I was dreaming. I had to be dreaming. Because if I wasn’t, there was a dragon cub walking (or more like waddling) straight at me. I tried to take a deep breath, but instead I must have screamed, because I heard my own voice.
“Jason! Is that… What is that? Am I going mad? Is that thing. No. I can’t. This isn’t. No, not dragons too. Isn’t it enough with ghosts?”
I was losing it. And now I was losing it in front of Jason too. This was bad. This was really bad. Could one get altitude sickness up here?
“Jason, am I suffering from altitude sickness? I think, I think I’m hallucinating. I’m seeing sparkly dragons. Real big sparkly dragons and a tiny one that’s walking straight at us. If I’m not hallucinating, please do something to stop it from killing us.”
Jason looked at me with a concerned look, then he started laughing. Jason was laughing at me!
“This isn’t funny you know. Really, it isn’t. You’ve dragged me up a mountain and now I’ve lost my mind or am about to get eaten…or burned, by a dragon! Because they spit fire, right?!”
Jason just laughed. This was getting surreal. More surreal. Crazy surreal.
Just then the baby dragon made a noise. A singing noise. And then it smiled, a big, wide smile. At the same time, Jason seemed to collect himself.
“Louise, meet Elsa. Elsa, this is Lu. She’s a friend of mine. Everyone else too, this is Lu. I brought her here because, well, because I wanted to share how beautiful you are with someone who would understand. Lu sees ghosts, so I figured she’d see you too.”
“A new human,” Elsa said with a very cute, babylike, singsong voice. She flapped her wings excitedly and kept waddling forward, towards us. She had a pinkish shine to her, but like the rest of the dragons, she was silver, almost white, sparkling like a prism.
I didn’t know if I was going to faint, laugh, or cry from relief that I wasn’t about to get eaten by dragons. At least I didn’t think I was. I heard a weird ringing in my ears though.
“Jason, I think I need to sit down. Your friends are…very beautiful, really, they are, but this is all…” I sat down and put my head between my knees. Just then Elsa finally reached us and put her front paw (or claw, take your pick), on my shoulder, still flapping her little wings. I could have sworn rose gold dust fell off them as she did. I was certain I’d stepped into a fairy tale. And was that…
“Jace, does she smell like strawberries?”
Jason laughed again. “Yes, yes, she does. Or well, she smells a little bit like strawberries, a little bit like raspberries, a little bit like blueberries and a little bit like every other berry you find in these woods. They all do. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way they smell. Like berries. All of them have their own unique scent, but it’s all in the berry realm.”
Dragons that sparkle like prisms and smell like berries? This was more bizarre than seeing Josephine. So much more bizarre. A spirit life was sort of logical. Well, save from the materializing bit, but dragons? Dragons that smelled like strawberries? It was too much. I started giggling and soon Jason joined me in my laughter, while Elsa looked at us confused, but still smiling.
“S-sorry,” I hick-upped. “I don’t mean any offense, it’s just, I never in my wildest dreams thought this kind of thing could be real. People say my aunts are witches and truly they are — they believe in nature and energy, but that’s about it. They don’t think crystals have magic powers, or that you can earn more money by eating basil, or something of the sorts. They focus their own energy by controlling their thoughts and they use a lot of mentalism and herbalism, but it’s all quite real. This, this isn’t real.”
Jason sobered up too.
“No, it isn’t. Not if you think about the world in the way you always have. But the world isn’t the way you always thought it was. This is a part of it you’ve never seen before. And most people can’t see it, because, well, this is like a parallel universe. Those of us who can see it have some sort of different power of perception.”
I nodded. I was still grappling with the concept of seeing ghosts. Next someone would tell me that witches actually fly broomsticks and that love potions exist.
“I guess it’s easier to understand if you think about the world before there was radio and TV. Imagine being raised here in Rocky Creek and then one day walking down to the coast and discovering the ocean, then sailing across the ocean and discovering the rainforest. It would be an entirely new world, filled with animals you’d never seen before. I mean for all we know, spotting an octopus for the first time would be the same back then. It’s just we expect to know everything these days. It’s sad, really, because most people don’t even know one percent of all the animals that exist. They know dogs and cats and horses.” Jason suddenly sounded angry.
“OK, I get it. Sort of.” I now dared looking up again. Elsa was still next to me, a smile on her…lips. Did you call them lips? But it was a smile on her dragon lips. She really did smell good too. “Hi Elsa,” I smiled at her.
“Hi,” she said and blew a gentle mist on my face. Even that smelled like berries. A deeper scent than her skin. Like darker berries, if you could say so. Mustier. More forresty. She seemed pleased to speak with me. And she was undeniably cute.
Jason smiled at us.
“Elsa here is only three years old. She is very intelligent and has just learned to fly. She can speak, but like a three-year-old human doesn’t have a full vocabulary. She’s probably smarter than a three-year-old human though. Dragons are very wise. At least this breed.”
I nodded, still looking at Elsa. I wondered if I could pet her? As if she’d read my thoughts, she petted my head instead. She seemed fascinated.
“She’s very curious. And she’s not really allowed to fly into the village center with the adults yet, only the park, so she hasn’t seen any other humans than me. Not close-up at any rate.”
“OK, well, I’m happy to meet you Elsa.” And I was. This felt like a divine experience. It truly felt like seeing what people call God. You know, something so marvelous you can’t believe it’s real? But it is. And you realize you’re living in paradise. If you only open your eyes to it.
“How about the rest of your friends — will you introduce me?” I asked Jason. I was finally looking up at all of them. Truth be told, I’d been too scared at first. It felt safer to focus on just Elsa.
“Sure, but there are nineteen of them here, so today maybe general introductions are best. We can have a chat with some of them, but we won’t have time to catch up with them all. Hey, everyone, come over and greet the new human. She wants to do the human ritual of shaking hands and talons.”
I saw several of the older dragons nod. There were some younger ones too — cubs, but older than Elsa. Then something odd happened — they all lined up and walked over, one by one, to shake hands with me. Each one also put their nuzzle on my head and blew gently. I presumed that was a dragon greeting.
Jason introduced everyone by name, but I could’t remember them all. They all had kind eyes and smelled of different combinations of berries. And all were silver, glittering silver, almost white, but they had different hues. As if the light that shone on them reflected back slightly differently. Elsa had a pink hue, but pretty much every color of the rainbow was present.
Elsa stayed by my side, happily beating her tail to the ground, or waddling around me, as each member of the coven greeted me. They had the most melodious voices. It was as if they sang when they spoke. And they could speak. They spoke fluent human….I mean English.
When I’d said hello to everyone, Jason suggested we’d sit down and eat, while chatting to some of them. He called over two dragons — Wilson and Esmeralda. Wilson was big, with very kind, dark blue and grey eyes, and Esme was slender with bright green eyes.
As I tried to get comfortable, fishing something out of my backpack to sit on, Elsa happily wrapped herself around my back, lying down. She’d clearly decided to stay by my side. Jason looked at me with pride when she laid down.
“She likes you.”
I nodded and smiled. “You know, if anyone had told me this morning that a dragon called Elsa who smelled of strawberries and sparkled like stars would have a chat with me today, I’d tell them they were insane.”
Jason just laughed and I wasn’t sure if I’d died and gone to heaven, was dreaming, or was actually sitting in a cave surrounded by dragons and chatting to Jason. And then Jason started talking to the dragons in their language, meaning he was singing. It was the sound of a thousand stars exploding into melody…rainbows coming to life…it was the sound of beautiful feelings. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.