There Be Dragons

The boy is seen standing in the village. To his right is a small cafe. There are a couple of tables covered with green and white gingham cloth, each associated with a couple of plastic chairs and a wine bottle complete with half melted candle. No-one is sat there. Ahead of him is a small stone fountain. There are a couple of adults sitting on its rim. They are in their mid-twenties and appear to be dressed for adventure. There are some children playing nearby; one, no older than the boy, is riding a bike. Their ages range from about 6 to around 14. There is an older girl, maybe late teens, standing in front of one of the adults, pulling his hand in an attempt to get him to stand. If the boy were to look to his left, he would see a group of older people. Some are sitting round a battered wooden table playing cards and drinking coffee. Others are standing around, half watching, half gossiping. A couple of them keep looking over towards the fountain where the children are laughing and shouting, and those adults are staying silent. The boy, who hasn’t moved since he entered the scene, doesn’t understand what language they’re speaking.

The sky is a deep blue. It is August. The clear sky must give way to thunder clouds before long. The mountains behind the village betray this fact, denying distant evidence of the coming storm.

The boy, if asked, had no memory of anything before these moments. He had no perception of his position in relation to everyone and everything else. Of course, no-one asked. He is seen to hold out his left hand, still unseen by the villagers, as if reaching, hoping, for someone to come to his aid. As we again look around the village, no-one appears to have noticed him. Everyone, however, suddenly freezes. Someone has hit pause. The boy opens his mouth as if to scream. What comes out, however, is inhuman. A deep, electrical sound fights its way past his lips, slowly rising in frequency; as if he were a conduit for static feedback. A blue liquid begins to seep from his mouth, nose and ears. It is clearly cold, this liquid, but not wet. Worms appear at his feet, having tunnelled their way to him with some urgency and all look up, expectantly. Several, indeed, appear to be pointing. There is a sound akin to a sonic boom, as the air around the boy rushes away from him and

The cafe owner asks him again, ‘Are you on your own? Where are your parents?’

The boy slowly looks up from the glass of juice of he’s grasping. He understands the woman clearly, although if you’d asked him, he would know how. He looks her in the eye and raises the glass to his lips. He takes a sip.

Many of the villagers are hovering nearby. There is no sign of the adventurous adults. Almost all of the card players are standing, watching the scene. The children are being boisterous and curious. Phrases emanating from them include; ‘Who’s he?’, ‘What’s he want?’, ‘Where’d he come from?’, ‘Why hasn’t he said anything?’ and ‘Does he want to play football?’.

After putting the glass back on the table, the boy shakes his head.

‘Are you hungry?’ She asked, not sure what else to say. Again, a shake of the head.

The boy looks around at the gathered crowd, looking into every pair of eyes that he can see.

Without opening his mouth, he says in a language that no-one near him can understand, ‘My parents are dead.’ Turning back to the woman, the cafe owner, he says in the language of the village, ‘I don’t know where they are. I don’t know where I am.’ There is no trace of emotion on his face.

The woman, who is wiping her hands on her apron, feels lost. She is on the ocean floor, failing to breathe and struggling to hold back the crushing pressures of the ocean depths. She says, ‘Oh my poor thing. We’ll look after you. We’ll find—‘

There is a screaming noise from the far side of the village. It is off-key and resonates through the valley in a way that nobody has ever heard before. Later, if asked, an elderly card-playing man might have said that that was the moment when he started to die. The boy on the bike rides off in the direction of the sound. Everyone is looking around, panic dripping from their eyes, heads turning, shaking. The boy looks down at his juice and the cafe owner runs out into the square, knocking a chair over en route. An older woman, who has been anonymous thus far, starts to call out ‘Dominique? Dominique?’ Almost all of the villagers are present in the scene, although their Brownian motion is that of a very hot cup of tea. The boy lifts his eyes and watches chaos ensue. A scream, a missing teenager, a child cycling off into the unknown, adults confused, helpless.

