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Dragons In the Valley

Onward Toward Thule

By Chris ZPublished 2 years ago 3 min read

Dragons In the Valley


“There weren’t always dragons in the valley.” I choked those words up and out, an act of impotent rage impelled by our then-president’s indifference toward dragons being named our nation’s leading cause of death.

From coast to coast, Americans raced for the nearest odd-numbered interstate. The contiguity of idling autos they met with promptly thwarted their migration. These mass exoduses, suspended in their animation, made sublime ground zeros for most of our nation’s mass immolations.

Chapter 1.

My name is Dante Echevarria. I was forty-three years old when normalcy’s frangibility became common knowledge. Overnight, from the headlines to the homestead, from the watercooler to the watering hole, dragons dominated the conversation. Had Uncle Sam’s resident expert met with all-due deference from day one, one-third of the 1,000,000 dead would likely still be alive. Instead, Americans spread misinformation through social media shares. Contravening the intelligentsia thrust contrarians into a limelight that had eluded them their whole lives. Politicians courted America’s perpetually aggrieved gun-nuts by opposing any measure meant to serve the needs of the many. Our then president, a glorified slumlord turned populist politico, spent months denying that dragons even existed. Meanwhile, scholars, scientists and medical experts fine-tuned their harmonies, forcing our aspiring-autocrat-in-chief to pivot from denial to demagoguery. Rumors that Mexico (a Spanish-speaking, non-Caucasian majority nation) begat this plague bamboozled his base into keeping their dunce caps on and their thinking caps off for a spell longer. Alas, all good cults come to an end. When dragons killed five prominent dragon-deniers in the space of one month, all but the naked emperor’s most servile apparatchiks acquiesced to objective reality. Too little, too late.

Nine men make our coven. No one awaits our safe return. We call nowhere home. Homes are what was. Storm drains, spider holes, even hastily buried school busses in which to hide from conflagrant precipitation are what is. We speak little, lest we betray who we were before becoming who we are. Above all, we withhold our crucibles from one another. By articulating trauma, we risk initiating healing. For men like us, men animated by the same singular motivation, healing would be blood-letting our bloodlust.

Our only possessions are our worn rags and wielded weapons. Our rags are but dense, loose-fitting fabrics effortlessly cast off. Our weapons are little more than patchwork shields sculpted from flame-averse flotsam. These parabolic bulwarks blind and encumber us, precluding offensive measures of any kind.

Dragons are, in a word, magnificent. They ride the wind like cobwebs carried by it. Their synchronized aerial acrobatics shame starlings. Like starlings, their colonies aspire to exponential growth. A single airborne colony thoroughly obscured last April’s supermoon for six minutes.

Dragons do not, in fact, breathe fire. Rather, a malodorous organic compound streams from their fangs. Some spontaneous chemical process, possibly kindled by contact with the surrounding air’s constituent parts, ignites the baleful serum seconds later. Once ablaze, the bane hardens, bonding to the surface it has settled on, be it bark or bone. How this radically advanced bioweapon came to them fully formed confounds men far more conversant in evolutionary biology than I. It is known that climate change abetted their ascendance, though specifics remain scarce. Dragons are partial to warm weather, the warmer the better, and this century has seen fourteen of the hottest summers on record fifteen years in. Life forms ranging from beetles to bacteria, formerly confined to Central and South America’s equatorial climates, made the long, strange trip to the “Lower Forty-Eight.”

And so it came to pass that the planet’s most prolific producer of endangered species attained top billing on the endangered species list.


About the Creator

Chris Z

My opinion column garnered more reader responses than any other contributor in the paper's 40-year run. As a stand-up comic, I performed in 16 countries & 26 states. I've written 2 one-man shows, umpteen poems, songs, essays & chronologies.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (3)

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  • Carl Guerra2 years ago

    I enjoyed the premise and how it relates to the pandemic and the US administration at the time, as well as climate change issues. Left me wanting to read a second chapter!

  • Outstanding English!. You must be a trial lawyer of some kind for the manner you express yourself. The story is entertaining an easy to follow. Good job Mr. Chris Z.

  • Sarah G.2 years ago

    First of all, you have a fantastic vocabulary! Love those SAT words. Also, I love that you set your story in modern-day America; so many of the stories from this challenge are medieval, epic fantasies. In my opinion, the first chapter is a little long and on-the-nose (though I do like how you tied the fantasy theme into today and made it relevant). For me, the story *really* starts with "Nine men make our coven.* I'm fascinated by the concept of climate change contributing to the rise of dragons. You have a really interested spark of a story! I also set my story in modern-day America (*high five*). I'd love for you to take a read and give me your feedback.

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