Daily Fiction 15
The Dragon Slayer
I got a reputation for killing dragons when I was a late teenager. When I was a kid, some other kids used to drag baby dragons out of the swamp and kill them. They’d run over them with cars, crush their wings with rocks and smash them to death, throw them into the quicksand pit behind the school and watch them drown. I never understood the meanness of it. I felt like it was so easy to know what to do to make the world good, and they were making it bad, and I didn’t know why. I thought about being a little dragon, wanting only good things from the world. One time I saw a bunch of kids, mean older boys, kicking around a barrel. There was a dragon stuffed in there, just its head sticking out. I started crying. I was afraid they’d see me cry and turn on me. But even more than that, I was afraid that they’d see me crying, and know how much they were hurting me by hurting the dragon, and hurt the dragon to hurt me more. I ran out to try to save it. But I couldn’t explain why. If I had been older I would have turned it on them, made fun of him. I just told them they were mean. One of them knocked me to the ground, smashed me against the stones. I got up, and two of them shoved me against a wall. I bounced off it and stood in front of them. “Tough kid,” one of them said, and they left me alone and kept kicking the dragon to death.
When I was a teenager I started drinking to avoid being cruel. I wanted to show that I didn’t care about something, and I guess if I thought that if showed strongly enough that I didn’t care about myself, nobody would see I still had a weakness for empathy. Maybe that’s what I was thinking. I don’t know, I was drinking pretty heavily. My parents were working double shifts and came back late, and though they were always very loving and caring, I had time to slip away. They just were glad I wasn’t actively getting hurt.
Then my father got drafted to the war, and came back with a brain injury, and my mother overdosed on my father’s morphine. Apparently she’d been coaching him to keep reporting more pain to up the prescription, and taking it herself. My father went to live with my uncle, who I never got along with, and I inherited the house and stayed there alone. I started having my buddies over to drink. Around that time we got a dragon infestation.
I had always liked dragons, but having them running through my house, where I was sleeping and trying to live, made me uncomfortable. Their droppings left sulfur vapors that burned my sinuses, made me worry about my health. I was afraid of getting bitten in my sleep, or having my food contaminated by their poisonous fangs. At first I never saw them in person, just heard them slithering and flapping at night, saw their scratch marks on the floor, smelled the sulfur clouds rising, found their pools of acidic urine burning into my spare clothes.
Then one night I hard a scratching under my bed, went to grab the flashlight, and saw the glowing eyes of a dragon. It darted to the other side of the room, and hid inside my laundry pile.
At this point I was trying to figure out how to capture it. It was a small dragon, no threat to me in a fight to the death, but taking it alive was harder, especially when I didn’t want to get bitten. And they were very elusive, and I didn’t want to let it back into the house where it could keep wreaking havoc.
I went out to the yard and dragged lumber inside and started slowly building up a barricade around the corner where it was hiding. Then I put on a suit of armor, grabbed my net, and climbed over the barricade. Small dragons take a long time to take off, so I thought that if it tried to go over the top, I’d catch it for sure.
I shook the blankets and it darted to my right. I tried to grab it, and it broke left, started crawling through a gap between the barricade and the wall. I pulled it out by the tail, and slipped the net over it. It wriggled free of the net and started making a break for the same gap in the barricade, and I slammed a piece of lumber down to cover the gap. But I was too late, and the dragon’s head was already there. It split open.
I started taking the barricade down, and was still wondering what to do about the dragon corpse when some of my friends showed up. They were a little shocked by the killing, but also a little impressed. We started drinking. I needed to forget what had happened with the dragon, they just needed to get drunk. As we got deeper into inebriation, the tale grew taller and taller. The next day at school, everyone was calling me “dragon-slayer.”
I gotta admit, I liked it, even though I hadn’t liked killing the dragon and I didn’t want to do it again. I liked that they were paying attention to me and thought I was tough. So one night when we were in the parking lot, and there was a 5-foot-tall dragon walking around there, posing a real threat to people, I decided to be the one to take it down. It’s what people were expecting of me, and I wanted to be in the tall tales, and I think even people who were just believing in it the dragon-slaying thing because it was fun or new would think “wow, it’s for real” once I took the monster down. So I walked out there with my sword, and the dragon ran past, and it was flying, and I took a desperate hack, and ended up hitting it in the spine. It was twitching on the ground after that, and I cut the head off for mercy. I brought the head out, not heroically, just to throw it in the trash can, but knowing that if I looked like I didn’t care that would only increase my legend, It seemed like I did it more often than I did.
So coasted on those two slayings for a while. But when I got older, there was actually a need to kill dragons… [continued]