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Tails From the Gate

The Fantasy Prologue

By Kenneth BouttePublished 2 years ago 9 min read
Tails From the Gate
Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

There weren’t always dragons in the valley, until that damn gateway showed up. Before it started spewing the scaly bastards left and right, I would like to think this was a peaceful place. A peaceful place, with flowers and little woodland animals, stuff like that. But now this place is full of them fighting and burning everything to the ground. We don’t know if it’s the breeze coming off the mountains or the smell of armored tanks leaking diesel fuel keeping them here, but dragons call this valley home now. And it’s up to the Fifth Division infantry to evict them. Truth be told no one has been able to kill even one. They kill themselves more than we have ever been able to even make a dent. That is until today, an injured one was spotted and we’ve been tasked with killing it off.

The green of army fatigues is the only greenery left in the area while everything else lays charred and smoldering. We scurry across the cooked remains of those who came before us and tell ourselves we will be the ones to do better. Our boots churn through the ashes of grasses and mud. It’s up to our ankles in some spots but it doesn’t slow us down. Overturned military vehicles and trees snapped like twigs blind them to our advancement and the smell of burning tires masks our scent. As if any of it will make a difference, with bullet proof and fire resistant skin we are heavily out gunned. I’ve seen one laugh through a napalm attack and others mate during a nuclear strike but still we tell ourselves we will be the ones to do better…

For 7 years we’ve learned the hard way, if it flies it dies. The dragons own the sky now, so we all nearly shit ourselves with a shadow passing by overhead. Even with it hundreds of feet in the air, the shadow is still big enough to swallow a small building. “Did it see us?” We all ask each other not knowing whether to press on or fall back. Captain Howard kisses the rosary shaking in his hand. I can’t blame him though. I’m shaking so hard I have to clutch my dog tags to keep them from rattling. Andrews and Miller exchange letters for the other’s family while both insist the other is getting out of this alive.

“Hey Copper, whaddya think? This is some real Jurassic Park type shit right? Am I right?”

“Jesus Murphy my name is Cooper, and shut the fuck up!” I whisper back to the big excited idiot too stupid to realize we’re in danger. The shadow passes back again, and this time it’s a slow and steady glide. It’s looking for something…

Captain Howard gives the signal to push forward, but not even he has the balls to take the first step. No one moves, hell we barely even breathe. Our eyes are glued to murky clouds in the sky. It seems impossible that something so big can disappear so fast, yet nobody has eyes on. “There, 11 o’clock.” Andrews whispers. “Another one at 5.” Coleman adds. “A third at your 2.” The captain says. They circle above us like they are just waiting for the dinner bell. Sweat races down my spine and my heart sinks to the mud beneath my boot, but that’s when I notice it. Sweat, or lack thereof. It’s sweltering here amongst the burnt debris and each of us are soaked in sweat, everyone except Murphy.

“Murphy, did you put on deodorant today?” I ask, slowly lowering my weapon. All eyes turn to the big oaf and await an answer. He gives us that big stupid grin and shrugs his shoulders.

“Goddamn it Murphy! They can smell you!” Miller yelps in a loud whisper.

“Well how the hell was I supposed to know we would have a mission today?” He says in his defense.

“Look just strip down and cover yourself in mud, maybe that will mask-”

Andrews interrupts Captain Howard’s instructions by cocking his gun and aiming it directly at Murphy. “I’m not risking my life on maybe’s captain. Get out there Murphy…” His hands are steady and his brown eyes are poised and focused. His voice is stern and unwavering.

“Stand down soldier!” Captain Howard yells, but that command falls on deaf ears.

“Hey come on now Andrews.” Murphy says with that annoying carefree smile of his.

“I’m not dicking around Murphy, you can either go out on your own or I can shoot you and toss you out. I like you enough to give you the choice, but I ain’t dying for your fuck up.”

Captain Howard starts to draw his weapon but realizes the futility of a fight as both Miller, and Coleman put Murphy in their crosshairs. Howard turns his head back to the skies and ignores the betrayal, as a fourth dragon comes into view. We’re not soldiers, and at this point we’re less than humans. We have abandoned all of our humanity for a few more seconds of life. “Move it Murphy!” The happy go lucky bastard looks for sympathy from anyone but I avert my eyes. His feet are heavy, slowly dragging him into open view. I can’t watch this shit. In seconds, gusts from flapping wings knock us to the ground and we all shutter as Murphy's blood curdling screams echo through the valley. It’s a shame that we don’t feel ashamed, but what would you expect with a bunch of convicts playing soldier trying to get pardoned? We all fell for the scam, 10 years of service and you’re a free man. But they didn’t say anything about dragons and everyday I miss my cell block.

