I have trouble waking: my mind begins to surface, catches a mental glimpse of what lies on the far side of sleep, and runs back to cower behind the safety of unconsciousness.
Foggy, dream-like impressions fill my world as I drift further away from awareness, but none are quite as vivid and memorable as the dream I just left. Dragons, again
My thoughts recede into the blurry depths of sleep once again and I feel my perception fading...
I wake easier this time, though Im not much more aware than before. How many times have I woken, now? I have no way to tell. My memory is too foggy and clouded and I cant keep my thoughts straight and I cant remember anything and I cant feel anything and
A dull pain on the edge of my mental haze pulls me out of another unconscious moment, and I wonder for the first time that I can recall trying exactly where I am. I try to force my eyes to open to look around me, but a blinding burst of white light snaps them shut almost against my will. My mind reaches out and tries to encourage other parts of my body to move as well, but does a rather poor job of it.
Abandoning any further attempts at physical motion, I shift my attention to my memory. I strain to reach back far enough to decipher my current situation. Initially, I find nothing but more fog and haze, coupled with a few cloudy glimpses of dreams and some not-so-cloudy ones that involve dragons before my mind finds the accident and instinctively recedes as though from a hot stovetop.
It is enough, though. Like a ray of sunlight, the memory of the crash pierces through the sleepy mist and illuminates the darkened field of events immediately following. My mind steps back, shielding its eyes from the brightness, before chancing a glance at the now-revealed situation that had played out.
The impact of the other vehicle against ours happened about halfway between the shotgun seat and my own, neatly shoving our car sideways and into a vacant lane of traffic. Luckily for me, the other car maintained its forward motion, and its force pushed further and further forward into the front end of the car until it slipped on by us completely (much the worse for wear, of course. I distinctly remember seeing the scratches and dents we had left on its hood). The smells of blood, burnt rubber, and the bitter scent of damaged metal filled the air; the sounds of car horns, skidding tires, and Charlenes screams flooded my ears. I clearly recall seeing the shocked expression of a woman in the drivers seat of a nearby car (we were blocking her lane of traffic) and wondering what had her so upset. My mind hadnt even begun to register any pain yet.
Moments or millennia passed before the sirens of an approaching ambulance intermingled with the already-rending air. Paramedics clad in white or blue ran over to our vehicle, assessing the situation in a few glances with their experienced eyes. One moves to Charlenes window, motioning for her to unlock the car and step out. How lucky for her, I think. She didnt get hurt much
By now my vision is beginning to cloud. My heart is pulsing in my ears, muffling the general din about me. My sister is safe; her undamaged car door swings open easily, and I can see her standing shakily a short ways away crying, of course. The paramedics come for me next; they unlock the doors and open the one across from me (mine is far too damaged). Gently, one in a blue shirt releases my shoulder restraint and pulls me from the vehicle. My head lolls to one side from the motion.
I see dust and smoke rising from the front of the cars hood as the hot summer air hits my face. My rescuer is joined by two other white-shirted men, and together they carry me over to a stretcher. My view changes from that of a glass-and-metal-strewn road to that of a blue, clear, uncaring sky.
The last thing I see before unconsciousness overtakes me is a dark winged shape flying overhead.
I can feel my body now.
Well, kind of. I know my limbs are still there, at least.
The downside is that, while I was already in a slightly-uncomfortable position before, I can now feel it quite distinctly. Exhaling a soft moan, I roll over a bit and take another chance at opening my eyes. The same white light stabs at my underused retinas, but I will myself to keep looking. After a moment, my eyes adjust and the spotless ceiling of a hospital room becomes clearly visible.
There is movement to my left: someone places their hand on my arm. I gather the energy to roll my head to the side (which turns out to be easier than I had originally anticipated; I guess Im just a quick healer) to see who is there, though I already have a guess before I see her face. Sitting next to me, eyes red and puffy from crying, is Charlene. Her wet eyes contrast her smile when she sees me awake. Oh, Carl! I was so worried
she manages, before her tears return.
I try to say something comforting to her, but my dry throat fails at producing much more than a soft croak. I reach to lay my free hand on hers, instead, and the smile comes back to her face once more. Amazing how someone can show such contrasting emotions
Motion behind my sister draws my eyes, and I look up at a figure sitting on the far side of the room. Noticing my look, he stands and walks over. His strong form towers over my bed as he gazes down at me and Charlene his son and daughter. There he silently remains, his expression unreadable. I set my jaw and stare back.
