There Be Dragons

Because the subject of dragons has recently come up (yes, that is a normal thing to have happen if you are writer) I started thinking of my series, The Stream, which I promote not at all. I think the books are fun, and they have been well-liked, but they were my first books, and I’m certain were I to write them again, I’d edit quite a bit out. (You know, like, the fun bits.)

Anyway, this is my house, and I can be the noisy neighbor if I choose, so here are1,007 words from the 3rd book of The Stream, Emprise. People ask me if they should read Book 1 of the series first (believe it or not). And, believe it or not, I answer, “No.” I would read Emprise first. Then, if you like it, go back and read Discovery and then Awakening. Emprise is a bit more adult. Plus, it’s my favorite book, despite being unavailable in paper form.

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Chapter 13 – Hitchcock Would Be Proud

It took Charlie more than a week to convince Robin to talk to the moms about her summer of dreams. Her steadfast refusal wavered in the wake of their lack of progress in either contacting G’pa Joe or in discovering the source of the escapes from the Stream. Ultimately, though, it came down to the sudden, massive bird kill.

Immediately upon returning from school on 28 September, Charlie turned on the TV in time to see a reporter’s piece on six thousand dead starlings and crows in Tappahannock, Virginia. Scientists speculated the deaths were due to a freak autumn thunderstorm in the vicinity. Starlings roost at night in enormous numbers. The unexpected lightning had, according to the scientists, startled tens of thousands of the birds in the air at once. In a panic, amid the darkness, the birds crashed into trees, houses, and each other.

According to the reporter.

Charlie and Robin knew differently. The pudgy blond reporter held one weakened starling in his gloved hand, which died on live television. Charlie’s cell phone buzzed with the crying Robin immediately.

The reporter set the dead bird down gently on the ground, joining dozens of others in the shot. “Some of these tragic birds,” the reporter stated, walking toward a thick grove of trees, “show few visible signs of trauma. It’s as if it rained dead and dying birds. Most birds do show significant trauma, while others …” He paused, and bent down, the camera dramatically zooming in on a clearly scorched starling, “… show distinct burn marks. Lightning, perhaps? Some local residents don’t think so. Locals report finding hundreds of what they describe as partial bird carcasses, and even skeletons.”

The live feed cut away to a video clip of local hunter, named Lionel “Bubba” Hartley. Bubba was holding what appeared to be the right half of a turkey buzzard’s singed carcass. The bird was halved in a jagged line, as if torn, rather than cut. The insides were secure, as heat had fused the bird’s flesh shut.

“I had to tote this thang from out the backyard. Y’all see this?” he said, holding the bird by its single wing and talking directly into the camera, “This ain’t no starlin’, and that wasn’t no thunderstorm. This bird got hisself cooked by sumpthin’ maighty big.” When asked to speculate what he thought it was, Bubba shook his head, and said, “Ah cain’t say.” He grinned, showing all of his cigarette-stained teeth. “Ma’ boy, he’s six, though. Claims it was a whole flock of them dragons.” Bubba laughed, but he did not seem amused. Charlie, instead, saw the hollow laugh of a man who thought his son’s imagination was not at all overactive. “Them ‘officials’ ain’t telling y’all ever’thang,” Bubba said, eyes boring into the camera.

The report cut back to a live feed of the on-the-scene reporter. “There you go,” said the reporter, signing off. “Thunderstorms, dragons, or the coming of the Apocalypse? Local residents want answers.”

Over the phone, Robin said, “To vote ‘Apocalypse,’ text ‘DOOM’ to 1-900-WE-R-DEAD.”

The “thunder and lightning” bore the earmarks of an attack of a group of regulation dragons from the Stream. The beasts’ alternate streams of blistering heat and frigid air often caused sounds similar to thunder due to the superheated and rapidly cooling air. The supercooled air, lit by moonlight, could easily be mistaken for strokes of lightning. This was especially true given the dragons left telltale lines of scorched earth from thin streams of their exhaled fire. Dragons on the hunt routinely used the booming sound, along with their deafening screeches, to frighten and disorient prey. The scientists had been right about the enormous flock erupting into a panicked flight that lead to death in the thousands. They were wrong about the cause, however. It was not storms that frightened the birds, but a thundering rage of dragons on the hunt.

Many of the birds had been frozen in mid-air, falling to their death and thawing out on the ground. Those birds showed scant evidence that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Thousands more would have been snapped up in mid-flight by the dragons in the same way that hunting swallows catch insects on the wing. Robin and Charlie speculated that Bubba’s son had awakened at night to see the dragons in action.

“Yeah,” Charlie agreed. “And from his expression, I got the feeling ol’ Bubba saw them too, but didn’t want to admit it on TV.”

Robin added, “Did you notice how he said ‘flock of them dragons?’ It was like he had seen some before.”

“Well, he lives out in the sticks. That would be where they hang out if they are around.” Charlie did some quick calculations in his head. “If they found six thousand birds on the ground, can you imagine how many the dragons must have caught? Tens of thousands easily. A starling flock can be a hundred thousand birds.”

“Well, the farmers will be happy, at least. Starlings do a lot of damage. Between the dragons, and the vampire bunnies eating field mice, we could open an extermination business.” She sighed into the phone. “We need to get serious about finding G’pa Joe.”

