air and silver light poured from the blade. The light formed rings that echoed from the sword. Sound waves emitted from the blade, transforming into music that wove and bended the light and the air around it into a shining silver dragon. The two beasts clashed with dragon’s fury.

    350 words
    @Brian Koehler

  52. Fall upon

    He’d been looking out over those waters for more than a thousand years. Still — always still. On the far side from where he watched, peaks rose, like the tops of mountains that had survived a second Flood. But it wasn’t the water that mattered. It was what was underneath.

    Everyone knew how the peaks formed. Even after a thousand years, memories were long. Plus there were records, and predictions noted the time had already come and gone. The world was overdue, and give or take a few hundred years, it all would happen again.

    Under that great mass of water a volcano lay in wait to release that from within. Just like the last time this happened — the old peaks would melt and in time new ones would form. All life nearby would cease, consumed in molten fire. Cracks in the earth would seal up again and eventually another sea might fill in the land. Then, a thousand years later it all would begin again.

    For there were more like him — more who wouldn’t be so easily snuffed out.

    More than a thousand years ago he’d been here, when the air filled with fire and a dust overcame the sky. Watching from below with his kin, he had taken the lead. It was his turn then — his turn to make the fire. He’d waited through too many cycles for his turn to come, and he was eager when it did — too eager.

    There was a curse that could fall upon the eager ones, but he hadn’t listened. He was powerful and he would make fire like the world had never seen. If only he had not been so intent on seeing the result of his work.

    Rising from the depths of the earth, he had burst into the sky, wings unfolding and a roar escaping from his blistered and burnt throat. The air outside was cool and calmed his baked scales. But he hadn’t thought about what happens to molten fire when it comes back down. And how it would melt over all it touched — and how it would harden.

    @josettekeelor
    350 words on the dot

  53. Fetch

    “He wants to play fetch, Mama…” Raiden climbed onto the snout of the intricately carved dragon and draped his body sideways to look into its mouth.

    “Mmmhmmm…” said his mother, spreading the blanket out on the grass with the help of her new boyfriend. She called this one ‘marriage material’ but Raiden had his doubts. The guy was even more boring than all the rest, if that was possible.

    Raiden reached down and tried to pull the ball out of the dragon’s mouth. It wouldn’t budge.

    “Raiden, come eat!” his mother called. She was using her ‘perfect’ voice. Raiden hated that voice. Hearing her yell was much better than hearing her cry, which is what she did alone in her room at night.

    Reluctantly, Raiden climbed down and sat on the blanket. He looked from his mother to the boyfriend, suspicious of every interaction. They seemed perfectly happy.

    He had to be hiding something.

    After lunch, Raiden brought a leafy branch out to the dragon. He leaned over and tickled the nose.

    The dragon sneezed. The ball and Raiden were both flung out over the water.

    He felt strong hands pulling him to the surface and the boyfriend hugged him close. Raiden turned to see the dragon, carrying the ball, galloping across the water straight at them.

    The boyfriend turned his body sideways and hurled a sphere of light. “SIT!” he commanded.

    The dragon sat. Its tail wagged, making huge waves.

    “Go to your mother,” the boyfriend said. “Come!” he commanded the dragon. The beast reluctantly climbed onto its perch and turned to wood.

    “I had hoped to shelter you from this until we were wed,” the boyfriend said, wrapping his arms around them both.

    He waved his hand and a glowing portal opened. Beyond was a beautiful garden and a fairytale castle.

    “Come be my princess, and I will teach Raiden to use his unrealized powers.”

    His mother said ‘yes’ a million times, and the boyfriend kissed her as he led them both to the portal.

    Raiden glanced back just before they stepped through. “Can the dragon come too?”

    350 words exactly @USNessie

  54. An Early Loss
    By Scott L Vannatter
    350 Words @SVBookman

    The boat pulled to the left, then to the right, fighting the current until the oarsmen got it back under control. The twelve men showed their sinews and muscles as they flexed again and again to pull the long oars. Two men to each oar with three on a side managed to move the boat at a fair pace. These were not slaves as was usual for the Viking longboats. These men were warriors taking turns working the craft so as to hold as many fighters in the boat as possible.

    There were forty men above board and all were a bit restless. The sergeant or commander at arms stood sternly at the very front of the vehicle staring into the light morning fog as they approached the island. He knew more than most what type of enemy they would face today. The natives to this area were vicious brutes who would not think twice about eating any man they captured. Of all the ways to die, he did not relish the idea of that one.

    He called down to the men, asking for volunteers to take a scouting boat to shore. Six men jumped up and he chose four. He had his brother lead, knowing he had good sense and bravery to match.
    The small force took to the boat and it disappeared into the fog. The sergeant watched for a signal and smiled as a lit arrow sailed well over their heads. They had made it safely ashore. Now came the waiting.

    It seemed days, though it was only hours before the group returned. The sergeant’s brother informed him that the area had been recently cleared of people. He said all evidence stated that they had simply run away.

    The long boat landed about twenty minutes later and the entire group followed the sergeant into the last vestiges of the mist. He led them confidently, though inside his head he doubted what they would find.

    He signaled for them to return to the ship. As they turned, the war cries came from three directions and a massacre ensued.

