audio, blog, short story

Inktober 13 – Ash

Gold dragon breathing fire
Josch13 via pixabay

Conclusion to Inktober 12 – Dragon

listen:

Shackle your greed and curb your desire, lest all be consumed by brimstone and fire.

Sulphurous air filled my cave, stealing through every gap around the stone door. I lived in almost complete darkness while the sun rose and fell unseen. The earth trembled under the heavy tread of an enraged dragon whose shrieks pierced my ears, even underground. I could not eat the food stored with such care when my stomach was sick with fear.

Days passed.

Eventually my craving for light and the need to know drove me out again. I heaved the stone aside with a great effort, weak from lack of sleep and hunger. And stepped out into a silent hell.

Grey ash blanketed the world. Blackened tree stumps and shattered dwellings were all that remained of the once thriving town. All that remained of its inhabitants were piles of bones huddled together, small and large, remnants of people and their pets, people and their hopes for a better future.

“Enough is better than riches,” I whispered, pulling my scarf tighter over my face. Choking on tainted air, I stumbled back to my cave. There I threw myself down and wept. Grief scoured out my heart and left it hollow.

After three days of mourning I bathed in the stream nearby and combed out my hair, then ate my first meal of porridge and fruit. That night, I slept without nightmares. The next day, I dressed in my work clothes and returned to Kasparenya with a shovel.

Day after day, I buried bones. Amongst the remains of Kasparenya I found gold; jewellery, coins, toys, teeth. I took them to the collapsed church where the golden spire was missing yet the altar remained intact. A miracle, of sorts.

*

Many exhausting days have passed. The stench of brimstone is faint now but I sense the dragon’s eyes watching me still. Its heartbeat pulses through the ground. The pile of gold on the altar grows daily. I hope my store of food is enough, for I have no time to grow more. I hope my strength is enough, for there is no-one to help me.

When I’m done burying bones and collecting gold, I can rest. The visions have promised me that much.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 12 – Dragon

dragon-fire_Josch13
Josch13 via pixabay

listen:

The small fishing village of Kasparenya was established generations before I was born. By my time it had grown fat and sprawling, rich in thieves and merchants alike. Like my mother and her mother before her, I led a quiet life in our cave house. The townspeople extracted easy gold from the generous hillsides while mocking our unfashionably modest lifestyle.

For years I lived alone, growing food and herbs by day and feeding my brain with Great Mother’s ancient books by night. Occasionally, people passing my field would taunt me.

“Why don’t you work in the city, earn some coin? Perhaps then you could dress less like an old crone and more like a decent woman.”
I wiped my brow. Digging was hot work on a summer day. “I must tend my garden, and I do not need more coins. Enough is better than riches.”
“Whatever you say, Cassie.” Sarah turned away, but not before tapping her forehead and giggling with her friends.

They always ignored my calls to beware of greed. Old books had nothing to teach the modern world and they stood in the way of progress. Why not have more, if there was more to be had?

Kasparenya’s gilded church spire was a fitting symbol of hard work and enterprise. It showed what a man could do if he worked hard and dug deep. It showed what to aim for when more was never enough.

We should learn from history. But how to learn when history is forgotten and those who remind us are mocked as wrong-headed fools?

News of the gilded spire travelled far and brought even more people to wonder and dream of riches, then buy shovels and buckets. Meanwhile I harvested and stored enough food for a season, oiled my tools, stockpiled candles, and waited.

And one day a shiver started in my bones that grew inexorably. I rolled the stone over the cave entrance and hid.

Above, though I could not see or hear, I knew it was happening just as the visions foretold.

The endless beat of huge, leathery wings.

The stench of sulphur as the ground trembled.

A shriek that split the air when the dragon, drawn by our golden beacon, discovered its plundered hoard.

Fiery vengeance raining down from the sky.

I rocked and chanted as mother and grandmother and all the mothers before had done in their cool, dark sanctuary.

Shackle your greed and curb your desire, lest all be consumed by brimstone and fire.

I tried to warn them.

(to be concluded in Inktober 13)


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