It’s very hard to think about eating when you are the food. It’s hard to imagine that mankind, of which I am one of them, one of the remaining, went from the apex to the vertex of the food pyramid. It’s even harder to imagine, when the hell we now live in, was the fantasy creation of someone I knew almost all my life. I remember when I went to live with her, well, them, at just about 13, Bird, and her brother would chase down and catch various insects, and lizards, newts, moths and praying mantis‘ because even at that age, with no proper training and not yet top notch education, saw elements in the genetics, traits they possessed to create a creature out of myth and fantasy. From this point on, l will only refer to them by those names, Bird, and the brother. For so many years have passed, and, so many things are still yet to happen.
The world had gone through a pandemic, this was back around 2019 or 21 somewhere around there. By this time, Bird had grown up, and learned a lot, a whole lot. Having a PhD in genetics, she helped save the world, although not a hero, or the discoverer of a great breakthrough, her diligent work did play a part In the remarkable fight against an invisible threat. One highly trained brain of many, an entire planet working together on one single focus, a new type of vaccine Previously never seen before. At the same time, society was struggling to not come apart at the seams. America, supposedly the apex of stability, had its own former president trying to overthrow the government, by violence if necessary. Bird thought she had a solution, and indeed, for a time, it was. She brought magic back to the world! She lived out her lifelong dream, to have her very own dragon. A pocket dragon. A pet, cute as can be, that would range in size from as small as a grasshopper, or locust, to as big as a parakeet. Smart. Very smart. Very trainable. The brother, well, he was pure creativity of thought. He wasn’t so much a man of science, but fantasy, creativity, exploration, and inspiration. He never spoke of where he weathered the Covid pandemic, but when he burst back into her life once travel resumed, it was clear he had seen a horrific number of deaths. It had been a few years since they saw each other face to face, when he burst through the door, not with a hello, but an enthusiastic, almost shouted exclamation “Bird, Bird, it is time, we are doing it! Can’t you see we have the key?”
Oddly enough, the research that lead to the vaccine, that saved several million people, filled in the gaps, not in the science.. not yet, but in the creativity. There was no science to splice moths and damselflies and end with fire breathing dragons, but there now was the technology for an animals body, to manufacture specific protein strands, building blocks, and in the mind of a dreamer, create something that has never existed. They started by simply enhancing the qualities in specific species that held a desired trait, then doing selective splicing to create new variants, add in a few more instructions to create new strands, working like people possessed, in 4 years they had, a large horned beetle that did indeed create a spark when agitated, a scale covered bat, that spit a combustible methane stream. This one was brilliant as they even crossbred the intestinal fauna and flora, creating a very smelly defense mechanism, while also supercharging the digestive system.
It took 12 years for Viramoor to be hatched. Vira, as Bird named it, after winning a coin flip, over the brothers suggestion of Cyrn, a name he made up cause it sounded like cern, the supercollider. If you haven’t yet guessed, these two were a lot different from the average local, who aspired to rebuild carburetors, or bag the last 8 point buck left in the woods. Viramoor, the perfect little friend. She was the first of her kind, so tiny emerging from an egg, not much bigger then a robins egg, but with a softer more web like coating similar to a cocoon, covering a thicker, more leathery inner shell. She really was a beautiful creature, her scales a wide range of colors from emerald to fiery reds, deep blues, greens, and every hue between. Her eyes, shown like a nocturnal animals caught shining in the light at night, but, under all light conditions. Bird marveled and wondered at what range and spectrum she might see. After a screech as she broke through her shell, this feeling became eerie, as she stared into the cloudless empty blue sky, seemingly seeing all the bandwidths of visible, invisible light, and all energy in the universe. With no limit to range.
