the trigger

I heard the whistling of the air, a high screaming sound of something small and fast careening towards my head, the instant before the rock struck with a dull thud.  I’d flinched, frightened by the sudden rushing noise, but the instinctive movement hadn’t been enough to remove me from the missiles path.

A ringing echo thundered between my ears and I stayed hunched down, to avoid further attacks, as I turned to see who had thrown the rock at me.  A sheepish grin and a raised apologetic hand alerted me to the assailant.  “Sorry,” he said from halfway across the playground, “I wasn’t aiming for you.”

I mumbled “No worries,” and waved him off while rubbing at my skull as though the circular motion might somehow ease away the pain and keep the growing welt from forming.  Sure he hadn’t meant to hit me.  Sure he’d been just having a bit of fun.  Sure his incessant “joking” at my expense wasn’t supposed to be harmful or damaging.  It was all in good fun…

I was tired of that lie.

The school day ended and I sat in silence, ignoring the earnest imploring to share about my day, when my mom picked me up and drove me home.  We’d had all the circular arguments about bullies before.  The school had been notified.  The prime offenders had been suspended, only to return after their sentence and resume their offenses.  There was nothing more to be said.  There was no solution that could be achieved through words.

There was, however, plenty that could be achieved through anger, and violence, and destruction, and the guns I’d be taught to care for and fire accurately from a young age.  When the blood red haze of rage lifted and I was asked why I had done it, I wouldn’t lie.  I aimed.  I pulled the trigger.  It was not in good fun.

bombs away

 

Image Credit: Kamal Abu-Deeb

 

So…  They have a bomb.  We have one too.  We have lots of them.  We have more than we could possibly ever need.  If they were all deployed there would be redundant explosions and pointless destruction on an already ruined Earth.

But we are the good guys.  It’s okay for us to have them.  We have them only as a deterrent to war and we spread only a message of our desire for peace and prosperity for all nations and all people.  That’s our perspective.  That’s our propaganda.

We are a bully.  We wield a big stick and we whack anyone on the head who doesn’t behave like we want them to.  Do as we say, not as we do.  We excel at sanctions, airstrikes, ground troops, and public campaigns to shame and discredit and slander.

All the while, we secretly arm revolutions We make shady deals with bad people.  We stick our noses in other people’s business.  Not for peace.  Not for prosperity for all.  Definitely for prosperity for us and only us.  That’s all we truly care about.

Bring us your entrepreneurs who can easily obtain visas.  Bring us your rich who can buy homes and land and invest their millions in our economy.  Bring us your famous so we can capitalize on their celebrity.  But, keep “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”  We have no need for them.

So…  They have a bomb.  I guess that’s fairly terrifying.  What are they going to do with it?  Who are they going to launch it against?  Who are they going to try to bully?

You know what else is terrifying?

One bully recognizes another and bristles at the thought of competition and now there’s another kid in the yard trying to gain position as a force to be reckoned with.  They are busy collecting sticks and spewing threats.  And, we, the people, have no real control over what our country does with our bombs.  What are we going to do next?

turning point

Unnatural fires burned for days and the smoke filled the valley where the kingdom had once stood until the sun was blotted from the sky.  So much heat poured off the ground that a local wind storm swirled into life, further fanning the flames, and raked across the countryside in towering walls and spinning twisters.  The dragon hadn’t bothered to save any of their meager offerings, and snorted with pleasure as it watched the treasure and food disappear beneath the first of its fiery blasts.

The grand hall collapsed moments later as it returned to its true size.  The stone walls exploded away as its tail lashed out.  The domed ceiling caved in as its giant head broke free to rise overhead.  Then it had turned its breath to work on the remains, melting stone as easily as flesh and devouring lives before most had the chance to scream.

The sorceress, having dispatched the would-be assassin with a single word of magic, appeared next to the raging pyre that had been the kingdoms shining glory, and despite her layers of protective enchantments she winced in pain as the heat rolled through her.  Even in the depths of the dragons lair she had never felt so much heat.

“You better get yourself clear,” the dragon’s voice boomed in her mind and she winced again at the anger and pleasure she heard.  “You won’t survive what is coming.”

With a thought, her shadow guardian pulled her safely into its realm, where she would be safe from the beast’s tantrum but could still witness it.  At first she found herself once again awed by its fierce power, but as the valley was swept by fire, she felt a tear burn against her cheek as it slid away from her eye.

“Have I become the bully’s I’ve always detested?”

Her whispered question was swallowed by the darkness around her, as the fire storm razed the earth and the dragon’s laugh thundered from the sky.  She kept her composure beyond that solitary drop, but her mind was rife with turmoil and agony until she felt each new death as a strike to her heart.

“What have I done?”

“What have I become?”

