DRAGON

The thing had raged all day. It had spat and clawed at us as we tried to slow its advance.

We took the food from its intended path, but it jumped, climbed and found food high up where we could not go.

By the end of the afternoon it had faltered, yet continued to gorge. Then it fell to digesting, almost motionless.  If we approached, it took impatient swipes, reminding us that we were tiny. Occasionally it hurled a branch or hissed.

Then, exhausted, flaccid, it drifted into a kind of sleep. No, not sleep, or even rest, but an angry catatonia. Its squinting orange eyes promised madder rampage, when it had found breath again.

***

I needed to get round it on foot, somehow. If I had told anyone, they would have called me mad; but I knew, from experience, that the thing would be drowsy, not able to move much by the early hours. It was a risk, but surely not much of a risk. There was more terror than danger.

I waited.

Striding out at first light, I could smell it before I could see it. There was a taste of it on the air, if I opened my mouth. It was a tarry, turpentine, hellish taste.

I drew near. Its seething black bulk was  immobile. The many irregular eyes had narrowed to blinking points.

I drew nearer still.

It could neither claw nor roar now. There were just sobbing and crackling sounds, and the odd hiss. Those scattered eyes fixed me, neither hostile nor curious. Whatever it had been, whatever it would become within hours, it was now a splendid and strange thing.

I needed to pass, yet wanted to linger. Never had I been so close to so much life and strength in a single thing. What had been its killing exhalation was now a swamping radiance, passing not just around but through me.

How to explain? It was a warm tide. It was the old hermit’s vision of grace.

The dragon was beautiful.

***

I passed on, got where I needed to go.

By mid-morning, the worst had happened. The wind had swung to the west and got up speed.

The Big Burn spread across the whole region, taking farms, even some homes on the fringe of town. Cattle were incinerated. A firefighter nearly lost his life when a towering Flooded Gum threw a branch.

Thousands of acres were scorched, many destroyed. The tragedy was all over the news.

How could I explain to anyone, even to myself, that I had been its friend?

I had felt its grace, loved the monster.

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About mosomoso

Growing moso bamboo on the mid-coast of NSW, Australia.
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10 Responses to DRAGON

  1. Beth Cooper says:

    Am I the first ter like this?
    ‘It could neither claw nor roar now There were just sobbling and
    crackling sounds and the odd hiss, scattered eyes fixed me,
    neither hostile nor curious …’

    • mosomoso says:

      Actually, this story’s been published, somewhere in England. Maybe because it’s genuinely short. It recounts an actual experience back in the drought years, when I got past a sleeping bushfire at first light. A couple of hours later it would have swallowed me.

      I was worried the story was over-written, but I guess one can simplify too much. Without all the descriptive flourishes it wouldn’t be much, I suppose. Really, I should trim it. “Catatonia” is too precious, and a few other purplish bits need the chop.

      At least it has resonance, right?

  2. Beth Cooper says:

    Usually trimming is fer the best but I don’t think this
    needs trimming. ‘ Angry catatonia’ I’d say works in
    yr context of the moods of the beast and against,
    dare I say, yr somewhat “spare’ descriptions
    like ‘spat and clawed.’ But of course you
    must decide. Resonance? I dunno, moso…
    but it didn’t have ‘descriptive flourishes’ either.

  3. mosomoso says:

    Okay – “catatonia” stays. You poet-people have a sense for these things. (My God, you’ve even got me doing hyphens!)

    On the subject of dragons, when Saint George rolled the Roosters in the 2010 GF I was able to celebrate with the most perfectly apt quote in the history of the game:

    Despised, and thought extinguished quite,
    With inward eyes illuminated,
    His fiery virtue roused
    From under ashes into sudden flame,
    And as an evening Dragon came,
    Assailant on the perched roosts
    And nests in order ranged
    Of tame villatic fowl…

    All is best, serf, though we oft doubt!

  4. Beth Cooper says:

    Hyphens are add – ict – ive!
    Re oft – doubting, say that’s a tendency I have.
    ‘Mad as Hell’ was funny to – night , m.

  5. Beth Cooper says:

    Re-visiting after the discussion @ JM on bushfires.It is a good story.

    So is yer latest tale with a different demon. I’ve read it three times,
    liked it better each time. Feels authentic of the history, life on the edge,
    coping with what’s out there and schemes ter hold on. I paricularly enjoyed
    the last scene of celebration, one small step fer man-kind, an economic
    opportunity and the happy couple having such a jolly time. I thought of
    the eras ter come, glaciers expanding, famine, plague, and yet life went
    on and sometimes people like Martin and his wife found cause fer celebration.

    A serf.

  6. mosomoso says:

    One problem I’m having is that a story where the serfs don’t get the best of the toffs just doesn’t work. I feel I’m letting down my own side – but what to do?

    Perhaps relevant to all this – or maybe not – is a comment by La Bruyere, He’s someone I’ve carted through life as a bit of emergency refreshment when I need it. He was like Maupassant, a perfectionist who laboured so his readers didn’t have to. He was perfect not to intimidate or impress, but as a courtesy. Making sense? You were wanting quotes or speeches. Maybe this?

    La fausse grandeur est farouche et inaccessible: comme elle sent son faible, elle se cache, ou du moins ne se montre pas de front, et ne se fait voir qu’autant qu’il faut pour imposer et ne paraître point ce qu’elle est, je veux dire une vraie petitesse. La véritable grandeur est libre, douce, familière, populaire; elle se laisse toucher et manier, elle ne perd rien à être vue de près; plus on la connaît, plus on l’admire.

    False greatness is unsociable and remote: conscious of its own frailty, it hides, or at least averts its face, and reveals itself only enough to create an illusion and not be recognized as the meanness that it really is. True greatness is free, kind, familiar and popular; it lets itself be touched and handled, it loses nothing by being seen at close quarters; the better one knows it, the more one admires it.

  7. Beth Cooper says:

    Thank you mosomoso, that’s a great comment and I will be happy to include it.
    Beth the serf.

  8. Beth Cooper says:

    Pertaining to the above, the pretentiousness of post modern jargon strikes me as
    hiding its ownfrailty dressed up in jargon to appear deep and meaningful.

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