As the boiling water cools, the villagers drift towards to the edge of the village. Towards that long-gone sound. The village comes to an abrupt end. There are several stone houses and cottages either side of a paved road. If you took a step beyond and faced away from the evidence, you would have no idea you were near civilisation. The road quickly becomes a gravel track and peters off into dirt. The meadows to either side rise swiftly into the alpine foothills. About 20 meters in front of you would be a bicycle, on its side, with the back wheel spinning in the air. The owner, the boy, is running towards a small rocky outcrop over to the right. You can see the back of the teenage girl as she is bent double. You would assume she is being sick. A closer examination would reveal what appear to be blood-stains of the rocks.

A small man, who might have been exposed earlier as owning the guest house where the foreign adventurers where staying, and is also the brother of the mayor, steps forward and calls out, ‘Dominique! Anton!’ The children don’t react. He looks over his shoulder at the expectant crowd. He looks back towards the outcrop and takes a further step towards it. His wife gently takes his arm and pushes forward.

Back at the cafe, the boy stands slowly. Despite this, his chair still tumbles behind him. He raises his face towards the sky. At that moment, the first purple thundercloud creeps its way into view over the peaks of the mountains. He lifts his hands to his face and licks them, twice each. He cups them under his chin as tears flow down is face. A briny pool gathers in his hands.

We are back at the rocky outcrop. This is the scene as viewed from above. Most of the villagers are standing in a group about 7 o’clock, some 20 metres away. Several have taken some steps towards the rocks with varying degrees of confidence. The small man and the cafe owner are at the point of the group. It looks a little like a drop of water running down a cold window pain, leaving small globules of itself behind. Some are wailing, some are crying, most are in shock. None move. The children are all holding hands in a circle around the rock, swaying slowly, causing ripples. The teenage girl is on her knees, sobbing gently. Grieving, yet in control of her emotions. The rocks are indeed covered in blood. There is the remains of a torso with both legs but only one arm attached. The other arm has savaged ripped off the body, leaving a trail of bone, muscle and viscera spilling out the side of the body. The head of the taller of the two foreigners is no-where to be seen.

Thunder is roaring in the distance and lightning is dancing across the mountaintops.

The boy, who is still standing near the village square just outside of the cafe’s patio, turns his hands palms down and the heavens open. Rain like there has never been rain before smacks into the village as if in a drunken brawl. Within seconds, rivers of rainwater are sweeping down the road. The fountain has overflowed. As the wind picks up, the boy hears a branch crack nearby. He remains standing, still, rainwater filling his shoes and congregating under his chin.

Meanwhile, at the rocks where an ungodly horror had been perpetrated by an unknown assailant, the adults of the village scatter as the rains come down. Heading for shelter and heading for home, they turn their backs and run. The cafe owner shouts to the children ‘Come on. Inside,’ and heads off without looking back.

The teenage girl rises from her grief and seeing rivers of mud begin to form down the side of the mountain walks towards the body. She tries to lift it but cannot. She has no strength. She turns to pick up the wayward arm. The other children, silently, slowly, gather round the body and together, lift it to shoulder-height. Together, with clothes sodden and tears lost, they carry the remains back to the village. Blood on the rocks is washed away.

It is much later in the day. All the villagers are in their homes. The rain has just ceased as another storm passes on its way. There will be others. In their homes, the adults cry or fight with one another. The lonely ones sit with knees tucked under chin, or with a large glass of brandy. The children of the village play in their rooms.

The boy walks into the village square holding the hand of the second foreign adventurer. They are both drenched with rain and emotion. They stop, still hand-in-hand by the fountain, where the remains of his colleague lie on the stone wall. The children of the village begin to emerge from their homes, or the homes of their grandparents, and congregate around the fountain. They each take the hand of a loved one. The teenage girl, the one who when we first met her was so full of life and love pushes her way through the crowd. She places her hand on the man’s shoulder. He reaches for her and hugs her. After a moment, she pulls herself free and leans down to kiss the boy on the cheek, but he was never there.

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