Wednesday, August 6, 2014


By Madeline Dyer

The dragons are coming to get me. I know they are. I mustn't lose faith. I mustn't give in. They'll always be out there, looking for me, getting ready to rescue me.
They'll find me. The magnetism is too strong; I can't hide what I am. Neither can they. We're drawn to each other. They'll come for me. I will not give up, because the moment I give up—the moment I give in to what the humans want, the moment I start questioning the very beliefs I was raised on—then I've lost. I've lost the battle. And the humans have won.
And I'm going to win. I'm going to survive. And the humans are not going to change me.
The humans think I'm mad, it's all part of their plan to alienate me to such an extent that the only things I believe in are them. They whisper stuff about me. They write up serious-looking notes about my condition. They don't take me seriously—how could they? They humour me. They trap me. Trap me and watch me, like I'm some sort of test-rat.
It's a nice room that I have here. Nicer than my old one anyway. There's even a book shelf. But they don't give me any books any more. Not after last time.
Of course, I didn't mean to hurt that nurse. She just... she didn't believe me. None of them do. Like I said, they don't take me seriously. And that book was handy... but it wasn't me doing it. It's what happens if you upset one of us. We can't handle our emotions when we're separated from our charges. And our charges can't control themselves when they're separated from us.
You'd think the humans would know this. Would understand the danger that they're putting the whole of humanity through when they decided to capture one of us. But they don't. They think they're helping us. That nurse says it often enough to me: “Don't worry, Mr. James. You'll be better soon. We're making you better.”
But they're not. I'm lost. Can't they see that? I'm not one of them.
And I know that the dragons are coming to get me. I know they are. They'd never stop trying. I think of my dragon and smile. Sereniaz is a small dragon, a mass of rusty-coloured scales. She's fierce, Sereniaz is. Fierce, but loyal. So loyal. Just like we all are.
We never leave one of our own behind.
She'll come for me. She'll bring an army with her. I know she will. She'll get me out of here. She's done it before. And I've rescued her countless times. We always rescue each other. Sereniaz will come for me.
I walk across the room and look out of the window. The view is too familiar: Dark hills in the distance that spread beneath an orange sun. The sun here is dimmer than the one back home. And not as hot either. Really, it's a wonder it's of any use at all. But the humans seem to like it. I've seen them basking in the sun, on the rare occasion that I'm taken for a walk. They just lie there, letting the sun burn their skin as they turn a ridiculous red colour. One nurse even suggested to me that I could have a go at this sun-bathing thing. She didn't ask again, not after the look I gave to her.
A scraping sound fills my ears. I turn towards the door, counting slowly. Five seconds later, it's opened. Harriet enters. She's a stout woman, long blond hair that could do with a wash, and a greasy face.
“How are we today, Mr. James?” she asks, ever cheerful. Her grin spreads even wider as she pulls a trolley in behind her. “We've got jelly on the menu this lunch time!”
I don't say anything now. Because whenever I do speak, it always causes trouble, results in me having more and more tests, being entered in for more examinations or trying new medication to rid me of my hallucinations.
Harriet hands me the bowl of jelly and a spoon. I take them, wordlessly. The jelly wobbles. It's red, but not the rusty red colour of Sereniaz, no, it's a bright red. A cheerful red. The kind of red that's supposed to make me forget who I really am, and conform to their expectations. The type of red that's supposed to make me shout gleefully, “Oh isn't it a wonderful day! And don't worry! I'm so much better now, I no longer think I'm a Dragon Master—it was all just a joke anyway. The dragons aren't coming for me!” And give a hearty laugh.
But I don't. Because I am a Dragon Master. And nothing they can do to me will change that. Sereniaz will come. I know she will.
A few minutes later, Harriet leaves, taking her jelly and trolley with her. I sit down on my bed. It's hard and the sheets haven't been changed for weeks. I've told them I can do it if they're under-staffed, but they don't trust me with it for some reason.
And I know that they are under-staffed. I've heard the shouts of the other 'patients' many a night. The screams and the cries. They pound the walls and kick the doors. I'm not as bad as that any more, I've come to accept where I am now, because I know that I won't be here for much longer. The other Masters that are here are younger. They're more niave. Quicker to jump to conclusions. And they don't have as much faith in their dragons to rescue them. But I do. Because Sereniaz will come for me. She always does.
Sereniaz is loyal. The first time I saw her, I knew that. She picked me out as her own. She was only a baby back then, a mere fledgling, but she chose me. And I'd been delighted; the biggest fear of any young boy is that a dragon won't choose him. But Sereniaz chose me. She wanted me. Not my brother. Not my cousin. Me.
And she's been my charge ever since. Two hundred and forty one years, eight months and eleven days. She's been my dragon. I've been her Master.
We make a good team. We've fought the Sirens eight times, and won every single battle. We've rescued countless children together, and hunted down the rogue spirits. Maybe that was our mistake—winning. Maybe if we hadn't won all the time, I wouldn't have signed up for our last mission, the mission that separated us.
If we hadn't been so successful, I wouldn't have volunteered to come here. I frown. I'd never choose to come to this planet again. No, the risk is too great. Because the humans aren't interested in us, they didn't want to learn from us like the Zaskabians did. No, they just want to experiment on us, try to get rid of our faulty minds. They try to turn us into them.
I'd never considered being caught by them. I thought it would be easy to come to Earth, rescue the Masters they'd already detained, and fly back home on Sereniaz. But humans are wily, they're clever, and they've got so much technology. They don't realise how dangerous they are. How dangerous so much knowledge is. Knowledge kills. And when knowledge dies, everyone dies. That's how it is. That's how it's always been.
But Sereniaz will save me. She's probably out there now, trying to find me. She won't be one of the dragons that the humans have caught, no, she won't be. She won't be in a crate somewhere, being smuggled from country to country, trapped like I am. No. Sereniaz is too clever for that. Far too clever.
She'll come for me. She always does. And when she does, we'll get away. We'll fly back. We'll be safe. We just have to get away.
Sereniaz just has to find me. And she will. She will. I will not lose faith. I will not let the humans take my identity, my beliefs and my life from me. They will not.
I cross over to the window again, and lean heavily on the sill. It groans under my weight. I look down at my hand, at the wizened skin. I peer out the window. The light's going. The orange is getting dimmer, trying to kill the fight within me as the sun sets... but it won't... it can't... no... I'm... I won't lose faith...
“But you're getting old now, Mr. James. Don't you think it's time to give up on this belief, and embrace the last few days you have in the real world?”
I blink away the old words of some nurse, long-forgotten, but they won't go away. The words haunt me. If I give in to them, I can have my life. If I don't, I'm trapped... until the dragons come for me.
“Come on, Mr. James, let us help you.”
Counting slowly to ten, I look back out the window. The sky's streaked with oranges and mauves and purples. Soft, beautiful colours designed to lure me into a false sense of hope and calmness.
Oh, Sereniaz, where are you?

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Madeline Dyer is a fantasy and science fiction writer whose previous work has been published by Mad Swirl, Mirror Dance Fantasy, Iron Bound, Yesteryear Fiction and more. She is currently working on a novel inspired by Teutonic Mythology.


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