Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Builder-Dragons Of Planet Ishgilia

Planet Ishgilia was exactly 30,000,000 years old that day. Beasts gathered at the Anniversary Point in readiness for the festivities; mostly fire breathing dragons, ones with short memories, originally exported to Ishgilia in man-made mindlessness (from St George’s Land on Earth) to work as labourers on the Anniversary Point’s construction.

During the last century or two, indeed, mountains on the dark side of the planet had effectively vanished, as sizeable cross-sections of them were transported by the dragons to the Anniversary Point - via a tunnel that their breath had fire-bored straight through the planet to bypass the mid-marginal ice caps.

Only the evening before, Magri had watched the banana shape of Ishgilia’s sun dip behind the completed Anniversary Point, feeling much satisfaction in a job well done. As Human Foreman of the Terrain for the Furtherance of the Building of the Anniversary Point, Magri had gazed lingeringly at what he could only call, in his Earthen terminology, a giant statue or ornamental stone marquee. Dying sunlight had embossed its massive silhouette, while the shuttle wings of last minute builder-dragons clambered over it - their saw beaks wreathing smoke upon the background of brightening stars. Hundreds of them, Magri had thought: hundreds scrambling to finish the tremendous pounding and moulding of cataclysmic sculpture.

That had been yesterday. Now the sun was high and elongated in the clear blue sky - literally minutes from the precise moment of Anniversary. Magri recalled the thoughts that had drifted through his mind since the previous night and, as he watched the multitude of smoking dragons entering the Anniversary Point’s ground level gate of gaping black, the image of Belinda , gorgeous blonde-head and sweet mind-shape (the actual words with which Magri tantalised himself) provided him with exquisite pain, abandoned as Belinda had been back on Planet Earth, consigned as a slave to the Inevitable Wheeling of the Universe - whilst he, Magri, equally susceptible to the unseen moving of mysterious cosmic forces, was pursuing this geomantic mission on Planet Ishgilia.

Chief Dragon approached , interrupting such sentimental musings. The planning and negotiation had been an overweening preoccupation for the duration of Magri’s prime years and, secretly he cursed those who had manipulated such involvement on his part - whoever “those” were. Still, everything had its compensations. He fumbled with the stubble of his burnt cheek as he returned the dragon’s tail-flick salute. Magri had never grown fully accustomed to these wonderful creatures: with their grimy armoured scales, great jointed limbs, smouldering orifices and huge, yet human-like, eyes. Their likening to lizards had been mere subterfuge.

Chief Dragon waddled towards Magri and reported, in grunting tones - barely audible on Magri’s side of the timbre threshold - that the birthday festival was open and in full swing. Wasn’t Magri coming to take part in the fun? Magri shook his head as if to convey that there was no business for him within the Anniversary Point. His job was finished. The absence of Belinda as a reason was left unsaid.

Disappointed, the dragon stumped back towards the Anniversary Point. No doubt it sensed some affection for the two-legged man and cast a second tearful glance at Magri’s handsome blue-robed shape standing alone. Indeed, Chief Dragon could now not face the uproarious stamping and buffets of the multi-coloured fire-dance herding from corner to corner of the Anniversary Point’s vast catacomb. How could he enjoy the side-splitting, leather-beating fandangoes when Magri remained outside emanating sad vibrations across the plain : a plain that stretched illimitably in featureless abandon around the Anniversary Point’s pinnacle of towering landmake. Chief Dragon knew that Planet Ishgilia died around them all. It had read that on Magri’s graven brow - and it disappeared into the Anniversary Point’s gate with no further backward look.

Magri heard the distant thumping of eager dragon-feet. Three of the creatures suddenly emerged from the entrance in a flurry of activity, and he soon realised that two dragons of a male persuasion duelled for the affections of a female one. The latter could be distinguished by the many nippleless paps drooping from the underside of the body. The male dragons spat sparks at each other before the two unwieldy bodies met in clumsy collision. Then, the conflict grew more violent as the flailing appendages and fast-champing jaws clashed and curbed. Chunks of dragon-flesh ripped off, leaving crimson gashes on both sides - and, before long, one had chewed through the opponent’s limb: a rather gruesome stance standing there with the fire-bubbling extract crunched between it’s steam-spitting jaws.

Magri turned his back, reminded of a similar incident back on Earth: the reason for his mission to Planet Ishgilia and the abandonment of his sweet, sweet Belinda to an unfathomable Elsewhere.

Try as he might he could not recall Belinda’s reaction to his departure. He had been her hero, of course, and this fact confirmed itself once again in his mind, he swivelled on the balls of his feet to view the dragon’s fight. The two male protagonists slumped together in a dead pile - bits and pieces of chopped purple arrayed about them - with the female’s teardrop-curds sliding over her useless paps.

From such bitter sorrow Magri lifted his wet eyes to the bright banana-shape that started to dip in the deepening sky. He knew that his vantage point was one of magical destiny - since, no sooner had he found himself gazing at the magnificent, if mutant, sun-star, it faltered and dimmed. Then it died. Simply that.

Simultaneously, from within the Anniversary Point, the thumping of the dragons ceased - as if conscious of the planet’s near death - a magical realisation of the universe’s mastery amid their drunken cavortings, an inevitable sorrow sparking from joy.

A spectral effulgence, the source of which was a mystery to Magri lit the abandoned plain in the shadow of the elongated sun’s residual stain. And, black against such a wan saviour glow, the magnificent Anniversary Point soared into universal night. He wept for this memorial, pitying its looming omnipresence. He knew that it would stand solitary and bleak on a dead planet for an eternity of forgetting - a massive black shape thrusting mindlessly into deeper, more forbidding, black. He prepared to surrender himself to a cold aching demise beside the Anniversary Point: the huge statue whose construction by gullible dragons Magri had organised.

Magri watched, as fiery smoke began to curl from the cavernous nostrils of a massive stone nose. Magri knew that the huge smile was just a stone mouth’s quirk. The odd pitiful dragon grunted, as it managed to struggle out through the Anniversary Point’s left ear: disturbing the silence for a while, quite irrespective of timbre thresholds.

Magri meanwhile recalled another Belinda, one with soft lips.

(published 'Odyssey' 1996)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anne McCaffrey be damned!