Another short story. I seem to be teeming with them. I should be asleep. It's two in the morning, and I've been fending off the demon of homework for head-pounding hours. It is in these hours, when misery is both physical and brain-itchingly mental, that inspiration always comes. Figures I'd get the sadistic muse.

Sometimes, there's no comfort like knowing comfort will never come. Will never intrude upon this explosive silence. Will never mar the perfect darkness, will never bring their shafts of light down to destroy the symmetry, the tranquility, the stillness encompassed in the shadows.

Sometimes, there's no comfort in being surrounded by those who want to help you. Sometimes, there's no comfort like being alone, like the tears running down your cheeks and knowing that despite everything, you can cry. You will never be like anyone else. But you can cry.

Different. Always different.

You reach out for something, anything, to clear your eyes, and your fumbling hands hit a discarded shirt, thrown aside and crumpled on your bedroom floor. You bring it swiftly to your face, press it against damp, salty skin and drag the rough threads up your cheek, feeling them touch your eyes. Again the word comes, unbidden, an ambiguity bearing a sharpened spear of meaning that you can see, but never touch; you know it's there, but can never understand.

Dragon. iDragon./i

It's never meant anything, nothing but stories, and even they were cheap, not told to you as they are supposed to be, curled on a parent's or grandparent's lap, but read in your own time, in times when you were younger and could barely reach the uppermost bookshelves from your perch on the table, and then as you grew up and the miraculous dimensions were opened to you. The world of Library. The world of School. The worlds where people knew you could read, understood you could read, and supported you, helped you grow- no, not wings.


What had happened to those worlds? When had the people in them changed so drastically? Why had you not changed- grown up, they said, with a deference to their voices, a touch of arrogance- with them? Why had you stayed as you were, but will not always be?

There is change still to come. There will always be change.

You shove aside the word, now, not letting it come, and scrub away the last offending tears. You know you shouldn't cry. There are others out there with more reason to cry than you. There will always be those who are in worse spots then you. You have no reason to cry. And somehow, this insight simply lets them go again- in torrents, this time, flowing from your eyes. Torrents of tears, tears you shed because you know they should be rationed; tears you shed not out of sympathy for those who deserve them more, but because of the part of you that accuses you of mourning something so trivial as your life. As everything, everything that has changed.

The people next door are playing music. They are always playing music, and you always hear it but never complain. Don't they have as much right to sound as you have to silence? No matter what type of noise or lack thereof will be shared with the neighbors on both sides, for they are separated only by a half foot of Sheetrock, and it shakes in time to the tortured shriek of guitar on the neighbor's CD. You reach out a hand and grace the wall with your fingertips, feeling a pleasant shiver travel down your spine. The vibrations remind you of a task left undone, but you shove it away, refusing to believe in it. It cannot exist. Dragons cannot exist.

You live in a townhouse, a long line of them, near a highway. The great monsters that coursed in endless chases, hunting the one before it but never catching it, always fascinated you. When you were younger, you would sit by the road and watch the grating, growling beasts in their frivolous, fruitless pursuits, always wanting to reach out and touch one, wondering what they were and what they felt like. You imagined it, reaching out and feeling the cool metal plating of scales, with the warm pump of blood beneath, the flexing of muscles apparent beneath this titanium skin. You don't touch them, however. You know that they are vicious, for though they are trapped in their hunting strips, they are not limited to their own in prey. You know, for once there was one who listened to closely to your imaginings of what it would be like to touch one. He did not know of the dangers of such monsters, and wandered willingly into their hunting ground.

He was killed by the predator, who was gone again so quickly that many, many monsters also fed on the boy before his mother came out and screamed at him and screamed at god and screamed at you. You had watched. You hadn't done anything but learned, learned the dangers of such monsters. She screamed curses, but she was missing some sort of code, which you perceive as the monster's name. The way she was crying out, you imagine she is deceived that the monster can bring her son back to life. You know better. What's dead it gone.

So you do not touch the monsters. You do not go outside, for they prowl in their moat around the Shelter, around the townhouses that are your home. Every day, a tame monster- they call him Bus, though this does not sound like a monster's Name, which the woman called a license plate- comes and takes you from the Shelter and to the school, which once was a wonderful place and now is a horrible place, a blighted hell where they pull you into a room of half-people and repeat things you already know to you, again and again. You want to tell them to stop, but you cannot talk. You could never talk, not the way these people can. You can talk, of course, but they cannot listen. You once could write, to tell them what you thought. Now your own body is betraying you, your own mind eroding away the knowledge of society that prevents you from braving the world of the monsters, prevents you from leaving the gray Shelter where music makes the walls shake and hum.

