Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | September 25, 2009

Red, Green, and White

Mt. Glastenbury, VT. September 17, 2009.

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A voice in the early-morning forest startles them awake. They are three, curled together tightly as moss, now separating with a hiss and crackle. Mouths open, tongues out, they taste the air.

Mist.

A dragon’s tongue can sense little when the air is full of damp. Red, the biggest of the three, steps out onto dew-dampened pine needles. He spreads his spider-web-thin wings and hisses back at the voice.

It is calling again, an insistent, jarring sound. “Damned fog! Can’t see two steps in front of me! Is this even the path?”

Tree shadows like bars in a jail cell cross the forest floor. Green and White step apart from their brother, tails still twined together. They duck beneath a mushroom, willing to hide and wait for the beast to pass by.

Red is not so patient. This forest belongs to the three, not to some bumbling monster with a voice like a crazed crow. Their eggs laid beneath the moss and leaves for a thousand years, waiting for exactly the right combination of sun, rain, and wistful longing to burst open.

Now Red is here, two days old and ready to defend his forest to the death.

“This can’t be the path. Shoulda turned back at that boulder… now let’s just look at the map a moment.”

The beast is close–Green and White can feel its heat wavering through the mist, and they shrink closer to the ground.

Come out and fight, Red hisses, and a tongue of flame leaks from his nostrils.

Green steps out first, flicking her tongue and holding her spiked tail high. She may be only mushroom-tall, but her tail drips with poison.

White stays back in the shadows, gathering his mind into himself. He has no fire or poison, but he will face the beast all the same.

“A clearing! Perfect spot to have a sit down.” The beast lurches into view–two legged and towering up toward the tree-tops, flaps of colorful skin flying in every direction as one foot comes crashing down towards Red.

Fire bursts from the baby dragon’s mouth, but the hard, chunky foot doesn’t seem to feel it.

The beast sets down a thing the size of a boulder, squashing White’s mushroom. Green attacks the tough-hided intruder with a vengeance, stabbing her tail at the bulges and soft spots. But the beast simply removes a clear case from the thing and drinks.

White strikes silently. He slipped out from beneath the mushroom at the last second, and now he sits just behind the beast’s tall, sloping back.

One second the beast is muttering to itself in those strange, crow-sounds, the next… it is asleep.

Now, we carry it away, White hisses.

The three huddle beneath, stronger than a horde of ants, and lift the sleeping hiker.

Away, away, we go, they sing as they shuffle across the forest floor to bury the beast up to its neck in leaves and moss.

It will be a strange awakening, buried alone in the forest without his backpack. But stranger still will be the dream of three tiny creatures, red, green, and white, drinking his water and roasting the last of his granola bars on flames shooting out of their nostrils.

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