Magic was reborn, People found a connection in the existence of dragons on the earth, even, if so very small. The religious right, who you would expect to protest such things, embraced it instead, as proof the dragons of scripture were no metaphor. Since the 1970’s or so, some earthy hippie types had adopted the term “pocket dragon” as a slang term for a lighter, now, these living breathing pocket dragons became a highly popular pet. The Asian market alone, was insane. Ten million ordered By the time Viramoor laid her first clutch of eggs. There were seven in all. Bird, and indeed everyone assumed the eggs would be infertile, and, even if there was a male, the chances of fertility was extremely low. The first to hatch, was Calynth. Calynth was born with the same brilliant eyes, but with an even more brilliant color scheme to her scales. She was beautiful, Not only did each have a distinct color scheme and scale pattern, but the tiny spike like horns surrounding their faces were unique as well. Viramoor, had two more prominent ones, gracefully curling to either side of her neck, with 4 smaller ones forming a ridge above her Brow. Calynth could not be more different, with eight curling forward like a crest, or, perhaps even a crown.
Viramoor, was only three months old, when her babies were hatched. In the last several weeks, just prior to her nesting behavior began, Bird, and her brother had studied, and began to train her. Obviously the first lesson to teach a dragon, is how to control fire. From the first time she had fed her pet, the methane burps began. The spark to insight it, was either triggered as a defense mechanism, or, by simply tickling the underside of her throat. She would raise her head, coo, almost like the joyful sound of a human baby might when momma kisses it’s belly. Within a second came the burp, And the spark. A flickering flame, like from a candle, or a lighter came from deep in her throat, and lingered a moment in her open mouth.
The seven babies varied wildly, except the brilliance of their eyes, they resembled different breeds Of the same species. The seven youngsters each laid eggs at 9 weeks, with an average nest of 18, and as many as 25. the third generation were even more diverse, and were displaying nesting tendencies at 1 month old, with a shocking range of between 65 and 250 eggs each. Each so unique, not only in pattern and Color scheme, but personality as well. Bird saw this as both massive potential, but also devastating danger. So no direct forth generation was allowed, each egg was injected with a sterilizing chemical. Numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation were allowed to bear over 100,000 fertile “mothers” although the term did not exactly fit, with a species that lacked real gender. “Producers” was her brothers Preferred term. It was he who had the vision of bringing the divided country, and indeed the world together, as well as make a hefty profit.
Before I explain what happened once the 1st pocket dragons were released to the pet market, I should explain who I am, and how I fit in. I am nobody, nobody special in the context of this story, although I have had a life of my own worthy of a few tales. But, I grew up with Bird, in the same nowhere town in the same nothing special school, where there was just one thing around. Vansant glider port. That, and lots of windy country roads to ride bikes on. It was one of those windy roads that lead me to learn to soar with hawks and eagles, and, remarkably, at a much greater age, with a dragon. I must warn, if I reveal too much too soon, and you see the future ahead, our lives would be in danger. So I will only use my nickname, Eagle. Once the pretender king fell from his throne, and our airspace was no longer constantly closed so he could cheat at golf, which if my memory is not failing me was a sport.. of sorts, involving hitting a ball with a stick, into a hole. I cannot remember the difference between that, and pool, the ravages of age, the struggle for survival, and the constant hunger, has left little room in my mind for much beyond the need to eat. How did I, someone so poorly suited for survival in such a harsh world, end up still alive? I wonder often. You see, the curvy country road that taught me to fly, did so first by throwing me over the handlebars Of a motorcycle, to land on a rock, breaking my spine. Freedoms Wings International, just happened to be at the airport, a 2 minute walk away from Birds family house.
During the pandemic years, I met my wife Pelo, once again a nickname four our protection. From the day we met we planned and prepared for a world on fire. Climate change you see. Nobody was doing enough, and my dear with would not be stopped from doing more then the county, or the country. Right away we began construction on Kukupenda eco community. Who knew it would be more vital to survival then we imagined.
It is too soon yet to discus survival, as the memory of my past, is partially your future yet to come. My future, my present, my struggle, and my hell. That is now, but this is about then.
Then was a time of turmoil and hope, those who worked hard for a future, and those who fought against it. Suicidally determined to prove mankind was doomed to face a judgment day, and, that day was always a day away, if they could help it. Then was a time of transcendental crisis, where a country that fought for freedom from a king, over taxes for tea, wanted to execute millions to install a new royal family, over taxes for the mega rich elite. At the very same time, believing the elite, the unnamed cabal ate babies, or something crazy like that. I think they even believed the other political views were proof Of Being a vampire. I can’t remember, but it was the craziest of times.
