The beginning as seen through the eyes of a dragon.
Silvery scales spread wide across his back as he rolled to his side, twitching and snorting and swatting at empty air above his snout. Smaller dragons circled his feet, whispering and snickering under the silent breeze drifting into the camp from the shoulders of Mysteria Mountain.
“He’s awful old,” one of the children whispered.
“Yeah. They say he’s seen the spark of time. You know, when the universe was born. At least, that’s what they say.”
“Aw, no one’s seen the beginning of time. Those are just silly stories told by stupid grownups who sit around dying fires in the middle of night with nothing else to talk about.”
Blustering bursts blew from the nostrils of the sleeping giant, and the crowd of youths went silent. He rolled again and as he did, his golden beard flittered in the air then settled the ground amid the lacy wild flowers coloring a lonely patch of grass nearby. His fangs glistened and his nostrils pearled with moisture as he slept. Whenever he sighed in his dream, his belly’s scales threw dust. Swollen bunions, cracked and crusted, padded the bottoms of each paw; ebony blades dripped from the tips of his toes. Another burst of breath exploded from his throat, and the huddled mob shrank into the shadows from the mountain quietly awaiting his arousal.
“I still say he don’t know nothing about no birth of time,” a timid voice exclaimed. “I’ll bet he’s just an old dragon without a flame.”
The air above the quivering band of children suddenly went ablaze with fiery thunder, then quelled into a cinder-filled puff of smoke. Stones of the great mountain shook. The children raised their eyes from under their arms while powdered gravel settled around their feet. “Who tramples on my benevolence this morning?”
Tawny stems sagging under the weight of burgeoning color, yet the wild flowers danced to the rhythm of a quiet breeze. Not a sound was heard. Not a movement was made. All life and its rhythm had been swallowed by the shadows in the dragon’s eyes, so his young annoyances remained obscure.
“My ears must be ringing again. And for them to wake me from a comfortable sleep, the ringing must be louder than before. Humph! However, they are old, so let them ring.”
Rippling muscles coiled the massive dragon back into a knot, and his eyes closed again.
“Master dragon?” A tiny voice broke through the silence and the darkness.
“What?” A snort of warm, humid air blew across the shadows stretching from the base of the cliff, and the old dragon strained to see something wiggle inside that cool, dark retreat. “Who is there?” He squinted. “I bid thee—show yourself or stand fast and ready for my attack!”
“Oh, please sir. Don’t attack. We’ve only come to seek your wisdom. To hear you speak and to search the depth of your vision.”
“We seek answers from your endless wisdom. After all, are you not the dragon who witnessed the moment of time’s beginning?”
“May we see?”
Minutes burned slowly as the wise old dragon scratched at the sandpaper scales under his long floppy ears, which overflowed with tufts of golden hair like ripened corn not yet shucked. Each breath he took was deep, its release long and exaggerated, and his stare never left the wiggles in the darkness under his nose. “You may; I think. If you dare.”
He raised himself to a crouch and watched as the shadows vomited his young questioners into the sun’s light. Clinging to one another, they approached with caution. When the noble dragon saw the diminutive stature of his inquisitors, he released a guffaw that rattled the cliffs above them.
“So you wish to see the beginning of time for yourselves, do you? These eyes of mine can hardly see what you are, yet they still tell me that you have only a brief acquaintance with Master Time. It may be that the lack of scars from his rampage is all that allows you your curiosity. So then, step up and gather ‘round. Let me show you those sights that I, Draulgon, alone have witnessed. Hold steady thy courage for there is no turning back—once you enter.”
Draulgon lowered his head and opened his eyes wide. The children crept past his stale breath bringing their faces close to his brow, then fell deep inside his gaze.
"But there once was a place—before this time—where no time existed. In that place, no mortal walked. As mortality in its essence is finite and this place was beyond those barriers, which we impose. It spread to the fringes of infinite imaginings. With reality floating and swirling in delicate bubbles rather than following a taut and narrow path. And these bubbles never ending, never burst, each an infinity unto itself. Only occasionally did they brush against each other and when they did, all was threatened, yet all survived."
The great dragon continued speaking, but only in their minds. “Now, you must understand this concept of time as we know it before truly seeing what I am about to present. So try thinking of it as a great ball of twine unraveling through our universe, straight into forever, meandering and unfolding, yet never relenting in its trek. Its travel disturbed only by the tugging of great bodies floating near its path; worlds and suns and galaxies holding at their center black, empty masses totally devoid of light. Those heavenly bodies pull and twist at time's journey until, eventually, it swallows itself. Before reaching that point—we find its end, and we dangle there on the end of the thread watching as events unfold. There, as we hang by sheer will, we witness the end of an eternity. We watch as it whimpers into the distance, being slowly swallowed by a blinding flash—then a twinkle. Instantly the new universe launches like a brilliant vessel into a vast, empty ocean."