“Yeah, because those cannot be normal dragons.” Charlie laughed, realizing his world had changed so much he believed there could be such a thing as normal dragons.

“Why?” Robin asked. She did not question the idea of normal dragons at all.

“Have you seen starlings fly? They have ridiculous spatial awareness. I read once each bird tracks seven other birds while flying full speed. No way they would ever crash into each other and die. And no way our huge Stream dragons could catch them. This is something new.”

“Sheesh,” Robin said. “I wonder if that’s why all the bats have been disappearing too.” Reluctantly, she finally agreed getting “serious about finding G’pa Joe” meant revealing her summer’s dreams. “If there is a whole rage of dragons out here somewhere, things are going to get ugly fast,” she admitted.

9 Comments

  1. amysomday says:

    This girl is still waiting for at least one copy of Awakening in paperback 😛 Just one!!
    And Mr. Jones… if you took parts out of the series I might just pop you upside the head! 🙂

    1. I might have a copy laying about. I’m not even sure. I don’t even talk about those books anymore. I’m not planning on taking parts out of the series; however, increasingly, I’m considering pulling all of my books.

      I’m tired of getting no energy back. It’s back enough that I can no longer write. I’m only on the internet because of my writing. Pulling the plug would be amazing.

  2. Ishaiya says:

    Inspiration comes in strange ways sometimes, seems the dragons have been busy of late dreaming up ways of making us all creative again. Building new bridges, bridges that can take to places where now the old and burning physical bridges were unable to take you. Bridges between time and space, to a realm of dreamlike quality where anything is possible in all its destructive magnificent beauty.

    1. I think you are right there. I wrote “Discovery” and “Awakening” as one book, in 3 months, after my marriage broke up. Until then, I’d never considered myself to have much of an imagination. I’d attempted writing fiction before, but it was horrible. I didn’t even dream, to my knowledge. But then I started this story, which was originally a remembrance of a dream I had as a boy.

      Then, I had a flash about dragons, and suddenly, the entire story unfolded. Now, although I still never dream of dragons, they are there, in the shadows, something of a secret muse. And I dream again, vividly, just like in my books. As a writer, I can make dreams come true simply by remembering them, and sharing.

      1. Ishaiya says:

        What a wonderful thought. I guess you’ve been dreaming about dragons vicariously through me instead. I know the ones in my dream are connected to you because you were in my dream of two nights before that. I never dream about dragons. In fact the last time was when I was very young, and as I said in previous posts, especially when I was ill.
        But I know what that’s like, I remember I went through a phase lasting several years after I had my first child where I was so numb to the world that I couldn’t remember what it was like to be so creative. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, I’d stopped singing and playing piano. It was as if I had stepped into an alternate self that didn’t have a creative bone in her body, and I found it very disconcerting because that wasn’t who I was. It took a long time before the creativity truly began to flow again. I became an obsessive gardener for the first few years, growing everything from seed, and using plants and flowers as my painting medium with my small garden as a canvas. Gradually sensation began to creep back into my numbed body. Now there’s no stopping it, and you wouldn’t believe what a relief it is. It feels like a return from the dead!
        I think it’s a wonderful thing that you can share your dreams. I think dream experiences always resound with others really well, perhaps because deep down we all share the symbolism.

        1. That is eerie. I stopped writing, photography, drawing, everything after my daughter was born. I suppose I thought I was supposed to be a grown-up. I never thought of it until just reading your comment, but I think I did what you did. My creativity leaked out into my landscaping my home. My ex-wife even went so far as to undo some of my changes after I left. (She paid for it, as a buyer lowered their offer price for the home considerably after she did that.)

          I suppose it shows that we cannot stop who we are, we can only bottle it up. But it’s dangerous to do so, like shaking a champagne bottle and hoping the cork stays put.

          1. Ishaiya says:

            This may or may not surprise you to know that this doesn’t surprise me at all. Although I am very intrigued that we should share such similarities. Like minded souls attract I guess.
            For me being in touch with nature on my own doorstep was all I could manage at that time. I’d never grown anything from seed before that, or I had tried and failed. I went through a period of being able to make anything grow, and I loved it. It renewed my sense of sanity and pride in my world I suppose, even if I had great disdain for the people in it at that time. I think it was also a time that I really began to face many of my more troubling life issues. A real roller-coaster, I changed a lot from then on. I woke up.
            But you are right, creativity should never be bottled up. I’m pleased you made your way out of that period of your life. Sometimes these things do take time, a long time. I honestly never thought I would come out the other side, never mind come out of it doing all the things I do now. Brushes with death tend to be fairly motivational too! 🙂

            1. Yes. I have a short story, “Mrs. Whats-Her-Name,” which is about a woman who’s lost her memory after a near-fatal accident. My favorite lines of the story, and what the story is about, really, are: “I cannot tell you how grateful I am to almost die. You see the wonderful thing about almost dying is that you dont actually die. You get to rise and do it all better the next time. And by God, I will.”

              On 9/28/13 12:06 PM, “This Blog Intentionally Blank”

            2. Ishaiya says:

              I like it. I shall take a look…

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