The half-people are neither content or unhappy. They could never really be either- they are all hurt inside, or not entirely there. Some are like you, but more so; their own minds running in circles, half of them a hawk or a shark or a cat or a wolf, though no one will ever believe them. And no one will believe you. The memory returns, burning hot.

i"Lord, John, get up this instant!" The teacher is old, decrepit, though you will never tell her so. In her many years of experience in the art form called life, this woman has learned how to intimidate everyone around her. John is a half-person, though unlike the others in this class, the other half is still there. It is called Fluffy, he has called it. It is a cat. A mangy, but loving cat, he pictures it, orange with tabby stripes and a big, fluffy tail that defies the half-groomed flanks of its body with a will of its own. Right now, it is not John who is walking around on all fours, it is Fluffy, and it wants only to be petted and to sleep in the warmest spot of the room.

Quickly, you write this down on the piece of paper you carry with you every day. Your hand cramps quickly, so your message is half-scribbled with a horrid penmanship that makes bile rise in your throat, and you are forced to be satisfied with grammar that is sketchy at best. Still, it gets the point across. You show it to the teacher, who reads it over silently, then allows her face to transform to a revolted sneer.

"For god's sake, sit DOWN!" she commands, waving threateningly in your direction. She does not return your paper. You do not wish to sit down, but often times, it is best to do what people ask of you, even if it compromises your own wishes. They do not understand, but you are far wiser than your years.

The teacher punishes John, even though he is half-there. Punishing the half-people seems horrible to you. They cannot help it, and they cannot help the half-cats or half-snakes from acting like cats or snakes, either, those who have the half-empty side of them filled. And then there are those who make up creatures to fill the empty halves, but perhaps they are the least pitiful, for they have the most important of all human aspects- an imagination. /i

The teacher, you remember, punished you, then, too; though that is not so bad. Even though they all think you are a half-person, too. Maybe you are. Maybe you are half-person, half....


The word rumbles in your consciousness, enough to shock you out of your memories and grief. You were mourning something that happened long ago. Something that left you nothing more.

Broken. You are broken. You want the thing, your half-thing, to leave you, but you know that You are only half of what you are. And that half is broken. Broken and bleeding, like a bird that fell from the sky, with it's little wings snapped, it's little beak open in a soundless scream that will last until the last of it's flesh erodes and buries itself into the earth. You are not a stranger to the twisted carcasses that fall so often in the long, hot days of summer, the endless stretch of fire. You are not a stranger to death itself, which makes it somehow less mysterious than life. Death will always happen, it is something you can count on. Life is erratic, random, delicate, almost weak. Definitely weak. Because it wears itself out, like a lace garment.

The tears start again, powered by the realization that all you are is a broken half-person. You know that there are little welts that your claws- nails- left on the side of your face. You had wanted to chase the dragon out, but you knew it wouldn't leave. It's there, curled inside your head, waiting. You never wanted to believe it, but you know it's there. Dragon. Dragon. Dragon.

You are mourning your grandfather, you realize, with a start. Another person you never knew. Another one who will never care. Another one who simply left, on the spur of the moment, because who gives a damn, anyway? You don't, do why should he? If you can leave little trails of glowing pink on your temples as if you don't care about your own wellbeing, why should he stay where he doesn't want to be? You didn't even see him leave. You weren't even an idea, yet, your mother was too young to dream of conceiving a child.

You are nothing like your mother. You are nothing like your father, but you would hardly know, for he left you, too. History repeats itself. You don't mourn that he's gone. He was nothing like you, he had nothing for you, and it was fate for him to leave. Your grandfather, however, is different. He was an artist, in a way- a different artist than you, but you wonder if he would have cared, if he had known that you had talent, too. Before your body betrayed you and froze into this odd sort of arrest. You wonder if he was like you. A half-person, a...

Dragon. Dragon. Dragon. Dragon. It's a chant, now; a cultish rhyme that's somehow comforting, in an abusive sort of way, warming you like fire, burning your soul to ashes and the ashes to ashes and the ashes to ashes and the ashes to ashes of ashes of ashes of ashes of ashes of a soul too broken and bleeding to be human, anyway. Dragon. Dragon. D. R. A. G. O. N.

You're crying, now, full-tilt, and you know you can't get rid of the tears with the old shirt. You fumble for something else, something thicker, but find nothing in the sparse room. The song next door changes, throbbing with a different pulse, like being inside a different monster's great heart. They've turned up the volume, and now the entire building pulses, whines with the shrill shriek of a guitar. Somehow, it's comforting. There's still music. It's abuse to the word, more the thrilling fight of a pair of rival hawks then the cool, comfortable cascade of sound that music was named for- but it fits the time, the brink of destruction, in a way only a fight for championship can. And music should always fit the time, fit the generation. What person in this falling world could still produce sounds like the peaceful torrent of Mozart, or even the calmer songs of Linnen and those who recently fell from power? For it is what truly rests in the souls of the listeners that is the music, not what whines from the base of the speakers.