Kukupenda was Swahili for “loving you” it was our vision of healing the earth, protecting the plants and animals, and living as a community in harmony. Bird, well, she and her brother worked in secrecy, right up until the magical day Viramoor was named. Publicly. And the world knew magic and dragons were real. That was their vision.
It was miraculous for sure, in fact, marvelous for many a year. Could have been a decade. I mentioned Asian countries went wild knowing dragons could be pets, especially cute, tiny dragons that fit in your pocket, and came when you called them, loyal, and bonded to their owners, much like many parrots and parakeets. I also mentioned no 4th generation eggs were allowed to hatch. 100,000 fertile producers from gen 1 to gen 3 was enough to supply millions a month. Although gen 3 displayed the most amazing variety, gen 1 were prized for their relative scarcity.
There’s one thing that must me made clear about dragons, and the warning labels were very precise in this caution. Dragons liked to eat. They liked to eat a lot. When they ate, they produced methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas. Eating a lot was also a lot of calories. The warning labels read: “Warning, your new pet pocket dragon must not be over fed. After each feeding be certain to burn off excess calories by lighting your dragons flames. Each spark that ignites the methane uses between 3000 and 5000 calories, more if you allow your dragon to grow. growing your dragon beyond the size of a small bird is dangerous, illegal, and extremely costly to maintain. A dragon allowed to reach the size of a chicken, could eat more then 10 people in a day”. What a poor choice of words that turned out to be. They most likely meant a chicken sized dragon could eat more food then ten people could eat in a day.
Today, in the time when we no longer count the days, or know the years, pocket dragons no longer fit in pockets, in fact, Virimoor, the first, the fierce, the terror of the skies, could fit people, in the tens of thousands of pockets formed by the spaces in her layered scales. Today, dragons the size of Virimoor’s tooth eat ten people a day.
So where did we go wrong? What did we let happen? It’s too hard to put the blame anywhere, or on anyone. Certainly when the seedy underbelly of society decided there was big money in “cockfights” with living breathing legendary dragons the size of chickens, and then dogs, was a big part of it. But so was love. Birds love, my love, and others. Not Pelo‘S she forbade me from having my own. She would not allow any In our community, which at the time, was not a popular decision, but, nobody ever argued with her, at least never successfully. Hers was a mind that could almost never be changed. Today, the last of us are grateful for that fact.
Bird, and her returned brother, moved back to her childhood home. With a barn, and a guest house, and plenty of open spaces. Most of the pocket dragons could leap, and glide a short distance. But lacked the wingspan for much sustained flight. Bird loved Vira like her own child, she made a shirt with a pocket over her left breast, and the heart that beat beneath. Most pocket dragon’s slept with their wings folded tight to their bodies, but Vira, Spread her wings open resting on the curve of Birds breast. This, may have had a factor on her wingspan increasing, even as she grew much slower. Bird also loved Vira enough to never deny her. She fed her, and, what’s more, let her hunt. For this, I alone can take the blame. Not for supporting the hunting, after all, dragons were omnivores, and were perfectly fine on an all plant based diet. But I taught her to fly, Very much accidentally. She had grown to the size of a small peregrine falcon, and I wanted to take her on a glider flight. And yes, I still wonder why I refer to a gender less species as her, perhaps I was enthralled by her beauty. We took two flights that day, the 1st limited by my skill, the second extended by observing her. She could see hawks circling in thermals from miles away, but, if I steered the plane in the direction she cocked her head, we found a thermal every time! Some scientists believed hawks and eagles could see the infrared, the hotter and cooler air indicating life and sink. We were 3 hours into this flight, the last only lasting 32 minutes. But the methane emissions were getting overwhelming in such a small cockpit, and obviously it’s unsafe to ignite a flame in a small plane. Especially when the bigger the dragon, the bigger the spark, and resultant flame. “Vira my dear, your killing me, can you do that out the window?” As I slid open the window on the left side of the canopy.
