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The purple and amber dragon was in a rut. He started every day with the same breakfast of brown nettles. He swept out his cave, setting bugs aside for snack time, then walked out along the cliff’s edge. He stopped to perform wing stretches to prevent his fins from adhering – a malady suffered by sedentary dragons. Every day he trudged up the steep rocky steps to an ice patch where he blew short bursts of fiery breath, melting a tiny river down to the natural basin formed by the stony landscape below. Occasionally he spied other dragons, young and flying high, giddy with the novelty of the mountain air and the adventure of the hunt. He had no truck with them. Flying only served to remind him how small his world was, and he had lost his taste for meat.
But one day, he returned home to see poking through a crack in the basin something he had never seen, a light green shoot. The color was different from the range of browns and reds he knew. Perhaps it was a trick of the imagination? He considered eating it. How different it would be from the scrub brush and nettles that stuck in his teeth and pierced his tongue and cheeks. But as he looked upon the little plant, he felt such tenderness for it he had to grit his teeth. He could not harm this little beauty. Instead, he found some stones and created a shelter for it.
For days, he awoke with vigor, eager to check each stage of the plant’s growth. When a tiny bloom appeared he nearly set it on fire in his exclamation of excitement. This bloom became over time an exquisite lily, a white so bright he could see it in the moonlight when he peeked at it from his cave at night. He was loathe to leave it for his daily work, but knew they needed water to survive.
One day, the dragon arrived to see an astonishing transformation. A delicate face was pressing out of the lily. He blew gently, and the flower face bobbed in the tropical breeze he made. She slowly opened her eyes and he felt his heart squeeze as he recognized the color of the spring shoot. The rest of her body materialized top to bottom until she was no longer rooted to the stone. Her hair and skin retained the white luminescence of the lily petals.
She opened her mouth and emitted a wordless tune that knocked him to the ground in adoration. She laid her hand on his bowed head, then slid onto his back and urged him with her heels to take flight.
Together they soared off the cliff face, eyes closed in the brilliance of the sun. He swooped low, then ascended at exhilarating speed up and over the mountain, all the while she sang and he wept tears of ecstasy. They flew for hours, until he could no longer flap his wings. He brought her to her basin and she descended, kissing his neck tenderly before dropping to sleep in the stony pool. Some strands of her hair had fallen and he gathered them like a bouquet and went to sleep holding them.
The next morning he arose and dashed to see her, but alas, in spite of her human form she had the lifespan of a cut flower. Her lifeless form lay in the basin, covered in the cool water he had made for her.
Inspired by the image: Born on Mars, by Ciro Gallucio