The Absurdity of Dragonslayers
by Sterling Slechta
My father told me not to kill them anymore. He said nobody should. Maybe he was right.
But still, some nights I wake up at the mouth of that cave on the beach. White sand and the sound of the tide, a sun trapped behind a wall of gray clouds. I hear the seagulls make the same calls and I touch the black rocks of the cave, feel the texture, the dampness that never dries. I stand up, if only to feel less shrunken by the shadow of the cliff side, by their world that seems to beat like a massive heart. It never works.
I'm still nothing as I stand before the cave and let it capture me the way it captures the world, focusing everything like a cyclopean eye cut into an infinite face of jagged blackness that stretches both parallel to the shore and upwards into the fog forever.
I follow the heartbeat. I walk into the darkness of the cave.
Where did they even come from? So long ago now that nobody believes they were ever real. And what does that even mean? To be real?
I can hear the sound of water trickling off the ceiling of the cave as I press further into their world. The sound of the tide fades away, becomes softer with every wave. I can feel myself fading away with it. Always, just like this. And now the heartbeat freezes, echoes, draws out its deep rumble for a long moment before drifting into a cold silence, then everything goes silent, and I stop.
Maybe my father wasn't joking when he gave me that advice. He called them an endangered species, said people had been killing them for too damn long, that after a while they'd stop coming back. We had a good laugh about it. I wrote it down on a piece of paper because I thought it was clever.
Now I can see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing. But I know she knows I've arrived and in a moment she'll bring me to the center of the world. And she does.
I blink and the darkness disappears.
This is a dream. This is where they live.
She's a mountain of life. A monolith towering higher and taller than any sky scraper ever built. Her flesh is the color of burnt leaves; it's scaly and dry and strong like sheets of metal pressed together around muscles and bone. How can she not be God? Her feet are like roots digging into the earth, digging into the floor of her lair which is big enough to hold a dozen moons. The air itself is lit with a soft glow and the walls are smooth and waxy like a globe of molded salt curving around itself.
What am I compared to this?
With every breath I become smaller—I become nothing. I wonder how she could ever die.
She exhales and I can feel the world changing. Her breaths are like the tide, washing in and out without a care for the smaller things. I can see her belly shifting high above me as it becomes drunk with air, and higher above that, her face so peaceful in the heavens, placid as the sun. Wings spread out and above and form a halo beside her head as nostrils flare and puffs of steam shoot out from her mouth like a stallion gasping air in the winter. I hear the bass drum of a heart beating steady. Her eyes, like massive crystals look down through a million years as I freeze and wonder, How do you kill a dragon? Why would you even want to?
She looks at me, opens her mouth to speak words of fire. I close my eyes and let the world disappear.
Sterling Slechta is a fiction writer originally from Central New York. He studied religion at Syracuse University and now lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. His work has appeared in Children, Churches, and Daddies, Red Lightbulbs, and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Spilling Ink Review.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Life. Dreams. Circumstances. It's never easy to tell, especially with fantasy. I usually just come up with something simple and see where it takes me.