Crying is no longer satisfying. Once, it could solve all problems, vent all negative emotions until there is nothing but a cleaned slate of a human, a empty body that you move around to collect other emotions, to live off of. Now, you need something more. Energy. Energy to feed it.
Dragon. iDragon./i Dragon. iDragon./i

You fumble for something, anything, to touch, grab, feed off of. Your hands encounter something that gives slightly with a crinkling protest, and you clutch with greedy hands at the wadded paper. Moving this much has set off a headache, born from crying and thinking and remembering and all of this that your mind hates, but the paper proves to be a store of energy waiting to be tapped into. For a moment, you shiver, wondering how Dragon will get energy from something so obviously dead. Once, perhaps, when this sliver of a corpse was a living, breathing tree, then it could have borne energy. Now? Never.

But soon, as heat flows from your fingers and back again, warming your flesh until it is nearly unbearable, you realize how. An instant too late to stop it. The wad of paper bursts into flames, licking, hungry flames that flare out with living energy. You suck it in, as a starving man would suck in bread and water, and let out a sigh.

You feel... small.

Dragon. Dragon.

The Dragon does not. Not anymore. It is like a drawing you have been working on, slowly etching in it's head. You began with a circle. Now you've narrowed it down to a pair of eyebrow ridges, two eyes, two nostrils on a snout that's long and thin, and a jaw filled with narrow, hooked teeth. It is beautiful. Soon, you will connect all those free-ranging lines, bring them into some control, shape them into a head. You snatch at more paper, letting it flare and burn as if with a second thought. You've burned it all. All of it.

But the dragon has never before been this beautiful, all savored in your mind's eye. Never before have you wanted to draw anything this badly. And yet, it is hideous, in it's own way. You cannot tell. It is nothing if not good, nothing if not innocent. But its very existence is the most horrible thing you have ever seen.

More fire is needed, for its final release. But you don't want that, yet. You fumble for something, anything, to write on. Someone must know of this, someone who will believe. You wish you knew your grandfather, but he wouldn't understand. You can only understand what you care for, and no one cares. No one cares about someone only half there.

Your fingers grace something, but it merely crumbles with a flare that holds Dragon in its heart. It has a personality, of sorts, a curiosity for burning things that you've never seen or even considered before. You always thought everything burned alike, but Dragon sees everything in a different way. The way you see things by sight, he sees things how they burn- slowly, quickly, whether first they melt, whether they melt in a wide circle or only at the edges of the flame. It is already scaled, shaded, colored, with red plating and golden eyes. You want to touch it. You know it will feel as you always knew the monsters would feel, and you are scared of it. You are scared of a lot, now. Even your room, always so small, looks too big, too looming. Even though it is beautiful, and good, this Dragon, you are scared and you know that its purpose is not good.

You wish you could warn someone. You wish they would listen. But the time for wishing is passing swiftly. With everything that burns, you are getting worn out. You imagine that this is because you are using up energy, sparking these fires. But you know that it is Dragon who is using its energy, and that it takes very little energy to get paper to burn. Activation energy. You had read it somewhere, but you didn't know you would ever use it. That was always the problem you had, when you read- you couldn't apply the text to life. You always had two separate worlds- book- world, and real-world. And then, there were the dimensions between them- Poe, for instance, whose poetry flowed from their text, from their confining words and syllables. But you know better, now. Everything you read has a basis in real life. But it's too late to use this knowledge.

You are scared, you are tired. Your emotions are spent out, your energy is spent out. There's nothing left to want, nothing left to feel, nothing left to be. You are young. Too young. But it doesn't matter. How any young will die? How many newborns, toddlers, mothers, saints; how many will fall to fire just as the ashes of the ashes of your soul fell and littered the shell of your body?

You are so very tired.

The song changes again, the last time. It becomes something faster, something stronger, with a quick pulse that shakes the room as if it were inside of a drum. Your heart hammers with it, almost painfully, and you shut your eyes tightly against the searing pain it calls up in your head. All around you, the paper is burning. It will catch on the carpet. Eventually, the apartment will burn, and Dragon will be unleashed. You want to care. You want to scream. It will be the last time you have to scream, for Dragon is important, important to the grand scheme of things. It will not be a half-person, as you were, and you will not merely be its bearer. You will die for it's birth, like the phoenix, in the flames of your own oak.

But you can't scream. You can't cry. You can barely force yourself to care. It's over, and you're ready. You're tired. The world is tired. That is why Dragon was born, to put to rest everything that needs to sleep. You. Earth. Life.

But Dragon, for all its goodness and curiousity, is impatient. It cannot tell that you are a person, too. It would make it too hard for it to destroy it all. It cannot read you as you can read it. A final gift, this insight? Or an error on the side of Fate, a forgivable one, that it won't mean anything in the end?

The Dragon is impatient. It holds the flame in your hand, moving your body with a grace you could never force out of it aside from in your studious art. Gently, so gently, it blows the flames towards the wall.

The fire hits the electrical socket there, and flames roar out in an explosion that rocks the foundations of the townhouse. The guitar in the next room screams out a solo in harmony to the blossoming flame, rises and falls with a war-hammer of drumbeats like the pounding of a horse's hooves. And from deep inside the fires of your heart, the dragon leaves your body with the heavy flapping of enormous wings, and you are left alone, broken, split, and at long last at peace.

And as everything around you burns, you fall to sleep at last.