Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dragon Hearted {a fairytale}

Written: 2/23/14

Author’s Note: Inspired by a post that came to my attention two months ago about fairytales where children lived in towers - about the desire for a story that addresses how life was for that child in the tower, and whether or not she really wanted to be rescued in the first place. There is no specified character. She is you. She is me. She is every girl, young and grown, trapped and free.
This is my tower. I live here. It is big and tall. I can see far away. The sky and the grass. I don’t go out because I’m safe inside. Because I don’t know the language they speak out there. In that world. Which is so very different from my world.
I have my very own dragon. She is red and purple. She breathes fire to keep me warm, and to cook my food, and to scare away monsters that come too close. I think I must be part dragon, too.
I feel dragonish inside.
Big and strong. Just like the dragon, who protects me. But when I see my face in the glass, it does not look like the dragon’s. It looks like I am different. Like we don’t match.
I feel naked without scales. Without wings. I breathe very hard, but my fire does not come. Not even any smoke. I am a creature with long hair. With skin unprotected. When I squint, my eye does not slit dangerously.
There must be something wrong with me.
But my dragon comes to me, with fruit, from the trees, squished and broken in her claws. Meat from Somewhere Else that she cooked with her fire-breath, so gently. She sets it down and pushes it toward me. She waits so patiently while I eat.
She tells me in low tones that I am enough. I am me. She is here.
She covers me with her wing and I fall asleep to her dragon sounds. To the sound of her heartbeat, which sounds like mine. She tells me, without words, that I am dragon inside my heart. Where it counts the very most.
When it is light and I wake up, I am alone. I am not afraid. Not right away. Because the air around me feels calm. After time passes, though, I realize something: It is too quiet.
I trust my dragon to take care of me, but the sounds I hear are strange and different. Hooves and clanging. Raised voices in a language I do not speak.
When a heavy thing flies through my window, I shriek. It’s not my dragon. It’s not birds or insects. It’s not lizards. It’s not alive at all. But it must be. It came through my window, and now it’s stuck in the stones.
I hear voices coming closer and closer.
I breathe deep and hold it inside, remembering when my dragon brought me a cake, like she did sometimes. With some little fires glowing. She showed me how to blow gently. Her heart told my heart to hope for something. That the hope would come true, only if I didn’t tell anyone. I remember breathing deep then. Trying so hard to add my fire to the little fires, but they went out instead.
I never told my dragon, but I wished for claws and wings. I wished to be like her.
I believe her that I am enough as I am, but without her, I am unprotected. The strange sounds are coming even closer.
Then, there is a monster climbing in my window. He is covered in mirrors so dirty I cannot see my own face in them. He reaches for me, and the dragon inside me grows.
I haven’t grown claws yet. Or wings. But my dragon told me it would happen. Maybe I have to wait longer. Even without them, I pretend I do. I claw him. I roar in the biggest voice I have. I breathe very heavy, blowing only air and spit, but hoping….so much hoping…for fire.
I don’t get fire.
I get taken.
The monster grabs me and takes me out the window. Down, down, down to the ground below and I fight. I shriek. I lift my feet off the grass which doesn’t feel green, it feels dangerous. Like the world.
I am in the world.
I am not safe.
Where is my dragon?
I am taken far away. Into a place where the sky is not blue and there is no grass. Everything is too loud. Everybody is a monster, so I fight them.
It’s a long time, before I learn the truth.
The truth that I am not a dragon at all. I am a monster like the monsters who took me.
We match.
My dragon and I? We never did.
I learn how to be a monster, because I have no choice, but I keep my dragon heart a secret. Just for me. Wherever my dragon is, she would be proud of me. I know she would.
Years pass. They call me a princess and give me a crown. The monster who took me, covered in dirty mirrors? They tell me he is my knight in shining armor. He is my prince. I am supposed to love him. To be grateful to him for saving me.
But I am not. The dragon in my heart breathes fire rebelliously. Because I miss my home. I miss my tower. I miss my dragon with every part of myself. Because he did not save me.
The monsters are called humans, and I have learned their language. But there are some words whose meanings escape me. My ears perk up at the mention of dragons, but I don’t understand the rest.
I sit quietly as I have been taught. When there is a silence, I raise my head. I resist the urge to rumble softly from my throat. To cock my head and squint my eye to indicate my curiosity. Instead, I fit my tongue and teeth around the words that still feel foreign:
"Slay?" I ask, because it’s the human way to inquire. Because they don’t understand dragon.
"Yes, my dear," the prince says and he smiles proudly. "To slay is to kill with violence. How else do you think I rescued you from the clutches of that vile beast?"
I string the words together carefully:
Kill. Dragon.
He killed my dragon?
He took me from the only home I have ever known, but only after he killed the very best dragon. The dragon who fed me, who kept me warm, who protected me, who loved me.
Tears fill my eyes, but I don’t cry. Princesses might, but dragons don’t. I am sure of it. I never saw my dragon cry.
Instead, I open my mouth, and I roar. I imagine fire coming from my mouth. Smoke from my nostrils. None comes. But nothing matters.
Because I am a dragon my heart.
That is all that matters.
Against my will, I grow. I am no longer a child in my tower. Nor am I the adolescent who had her entire world ripped apart by a revelation so insidious that it threatened to destroy.
I am a woman.
I married the prince. Because as hard as I fought, I found that my human voice will never carry as much weight with the humans, as my dragon heart did with the one who cared for me. Who raised me.
I spend my life pretending. Wearing clothing that feels restrictive and hot. A crown that feels too heavy on my head.
When we visit far off cities, so the prince can do the things princes do, little dragons flock to me, disguised as little girls. We sneak away to quiet places. I teach them everything I know about being dragonish. About protecting those smaller than you. About accepting others even when they do not look like you. About true strength. About caring. About love. I tell them that a fire lies within them. That the wings of their dreams will carry them anywhere they like. I tell them that while they are not armed with claws and scales, they have something greater:
They rumble softly, and tilt their heads in question, the way I have taught them.
"You have a voice," I tell them. "It’s here," I point to my throat. "And here," to my hands. "And here," to my feet. "It exists whenever you exert power over your own life, so that even if monsters arrive to take you away from everything, you can make the choice to fight back. Even if your monsters are bigger and stronger, it does not matter. You may have to let them take you. But, you never have to go quietly. Never stop fighting for the life you want."
All around me, the little girls’ eyes shine with wonder.
So I lean in, whispering the secret it has taken me a lifetime to learn:
"Be the dragon you were born to be."

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