“Where do I go from here…”

Time slipped, there in the shadows of the world, the dragon left, but the fires raged on.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And, with that, I hope to have enticed you enough that were you to see/hear that I had finished this story and you could pick it up in exchange for parting with a few of your dollars, you would not hesitate to do so to see what happens next, to see what becomes of the sorceress and dragon, to see what further feats of magical brilliance lay ahead…  I’ve got some work to do on my end to make that happen, of course, but that’s just time and energy, and I have both.  Thank you for following along up to this point.  Thank you for the words of encouragement.  Thank you for the positive feedback and support.  In other words, thank you for reading.

standing eye-to-eye with death

The mighty beast’s head snapped forward, its jaws poised to pierce the protection spells the sorceress had weaved around her.  She could feel the teeth sliding through the intricate magic, sliding through the toughest barriers she had ever wrapped herself in, and, yet, she refused to shrink away from the attack.  She held her ground and delved into reserves she wasn’t sure she had to amplify her spells and do everything she could to fight back, to survive.

“And yet…” the dragon paused in its assault, the volume and timbre of its voice softening slightly, and withdrawing its fangs from around the witch, “I can sense that there is a fire burning in your soul too.  It radiates off you in a way I’ve never felt from a human before. ”

The sorceress considered striking out while the dragon was preoccupied with its thoughts.  She considered trying to step into the pathways of magic and leave the cave behind her forever.  She considered speaking out to make a case for her continued survival.  However, she did none of these, and instead met the dragon’s gaze and held it steady.  The beast was obviously far more powerful than the magician had implied, or perhaps even known, and it could and would suss out her worthiness on its own.

“You are wise,” the dragon purred, its massive head angling lower to level off so beast and sorceress were eye-to-eye.  “I am far more powerful than that cowardly spell-caster gave me credit for.  I had grown complacent in the long years of my slumber here when last we met, and had not fully awoken when he attacked me unprovoked.  Obviously, I took measures to make sure that never happened again.

You are a fascinating creature, witch, to stand so bravely before me, knowing that I can read your thoughts, knowing that I could end your life with a quick snap of my jaws.  You, too, are powerful in your craft.  Your troubling years of study helped hone you into a fine weapon of magic.  It would be a waste to cast all that aside simply because you were deceived.

Yes, I can see it all clearly now, you are not the one to blame here, it is the wizard and those who hired him.  Interesting…  Interesting, indeed.  He so greatly feared fighting you himself that he brought you here hoping that I would do the job for him.”

As the dragon spoke, the sorceress could feel the intensity of its rage ebbing, and the pressure that had building against her protective spells weakened to a nearly undetectable level.  Wary of a trap, having learned to save herself from bullies and teachers as a student, and having so recently been betrayed, twice, she did not lessen the amount of energy she was directing towards the magical barrier around her.

The beast smiled then, razor sharp teeth gleaming red against the swirling darkness around them.  “Yes, you are wise, and you learn quickly, too.  Perhaps you have earned a reprieve.  But, first, you must do me a favor.  One small thing…”

caught

They circled around her, leering, jeering, laughing, taunting.  They had her caught.  They had her in their trap and she would soon taste the consequences of their fear and prejudices.

She could feel their loathing as it radiated off them to prick at her skin.  A thousand tiny daggers danced against her flesh.  Brands of magic, turned red-orange from the flames of their souls, pressed into her being.  Under different circumstances she might have cringed and screamed away from the sensation.

She could smell their terror of who she was and what she was capable of.  It filled her nostrils with the stench of refuse and mildew and under different circumstances she might have balked and squirmed away from the scent.

But the sorceress did not balk or scream.  She had faced bullies before and had learned to stand up to them.  As they circled around her, she was briefly transported back in time to when her first tormentors had behaved in the very same manner.  She had just arrived at school, hadn’t even attended a class, hadn’t made it to her room, hadn’t met her roommate, and already the other students had singled her out because she was different.  They were male.  She was not.  That day, all those years ago, she had called out for help and tried to run.  No one had come to save her though, and she still bore scars from where the children had forever marked their fear upon her.

She had avenged herself upon them, first by graduating from school and becoming a master sorceress, and second by stripping them of their powers and sending them to early graves.  Those bullies had paid the price for their actions.

The bullies that surrounded her again would receive their due as well.

They thought they had her in a trap, but she had cast a larger one.  She was still in control.  She was no longer a scared student unsure of herself or her powers.  A spark deep within her eyes caught and ignited the flames of vengeance she’d left simmering below the surface.  She let fly with the curses and enchantments she’d kept close at hand.  Her words turned into a flurry of death that swiftly cleared the room of those who would have harmed her.

Some managed to sense the trap and flee unharmed.  Most did not.