Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: The Dragon House
Gerald hovered at the front door of the shop, unsure whether to go in, but it was definitely the right place. He glanced up at the pink dragon on the roof to verify this decision, even though he knew it already in his bones. He told himself to stop stalling and get on with it.
A bell tinkled over his head as he stepped through the door. The shop was as he had imagined: dim lighting, strong smells of burned incense, and lots of red and gold lanterns. But there were no dragon pictures. He had expected lots of those, but there were none.
He roamed round the shop looking at the various tubs of herbs and spices on offer, and picking up the occasional candle and giving it a sniff, but no one came out. The only sound came from the display of tiny wind chimes hanging by an open window. He went up to the counter and lingered, hoping to make himself more visible to anyone in the back.
It worked. He heard footsteps and shuffling, and a small man appeared. His mind laughed at the stereotype of the small Chinese man in a conical hat, adorned with a long white beard and moustache, but when he spoke he did so with an Oxford educated accent, not a Chinese, broken English one.
“How may I help you?”
Gerald paused for a second before replying, “I’ve come for the Blue One.”
He’d expected a reaction, maybe even a gasp or a step back, but the little man merely raised an eyebrow.
“The blue one of what?”
This puzzled Gerald. “No, the Blue One, of breath and fire.”
A crease between the eyes broke the serene expression on the little man’s face. “I’m not following you. Is it an object you have seen, which you would like to buy?”
Gerald didn’t want to ask again. He had been assured those words would work. He was stumped, but then a thought came to him.
“I am not here to buy, I am here to engage. I am here to ‘match breaths’.” He said the last two words slowly, sure of their impact.
For a second the little man looked at Gerald as though he thought he was out of his mind, but then he regained his composure.
“Come this way.”
The little man indicated the end of the counter, and Gerald followed it round until he joined the man behind it. He was led to the back into a large storage room, and then up a dusty, wrought iron staircase at the back. At the top were two heavy doors which the little man pushed through, and Gerald entered the world he had anticipated.
Their footsteps were hushed by a thick red carpet, and they followed the inlay of a pair of golden, long-tailed dragons depicted on the walls on either side of the corridor. At the other end the little man pushed open two more heavy wooden doors revealing a large, high room, more like a warehouse, which was thick with the acrid smoke of a hundred giant incense sticks. More red and gold lanterns hung at all levels and a thousand shadows danced across the walls. But it was the dense one at the back that interested Gerald the most as he continued forward.
Gerald heard him before he saw him, the rasping drag of an ancient body on the rough wooden floor. Tinges of faded turquoise broke through the smoke, until Gerald made out the great mass of body and worn scaled skin. The Blue One was magnificent, despite his age, and Gerald baulked at the reason for his visit.
As the Blue One’s face came down to greet his, he felt the familiar stirring in his belly. His perspective changed as he grew in size, and the Blue One shrank back to make room for him. The cloudy mists of smoke changed to ethereal threads as his eyes changed, and the claret red of his scales shone in the lantern light.
At Gerald’s full height, the little man was but an ant now, running about gathering objects in preparation for the ritual.
The Blue One breathed, “You have come.”
Gerald nodded. “It took me some time to locate you. You have concealed yourself well here among our Western friends.”
“Yes, they keep me well. But you are here now, so my time is up.”
“On the contrary, our journey has only just begun.”
“I fear I can not match your breath.”
“Maybe you don’t have to match it - but join it.”
“Join it?” The Blue One’s yellow eyes narrowed. “I don’t understand.”
“Wasting your life energy and centuries of learning would be foolish, just because your vessel has grown old. There is no reason you can’t join me.”
Gerald waved a sleek talon at the little man at their feet. “He knows. You need not be afraid. You need only to step closer and breathe your fire light across mine. It will be a smooth transition.”
Gerald heard the chanting from below rise up as the Blue One stepped closer, and gathered his own breath ready for the moment. He heard the sound of the shutter slide back in the roof above them and the brilliant light struck, making them glow. He tilted his head back and let out his breath, hearing the Blue One do the same.
They were met; the swirl of red and blue energies spiralled upwards into the light. Gerald continued to maintain his, even when the Blue One had slumped back, his life force spent. Their twirling energies rose up into the light, then descended again, entering his mouth and throat, and running the course of his body.
Again the familiar sensation in his belly, and a shudder he couldn’t control, causing his tail to flip hard on the floor, shaking the building. Then he felt his skin change, his eyes change, and the presence of another within his mind. And when he looked out on the world it was through a dual perspective, complementing each other, and responding to its nuances in a deeper, more learned way.
He looked down at himself and the little man, who smiled up at him with open joy. They had done it. It was complete. The Purple One had arrived, ready to face the dawning of a new era for man and dragon kind.
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