With no apparent warning, something breached the otherwise placid waves. Offering no hope of premonitions, the entire scene was hopelessly transformed before it could possibly be comprehended. The perfect sheen over the water had burst, erupting into an ominous fountain, only momentarily concealing from the islanders the emerging threat.
For centuries, the great beasts of mythic proportions once plaguing this realm had lain dormant. This generation knew nothing of their ancestor’s torment. Instead, their way was of unparalleled prosperity, occupying a spacious rock lapped by tropical currents, lounging in near-continuous sun generously enjoying all aspects of the natural world. This blissfully undisturbed existence had facilitated the construction of a unit founded upon compassion and unconditional love. Unselfish, for there was no hope of personal advancement, only positive, collective development. This external threat was unprecedented. Yet, quivering in equal surprise and fear, their faltering was exhausted in seconds. They knew what to do.
Atop their island’s single hill rested their founder. The original navigator, responsible for all that blossomed within his view. If any, central myth had been preserved, it was of his lasting capabilities to defend them.
The ancient magic as to why had been long-since forgotten. Appreciation for the spectacular and absurd had ebbed into the vanishing waves, sucked into the eternal ocean. Where simple pleasures prevailed, what hope was there for fantastical myths? Relying instead upon rational calculations, adherence to superstition resided only in fables woven for fickle entertainment.
Strangely, and fortunately, an ingrained, genetic respect for the abundant potential of the environment around them had rigidly survived. They reacted not with futile disbelief, but pragmatic acceptance to these altered circumstances.
For now, all preconceptions were challenged. The island, a safe haven amidst the timidly rippling sea, was no more. Notions of safety were torn into violent shreds by the emergence of this fiendish creature, exploding from depths unknown. Jumping the abyss between believable reality, into a surreal state of impossible figments, each islander reacted quickly, instinctively.
Before them towered a giant.
The water cleared, exposing in its full, horrific majesty the full extent of their foe, preceded by a miniature tsunami. It measured almost the entire size of their island. Rising on four legs, shaking its salty flank much as a tamed dog would, this odious monster levelled two undog-like eyes on the people gathered. Devoid of anything but reptilian hunger, the eyes were encased by a hardened mask of oily scales, glittering blood-red. The skull twisted into vicious horns, looming over an ugly body of contorted proportions: over-sized shoulders bulged, above a shuddering ribcage and wretchedly thin stomach, taut skin barely stretched over protruding hip bones. This picture designed to evoke grim terror was completed by a tail two further body-lengths long, lashing about at the air as if independently enraged.
Without a single breath or pause, the creature ejected from its mouth a plume of searing flame eviscerating the initial line of houses, instantaneously incinerating any inhabitants.
The onslaught had barely started.
With clumsy unease, staggering closer in faltering steps, an aching roar ripped from rusted vocal, shattering the air and intimidating thunder into hiding. Sooner than many would expect, their lives seemed over. They had no power. They had failed. Aeons of dominion over this land would cease. Hopeless, pathetically outmatched, no recourse was left.
The first man to summit the hill had done so more from compulsion to preserve tradition than innate sense of constructed beliefs equating to universal truth. No foolhardy desire to prolong his life was burgeoning. It was utterly hopeless. But here he stood, for the first time since his forefathers had declared the hill a sanctuary, never to be disturbed. That rule bore little consequence now. They would live and die together, their saga of success.
A boulder perched at the highest point, perfectly balanced on the peak. How it had been wheeled from the beach was a mystery.
To the man’s abject shock, an even greater mystery transpired. A body reclined against the stone in perfect condition. Flesh-laced bones all intact, hair fashionably untrimmed, skin unblemished by elemental torture. Eyes wide open. Animated, blinking. Blue eyes as polished as the cloudless sky were as alive as the heaving ocean. Only now did the man’s surprise overtake him.
The body, of its own will, extended limbs into a casual stretch, coiling into a feline arch, before standing and gazing at the village with a degree of consternation. It had been ravaged by flame. Little more was standing. Its people were huddled behind what little and wholly insufficient cover they could identify, in flimsy trees and small mounds of rubble.
Leaping from the mount, the body snagged and commanded the creature’s full attention, diverting the flames. As the stupefied man looked gormlessly onwards, the body was briefly ensconced by light.
A pair of glorious wings unfurled, as the body seemed to quadruple in size, hands and feet sprouting talons. Spiny protrusions trickled down the back and along a newly-formed tail. Where moments prior the man had seen a human body, the individual was unmistakably some new creature.
Still growing, now rivalling the four-legged abomination that spoilt the beach, the dragon engulfed the oncoming fire with an inferno of its own, obliterating all else.
The creature was destroyed. Morphing again into the shape of a human, the dragon landed on the beach, and initiated the painstaking process of rebuilding from the moment’s destruction.
Feature image courtesy of Unsplash.
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