“Dragons don’t even exist!” Said my brother with a sneer, looking at my list for Hantu Claws over my shoulder. He’d turned mean ever since he entered high school.
“Mind your own business!” I retorted, elbowing him away from the desk where I’d been drawing a black Dragon sliding into the sky with wings of starlight.
“Kids? It’s time to go to your grandparents’!” Mom called.
I swiftly folded my drawing and slid it into an envelope I tucked in my jacket.
“Can we stop to post a letter, Mom?” I asked.
“When we come back tomorrow sweetie.”
“But Mom! That’ll never do, tonight is Christmas’ Eve!” I replied, alarmed.
“She wants to send a list to Hantu…” My brother said with a mocking lilt.
“Shut up! You’re a Dodo!” I cried out while he laughed silently.
“Enough! I don’t want to hear another dispute until we get back home!”
I crossed my arms, already planning to make my brother dust his dessert with salt instead of sugar.
My mood lifted when I saw my grandfather waiting for us on his chair by the fire. My brother walked past me and hugged him first. I let him. I would have my revenge later. Besides, I wanted my grandfather all by myself. It was our ritual.
“Dragonheart, come over here and give me a kiss.” My grandfather said softly.
I scurried onto his lap and hugged him tight, then touched his face. He still had those dimples I knew so well, and his deep grey eyes were smiling.
“How are you hatchling? What did you ask Hantu Claws to bring you this year?”
“A Dragon. But I haven’t posted my letter yet. It’s probably too late now, it’ll never arrive on time to deliver it tomorrow!” I said with a deep sigh.
“Do not fear sweetheart, it always arrives on time. I have to go out soon to bring back something for your grandmother, I’ll post it for you then, if you like.”
I squeaked in delight and kissed him again. “Thank you grandfather!”
“What kind of dragon is it this time? A Fire Dragon? A Russet Demon? A Sparking Wyvern?”
“I don’t have a name yet… I’ll show you!” I fished the letter in my garment and opened it. My grandfather studied my drawing with the same focus as his newspaper.
“This is really pretty. You’ve improve your skills! It looks like the stars are mirrored on its wings.”
I giggled happily. “I made it that way, it can cloak and fly past you in the night, woosh! And they’re gone. That’s why no one ever see them…”
“Woosh! Indeed! You are so smart little cub.” He ruffled my hair and lifted me from his lap. “Alright! I’m going now. Can I take your letter?”
I handed him the envelope and watched him carefully seal it. Then after a little pat on my head he went outside.
He came back while I was helping to set the table. Our eyes met and he winked at me conspiratorially.
We dined and I managed to conceal my prank under the mask of innocence when my brother choked on his whipped cream and strawberries.
I left my parents talking with my grandmother and played with the cat using the fringe of the carpet in front of the fire. My grandfather sat in his chair and called me over.
“I have something really special for you.” He said, beaconing.
I leaned over his arm and asked, “What is it?”
“A Dragon egg.”
My jaws dropped and I repeated to make sure I heard him right, “A Dragon egg?!?”.
“Yes. My own father gave it to me for Christmas when I was around your age. He told me that if I believed in Dragons with all my heart it would hatch for me.”
I frowned at his words. “But if you still have this egg… It means you didn’t believe it hard enough…”
His eyes smiled sadly. “Sometimes the world can get in the way of your dearest beliefs and makes you grow up too fast… But you darling have the strongest heart I know. If it must hatch for someone, it will be you.”
He handed me a brown leather bag tied up with strings. I fumbled a bit with the knots and opened it.
Inside lay a huge, perfectly smooth cream-coloured egg. The sight was breathtaking.
“It’s beautiful, grandfather. Are you sure I can have it?”
“Absolutely sure. It is yours to keep.”
I ran a timid finger on its surface.
“It’s cold! I better sit a bit closer to the fire if I want it to hatch!”
My brother came when I was settling myself cross-legged next to the fire, hot cocoa in my hands and the egg in my lap. He leaned over my shoulder and asked, “What is this?”
“A Dragon egg! Grandfather gave it to me.”
He studied the egg and I saw a light of recognition in his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something but a large hand landed on his shoulder. He turned around to face my grandfather staring at him and shaking his head slowly, his expression stern.
My brother couldn’t maintain the eye contact and looked away. “It’s a pretty egg”, he only said to me a little bit softer than usual. When I turned my head he’d already walked away but I glimpsed my grandfather’s face shining with pride and satisfaction.
A few hours later I was lying in bed with the egg wrapped in blankets on the nightstand. My parents came to kiss me goodnight and my mom left a small light next to the door in case I woke up during the night - I was afraid of the dark.
I closed my eyes and let the familiar quiet of the room fill my mind. The wooden scent of the large wardrobe, the soft rattling noise of the hazel tree next to the house, the wind down the chimney and the subtle crackling sounds that happen sometimes in very old houses. None of these things frightened me. It made the house feel alive and it was looking after me.
A louder crackling sound made me jump and I opened my eyes. A silver light was coming from my left, but not from the door…
It came from the egg.
I took it on the bed and didn’t need any light to notice the long shining jagged line on the shell. It cracked further and moved so hard I set it on the bed. The light coming from it grew brighter and brighter and I looked away to protect my eyes.