Ive never been on great terms with my dad. He and Mom have been divorced since I was five and Charlene two. I didnt really understand what was happening at the time, of course; all I could see was the pain the separation had caused Mom, who was left to deal with the divorce, a full-time job, and two young children. Its true that I never have known my dad very well, but what he did to my family bred a sickly grudge within me, and I never have forgiven him for it.
Ive also had to live a fatherless life, and every time I felt pain when someone would speak proudly of their dad, I grew further from mine.
Needless to say, he isnt someone I want to see right now. Why would he even come at all? What does he care if his ex-wife and children were just involved in an automobile accident? Why, the only reason hed be here is if Mom had...
No. Dont think about that.
I return my attention to Charlene, giving her hand a light squeeze to get her to look up. Swallowing to moisten my throat, I manage to get a few sounds out. You okay? My voice is grating and dry, and barely audible, but somewhat coherent despite all that.
Charlene sniffles and nods, wiping a tear thats running down her cheek. Im fine. I didnt get hurt at all. The driver hit your side of the car. Her eyes move down to my side. You broke a few ribs you can probably feel that when you breathe, huh? and your leg got fractured.
I look down at my lower body in dazed surprise, seeing the white bandages about my middle and the sling on my leg. Amazing, I hadnt even felt either injury
Oh, wait. Now I do. Ow
Mom? I manage weakly (my throat was only slightly wetted by my swallowing attempt, and the air in the room is so very dry
). The way Charlenes eyes change makes me fear for the answer.
got hit. Hard. The doctors didnt say if.
Her voice is lost amidst the sobs awakened by the change of topic, and she fights to control herself to finish her answer. Charlene is strong that way; she cries, but she doesnt give in to her tears. Shes in surgery. Still. Her words are hard to distinguish through her tears, and I have to struggle to understand.
Dad Michael, I correct myself bitterly; hes no Dad to me clears his throat and, for the first time in thirteen years, speaks to me. She suffered head trauma and a great deal of internal bleeding. The doctors dont think she will last much longer. Unlike Charlene, his voice doesnt even so much as crack. I give a hard stare at the man I once called my dad, wondering how he could possibly care so little about the woman he once called his wife. He continues to look right back at me, his expression still as unreadable as ever.
I say nothing to him partly because my throat is dryer than the southern Karmara Desert, and partly because I simply have nothing to say.
Charlene must be able to feel the tension in the air, because her sobs and sniffles stop and she watches me watch Michael watch me. A rather awkward silence ensues, pierced only by the soft hum of the air vent in the ceiling above us.
He is the first to crack, clearing his throat uncomfortably and shifting his weight a little. Im sure youre both wondering why Im here. Still unable to speak, I change my expression to show, as definitively as possible, that I did indeed wonder in a very critical, just-who-do-you-think-you-are kind of way. Somehow, he manages to continue to look at me without paying a great deal of attention to my face. Heather
Your mother could survive, but the doctors dont think shell be the same. At the very least, shell need a great deal of therapy. Theres no way she can care for the two of you until she recovers which could be a long time indeed. Carl, you are old enough to live alone and support yourself. But Charlene legally needs an adult to care for her. As biological father, the responsibility falls to me.
If anything, my stare intensifies. So thats it, hmm? I think bitterly. Youre here to take my sister from me.
Charlene must have seen the look on my face, for she quickly speaks up. Carl can live with you, too, right? I dont want to be separated from him
She looks up at him imploringly. I give her hand a soft squeeze with my own, my expression softening as I look over at her in gratitude.
To give Michael credit, he at least looks surprised at the question. Of course. I would never want to separate you two, especially at a time like this. Theres plenty of room for both of you in my home. His still has the same unreadable expression (besides the look of shock, of course), but his eyes look a bit more... compassionate?
My sisters mouth spreads into a smile (and I bet shes about ready to cry again) at this answer. Oh! Did you hear that, Carl? The sarcastic side of me wants to roll my eyes and ask Charlene how she thinks I could possibly have not heard his reply, but I resist the urge. Besides, I cant talk anyways.
