Mere Moments

She had been touched with madness. It was no coincidence, too, that the Giangese word for "madness" also meant "dragon". Now she was being examined, after having been found by the spear guard roaming the streets of the second capital, chattering incoherently about who-knew-what, oblivious to the scalpel-sharp winds of deep winter. Brought to a warm, quiet chamber and invited to sit down, she refused, and now paced erratically, talking seemingly to herself.

"Mere moments!" she half-yelped, and the man who had brushed her shivering arm with his hand flinched.

"What is mere moments, miss?" a second man, sitting down and watching her pace, asked gently.

"Everything!" she cried, turning to him, her movements frantic and almost pleading. "Everything we know, everything we are, everything of importance! Nothing!" The anonymous woman went on with her directionless prowling. "Meaningless," she added a moment later, as if as an afterthought and in a softer voice.

"Why do you think your life is meaningless?" the second man inquired.

The beggar shook her head vigorously. "I don't think," she said with emphasis, tapping her head of unkempt, straight black hair, "I know."

"Touched by a dragon," the first doctor whispered to a third, who was standing in a corner, observing and taking notes. Though they could both have sworn she was too far to hear them, the vagabond nodded her head violently. "Yes!" she agreed enthusiastically.

"Come, now," the second doctor said soothingly. "Tell us what makes you so sure your life is devoid of meaning."

"The dragon told me," she said plainly, looking at him as though he was asking the obvious. After this short pause, she resumed her roaming, though not as fast-paced or desperate-seeming.

The second and third doctors exchanged a look, both seeming to agree. She had to be using the dragon as a legitimate excuse for a conclusion she came to because of a long depression. It was their task to help her acknowledge this by finding out what had triggered her collapse. Pushing the first doctor lightly away, the third doctor took a few steps closer to the vagabond.

"Tell us about the days before you spoke with the dragon," he asked pleasantly, almost casually.

She shrugged. "What is there to tell?" she said, but all three doctors noticed that her previous aimless gait had changed to a mellow, but equally aimless stroll. One with which the third doctor could easily keep up. They were almost like two friends taking a walk along the river together.

"My life had been ordinary, good, before," she started. "I don't know why I decided to take a walk in the woods that day. But I had time on my hands, and I wanted to be where no people could reach me, at least briefly. The woods were cool and pleasant in the morning. Feeling all alone, hearing no human voice felt good, so I stayed longer than I planned and walked farther.

"It had looked like nothing more than a waterfall. A large and beautiful one which I stopped to admire, but it was just a waterfall. Then it came out. Larger than the paper ones we see in holiday parades, but essentially the same. Long body with many legs, all covered in indigo scales; a head like a lion's, with bright, animated eyes; a thick ruff of shining obsidian black; it was magnificent.

"My feet were planted in place, so I could not move a step, once the thought occurred to me. It had caught my eye, and then my body. Next, it touched my mind. My mind was too weak; I felt like it was a tiny insect crushed by a giant foot. Just a slight brush of the dragon's huge, incomprehensible mind was enough to make me reel. Now, my mind is gone." All through this long, enchanting discourse she had stood rooted to one spot, swaying dreamily.

Abruptly she began her erratic motion again. "Gone!" she cried with a short, hollow laugh. "Couldn't keep it together, after that," she declared, wagging a warning finger at the first doctor who gazed at her from torn-open eyes.

"Clearly, she is faced with a problem so huge its sheer magnitude collapsed her due to her inability to deal with it," the second doctor said softly to the third, who nodded his agreement.

"Problem, yes!" exclaimed the madwoman from across the room. "I have a problem. All my life is nothing. All your life is nothing. We are all specks of dust floating in a droplet of water hanging from a tiny grass blade in a world we cannot comprehend!" As she spoke, her words gained strength until she finished her speech with a shout of determined desperation.

"What of this other world, the more important one?" inquired the second doctor smoothly, leaning forward.

"All our lives put together are mere moments in the draconian scale," she said to him earnestly, a brief glance in-between aimless circling of the room.

"Is that what makes you feel meaningless?" asked the second doctor again.

"Fleeting!" she called out, her head thrown up and staring at the ceiling.

Her mind had been crushed by a greater mind, a more powerful one that barely glimpsed the remains of hers smeared bellow his colossal foot. Djiar's mind was brushed by that of a dragon, I believe. I believe the fatal touch of a dragon brings madness to all who experience it, because it affords them a glance into a different reality, perhaps a greater one, in which all that is true and meaningful to them is entirely unknown, or perhaps just regarded as trivial.

Legends continually claim that dragons enjoy a strength and longevity unknown to us humans. This strength, I believe, is no more a strength of body than it is strength of mind or spirit. And this longevity, I am sure, is what prompts them to so easily dismiss the mortal minds they sometimes encounter. From my studies of the matter, of this I can be sure. To them, our entire existence is mere moments, just like Djiar said, shortly before her death.