For months the ground had shaken, at first just a rumbling here and there, then it became a regular occurrence. Like clockwork, around 4 every afternoon you could hear a roar rolling down off the mountain. The adults would begin to scramble about as the earth began to move. Houses shook from their foundations, shingles falling off the roofs. Inside, dishes fell from cabinets above. Outside the windows apple carts rolled over, their contents rolling along the cobblestone streets.
Screams filled the air each afternoon, but she reacted differently. Annie was a quiet child, reserved, but some of the adults thought her to posses an inner strength that seemed puzzling. Every day she stood and watched pieces of her world fall apart around her. She formed the habit of going to the town's center every afternoon to stand and watch the madness unfold. Her blank, silent stares often met the uneasy eyes of the townspeople as their world began its daily crumble. They would look at her with disdain, or with envy, as her head turned, absorbing the little tragedy of the day.
The elders told a story of a great dragon who lived under the mountain. The tall, rugged mountain that hid the sun each evening as it set in the west now appeared to be the source of a great unease settling upon the town of Parrish. Some men spoke of a different source for the disturbances. They said the mountain was a volcano, of a volatile geology that had been reported in lands across the sea. Little Annie knew the truth, but she spoke not a word of it.
Many dark tales had been passed down of the dreaded dragon. Asleep he was, under the great mountain, where he had lay down generations before the people of Parrish settled the plain. The farmland that stretched as far as the eyes could see, and the forest beyond, were once the habitat of the foul wyvern. Tales most would say are just an ancient folklore, a myth not worthy of conversation. Now, seeds of doubt were taking root.
A contingent of men, the town's few remaining warriors, began to plan an expedition to the great mountain known as Winoa. They planned to travel through caves to find the source of the earth's violent episodes. If a dragon was there and was awakening, they planned to slay it.
Many called the warriors fools, but their fears compelled them to give the fighter's supplies for their impending mission. Some began to pack and head for eastern lands where they hoped they could find safety from a disaster that seemed more inevitable with each passing day. Most could not leave, their roots were too deep. Their lives were tied to the land and their fortunes tied to the maturing crops in the fields. In the eyes of many in the village, there was hope that the problem would go away. In the eyes of them all there was fear.
There was one exception, among those old enough to walk and speak, to the fear that permeated the town of Parrish and it's surrounding lands. Young Annie had been having dreams, for as long as she could remember, of a Hero who would arrive on a great stallion and slay the terrible Dragon that also inhabited her dreams. The Hero would ride in from the north and save the town, as it faced despair in the darkest moment imaginable. Was that moment approaching?
For a few days, as spring tuned to summer, the ground did not shake at its regular time and a calm seemed to creep back into the village. Around 4 in the afternoon, the people had learned to take cover and cower in a panicked fear. With the reprieve, there came more activity and things seemed to begin returning to normal. The warriors now sat in the afternoon drinking beer and talking of their coming trek, but they no longer were gathering provisions. Then one day there was change.
As the sun rose over the sea to the east, a loud crash echoed across the lands. Dirt and rock blew to the sky from the western mountain. For a moment the ground shook so hard that noone could stand. In those few seconds some wondered if Winoa was indeed a volcano and if it had erupted. Soon, the questions were answered by the great shadow that emerged from the mountain, moving over the forests and across the plain. A dragon did exist and it had awakened. Escaping its ancient lair as the day began, the people came out to watch its massive body glide over the plain as it flew towards the helpless town.
The dragon first circled the town to the east, blackening the rising sun. People were running, screaming, heading for cover and looking for their loved ones. In a matter of moments it seemed as if all hopes were lost. And out of the shadows walked Annie. She held in her hand a silver talisman her grandmother had given her years ago, at the time of her birth. In her dreams she would hold the charm up to the sky and the Hero would appear. As doom set in across the town of Parrish, one ray of hope gleamed in a child's eye.
to be continued....
Young Annie emerged from the shadows as the chaos permeated the panicked village of Parrish. An ancient dragon had emerged from the faraway mountain of Winoa, confirming the folklore of some of the more eccentric elders. The beast now seemed to torment the townsfolk as it flew in circles over the surrounding fields. To the people, there appeared to be no route of escape.
Annie stood tall, there in the center of the town's square, and held up a mysterious silver charm her grandmother had given her when she was a very small child. That gift was indeed her first memory. Screams filled the air as the villagers ran this way and that, but Annie stood in silence. A steadfast gaze grew over her milky face as she lifted the talisman up towards the sun. As the dragon again flew overhead, momentarily darkening the sky, Annie began chanting the words she so vividly recalled from her dreams.