As soon as the wind hit her face she leaped from my shoulder to perch on the canopy door handle, thrusting her head out into the wind, like so many dogs have done before. I laughed at the image, and was about to say “be careful” when she was gone. Out the window, soaring along side me. I was enthralled and she was delighted. Dancing around my plane with impressive agility. Climbing in the thermal far faster then I could, to the clouds, then diving at speeds that made my wings flap, the high speed flutter that means imminent loss of wings without slowing down fast. I was witnessing a miracle, or so I thought. That changed fast. Too fast. By the third thermal there were 4 red tail hawk. They were Circling, about 200 feet apart, laterally, and as much as 500 or 600 feet vertically. In a flash as brilliant as lightening, followed by a fireball that reminded me of the time a tanker truck full of gasoline exploded, partially melting an interstate bridge. The hawks were gone. In fact, the cloud they had been circling under was gone too. Consumed by fire and smoke. Vira folded her wings and dove into the inferno, gobbling up the hawks as they burned alive.
I was shocked, and scared, and panicky, I didn’t even want to fly back to the airfield, so landed in a field below. I was afraid what might happen if she followed me back to the airport. She was my friend, yet, now, I was terrified of her.
It was no use, when I got the glider back to the airfield, and got the courage to tell Bird what had happened, she was already waiting for me on the lawn, with Vira by her side. Now, the size of a large hawk. “What happened? Look at her? How did she grow so big?” She asked before I could even begin to explain. I think I held back tears and weakly said “she flew, she ate”. Then almost fell out of my chair when Vira’s eyes met mine. What surprised me even more was Birds reaction. She hugged Vira, kissed her on the nose and said “look who’s My big girl now“!
That, was the last time I saw Bird, her brother, or Vira, at least till I heard the news. You see, Pelo forbade me to associate with anyone who had a pocket dragon, even though that was estimated at nearly half the world. We lived in seclusion, within our eco homes, in our little private community.
There was no disagreement, she was right, she was always right, even when she wasn’t. But in this case, she most definitely was, and to that, I owe her my life.
This, though was complicated, the love of these little creatures had ended the divisions, Between parties, belief systems, and was even starting to lesson the tensions between nations. People were talking again, and, in a world full of dragons, people no longer were called idiots for believing in flat earth, or even reptilian overlords. In a way reptilian overlords maybe a foreshadowing of what’s to follow, if, that is, dragons could be classified as reptilian. They were not cold blooded, genetically, they were more insect, then anything else. Oddly enough, there was traceable relations to cabbages and carrots. They were dragons, in a classification That never existed. In the kingdom Phylum class order family genus species, some argued they were the fourth kingdom. Not plant nor animal nor mineral, but closer to a miracle. The fact their scales and horns were more akin to minerals, rocks, or gemstones, was the most baffling of all. Even Bird did not know how that happened genetically, to which her brother replied “that’s where wishes matter and science falters”. I wondered if his missing years had been spent under the tutorage of a crazy shaman on a mountaintop In Lebanon or deep in the Himalayas.
Although that was the last I saw Bird, or her magnificent dragons, I heard through friends of friends that viramoor had been allowed to hunt, and now lived in the barn, much bigger then a horse. Viramoor had hunted all wildlife from Philadelphia to New York border. And soon outgrew the barn. No humans had been harmed, yet, and being the size of a small plane, she had gone mostly unnoticed By those so absorbed in their own pocket sized dragon, to bother looking up to see what caused the shadow that cooled them on a cloudless day.
Bird, was called the mother of dragons, after some character in some famous movie or show. I remembered loving that show, but now it seemed like the most unimportant thing in the world. I do remember many pot smoking hippies had glass pipes made to look like dragons and trained their dragons to light their bowl with some meaningless word, dracarus, in homage to that show. Bird certainly did love her dragons, all of them, but Vira above all.
