By: RJ Newlyn
Why did I ever come this way? I should have heeded the warning signs. If the site wasn’t so far from anywhere, I suppose they’d have set up road blocks.
“The last one of its kind,” the guidebook said. “A living legend.” Amongst the blackened remains of the visitor centre, it was immortalised in computer games and plastic toys. I miss that reassurance of a safer world.
I hadn’t realised quite how disorientating a forest could be and I should have turned back when the path petered out. But there was a clearing ahead and I was sure I saw something sliding off into the gloom. It was born in these woods and they say it can weave between the trees leaving hardly a trace behind. By the time I gave up the pursuit, I’d completely lost my bearings.
It’s almost too dark to write. I’m sure I can hear it not far away, its scales hissing over the leaves. A little earlier I glimpsed huge wings against the stars. Perhaps there’s more than one. The book says they hunt at dawn, so
(The note ends here. When they returned it to his widow, they cut off the charred edges)
There’s not much time left so I’ll be brief. The house is warm, the animals are safe, but I can hear it calling and will have to follow – there was a bargain, you see.
I never said much about that first voyage, did I? The captain was mad and the ship barely seaworthy. How we made it to the ice fields I’ll never know.
When the blizzard hit, I was up in the crow’s nest. It was no ordinary storm – the souls of the dead wailed on that wind and I knew the rest of the crew were already among them. All I could think of was you and the little ones.
Then I saw it there in the blinding light at the heart of that gale – the white worm that the natives speak of in those parts – wings the size of icebergs, eyes of blue flame. I hope that God will forgive me some day, but I prayed to it.
The years have been good to us, haven’t they? It will be a heavy snow but the grandchildren will dig you out in the morning. I’m sorry to leave but it kept its promise and I must keep mine.
I suppose my grandfather must have practised magic; I can’t explain his study any other way – huge books, stars on the floor, strange glass jars bubbling furiously. And there was the little creature that curled itself around one of his candles – no more than a thin lizard with delicate leather wings and a long snaking tail. On sun-drenched summer afternoons I would sit there while my grandfather slept and the creature told me stories. And such stories! When I try to remember them, all I retrieve are minds-eye views of forested valleys, high snows on mountain tops, and far blue horizons.
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