I heard a great CRACK followed by a soft thud and turned to see what happened. I started.
A small Dragon was sitting in the middle of a nest of blankets, its coat pearly white and wings the shade of sunset. It noticed my gaze and came towards me, smelling me while its forelegs kneaded the blankets. It was the size of a cat… No, a dog… A sheep… Actually the Dragon kept getting bigger until it was the size of a small pony.
“Small child, I have heard you call me from the bottom of your heart and I broke my shell to meet you. Come, get on my back, we have so many things to see!” The Dragon’s voice was soft and feminine, she spoke directly to my mind.
Before I realized it I was sitting astride her in front of the open window. I leaned over her neck as she jumped out and up, spreading those plum-coloured wings wide.
Despite my light clothes I didn’t feel the bitter cold of the night. We soared over the quiet houses, spying on sleeping children in their beds.
From time to time we encountered another Dragon with a child on its back. A boy around my age waved at me, smiling. I waved back.
We flew over parks and roads and cities which never sleep and I wondered what would happen if someone saw me flying on a Dragon.
“Fear not, child of heart, no one can see us but those who believe. Grown-ups can’t, their heads are too full of assumptions and worries to notice our passage.”
“Then I will never become a grown-up!” I said ardently.
She growled a laugh that rumbled through my bones. “You will grow up hatchling, that can’t be helped… But maybe, just maybe… You might still be able to see me if you keep the child you are alive in your heart.”
“What’s your name, Dragon?” I asked her.
She turned her head towards me and said, “You already know my name, child of heart. You’ve always known.”
And it was true. I whispered it for her and she soared over the clouds, until there was only us, a sea of clouds below us and a sea of stars above us with the Moon suspended between them.
“What do you want to do, young cub?” She huffed.
I couldn’t be certain in the moonlight, but it seemed to me she looked a shade darker than before.
“Can we go to a place where it never rains?” I asked, and she flew to the desert and showed me that despite the lack of precipitation it was teeming with life.
“Can we go to a place where it’s never cold?” And she brought me to the equatorial rainforests and their treasures.
“Can we go to a place where we can see the whole world at a glance?” And she flew me to the Moon and rested on its crescent.
“Can we go to a place where everyone is happy?” I asked again, certain she could go anywhere I wanted.
At my surprise she slowly shook her dark head. “That I can’t do, because that place is out of reach even for me.”
“Alright then. Can we go back to Earth?”
She nodded and dove from the Moon into the soft blanket of clouds. Stars were rippling on her skin and wings like liquid starlight and I remembered her.
“You’re the Dragon I asked Hantu to bring me! The one I drew this morning!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, and I am glad you recognized me, because my time with you is running out…”
“What are you talking about?! Are you going to leave me?” I asked her frantically.
“No my child, I will never leave you as long as you remember me, but we can only meet so clearly on Christmas Day. Don’t forget me, child of my heart, and we’ll eventually meet again.”
I hugged her tightly, refusing to let her go even when we landed in the room we left what seemed like eternities ago. She didn’t rush me and lay down on the ground, purring softly.
After a few minutes I released my grip and slid off her back, feeling calmer and more confident than before. I climbed into bed.
“Where are you going? Will we really meet again next year?” I said, softly stroking her head.
“I’ll go anywhere you go. I’ll be in every raindrop you feel on your face, every ray of sunlight on your path… No matter where you go I’ll be your shadow… and when it is time for you to go to that place of neverending bliss, I will follow you there too.”
She leaned over me and gave me a warm and ticklish dragon kiss and I fell into oblivion.
I woke up to the sounds of the house slowly waking up, almost crushed under the weight of my grandparents’ massive cat.
I instinctively looked for my Dragon’s broken eggshell but it was nowhere to be seen. I turned my head and saw it intact on the nightstand.
At first I was disappointed as I realized all of what happened had only been a dream, but then I noticed the darker crack in the eggshell, exactly where it had started to break and I wondered if reality was always what it seemed to be.
I pushed the blankets away and rushed downstairs where my parents and grandparents were surprised to see me up so early.
“Hey! Excited to open your Christmas presents, Dragonheart?” Said my grandfather.
“Later! I have something incredible to tell you…”
And so I told him about my dream and we were so focused that we ate breakfast in the living room, my grandmother bringing us cakes and cookies and milk, punctuating my story with ooohs and aaahs.
“What an adventure you had this night, sweetheart! Your egg did hatch into a beautiful Dragon!” My grandfather marvelled.
“Thanks to you grandfather! You gave me the egg and posted my letter!”
“That’s right! We made it happen together!” He laughed happily.
When my brother came downstairs he wondered why I hadn’t opened any of my gifts yet and I decided that I’d tell him my story later too… If he didn’t behave like a jerk!
We opened our presents and he received a new phone while I got a new tablet.
I was examining the watercolour set I had just unwrapped when he sat beside me.
“Look! There’s a mobile game I’m sure you’ll love! It’s called War Dragons! There are dozens of Dragons available!”
I couldn’t help but look at the small screen my brother held between us and indeed I saw amazing Dragons flying around and it got me really interested.
I made him promise to help me set up my tablet and install this game.
Then I prepared pencils, brushes, water and paper and began to sketch the Dragon of my dream when it hatched, the Dragon which was still shining brightly in my heart.