The dragon ripped through the clouds, lightning trailing in its wake. It screamed once, its voice
thunder – sorrow and pain – as it floated, weightless, above the heavens. And then it fell. It
plunged through the sky like a meteor, falling backwards down to the mountains below. From its
side, a spear – black as the starless night, gold as the as the setting sun. And blood. Enough
blood to drown the earth, to wash away past and present and stain the future. It turned as it fell,
as if to look at something, at someone, but there were no eyes – it had no eyes. It opened its
mouth, but there was no sound – it had no voice.
And then it crashed.
The bus skirted around another mountain bend, knocking Tao’s head against the glass of the window. He awoke with a splitting headache. It was the same dream over and over. Every week, every night, every time he closed his eyes. There, always just right behind his eyelids. And it was only getting worse.
Two week ago, he was a perfectly happy street performer in Beijing. He didn’t make much money, and what he made he always spent, but he was comfortable. As comfortable as former child of the state could be without an education, training, or employment. Yes, perfectly comfortable. And now…
Tao looked out the window. Just as they did in his dreams, the Wuling Mountains stretched on for miles upon miles, days upon days. The closest Tao had ever gotten to nature before was through a television screen. It was bad enough that he dreamed of the Wuling Mountains ever night – mountains he didn’t even know existed two weeks ago. It was worse that mountains themselves were a haunting series of stone spires and spikes covered in a never-ending mist.
What was he doing, he wondered? Chasing a dying a dragon through the mountains? People his age – smarter people, more put together people – went to college, fell in love, got married, and started work. Here he was traipsing through the middle of nowhere, all so he could finally sleep again at night.
Tao closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could still see the dragon dancing behind his eyelids. Just as he exhaled, lightning struck in front of the bus, blinding bright and roaring loud. Tao launched forward as the bus came to a screeching halt, his head colliding with seat in front of him. Nature was better on a television screen, Tao thought as he cradled his head.
But it was better not to second guess things. Twenty hours on three trains, and sixteen hours on two busses. Tao had gotten this far on instinct, and he know a sign when he saw one. Tao grabbed his bag, stood up, and approached the front of the bus. He had two water bottles, and enough food to last three more days.
The question now was how long would he be walking for?
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