Today’s short story is another I wrote a while ago to some long-lost prompt (I think; either that, or it just stumbled out of my subconscious. I’m not sure at this point.) Although it’s long enough that it falls outside of my flash fiction limit of 500 words, it’s over by less than a hundred words. So I’m not entirely sure if I should call it flash fiction, or just a short story.
At any rate, it has a dash of magic and danger, although perhaps not what you expect…
The Dragon’s Volcano
The volcano’s been extinct for years, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t cautious when climbing around the mouth. Deep within its belly slumbers a dragon, and every now and then the dragon will snore causing the ground to shake and gems and gold from his vast store of wealth to tumble up into the sky and fall down somewhere near the mouth of the volcano.
Taking a bit of dragon gold isn’t really stealing, because it was stolen from someone else already. But you have to be careful. It is the ultimate test of bravery, because one wrong move, and you will be plunging down into the volcano and wake the dragon, who will then roast you with his fire. I shudder at the thought, and keep firm grips with my hands as I move my feet up a bit.
Ahead I can see a bit of shimmering gold on the ground, not the biggest nugget I’ve ever seen, but large enough to fill the palm of my hand. The ground shakes with another snore, and the gold dances across the stone, headed for the rim of the mouth again.
I spring forward and snatch at the gold, feeling it brush my fingertips just before it tumbles back into the volcano. With bated breath, I wait for the dragon to stir, but a little bit of gold wasn’t enough to wake it and I move along the mouth again, keeping crouched low, ready to fall to the ground and cling for my life if it starts moving again.
Other children are climbing the rocks around me. We’re all looking for the same thing, a bit of gold, a sparkling gem. The latter is harder to find, because they tend to gather up dust and dirt and look like the rest of the stone around here. But once in a while someone will cheer, and raise such an object up with joy. Then they will dash down to their parents’ house and bestow their mother and father with the gift. In return, they get a special meal, and don’t have to go climbing again for a week.
I usually go climbing every day, whether or not I find something. There is something wonderful, something chilling, about being so close to a slumbering beast whose smallest treasures are so great to the humans cautiously living near its nest.
Most people laugh at me and say I’m being ridiculous for wanting to meet the dragon but I take a lot more risks than they do, venture more closely to the volcano’s mouth. Just once I would like to see that dragon, in all his glory, flying through the sky with shimmering scales. But I know that our village will be destroyed should that ever happen, and so I simply dream, and try not to wake the slumbering beast as I gather bits of treasure from the mouth of its home.
Sometimes, I think I can hear words down below, the dragon mumbling in its sleep in a language that no one human can remember. Sometimes, I imagine I can understand what he is saying.