by John Andreula
The dragon lifts a heavy eyelid. Her head rests over her body and one leg as she lay in her resting place. Large golden pupils slowly adjust to the meager light coming into the cave from outside.
The dragon’s immense head appears as solid as the rock face inside the walls of her cave. She has coupled ridges of scales cutting tracks through the corner of her skull and advancing down her long back. The ridges transform in color from dusky emerald at head, to blazing red as they progress down the body into her tail. Each ridge is tipped in golden yellow.
Her torso accounts for twelve lengths of her head. It is slightly slimmer than the dragon’s head’s width. If not for its diminutive legs, the body would appear as that of an enormous snake.
The dragon retracts its eyelids closed. She flexes the dense foreleg that her head rested upon. The leg still sleeps, not yet reclaiming its due of blood from the beast’s cold heart. The body knows its master though.
Her mind is wide awake. It sends signals to muscles and organs to remind them to come alive again. Her back flexes in a downward arch just behind her head. The arch flows gracefully, as water down the spine, through the entire body as if a wave. The arch makes for shore as it whips out through the tail.
The tail flows smoothly through the air as paper floating in the wind. A tail vibrant as flame on a pitch black night. It collects the yellow-red ridges of her back at its end into spines several inches long.
The four short legs of the great ancient spirit tighten and rise to lift her torso, head, and tail off the ground. She stretches to one side over the recently sleeping foreleg. This sends another wave down her body. By the time the wave hits halfway down the body she repeats the ritual with a stretch to her opposite foreleg.
Ready to progress into the world the serpent rises from the dirt ground into the air. She flies, but has no wings. She is somehow lighter than the surrounding air, like a breeze.
She advances gracefully forward and out of the cavern that served dutifully as her home and resting place for far too long. She has slept for an amount of years that no man could possibly have lived; as if it were no more than a solitary cold night in the woods on the scale of her unceasing lifetime.
All she knows is cold.
She is the heat. She is the fire that burns deeply within her. A flame so hot it sucks the moisture from the air around her. The air around her great head steams when she breathes; a breath that can melt the flesh off any animal. It can turn great oaks into bonfire kindling.
Her eyes, a green matching her skin and scales with their gold slit pupils, scan the forest at ground level. She appears as if she is looking, but her vision is the poorest of her six senses.
She feels for signs of life that may satiate her immense slumber-induced hunger. She is listening for signs of movement; rustling, breath, anything alive producing sound. She smells and tastes the air, searching for perspiration, marked territory, feces; anything that signifies sustenance in her vicinity.
Content there is no threat or event of notice nearby, she raises straight up into the sky. If a sidewinder looked up, it would envy its queen. The dragon goddess’s mouth rests agape to cool her parched, arid tongue. The jagged tongue slithers over her razor-sharp golden teeth.
Hunger and want are all that drive the goddess now. She will not cease her hunt until her hunger is abated. Immense amounts of mastication and flame will ensue before the dragon will rest again.
The goddess stops her ascent high above the forest. The queen dances with a cloud, penetrating and evacuating. Different parts of her body from head to tail appear to enter and leave the cloud’s cover. She replicates this dance with a second cloud and two more, before stagnating.
She lowers her head from her stalled position inside a cloud to gaze upon the vast landscape. She senses small pray; pronghorn, fox, a family of bobcat. None of these will be worth the energy expended chasing them down. She adjusts the slit pupils of her serpent eyes to see further.
She becomes attuned to a large animal in the far off distance. She is aware of its duress and in pain. She can smell and taste the sweetness of its exposed blood even from this distance of approximately two and a half miles. She leaves the cool moisture of cloud to dart effortlessly across the sky in the direction of her quarry.
Her body whips left towards the sun, proceeding in its wave through her tail. Mountains are in the opposite distance. Forest and meadows account for the vast expanse below. The scene is broken up in the occasional river, ponds, brooks and rock beds.
As the great carnivore closes in she interprets the anguish, the fear, and the agony in the game’s mind. At this close she determines her quarry to be a boar. It’s male and of considerable size. If it were healthy it may give her quite the struggle, but likely not in its current state.
She hears the boar yell. The eternal dragon circles in a ring high above her prey. Her head dips below the center giving the appearance of spiral in the heavens.
She is still, patient, despite the hunger in her belly and the thrill of this hunt. The dragon queen assesses. Her head tilts slightly towards something close to the boar concealed by the trees; hidden in the woods’ cover.
She shoots down, as straight as an arrow. Smoke from her nostrils trails behind her head. Her mouth hangs open, salivating. She feels the air and changes in moisture and pressure all around her.
In a flash she enters the canopy, down towards the injured boar. Just before reaching the helpless animal she banks hard toward the trees nearby. She circles the grove low; a mere four feet above the ground.
Two poachers are hiding behind the trees. She has them in the loose wide arched lasso of her body. She swings her head inward. Before the surprise fades and fear enters the hunters’ minds, the flames have already immolated their flesh to a crispy char.
The boar can smell the burnt flesh. He ceases crying and is still and silent. He can no longer hear the men commiserating. He can also sense the great serpent beast nearby, silent.
The boar remains quiet and still even though the wound on his side still throbs and bleeds. The giant pig sits hoping the terrible leviathan has had her fill with the men that had chased and shot him.
He wishes the worst of the threat is passed. The boar hears crunching and tearing of the crisp man meat. Then he hears nothing.
The dragon goddess has finished her morsels. She leaves only blackened guns, a boot, and some bones where the poachers once hid. She slowly recedes up through the tree branches into the tree tops.
The razorback, although in pain, sighs, as the harbinger of death seems to have neglected him in her conquest. He begins breathing normally again in his injured state. The dragon is leaving, disinterested in the injured beast.
In a flash the head of the skyward dragon snaps into a loop through her body. Speedily, she hurtles in the direction of the large injured brown animal. Hundreds of years rest makes for quite the insatiable hunger. Hers is not yet appeased…
Happy Chinese New Year in this the Year of the Pig.