Saturday, June 15, 2013
Killing Dragons. Excerpt from Chapter 16 from The Savior at the End of Time
[Lumie] started onto a very narrow trail that was not well-cleared but had signs of being traversed. It wound up a twisting path that was deceptively steep. Persisting mountain laurel and blooming hobblebush, sassafras, poison oak, ginseng, wild blueberry and raspberry lined the trail that was densely shaded by beech, oak, maple, and pine. Lichen- and moss-covered boulders populated the hillside and neon yellow and orange chanterelles sprouted from the ground like a littering of jewels.
Up Lumie climbed so that she quickly began to feel winded and got a burn in her thighs. Still, she continued upward, curious about where the path led until it became so steep that she grappled saplings and clawed at the ground to keep her footing. She was no longer hiking; she was climbing but tenacity took over fear or uncertainty. When the feat became too arduous, though, regret set in. She began to ponder how best it would be to discontinue the vision that was leading to nowhere and was becoming perilous.
“How do I get out?” she said aloud in her panic. Her bright shining empowerment and clarity felt squelched.
“A few more steps. There’s an end to this,” her mind said. She was determined not to give way to despondency. Reaching for a slender trunk of a pliant oak sapling, she took a giant step and hauled herself over the nearly vertical path. Finally, she grappled onto a ledge that led to level ground. When she stood upright, she was still standing in forest cover. Beech, oak, maple, and pine swayed overhead, shrubs spotted the land, little hills and mossy boulders spread out in the distance. When she looked back at the route she had taken to get there, it was gone. There was no tarrying, precipitous climb but a gently graduated path rising above the main trail below. She was happy; the ordeal endured suggested that she really was between worlds.
She walked among more mountain laurel and stone embedded in the ground. Turning opposite the sun’s westward arc, she could see a clearing. A tattered and huge pine tree with tortuous bows loomed from the middle of it. Lumie took a few steps closer but was startled to detect movement within that alcove. People were there. She wasn’t sure whether she should approach. Then Rodney came into view. He smiled brightly and waved his hand for her to near.
“Took you long enough,” he said.
She was about to ask him what he was doing there when she realized where she was. An ancient pine tree was at the hub of this highpoint and the full moon in daylight was directly overhead. She had alighted on Lunarium Hill. Zosi was there, too. He was squatting beside the tree and hammering something into the ground.
“What’s he doing?” Lumie mouthed.
“Killing mini-dragons,” Rodney replied. “Bite-size.”
“Is anyone else here?” she asked.
“No, there too busy being fuck-ups,” Rodney replied.
“The Lord Consul Tau-Bridge is going to give Dade a job,” Zosi uttered in a wondrous voice. It was jagged with breathlessness because of whatever he was hammering away at.
“What?” Lumie replied, not because she hadn’t heard him but because the idea was crazy.
“Tau-Bridge Sortiar is offering Dade a job at this very moment. He should take it; otherwise, he’s going to end up like me,” Zosi said.
“A job doing what?” Lumie exclaimed.
Rodney shrugged. Zosi continued to pound the ground. He made an “I don’t know” gesture with a smirk and lit-up eyes.
Lumie insisted that he and Rodney be serious and tell her what Zosi was doing.
“He’s killing dragons,” Rodney repeated.
As Lumie stepped closer to the professor, she saw that his hands and clothes were caked with brackish, sanguineous gunk and that he was smooshing small dragons into a sigil gouged into the dirt. The dragons were pot-bellied and about the size of golf balls. They were fiery-bright colors and had tiny claws and cute dragon heads with bulging eyes and cock’s combs on their chins and heads. The creatures were mindlessly rutting around the dirt and dragon-blood mud and sniffing and nibbling at the remains of their sacrificed and macerated brothers and sisters until their own time came to be snatched up by Zosi and pummeled.
Lumie was astonished and nauseated by the sight. She felt sorry for those little dragons.
“You want one?” Zosi said and tossed a bright, winged, fiery-colored creature at her. It immediately clamped its jaw onto Lumie’s index finger and deeply pierced the digit with its fangs. The sting and burn made Lumie hiss and wail and flail her hand. She gouged the creature’s eyes and crushed its head with the fingers of her free hand to dislodge it. Then her own hands were full of gunk but there was no pain—or even a wound—in her finger.
Zosi snickered in a way Lumie had not heard before. “You wanna’ do one?” he asked, and held out the gooey rod he was using to beat the creatures into his sigil.
“No,” Lumie said abruptly and was crying.
“It’s not like they’re real,” Rodney disdainfully commented.
“The real ones don’t look like this,” Zosi said, continuing with the slaughter.
“The real ones are ‘metaphorical,’” Rodney crassly added.
“The real ones don’t look like dragons,” Zosi asserted.
“Why are you doing this anyway?” Lumie screeched.
“Someone has to,” Rodney remarked.
“Sure you don’t want to smoosh one?” Zosi asked.
However appalled and terrorized, Lumie thought she ought to. This was a very special and eventful journey, and if Zosi said so, then . . . But she couldn’t get herself to do it.
“I was saving yours for when you showed up in case you wanted to kill it yourself,” he said. “I’ll do it for you; it’s not a problem,” Zosi assured her.
“Didn’t I just kill one?” she asked.
“Dade’s,” Rodney piped in.
“I killed Dade’s dragon?” Lumie exclaimed.
“Well, you did, and now you did,” Zosi cryptically quipped.
“The real one and the metaphorical one,” Rodney chimed in.
“Thank you, Rodney. I got that,” Lumie griped.
“Alright, Lumie. I’m going to kill your dragon now. Come over here,” Zosi announced. The tone of his voice had changed. He was not goofy or spaced-out but professor-like. A breathless specialness inflated Lumie’s lungs. Rodney gently and soberly smiled as if Lumie was now in for a great moment. He hung back as Lumie stepped closer to her teacher.
“Magianism is good for girls, but if you’re too mooshy and watery, you need to do something else,” he told her and added in a mood infused with annoyance that Dade should have been killing her dragon. “But he’s too busy.”
Lumie bit back her tears and vowed to become a little darker and more sorceress-y. Fighting repulsion about the violence and gore about the little dragons, she tried to let curiosity take over.
Zosi grasped one that was serpentine, with webbed claws and fin-like structures instead of wings. It was a very sticky-bright turquoise blue.
“This is your dragon,” he said and held it by the tail so that it flailed and twisted to spring up to nip Zosi’s fingers.
Lumie merely tried to remember that it wasn’t “real,”but she was feeling queasy and macabre—panicked in fact. Zosi braced the thing in the bloody mud on the sigil and took hold of the rod.
“You know what a Pyr Sacra empowerment is, Lumie?” Zosi asked.
“Yeah,” Lumie replied. She was about to tell him that she seemed to have gotten one from an old mage just before. Then she felt her head open up to a massive nova of adamantine light as the rod crushed the dragon’s tiny skull. There was only light and space of a quality that was deeper than the taste the old turbaned man had given her to get her up the hill. It was not like those EMA trips that Zosi was so generous with. No. There was something very spacious and clear about this experience. She felt very safe and soothed in the effulgence, and she knew that it would be lasting.
Zosi looked very wise and beautiful then. He looked very with-it and precise. He stroked the side of her head and told her that he was going to let her sit with her trip for a while. “You’re going to have to be like me but be like yourself now, Lumie,” he said. “I want you to carry me forward and remember that I’ll be in you and you in me. The two in the one, the one in the two. And don’t be discouraged or afraid; every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Lumie knew exactly what he was talking about, and it was okay.
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