Apparently Michael has more to say, for he clears his throat to regain our attention and continues. The doctors say youll be out of here very soon, Carl. If they dont discharge you by tonight, Charlene and I will just run to your house and grab the things youll need to bring with you. If that happens, youll have to tell her what
The door opens, and a white-clad nurse walks in. She smiles in a friendly way and nods to my sister and D
I mean, Michael. Carl? Good to see you awake. You are feeling alright? As she speaks, the nurse comes over to me and starts checking the equipment around my bed, taking notes on a clipboard. Im Karen, and Ill be your nurse for the duration of your stay here which may not be much longer. She pauses to flip to a different page on her clipboard, making a few marks before looking up again. Lucky for you, you only cracked a few ribs, and theyll heal on their own. Your leg will have to stay in a cast for about a month. Well give you painkillers and a pair of crutches. You got off very lightly most automobile accidents end up far worse. She continues marking off parts of the paper as she speaks, then tears a sheet out and hands it to Michael. His prescription, she explains.
What about my mom? I ask (weakly; my throat is still rough and dry) as soon as I can get a word in. Is she going to be okay? I know what Ive already been told, of course, but that doesnt stop me from hoping for a miracle.
Karen looks up from her clipboard again. Your mom? Shes still in surgery, right? I havent heard anything about her yet. She steps towards the door, pausing at the threshold and turning to Michael. You can pick up that prescription any time. He should be out of here by tonight, and he can take his first pill then. With that, she quietly closes the door behind her as she steps out into the hall.
Breaking the awkward silence that follows, Michael clears his throat. Ill just go and grab that prescription for you, then. Ill let the two of you alone. Pulling the door open, he steps into the hall and lets it close softly. We can hear the release of the springs in the door handle as he pulls his hand away.
Alone for real now, Charlene and I glance at each other wordlessly. Neither of us has anything to say; we both know were thinking the same thing. Her eyes begin watering up again, and she buries her head in the side of my bed. I can feel tears beginning to well up in mine, though I fight to keep them back. I tighten my hand on hers, and together we silently pray for Mom
Because my room has no clock, I dont know what time it is when the doctor finally comes in to check on me. Introducing himself as Dr. Grene (Like the color, but better-suited for a name.), he began writing things down in his clipboard in the same manner that the nurse had. Well, son, it looks like all you need from here on is plenty of rest to let your bones heal. You can do that here and well send you the bill, or you can head home and use your bed there. He chuckles good-naturedly, scrawling his signature at the bottom of a page as he completes his paperwork.
I realize I wont be going home at all. Not really. Itll be a different house in a different location with different people
In fact, the only constant between where Im going to and where Im coming from is my sister. As bitter as I am against Michael, Im thankful that he didnt just take her from me.
And speaking of Michael, he chooses that moment to return from his prescription-filling excursion. His clothing is dark and damp (Its raining buckets out there, he explains at my glance), and his entry is not altogether silent, so everyone looks up as he comes in.
Seeing him, Dr. Grene smiles and walks forward. Ah, and youre his father, yes?
Technically, Michael responds; No, I chime in simultaneously (I had a drink while he was gone, so I have my voice back). The two men pause and turn to consider me and my outburst, but I just shake my head and turn away.
After a moment, the doctor continues. I see that you already picked up his prescription. He can take one a day preferably with food, so around breakfast to keep the pain down during the day. I brought a pair of crutches for him, so he can move around alright. Dont worry; its all covered under his insurance. He walks back over to me and lays a hand on my shoulder. You about ready to head home, son?
What is it with this tendency to refer to me as son? Can I can we see our mom? I ask, glancing to Charlene to visually include her as a member of our.
Dr. Grene hesitates. Shes out of surgery now
But she isnt in any shape to see visitors. Probably not for a few days, and thats only if she makes good steps towards recovery.
I can see in his eyes that such a miracle isnt likely. I sigh and sit up more. Okay
I guess Im ready to go, then.
With Charlenes help, I manage to get out of the bed, while Michael grabs my crutches from the hallway where the doctor left them. Also with my sisters help, I manage to get my socks and shoes on the same ones I was wearing yesterday, since no one had ran back to the house yet to grab my clothes. Or Charlenes, for that matter, though at least she still has her shirt and pants (Yours are covered in blood, she explained, when I had asked. I think they cut them off of you when you got to the hospital
But you can keep their hospital outfit. Yeah, great
a sheet with a hole for my head).
A few minutes later, Charlene and I are running (well, Charlene is running; Im crutch-hobbling) to Michaels car to get out of the rain. Inwardly, I have to sigh my socks are getting wet; we never did buy me a new pair of shoes.