Dangling on the end of that string in a thick and smothering darkness, the young dragons began to see a shifting take place and the growing terror in the forefront of their thoughts began to surrender to an ever-growing curiosity. Darkness began to fall away from the fringes of their vision, and a faint glow blossomed. Inside that burgeoning light, two tiny bubbles appeared. One of the bubbles was bright like a burning sun, not so strong as to blind them but bright enough to bleach the darkness from its own margins.
“Do you see her?” Draulgon asked.
“See who?” The young dragons answered in unison.
“The maiden Andreala. She stands there before you, in a garden of light.”
The tiny dragons strained to see through the bright light and into the world beyond.
“I see her,” one of youths whispered.
“She’s beautiful,” another sighed.
Andreala fondled the glowing blossoms of the garden with a respectful touch and a smile. Her blossoms answered by standing high, unfolding to their length and yawning into the morning under her gentle nudge. She greeted each one as individually as a mother assembling her brood for morning inspection before sending them off to play. Her attentiveness and affection mesmerized the young dragons as she spread it boundlessly before her, striding carefully through her garden.
The darker bubble interrupted their attention, cutting short the reach of light as it passed nearby. Buffeting the glow with a wall of black velvet, the darkness appeared deeper than any ever witnessed by the small innocents who watched. The emptiness of it sent cold chills through their souls.
A rustling came from the darkness inside the blackened sphere as it approached Andreala's garden. The young dragons shivered under the fetid breath of terror rushing over them. With determination, they turned their attention to the velvet blackness approaching the glowing light of Andreala's world. Time passed endlessly until their attention was forced once more on the shadowy movements inside the darkness. "I see something," the youngest dragon yelped.
The image they saw shot a pang of pity through their minds. Twisted and shadowy, it moved by means of a deliberate, dragging crawl like a mortally wounded animal searching for refuge. From inside his shrouded world, he watched the beautiful Andreala as she moved through her garden. The features on his face surfaced temporarily in a pulsing fashion from of the depths of that black realm. The shadows silhouetting his appearance, revealing a strange countenance strikingly at home in the cold and gloomy setting of his forbidding world. The youngsters recognized a hunger in what they saw, perhaps for the warmth that radiated from Andreala's world, or just as possibly for the beauty that shone from her smile. The little dragons stared on as the figure sat in silence and simply watched.
Andreala turned toward the wall of darkness with a puzzled expression, hesitantly stepping toward it. Her vision cleared at that moment, she froze, then took a small step back in reaction to a sense of that dark stare coming from the approaching shadowy sphere.
He stared at her from inside a realm of foreboding darkness. Shadows falling across his face revealed a tormented facade. A victim of torture beyond her innocent imagination, and at that moment, a surge of pity urged her to extend a hand. An overwhelming reaction took command of her thoughts until, abruptly she froze. In that moment, she touched the fringe of her own bubble. Recognition of boundaries to her existence sent a ripple of revelation into her mind. Confusion stirred, and her thoughts moved away from the dark figure beyond her world. She stared at her hand in confusion, her mind grappling with a question, but the subject gradually slipped away. In bewilderment, she turned back to the comfort of her garden.
The two realities had nearly touched, yet all was forgotten in the breadth of a vanishing thought. The youthful dragons watched Andreala reach for a heap of fallen peddles relinquished by a blossom she brushed on her journey through the garden. She looked back at the darkness and stood silent, in confusion, as she pondered the view.
"What just happened?" One of the young dragons questioned Draulgon. "They almost touched, didn't they?"
"Yes, they did, young dragon, but forces of the universe caused pause and created a moment for salvation." The majestic old dragon leaned toward the youths and met their stares with purpose. "If they touch, these two opposing natures, all will cease to exist." "All"—Draulgon paused for a breath, "—will cease to exist." His eyes burned with purpose as he spoke and their tiny stares cowered in reaction.
"Everything?" one of the little dragons queried.
"Everything." Draulgon simply said.
Another young dragon gasped. "She's reaching for him again, Draulgon! Stop her or we will all die!"
Andreala had returned to the fringes of her world and reaching toward the pitiful visage inside the darkness her face showed no fear, no revulsion. A smile crept into her eyes. "I see you inside your pity-filled world, young sir, and through your dark realm and into mine, I feel your pain. May I touch you? May I help you?" With that, Andreala stretched her arm again and, with her finger, pierced her existence in search of his.
The figure inside the darkness recoiled at first, then slowly, with trepidation, his hand moved in a stutter toward the light. A dark finger reached out penetrating the perimeter of his reality. Their fingers touched and, at the instance of their encounter, light exploded in every direction.
The light stole the young dragons' sight as they recoiled from its immensity and, with a sudden moment of discovery, their vision returned to where they found themselves below the shoulders of Mysteria Mountain.
Draulgon towered over them with a smile stretched across his snout.
"And now you know the end of the old universe. . ." he curled himself into a knot again, ". . .and the rebirth of our new one." Snoring sounds rose from the sleeping dragon and the little ones crept back into the shadows.