  55. One minute he was flying, the next he was falling, and after that, the floating blackness enveloped him. Only it wasn’t loss of consciousness. That would have been of some comfort. As opposed to the claws that had him in their unrelenting grip.
    There he was, strapped into the cockpit of stalled F-16 skimming across the sky under the power of scaled wings. Telemetry shot. Wings sheared off. Would have given his left testicle for a shot of whiskey long about then.
    About puked when he saw where they were headed. Rocks and water on either side of blacktop strip. No way he was going to make it out of his alive. But he did. Damn beast set him down as gentle and precise as a porcelain teacup.
    Busted up his knuckles trying to get out of the smashed door. Got the wind knocked out of him when he saw the surrounding area was littered with Spitfires, Mustangs, and Tomcats.
    Beyond the mangled metal fighting machines, massive fire-breathing behemoths moved restlessly, tails twitching and wings fluttering.
    A voice behind him said, “They’ll not harm you, soldier.”
    He tried not to stare but there was no helping it. She was covered in scars that laced her skin like intricate techincolor tattoos. “What is the place?”
    “The Halong Island. Not of your world or time. Not ours to take but you were falling and we had need of you. ”
    If not for the rumble of dragon voices shaking the ground beneath his feet, he’d have thought it all a dream. “I don’t understand.”
    “We are instruments of peace in a time of war. You understand how to fly, how to fight from above. I have brought you here to teach us, to lead us.”
    “Lady, I appreciate that you saved me but -”
    “Not just you, Captain. Your entire squadron. They were under attack. ”
    His gut knotted up. “All of them?”
    She held out her hand. “Yes. Come. They’re waiting for you. Your men. My dragons. We will win, yes?”
    Oh hell yes. Because he could fly anything with wings.

    350 Words / @bullishink

  56. Memories of Smoke & Fire
    by Samantha Redstreake Geary
    350 words
    @WriterlySamIAm

    I scan the sandy bank of my childhood for remnants of a past steeped in magic and mystery…for a friend I’d left behind, discarded alongside dreams too big to carry into the world.

    “It’s beautiful here,” Lyra whispers,“It must have been glorious, growing up on your own private beach. I bet you were adorable, with your little pirate booty–”

    Her words are lost to restless winds whispering of a world across the sea.

    Lyra edges closer to the dragon slumbering in silt, its chestnut scales caked with neglect. “Did you…carve this?” she asks, mesmerized, her hands playing upon its weathered nose.

    “I had some…help,” I reply, stroking the worn wood, still warm from the suns grip. “Spent many long days on her.”

    Lyra ducks her head, peering into the mouth of the beast. “What..is that?”

    “My ball. Never could wrench it back. Told my Mum I’d lost it to the tide.” In a way, I had. “Want to take her out?”

    Lyra tilts her head, eyebrow raised, “I don’t want to ruin the moment, but…I mean, it looks rather retired.”

    “Nah,” I wave her off, “It’s a dragon. They last forever.” Not so for little boys…

    “I’m gonna let you test it out first. If you don’t drown, then I’ll climb aboard,” Lyra smirks, her arms crossed in utter doubt.

    I nudge the nose into the water, wrestling over the edge as it slips into the sea, eager to clench its thirst for adventure. I reach for Lyra’s hand, which she reluctantly surrenders.

    The water is welcoming, swiftly swallowing the space between us and the beach of my abandoned memories. We slice between the jagged jaws of giants, their shadows tower over us, casting our ship into darkness. The mouth of a cave looms on the horizon, steam rises from the skin of its teeth.

    “What’s in the cave, Peter?”

    “An old friend.” I wave at the majestic mass of glistening emerald scales. He spreads his wings in reply, smoke billowing from his mouth.

    Lyra gasps, “Is that–?

    “Lyra, meet Puff, my magic dragon.”

  57. Firefly

    Hunted to the end, the mighty beast arched into the evening for one last flight above the clouds. The clamor beneath him faded into the blue coolness of the sky, a red liquid trail tracing his ascent, a brilliant dash and final gasp, the ending of the magic age, the last of the dragon’s breath and long dark shadow on the ground.

    The first things he noticed, as he reached the lower stratosphere, were the stars — incandescent bodies glimmered and winked at him from a lush canvas of indigo: bejeweled timekeepers, watchers of the universe, stretched across the endless night.

    His heart soared with the heavens, eyes overflowing with the splendor of diamonds and sapphires suspended in space. “They’re beautiful.…”

    Nothing but stars, so many of them, infinite and eternal. Dazzling gems spilled upon velvet, blushing flirts, seducing from celestial thrones. If only he could touch one, feel it against his armored skin, share in its luminosity….

    He reached for one in particular, a great and pulsating jewel, just to see if he could. Movement was not difficult, just…awkward. He could feel his wings’ force, but the void fought him from every direction.

    “Beautiful,” he thought once again, reaching for what he dared not touch.

    An elusive stillness surrounded him, not real silence but rather a low, rushing pulse; a heartbeat; the sound of sanctuary.

    His efforts to grasp the heavens continued and for one splendid moment he swore he actually touched the star — not that he had reached it, more like it had reached him….

    This novel realm, this marvelous enchantment beckoned but for one instant when he afforded himself a single distraction: a different sort of light, one that was artificial and unnatural. The night sky began to flicker in reds and blues and in turning his attention his ears were filled with something other than the satisfying whoosh he found so comforting. Unrecognizable and unpleasant, these intrusive sights and sounds rudely drew his attention even further away from the wondrous ambiance above and back down to the lonely piece of earth on which he fell….

    350 words
    @ducknado

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