The soft pattering of rain drizzling on leaves greets me as I wake from my sleep. So soothing is the sound that Im tempted to remain in my prone state, to sink back into sleep and let the early morning sneak past unnoticed. Id be all the better off for the extra rest: more focused during flight, more attentive at the meeting
The meeting. Great
Well, so much for that idea.
Rising lethargically to my four feet, I stretch snout, neck, shoulders, wings, legs, claws, tail to help shake off the nights sleep. A nice stretch does one a world of good
Holding my head up, I look around my clearing for a moment before stepping closer to the lakeside I was sleeping near. The clear, unmarred surface from the night before is now gone, replaced by a rough, abused mess, courtesy of the mornings light rainfall. I chuckle to myself as I lean down for a drink; one of the impressions my dream had left me with was wet and rain. Amazing how the real world can so easily leak through to dreams.
Taking advantage of the calm moment, I set my mind to reviewing my dream or what I can remember of it. Unfortunately, there isnt much; the wet, a mild sensation of confusion, and an overpowering feeling of frustration and anger. Curious how my dreams are always so full of emotion. I continue to think over my dream for a few minutes, hoping to achieve the same relative clarity as I had the previous day, but my mind reveals nothing more. How unfortunate
From my viewpoint at the lakes shore, I can see an endless canvas of gray clouds in the sky. I silently bemoan this fact rain is fine, but flying in it is a horrible experience. Its always windy, but never consistently the same strength or direction. Also, the heavier, cooler air makes flight more difficult significantly so, at times, as it banishes any hope of a warm updraft to drift on. And then theres the matter of having to maintain flight speeds while squinting
My growling stomach interrupts my thoughts. If Im going to cover the rest of the distance to the mountains in this weather, Im going to need more energy to sustain my flight. Lucky for me, theres a lake full of shimmering-scaled fish all free for the taking. A dozen or so should do to tide me over
Backing up several lengths to my clearing, I take a running start and launch myself into the air as I reach the shore of the lake. Extending my wings, I hang weightlessly in the air for a moment. The water beneath me, temporarily sheltered from the rainfall, stills and shimmers as I pass. Ah, I love moments like this
Quite abruptly, I release my wings hold on the air and slip neatly into the water with a relatively small ripple for my size. Immediately, I set out to search for a tasty morsel of fish
Soon enough, with a fraction of the lakes finned population in my belly, I stand again at the lakes shore. Quite miserably, I might add its not often that one can leave the water and become wetter than they had been while submerged. The rate of rainfall had increased significantly during my underwater excursion. Just what I need
Ah well. Waiting wont get me there any faster. Taking a running start, I spread my wings and beat them mightily against the still air, feeling my feet leave the ground by my second flap. Thats just the easy part, though; to actually get up in the air takes several heavy wingbeats in rapid succession. I climb so slowly that my outermost wingtalons splash into the water at one point. Struggling against my own weight, I flap harder, finally achieving some measure of lift. At this rate, Ill be exhausted within a quarter-hour
The rain continues its relentless, semi-torrential downpour as I flap onwards. I know Im heading in the right direction, because dragons always know where theyre headed. I dont have the slightest hope of catching a glimpse of the mountain through all the clouds, though.
The going is agonizingly slow. I glance down after what seems like forever and can see the tail end of the lakes forest beneath me. Im already winded, and I probably havent even been in the air for five minutes yet. Despite my attempts to gain height, Im still a mere clawfull of lengths off the ground. Good grief, I think to myself in frustration. Id almost make better time walking the whole way. Clashing my teeth, I stretch my wings to their fullest and allow the miserable air to drop me down to the ground. Its going to be a long walk
At least visibility is decent, all things considered. As I walk along in the ever-strengthening deluge, I take the time to look around me and see the world from a unique angle for dragons, anyways. If you can get past the streaming water, its actually kind of serene out here. No dragons, no humans, no animal life
Well, look at you. Land-ridden as well, eh?
I instantly enter a defensive crouch, turning to face the source of the voice. Through the gloomy mist and dim light, a dark outline of a dragon roughly a third again my size can be distinguished against the trees. I squint to try and make out details, but the dragon is too far away to see anything clearly. Name yourself, I call out, cautiously resorting to the formalities of greeting an unknown dragon.
