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The Mayor of the Valley

by Luisa Gillies 3 months ago in Fantasy
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Chapter 1

The Mayor of the Valley
Photo by Benmar Schmidhuber on Unsplash

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. In the early morning, the stillness of their absence would somehow wake the people up. Some – the children, especially – would slip out from under their covers and stand up tall on their beds, cocking their heads to the side and pressing their ears up against the concrete ceiling of the village. Silence.

There weren’t always dragons in the valley, but what mattered – as Old John kept pointing out – was that there were sometimes dragons in the valley. There had been an incident, not too many years ago, in which an angry young man – the revolutionary type – had made his way up into the open valley. Silence, he claimed, was proof that they had finally left. Silence was proof that they would do them no more harm, and he would prove it. Unfortunately for that young man, the silence had ended the moment he stepped out – a roar, a scream, a crunch, and then the wet, slopping sound of raw flesh being consumed. And so Old John had decided to keep a better eye on everyone, and when the silence came, he would sternly patrol every nook and cranny of the village until the warning roars could be heard again.

He liked to use the word village as much as possible – meet me in the village centre, he would say; never leave the village. It helped, he reckoned, to foster a sense of home within these underground caverns. They were dark, and they were damp, and the tunnels that connected them were winding and claustrophobic. There was not nearly enough space for hundred or so men, women and children who lived inside them, and matters always got especially difficult when people died – there wasn’t enough room for the living, let alone for the dead. The dragons seemed to prefer to kill their own prey – it would take a while for them to approach when a corpse popped out into the valley – but they always ate them nonetheless, ripping and slurping, so the ceremony never felt particularly dignified, and it tended to cause unrest amongst the people.

And then there were those who argued that the corpse disposal was what was keeping the dragons around in the first place – if they stopped feeding them, they insisted, they would eventually go away. And then they could leave! Leave the village forever, and have a chance at that open-air life which their grandparents – mostly all gone, now – had once claimed to live.

There weren’t always dragons in the valley, you know, they had said. When we were young, we were the ones who lived in the valley. We lived in houses made of bricks and soaked up the sun. We lived much longer, you know. We could expect to live until we were seventy, eighty even. Imagine that!

Old John did imagine that. He imagined that people would stop calling him Old John, were they to live in such a reality. But they did not, and Old John felt that the best thing was to accept it.

The dragons were here, now – they had arrived as a pack and massacred that open-air village, and those who had managed to escape underground had considered themselves lucky to have survived at all. And that, Old John thought to himself, was exactly the kind of attitude which people needed to adopt again. They were lucky just to be alive – there was no point in demanding more.

Old John nodded to himself. He had been working on his election speech for months, and he felt vaguely confident that he would once again win the people over with his wisdom and common sense – not to mention his many years of successful leadership. No one else had run in the elections for decades, of course, but he liked to make put effort into his speeches either way.

Taking a deep breath, he adjusted his shoulders and raised his head before making his way towards the meeting room. It was the largest room in the village, and the only one capable of accommodating everybody. It was a tight fit, of course, but Old John agreed that everyone must be allowed to take part in the name of democracy.

He quite enjoyed the tradition, really. Every year, he would walk into the room last, and the crowd’s chatter would immediately cease as it parted into two, allowing him to walk through the room and onto the stage. There would always be two or three stools on the stage, to accommodate any other candidates who wished to make a speech – but it was a symbolic gesture, really. Every year, Old John would take a solitary seat on top of the stage, make his speech – usually centered around reminding everyone how safe they continued to be under his leadership – and then graciously accept his democratically designated title of Mayor. He smiled to himself. Yes, he rather enjoyed the yearly elections.

As anticipated, the crowd fell quiet when Old John arrived. It parted into two, and he made his way towards the stage. He walked confidently, at first – with slow, steady steps, allowing the crowd to properly take in the sight of him. He brushed off the whispers, at first – they must be excited, he thought to himself. But then he couldn’t help but look around, wondering what all that whispering was about. Usually, the silence was only interrupted by the sounds of roaring from outside.

He hesitated – people were staring at him in a strange way. He raised his head up higher, attempting to mask his discomfort. And that’s when he saw it. Straight in front of him – up on the stage. Up on his stage!

Someone was sitting on it.

Fantasy

About the author

Luisa Gillies

Hi! I'm Luisa.

I write short stories and poetry.

I'm really keen to hear feedback on my work, so please feel free to share your thoughts!

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