(photo by RedEye)
(Part of Project Unicorn: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza, updated twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays with a free, original, never-before-published YA short story featuring a lesbian heroine. Also, every story is a work of genre fiction [Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, etc.].)
by Sarah Diemer
Once, in the beginning,
Before the galaxies with their whirlwinds of stars
Their vortexes and pools of light
The dripping, molten heat of pulsars and
The nothingness of black holes
Weighty and luminous in the absence of light,
There was a dragon.
The creature was larger than can be imagined.
It encircled the universe, its scales
Flashing, diamonds and oceans and nebula,
Its eye filled with planets and winking out and winking on stars
Always creating, always destroying,
It was built of star deaths and galaxy births,
The dust from these things building out its flashing claws,
Its breath the blast of planets, snuffed out,
And lives reborn.
It encircled the universe, slowly,
Letting the thing live and die in its belly,
Content in its circling, ever circling,
For as long as the great dragon kept the galaxies, the nebula,
The births and deaths within its stomach,
It would all keep going
Imagine the dragon’s eye,
Slitted and resplendent,
Flashing with verdigris and firelight,
Drift down to one of the many planets
Spinning in its pupil,
Down, further still, past the atmosphere
And the absence of air
And down falling like a bit of rock
Burning through the layers until there’s nothing left,
And down, further still, past the surface of the ocean,
The blue biting you up in a single gulp
As the roaring of the waves recedes, farther and farther away
And the silence of the sea consumes you.
If you turned around, if you looked back up
And up and up and up,
You could see as the dragon sees.
Alisa looks up, now, floating on her back
Twenty feet beneath the water,
She is weightless and suspended, and she breathes in the salt water,
The liquid burning her lungs, her heart, the great gulp consuming her,
But she’s too far removed to care.
It’s as if all the secrets of the universe are open to her in this heartbeat,
And she knows about the dragon
About its endless existence,
Knows that it keeps life going, death going, life going,
And she’s perfectly fine, she thinks, with the fact that all lives end,
And that hers is ending now.
But somewhere, in the great spinning of galaxies, of dwarf stars and angry,
Dying suns that are stars, too, that have forgotten how to be stars,
The dragon stirs.
And fate shifts.
Someone else leaps off the boat, diving into the water, a rush of
Bubbles and white around the person
That drifts toward Alisa like an angel.
Like an angel, she thinks, when an arm wraps
Around her torso.
Her first gasp of air is unnatural,
Like she’s been breathing water this entire time,
And air isn’t meant for her lungs,
But she coughs up the salt water, heaves it out of her stomach,
Can’t breathe, can’t breathe,
Troy thumps her back, his face white as the clouds overhead,
“We almost lost you,” he says, over and over again,
As the rest of the people on the boat
Stare at her,
“What?” she whispers, voice ragged, throaty.
Troy sees it now, crawls backward to the edge of the boat.
Her eyes are slitted.
There is a price for a soul saved.
There is a price of a life elongated.
When they land on the shore, Alisa helps them drag the boat
Up and on the sand.
She can’t shake the feeling that something’s changed.
They told her about her eyes,
But it’s something different.
That’s cosmetic. Eyes.
No. Something’s changed inside of her,
Though she can’t yet tell what it is.
On the shore, her darling greets her,
Holding out her hands to Alisa, kissing her deeply on the mouth.
She backs away, brow etched with concern.
Alisa shouldn’t taste like salt, but she does.
But then Osa sees her eyes.
To her credit, the girl simply widens her own,
Staring for a heartbeat before taking up Alisa’s hands,
“You have been blessed by the gods,” Osa whispers,
Kissing her again.
But that doesn’t feel quite right, either.
Alisa doesn’t really believe in the gods.
She does, a little, she supposes.
But when she was under the water,
She felt for certain that…
Well. She doesn’t know, exactly.
But in her little cabin, so like the other cabins by the shore,
She wonders if, when she becomes a woman
In the ritual, in a few short weeks,
If that’s what she’ll become.
Or if she’ll change into something else,
Something she doesn’t quite know yet,
But that’s growing within her.
When Osa comes to her cabin,
When she stays the night,
They twist and turn in the bed,
Exploring one another,
And Osa remarks, over and over,
That there’s something changed inside of Alisa,
Something beautiful and rich and strange,
And when Osa kisses her,
Kisses her like a holy relic,
Alisa still doesn’t understand
But knows, by this language,
That she doesn’t need to.
Somewhere, the dragon is growing old,
Somewhere, the dragon is dying,
But the dragon knows that it won’t have to go on forever.
Give and take,
Life and death,
And the passing of the universe concerns itself
In the ever circling drift of the universe.
Has it been centuries or millennia or an uncountable time
That the dragon has drifted here,
Or only a day
Or an hour
Or a moment?
Who can say?
But somewhere, a girl with slit eyes, skin hardening to scales,
Begins to leave the race of man
In her own way,
And somewhere else,
The dragon begins to circle toward rest,
Knowing its place will be taken, soon enough.
And Alisa and Osa love each other for a heartbeat, and a moment
In the universal scheme of things,
As Alisa changes.
And that heartbeat is enough.
If you liked “Dragon Star,” you can now enjoy entire collections worth of stories in Project Unicorn, Volume One on your eReader or in person in paperback form (I’m a real book!), and support the project at the same time!
eReader edition on Etsy (all proceeds to authors)
Signed paperback on Etsy, PLUS free eReader edition!
(all proceeds to authors)
Sarah Diemer is an award-winning author of lesbian young adult (YA), speculative fiction. Her debut novel, The Dark Wife, the YA, lesbian retelling of the Persephone myth won the 2012 Golden Crown Literary Award for Speculative Fiction, and was nominated for a Parsec Award (first two chapters of the audiobook). She writes her lesbian adult fiction under the pen name Elora Bishop, including the Sappho’s Fables: Lesbian Fairy Tales series, which she co-writes with her wife, author Jennifer Diemer.
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