The dark form chuckles and steps closer. It is I, Larmrysh the Blue. His form becomes clearer, and a toothy smile begins to show on his muzzle. You dullscale, Kalthra, not recognizing an old friend. Just because my scales blend in with the mist is no excuse.
Its generally frowned upon to drop out of a formal greeting prematurely, but there are always exceptions to the rules. Larmrysh has been a friend and mentor to me ever since I first began attending the annual assemblies with my father, several years back. And I suppose you only knew it was me because of your astute observational skills, I challenge wryly. After all, I blend in with this weather perfectly, but you stand out like a broken wing. I return his smile with a wide grin of my own and touch the side of my head to his in a friendly gesture.
Larmryshs deep chuckle sounds close to my ear before we both pull back. Either your eyes are not what they were, or you havent lost your touch of sarcasm. Tis you and your silver scales that stand out, my friend.
I adopt an expression of mock innocence. Sarcastic, me? Youve got the wrong drake, I assure you. Shaking my head and smiling, I continue more seriously. Funny running into you right here. Youre usually a full days flight ahead of me this time of year.
I took a detour, this year, the blue dragon admits, beginning to walk in the direction I had been heading before. Passed over one of those human settlements not too far from here. High up, of course, he adds at my surprised look. I would never put myself into foolish danger like that.
I resume walking, keeping myself to the side and just a little behind Larmrysh. Why would you risk it at all? What purpose could you possibly find in an overflight like that? In my opinion, anything worth learning about the humans is best learned up close from a dead one. Any other means would result in dead dragons, instead.
Why, observation, of course. To be able to watch how they live and operate. Not that much can be seen from that height, of course... But you know how their little pod-like machines have always been a curiosity to me. From my vantage point, I could clearly observe a strip of their Trail. Very interesting to watch
The humans remind me so much of ants.
Ive always wondered what they would think of our terminology for certainly, the humans have better words for their black paths than Trails. Of course, that could very well be what it translates to
I frown to myself. And? Did you see anything to make the detour worth your while?
Larmrysh remains quiet for a moment before answering. A collision of some sort, actually. In all my observations, Ive never seen two pods hit each other. Ive always found that intriguing, for Ive never seen how any two pods could communicate, much less the whole fleet that they have. It was quite
enlightening to see.
Chuckling, I reply, Yup, just like ants. Ever seen two ants collide? It causes a whole slew of disruptions.
Not just disruptions, my friend. I believe one or two of the humans were injured in the incident. Perhaps even killed.
I let out a derisive snort. So? Theyre humans. They kill each other all the time. And its not like there arent plenty of others to take their place.
Larmrysh slows and turns his head to face me. You must learn to see the humans as more than deliverers of death, Kalthra. Theyre sentient, too. Theyre more dragon-like than any other creature on this world. If we are to ever be able to coincide with them, we must learn of them and their ways.
I hold my pace, forcing Larmrysh to step faster to keep up as I pass him. Not sure how likely that is. Whatre we going to do, ask them how they live their lives? Yeah, right.
Its not going to be easy, but what other choice do we have?
I can think of one, I remark casually, and I bet you know what it is.
He sighs, and I mentally envision him shaking his large blue head. You just dont get it, do you? Killing them is not the answer. It would result in our extinction rather than theirs. Besides, youd never get the whole of the kin to go along with you.
I roll my eyes. Just because youre a decade my senior doesnt mean you have to play the Elder. I know very well how that would turn out. I stare into the pouring rain, trying vainly to make out our destination through the cloudy weather. Mark my words, though: there will be more than a few tomorrow who will feel strongly about coming out against the humans.
Larmrysh clashes his teeth in frustration. I know
I know. Im not looking forward to it. I look back in time to see him wince at the thought of the whole dragon counsel arguing over this matter. I do not have high hopes for us forming any kind of consensus tomorrow.
I ponder this for a moment before speaking up again. I just hope this cursed rain lets up. A cavern full of morose dragons will only make everything worse. A bit of sunshine can work wonders on ones spirits.
Somehow, I dont think the weather heard my last comment. The rain continued on all the rest of the day as Larmrysh and I covered what ground we could. Finally, the already-dark sky grew darker, and my companion announced the need to find a place to rest. At least somewhere remotely dry, he had requested.
That turned out to be easier said than done. After a great deal of low-light searching, I had stumbled across a rock overhang. Itll keep our heads dry, I had observed, though our tails will be soaked through.
Apparently, a dry head is good enough for my blue friend.