The dragons disperse but fear remains ever present. Any false move can quickly bring them back and add us to the menu. We carry on without a second thought of Murphy and begin plotting a reroute to the location of the supposedly injured dragon. The media has been broadcasting the injury as a major military success, when the sad fact is that the thing was injured fighting another for the right to mate. Lies to give people hope I guess. Sad fact is that this is hopeless, but against all odds we want to believe the tide can change. Sometimes a small lie can do just that.

“There it is! Just two clicks west of here. It looks as if one of its wings is broken and there is a large scratch over its left eye, and another on its belly. He sure picked the fight with the wrong one.” We all pull out our binoculars and confirm Miller’s findings. The beast is huge, and definitely injured. Its wing lay snapped across its back, and deep crimson blood pours from its wounds. The creature has curled into its nest and breathes long heavy sighs. It’s lost that rich turquoise color in its scales and they seem almost gray by comparison. It lays there almost docile compared to the others we’ve seen before it. It looks as though it’s given up and just waiting to die.

We make our way to its nest taking cover behind a large boulder and the debris from a B-52 that was ripped in half. We lather ourselves in mud and prepare to attack. We’re so close the slightest smell would get us killed. I can feel the heat from its nostrils baking the mud on my skin. There’s an orchestra of rumbling bass drums as its lungs fill with air. Twice we tempt death and accidentally clang metal fittings together yet the beast only raises his head in curiosity. The harpoon is set, and packed with enough explosives to level a city block. We only have one shot at this, and it’ll be all up to Andrews. He’s the better shot out of any one of us, well now that Murphys gone. “Just aim for the wounds on its belly…” Captain Howard whispers after he kisses his rosary. We all stare in an anxious nervous frenzy awaiting the outcome of a half tested weapon.


My heart stops beating…


I am frozen. Paralyzed with fear that this could be the moment I die, or succeed in killing the legendary.


There’s a flutter of hope.

The trigger is pulled, and the harpoon ejects from the canister. With it goes 35 pounds of explosives and the possibility of my freedom. It sails through the air primed and set to purpose and I can’t believe it! My eyes must be lying to me. “He missed… How the fuck do you miss?” I bark, unable to accept it. The harpoon slams into the mud mere feet away from the dragon and explodes shy of its target. The creature is enveloped in flames and smoke falls from its scaly hide. Maybe carrying my freedom weighed it down and struck it off course. Maybe Andrews is a horrible shot under pressure. Whatever the reason, whatever slap in the face from fate this may have been, I don’t have time to give it a second thought.

The limping beast stampedes towards us and the ground trembles in its fury. Boulders explode into dust from its force. The dragon is tickled by our failure and now is revitalized with a will to live. Those amber golden eyes once ready for death are now fixed with a death gaze and aimed directly at us! It lets out a roar so loud my lungs shake and my ears start to bleed, and yet it still isn’t loud enough to drown out Miller’s rage.

“You stupid son of a bitch! You had a straight shot my fuckin grandma could have made that shot!” Miller shouts running away from the tyrannical animal.

“Mission is a failure. I repeat the mission is a failure. It seems all we did was cauterize the wound. Target is on the move!” Captain Howard belts into the radio while saluting us all and kissing his rosary. The dragon is up and limps and charging toward our position. We scatter like ants and pray we aren’t the one it targets first. I fall to the mud and watch in horror as the captain gets slashed in half by the razor sharp end of its tail. Coleman is slashed into pieces like a hot knife through butter by its obsidian claws. Gun shots bounce off its skin as Andrews makes his final stand before being flambed. I turn away in disgust as Miller's blood drips down from its fangs. In seconds my entire team is gone. I cower before the might of this beast as it closes in on me. Each staggered step the dragon takes sends shockwaves straight through me. Gripped with fear my whole body shuts down and my legs plant roots into the ground. Face to face with death, we lock eyes. The golden amber hue is almost mesmerizing, a sweet allure to my impending end. The 18 ton monster rears its head back preparing to hurl a fireball to engulf me and all I can do is watch as the heat of my death builds. It sinks those long sharp claws into the earth and spews flames as blue as the oceans atop me and everything near. This is my end. This is a criminal's death. I close my eyes and I give up that shimmer of hope for freedom and accept my fate. Yet, I feel nothing. Everything around me melts into a discernible mass, even my clothes are on fire! But I don’t feel anything at all. In fact the heat feels… soft. The flames robe me and are softer than the finest wool. They tickle my body as it eats away at my clothes. The blaze encircles me, slowly lifting me off the ground as if gravity has escaped me. My feet dangle inches from the ground as my toenails turn black. There’s a gust of wind that surges heat and smoke into my body and in a flash I crash to the earth. The dragon is gone, my clothes are gone, and so is everyone else in my team. I lay in the mud, naked and afraid clueless to what just happened. “GET UP!” A voice that roars like thunder commands. I look every which way but there is no one to be found. “I SAID GET UP! I didn’t fuse into you so you can lie in the mud. We’ve got work to do tiny human...”


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    KBWritten by Kenneth Boutte

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