"Ombus, Ombus, Array," she yelled upwards to the sky. "Ombus, Ombus, Array!" She screamed, her voice still barely noticeable above the chaotic cacophony that surrounded her. At this point, in her dreams, the Hero would ride in from the north, draw his mighty bow and fire an arrow that would pierce the dragons steely scales.
Annie had long dreamed of a spot on the dragon, near its heart, where one of it's hardy scales was missing. The Hero would know of this spot and his bow's deadly accuracy would prove to be the mighty wyvern's downfall. Her dreams did not reveal what would become of the town, or the people of Parrish. The dreams simply ended in the dragon's fall to earth and its stillness thereafter.
"Ombus, Ombus, Array!" Annie persisted, and finally a distant, moving dust cloud revealed a rider approaching the village from the north. The Hero had come! Hope was on the way! No one in the town noticed this activity but Annie. She now stopped her chanting, her eyes fixed on the horizon as she silently watched the events of her dreams unfold before her eyes.
The dragon's passes over the village had become lower, closer to the ground as it tightened its overhead circles. Some were heard to scream, "All is lost!" when the first breaths of fire from the beast began to scorch the surrounding croplands. In her mind, Annie directed the great warrior of her dreams to prepare for the monster's assassination.
In the distance she watched as the Hero drew his mighty bow. Most of the townspeople had taken some form of cover in an attempt to escape the imminent wrath of the airborne dragon. Annie stood alone. In her starry eyes, the massive arrow left the great bow and flew in slow motion toward the angry beast.
The hopeful gleam faded away from Annie's eyes as the dragon suddenly turned its flight upward, causing the arrow to miss. Quickly, she drew her head back to the Hero's position but distance kept her from expressing her anguish. In her dream this Hero, a Champion, had fired only one arrow.
The dragon now turned it's flight downward towards the village. The Hero had vanished. His mission, though failed, was complete. The morbid dread of her fellow villagers now infiltrated Annie's soul. The gruesome beast's descent was preceded by a morbid screech and a wall of molten fire. As Annie, still standing alone, felt the first pains of blistering heat on her silken skin, all hope was indeed lost.
My most recent post and part 1 of the preceding short story, The Sign, was something I was thinking about while laying in bed early last Tuesday morning. In my head I was developing a tale to symbolize the real life struggle that my father was experiencing. One week prior to that Tuesday morning he had been admitted to the hospital after an early morning fall.
On that Tuesday of his fall, my phone rang shortly before 7 am. It was my mother informing me she needed help right away. Mitchell was there at my house and we both dressed quickly, got in the car and rushed down the street to my parents' home. What I saw that morning sent me into hysterics.
My Daddy was laying on the ground face down, but he was still breathing. Mama hadn't done it yet, so I called 911 and within a couple of minutes the first responders, then the rescue squad showed up. I couldn't stop crying, or shaking, but I was relieved that help had arrived and Daddy was going to the hospital. Hope was not lost.
Over the next few hours he was able to regain consciousness enough to prove he could move all of his limbs, speak some and he even recognized me. We feared that he'd had a stroke that precipitated the fall, but tests could not confirm such an event. Later that Tuesday afternoon they moved Daddy out of emergency Intensive Care and into a regular hospital room.
Over the course of the next week we had one scare when Daddy's vital signs deteriorated but soon he had stabilized and he was moved back into his regular room. For the next few days he slept most of the time and was very, very weak but he did wake up from time to time and communicate with us. He was in bad shape from whatever neurological event had occurred, and physically beat up from the fall, but he seemed to be slowly getting better.
The following Monday, after 6 days in the hospital, he seemed to take a slight turn for the worse and we became concerned. I held his had for a long while, talking with him, but I could not hold back the tears. I hated seeing him in such a state, and we didn't know how well he would recover, but we were making plans to have more help available when he came home.
Mitchell had gone back to work for a few days after Daddy's fall, but he was back with me that Tuesday morning last week. As I lay in bed thinking of an epic story to describe my feelings on my father's struggle (my way of dealing with it), the phone rang again.
Almost exactly one week to the minute of the time she called alerting me to his fall, Mama was calling me to tell me to come to he hospital as soon as I could. They didn't think Daddy was going to live much longer.
Mitchel and I threw on our clothes, got in the car and rushed to the hospital. I was crying and shaking the whole way. Although all week I had been hopeful, I didn't have a good feeling that morning. When we got to the room Mama was standing there and told me he was gone. A massive chunk of earth fell away below my feet as I stood there, but I managed to leap over the chasm to his bed to hug him for awhile.
There was no way for my story to have a happy ending, no matter how much I wanted it to turn around. As I stood there in that room, with others around me, I was alone as I felt the burning pain move down my spine and into my soul. All hope was indeed lost.