Douglas is a dragon with a rather unique problem. This short story follows a day in his life where starts on a journey of acceptance of his own unique abilities.
“Look Hector, I think our baby’s going to blow his first smoke!”
“Come on little one, you can do it!”
The little baby dragon huffed and puffed with all his might, and out came –
“What is that? Hector, oh my god what is that!”
“I… I think it’s butterflies.”
“But – why?”
Douglas woke up and sighed. A single meadow brown floated out one nostril lazily, and he swatted it with his tail in anger. It fell to the cave floor, lifeless. Useless. What use were butterflies to a dragon? What use was a dragon who couldn’t breathe fire? He flopped back down on his side and tried to go back to sleep, but it was hopeless. He was awake now and there was nothing he could do about it.
He didn’t particularly want to go outside. Though his parents told him to ignore it, that he was special, the snickers of the other young dragonlings made him angry, but instead of producing threatening sparks or clouds of smoke, out came butterflies, and it just made them laugh even more. He sighed huffily again, and this time produced a cabbage white. He let it fly about a bit, watching the effortless flap of its wings. It was graceful, beautiful, and he hated it with a passion. He pinned it to the wall with his claw and let it drop down next to the meadow brown that was already fading away.
Drat. His mother was calling. He picked himself up ad crawled through the connecting tunnel to a larger, family sized cave. His developing wings dragged behind him.
His mother was pouring over her small hoard of women’s left boots in the corner. All dragons hoarded something different, and Camilla hoarded single boots from the left feet of various women. Sadly, she only had a small collection. His father Hector, on the other hand, was more conventional, an he hoarded swords. He had a few more of those than Camilla had boots, something that occasionally caused tension between them. Douglas didn’t know what he hoarded yet. It was something one discovered a little later in life.
“There you are Douggie!” his mother called, twisting around. “You dad wants you to go up to the ridge with him.”
“Do I have to, mum?” Douglas whined. He hated going up to the ridge. His father would encourage him to blow butterflies, and recorded every new species he produced with excitement, and called it a gift. Down below he would see other young dragons blowing their first fire, and there he would be, counting butterflies.
“I know it’s hard Douggie,” his mother said, cleaning his wings for him with a gentle steam, “but you’ve been given something different. Something special.” He groaned. “Stop that. It is special. And you need to learn how to use it and appreciate it. Who knows what you could be one day?”
A bloody useless dragon, he thought to himself, but he followed his dad out of the cave and started to walk up to the ridge. He gave a few flaps of his wings to dry them off, and tried a few running jumps, lifting himself up into the air for a few seconds and half gliding, half crashing down. His wings weren’t developed enough to fly yet, but it was fun to try them out and imagine what it would feel like.
They reached the top of the ridge.
“Now Doug,” his father said, business like. “We’ve had seven different species from you so far.” He pointed at a rock, into which he had scratched abbreviations of the types of butterflies. CW for cabbage white, MB for meadow brown, TS for tortoiseshell, and so on. He had also breathed commas, a couple of painted ladies, one red admiral, and a whole cloud of little blues.
“Let’s see if we can get a new one today. Or another red admiral.” Douglas sighed a couple of commas.
“Come on Doug. Try.”
He took a deep breath, and concentrated on the idea of smoke. He wasn’t ever really trying for the butterflies, he still hoped that one day he would breathe fire, so that was what he thought of. But butterflies were always what came out. Out streamed a load of cabbage whites that flapped lazily away.
But Douglas was not delighted. His anger felt warm inside him, and he concentrated on that heat and thought of fire, and snorted – and there was a halo of commas and painted ladies flapping around his eyes. He snarled, and a meadow brown shot out confusedly, flapping away slowly, looking dizzy.
“Come now, Doug. Relax.”
But Doug could not relax. He snarled again with explosions of dazed butterflies. He continued snarling and snorting until he ran out of breath and sat back panting out single commas at a time. His father looked at him.
“You mustn’t be angry Doug.”
“Why shouldn’t I be angry?”
“Look at it this way,” his father said. He shot out a spurt of flame, and ten butterflies fell, dead and charred to the floor. They disintegrated when Doug tapped them with his claws.
“I only have the power to destroy things. But you Doug,” his father pointed at the clouds of butterflies flying away over the valley. “You can create something. Something beautiful. So you mustn’t be angry.”
Doug thought for a moment.
“But I can’t even make any cool butterflies. Just boring ones,” he said. His father laughed.
“That’s because you’re not trying to make butterflies. You’re still trying to make fire, aren’t you?”
“Try again Doug.”
This time, he didn’t think about smoke, or try and find the heat inside himself. He thought about lazy flapping wings, about tortoiseshell patterns and scalloped wings, and he felt a calm inside him. He took a deep breath, and breathed out.
A huge blue butterfly came out of his mouth, sparkling in the sun.
“What is that?” his father asked. Doug smiled.
“It’s a Blue Morpho, Dad. Why don’t you write it on the rock?”
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~ Lucy x