A teen with a dragon tattoo goes hunting on a motorbike. Finally got a review. Took years.
|Kenji squeezes the brakes and slowly rumbles to a stop. He leaves the engine in neutral for he enjoys listening to the catlike gurgling as it spins free from constraining gears. Striding the saddle, he looks through the iron gate and past the neglected garden to the silent empty house. There his grandfather died and there he met and acquired the dragon. He recalls the words of the dragon, “Truth is a master of disguise.” The dragon spoke about the veils of existence: clear and invisible, placed one upon the other, but hiding what treasure? His train of thought goes no further, for the rails of reason sink in the bog of inexperience. Out of nowhere, a thread of loneliness entwines his heart. Waving farewell, he rides away.
The boy leaves the city. Hours later, he rides into the mountains crowned in clouds. Boom! Like desert sand his mind drinks from the storm of dopamine drenching every parched nerve. The topography of space and time is altered. The dragon has returned.
The speedometer counts in a blur. Lowering his chest and hugging the gas tank with his thighs, he leans into curves. He changes the pitch of the singing wind. Riding on the black spine of the serpentine road towards the peak, the bike roars into the clouds, as their wispy treads, flowing around and behind, encase him. The road dips and rises. Gulping gasoline, the bike jumps into the air like a fish on a line trying to escape from the sea of gravity.
Higher and higher the road twists, until he breaks through the clouds into the black, star decked night. Finally, he reaches the car park at the leveled peak and approaches an abandoned museum, its faded and chipped facade framing six leaning bikes and their riders squatting on the curb, smoking and watching.
Kenji sees a bank of vending machines. Riding up the curb, he stops and gets off the bike. He steps forward while digging a coin out of his pocket. Inserting the coin, he enjoys the clink of it sliding down the hungry throat of the machine, the rumble of the can rolling down its gut, and the thunk of it dropping out. Behind him, the six bikers stand and saunter forward. He picks up the small can of ice cold coffee. Popping it open, he turns and watches them scowl as he tips the can to empty the contents down his throat. He wipes his mouth with his free hand, flips the can over his shoulder at the waste basket, and grins at the hollow clang and clatter of empty cans bouncing off each other.
Not expecting such nonchalance, the leader stops. As the others fan out on either side, he squares his shoulders and tilts his head. Narrowing his eyes, he speaks roughly, pausing for effect, “Boy, you in big trouble. Anybody, come here, need to be invited. I don’t remember inviting any flea on a dog’s ass.”
Stepping forward, Kenji takes off his leather jacket and, dropping it onto the pavement, takes a wide stance to face the others. Next, he easily pulls his loose fitting T-shirt off his skinny frame and shrunken chest, drawing guffaws from the older bikers.
The leader puts his thumbs into his pants pockets, a motion the others know precedes a threat; instantly, there is silence. “You a refugee from Bosnia?” Hyena laughter is cut short, for sulfuric fog frames the boy. It rises and swirls. Instead of dissipating, it congeals. The gang slowly backs off as the form of a dragon takes shape above the boy. The dragon solidifies. Ruby eyes gleam in hypnotic joy as salivary lips reveal dagger teeth. Its emerald scales, sparking from an inner light, cast an impossibly long shadow of the boy across the hill top.
The boy murmurs just loud enough for them to hear, “You won’t worry about fleas where you’re going.”
The gang’s leader stares into the dragon’s ruby eyes, one oozes out of its socket and expands, looming over him. The whine of engines and squeal of tires from his fleeing gang thunder into his ears as he stands transfixed until the thin inky pupil engulfs him.
Inside, he’s three years older and about to murder a family he hadn’t yet met: a man, his wife, his boy, and his girl. For money and memories. The money will give him little pleasure; it’s memories he wants. But, the memories will die unborn, and death transferred in time.
A forked tongue touches his chest and pushes aside flesh and muscle. The tip lunges, it grasps and clutches something inside in a squeezing embrace. A bloody ball is withdrawn and flipped into the air. A scaly hand grabs it.
The dragon grins and displays a fiery orb of sparkling green and blue. “Kenji, look at his soul. Tortured, isn’t it?”
The boy leans his body and cocks his head to inspect the glowing gem. “It’s not as good as the ones we’ve got on my back. Adding it will lessen the total effect.”
A frown creases the scaly face of the dragon. “After all that! You don’t want it?”
Annoyed, the boy shrugs, picks up his shirt and jacket, and steps toward his bike. He stops, puts on his jacket, and says, “Do whatever you want with it.”
The dragon pauses to think. Deciding that a thing is worthless if not desired, he tosses it over his shoulder. He puffs out a smoke ring as he hears the clang of empty cans in a waste basket. “Three quarks for Mister Dragon!”
Kenji claps. “You mean points.”
“Quarks? What are you talking about?”
“Never mind. I’ll explain later.”
Striding his bike, Kenji urges the dragon, “Come on. Let’s go after the others.”
The dragon shrinks, and hovers over the boy to rejoin the tattoo on his back. “They took the road on the right.”
The boy looks at the entrance of the car park. “Hey! There’s only one road now. What happened to the one we came here on?”
As the dragon begins to blur, he says, “Circumstance often chooses the way.”
The accelerator is twisted. The engine roars, gears are quickly shifted, and the bike tilts right as Kenji races down the hill in pursuit
In the car park the wind erodes to nothing the man with vacant eyes, and flings his clothes over the edge.