Vira returned from hunting one day, nearly colliding into the house and collapsing after what could only be called a crash landing. She was big now, big enough the neighbors knew, the county knew, the hunters lacking game knew too, and took to hunting the ultimate trophy. She feared she had been shot, but the reality was even worse. Again and again she sparked a weak spark, with no flame. With every spark she slumped more, weakening, and the brilliance of her eyes, now larger then a dinner plate dulled and turned milky white. Even her breathing was labored. She had not eaten. She was starving. It was winter, and not even enough vegetation for her supercharged digestion.
Bird did what only the most loving mothers could do. Tearfully she kissed Vira. “My dearest daughter, I’m so sorry it’s come to this. I will not be here to see you grow, I know you will make me proud, and bring magic to this world, but, in order for that to happen you must live.“ She kissed her again, and she weakly licked away her tears. “I love you, I will always live you, but there is no other choice. You have to eat me to live” she kissed her dragon again in tears pleading, pleading, begging for her baby to live. “I love you, just, do It.“ viramoor Extended her tongue licking the tears away, that now covered her whole face. Her tongue wrapped around her head, ear to ear, and pulled her in. Bird was gone, Bird was just enough to produce a bubble of methane that cooked her brother next. You would think a friendly dragon suddenly acquiring a taste for human flesh would be the bad news. The bad news was so much worse. There was nobody left to sterilize the eggs of the producers. The 4th generation numbered in the hundreds of thousands in weeks, within a month of Birds sacrifice, dragons outnumbered people. Then people vanished a thousand times faster then the pandemic. Nobody kept count, but 100 million in a year was most likely a low count.
Viramoor, was the apex of the apex. With a new abundant food source, Doylestown Pennsylvania was the first town to vanish in ash. People in Philadelphia were obviously alarmed and called out the national guard. They had a plan, they knew they would suffer losses, but they had planned on facing one monster, the largest of them all. With tanks, surface to air missiles, 25,000 troops, 40 Apache helicopters, and 18 f22’s they put up a valiant fight, for 48 seconds. They were not facing just Vira, but hundreds of thousands of her offspring. 1.5 million people died that day. And the tiniest of the assailants grew to the size of a bus.
You might be wondering how a quadriplegic, who lost his wheelchair over 3 winters ago, and a simple, yet extraordinary Kenyan farmer girl survived as the rest of the world died in flames? Kukupenda. This, for us, had dual meaning. Loving you meant we would do anything for each other. Sure, we would die for each other, but dying far too easy. We instead would live for each other. Live through the end of the world and beyond. But, Kukupenda also meant we loved the earth, so in our plans for solving climate change, we had super insulation, self contained food, water, and everything we needed to never venture outside. Others hiding in houses Could be seen through the walls, the infrared heat signature. The homes they lived in just kindling to the flames. Our home however, blocked 99.9% of heat making us invisible. And the materials, inflammable. yes, our house had tasted the flames when we let our guard down and stepped outside. But the flames only made the walls harder. Although 20,000 gallons of collected water evaporated in an Instant.
Pelo had kept me alive when I surely should have died, it weighed heavy on her. Everyone we had known was gone. Now, it was my turn, she finally broke, and slipped into a near catatonic state. She didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to eat. Both for different reasons. Her out of despair, me, I just didn’t want to be appetizing to what waited beyond our door. But she was fading away.
We were protected by more then the super insulation Of our ecodome hone, but also by living in the shadow of Viramoor. You see, when all the animals had been hunted, and the majority Of mankind slaughtered, Viramoor had only her offspring to feed upon. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and most of Maryland was her territory. Her shadow blocked out the sun of most of the county. Her wingspan now measured in miles. This was her world now, we were no better then the maggots living off the death and decay of a dying world. Humanity, that is, the few that were left. We, we fared far better then most. We had food. We had gardens indoors and out, a greenhouse, and underground “agrotunnels” when the house was first attacked, we lost our solar, and our wind power. All we had left was from a damned up stream we made inefficient makeshift water generators from pvc pipes, scrap metal turbines, and my brave queen Pelo braved the outdoors alone to scavenge the generators from our long dead neighbors pickups. Living on 200 acres the neighbors were a frightening distance away. The only power we dared use was to light the tunnels grow lights.
Today, I had to drag myself first into the greenhouse, where I was exposed to any dragons within miles. Then to the tunnels. The sun was hot beaming though the melted glass of our now useless and empty greenhouse. But water collected there, water we needed to feed our crops in the tunnels. By the time I had released the water to the tunnels below, I was bloody nearly from head to toe. Then I had to drag myself into the tunnels, harvest enough food to last while I heal, or until Pelo regains her strength. I was old, I have no idea how old, 80 at least. I could be 100, I guess. There was one year I remember. 1991. The last time I had cut my hair. Yes, these days dreadlocks of ridiculous lengths were not exactly a survival asset, except just this once. I had worn the skin off my fists, wrists, and elbows. And now, I was seeing exposed bone. But dragged myself to the top of the ramp with a 40 pound sack of potatoes gripped in my teeth. Once I reached the flat floor of the kitchen, I collapsed. I probably passed out from exhaustion. It was not yet time to rest. There was hundreds more pounds of food at the base of the ramp, tied onto my hair. A hundred thousand voices filled my head “just cut it” “what’s the point in that?” “Isn’t that an extra burden? Doesn’t it get caught in your wheelchair?” Ah the ironic, hysterical laughter that erupted from the chorus of voices gave me strength I couldn’t imagine, I places my exposed bone, bloody elbow against the door frame as a brace, pulled a handful of dreads with all my might, with the same shoulder that needed to be replaced before the fires. Held them in my teeth twisting my already messed up neck, the worse way it could be twisted. To grab lower and pull again and again.. Hours of agony paid off. I lacked the strength to get to Pelo on the bed, rolling her off the bed may have broken a rib as she tumbled on top of me. She was not responsive enough to nibble a banana, but her tongue seemed to move when I squeezed in mangoes and strawberries. I felt her breath, the agony in my rib confirmed my suspicion. I was hurting. I was injured. If she dies I die with her.
For a moment I felt a minor relief. A breeze that felt so fresh and reviving after the hours of struggle. The sunlight through the open door dimming, and cooling. It must be sunset. We made it through another day, together.
The sunlight, through the open door, the breeze, the dimming of the light. It wasn’t sunset. It was Viramoor returning home.
The breeze, wasn’t a breeze, it was the airflow deflection of the biggest wings the worlds ever seen, in ground effect. I almost forgot the day in the glider, the last day I ever flew. But I knew now what I was feeling. Through the open door she appeared. Her chin, at least. I could feel the change in air pressure, Verimoor was beautiful as a baby, but seeing her now, extremely close, extremely low, skimming the ground was like seeing God, Satan, the destroyer of worlds, and the triumph of life. The most beautiful and terrifying thing In the world in one. The dome shook, the Last of the greenhouse collapsed. I was certain we were about to die together. Pelo, the poor girl took this moment to revive. I kissed her to stop her from screaming and we held each other so tight I felt my lung might puncture.
Time passed, the house continually shaking, scraping, grinding. Then she passed us by, looking back to see eye to eye, as if to say goodbye. She wasn’t hungry, she just had one hell of an itch to scratch.
The future belongs to them, not us. Pelo once asked me, what is life worth?
I said something, I don’t know what, profound? Comforting? Confusing?
The answer I have today is much different. Much more simple. To see another sunrise together without becoming food.
Now I write to you about a world in flames, from your future, Our future, my future and my present. I only used our nicknames in case you think killing one of us will prevent this life. But I want you to think about one thing. During the pandemic, when the world was falling apart, there was one man who’s only instinct was add fuel to the fire. He created the divisions, the hatred and mistrust. He created the need to bring magical beasts to life to bring us back together again. I wish I could remember his name, all I know is he sure did like to golf as people died.
I think he was someone important, or thought he was. I think that was why he was such a threat, but I can’t remember why. Ego, that’s not a name, it’s a thing right? Why is that all I can remember him by?