Published: March 17, 2005
Requiem for The Dragon
The sun was bright, highlighting the colorful autumn leaves. The day was cool, and a gentle breeze tossed Drake’s long black hair. The mountaintop was bare and quiet. Down below, forests spread all around. In the distance were lakes and streams sparkling like fallen pieces of sky, or blue clouds in the vibrant ocean of autumnal leaves. Birds sang merrily and the sky was a crystal clear sapphire blue.
Somehow it all seemed dark to Drake’s eye. The peak of Katahdin was bare. The birds sounded forlorn, and the breeze was bitter. The sky was grey and empty. The air was chilly and the trees were dying.
Drake remembered how he used to climb this mountain, the wind in his hair and the stone under his feet. The sun shone on him, and he could feel its warmth. Now, he only felt the cold.
Yes, the sunlight. He never knew how much he could miss it until a week ago. It was a wonder, really. Now it was gone to him again.
He remembered those days of light clearly, back when he was happy to be alive, and walked hand in hand with his lover, Anna. Now she was gone to him too. That was a much more painful loss than that of the sunlight.
Oh, Anna. Drake’s heart ached for her. All his life he had wandered from place to place, always in search of a new thrill, a new adventure. But when he met her, he had known he couldn’t bring himself to wander any further. He could remember the smell of her hair, the taste of her lips on his, and the sweet love they made on sultry summer nights. Two weeks ago he made up his mind to propose to her, and she would have said yes, he was certain.
But you can never be with her again, Drake, whispered the voice in his head matter-of-factly. In the past week the cold, unfeeling, merciless voice had become quite familiar to him.
‘Go away, bastard,’ Drake hissed back. ‘I can be with her again, and you aren’t going to be able to stop me.’
Not now, Drake, the voice returned, and Drake swore he had heard it before, a long time ago. Not anymore, she is gone to you now.
‘No! I don’t care what it takes. I’ll give anything. I’ll get back to her somehow.’
The voice only continued coldly. I don’t think you can, Drake. No one has ever done that before. You have a great rift between you. No man has ever crossed it.
‘Then I’ll be the first.’
And that’s what bothers you most. All your life you went out and did everything you possibly could, but no matter what you did, it had all been done before. You were never the first one to do anything. It was all-
Drake’s anger boiled. ‘I hate you,’ he hissed.
You only hate me because I’m right, Drake. Why, even with Anna, someone else--.
“Shut up!” Drake screamed aloud, clutching the sides of his head. “Shut up and go away! Go away and leave me!” The other person seemed only to smirk.
Drake felt something like a cool breeze. He looked up to see a pretty young woman in hiking boots, standing in front of him where he sat, admiring the landscape.
She hadn’t even seen him.
What’s more, she had walked through him.
* * *
Dead for one week, and a rather hard thing to get used to. Being a ghost wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Everything looked dark and forsaken, and everyone he once knew was shut off from him now. But that wasn’t all. The worst part was: he didn’t know how he died.
He had been climbing Everest, something he had longed to do for a very long time. His climbing partner was with him, who was also his cameraman. He had taken a great deal of money from his savings to pay for this. He had bought about 10 seconds of airtime during the local news. A helicopter would bring the camera and equipment when it came to pick him up from the peak, and then he was going to propose on air to Anna. He was so close to the top, only another twenty feet, and then . . . He couldn’t remember any more, his living memories ended there.
He walked down the street reflecting on all of this. Jason; that had been the cameraman’s name. Maybe he would know what happened to him. Talking to him could be a problem, but Drake had ways of taking care of that.
Drake strode down the quiet street in Belfast, Maine. That was Jason’s address; right there, that house. Drake walked over to it and slipped his incorporeal body through the door.
Inside he saw Jason, brushing his teeth. Being not in the mood to waste time with any sort of niceties, Drake shifted himself through the fabric of the shroud between the living and dead, appearing as a ghostly, transparent reminiscence of himself.
“Jason, I need your help.”
Hearing this Jason froze in his place. The toothbrush in his hand dropped to the floor. Struck into rigidity with shock, he turned slowly around to face him. The expression on his face was one of pure, amazed fear. “You . . . you died!” he said in a voice that was a whisper and a shriek at the same time.
Drake took a step closer and Jason cowered. He’s afraid of me, he thought. Not just afraid, as anyone would be. He thinks I’m going to hurt him. Why would he think that?
“Jason, don’t be afraid, I just want to know one thing from you,” he soothed.
Jason trembled, looking little reassured, “W-what?”
“I can’t remember . . . things. Jason, how did I die?” he asked.
Jason’s trembling eased quite a bit. “Oh,” he said, more or less evenly, “You . . . you fell, Drake.”
Somehow that sounded false to him. He couldn’t have just fallen, or he would not have blocked out the memory. It had to be something else, and something in Jason’s voice told him it was.
Why are you so sure you want to know, Drake? Perhaps it’s better you didn’t, the infernal, familiar voice whispered.
‘Yes, damn it! I want to know what happened to me!’
Then I will show you.
‘No you will not, deceiver! I will hear it from him.’
“No Jason,” he said coolly, not realizing how much the tone of his voice echoed the one in his head. “That’s not it.”
Jason stuttered for a moment, then sputtered, suds of toothpaste lining the corners of his mouth. “I’m sorry!” he wailed, “I . . . it . . . please forgive me! Please don’t hurt me, please don’t, please . . .” His begging broke down into quiet sobbing.
It all replayed itself in Drake’s memory then. As they were nearing the top, Jason had unlatched Drake’s rope, but Drake grabbed ahold of Jason’s harness before he fell. In a moment of grim determination Jason unhooked himself as well and they both plummeted down. They landed hard but their struggle continued, until Jason reached for the ice-climbing pick on Drake’s belt. Drake punched him across the face, but still Jason lifted the pick into the air, and brought it down, piercing through Drake’s right eye.
And his body lay there still, frozen, with the ice pick in his skull. Glaring at him now, Drake took a menacing step toward Jason, who whimpered pitifully.
Kill him . . . growled the inner voice.
Jason was too terrified even to scream.
* * *
‘I killed him.’
Yes you did, Drake.
‘That’s wrong! He still had a life to live!’
‘You scum! You tricked me. That wasn’t a memory, you showed me that!’
No Drake, that was real. No need to falsify that.
‘Well, that leaves another question.
‘Why did he want me dead?’
Perhaps you could have asked him, had you been more prudent. You fell victim to your passions, Drake, as you
always have . . .
* * *
They were together, but they both would always be alone.
Drake knelt beside Anna’s bed. There she lay, looking almost peaceful, save the sad, forlorn look she had even as she slept, her light brown hair falling over her face. Drake tried to brush the hair from her eyes, but his hand simply passed through it.
‘Yes, together, but still apart.’
Anna groaned softly as she rolled over in her sleep onto her back. “Drake . . .” she muttered through her fog of sleep.
He sighed sadly. “I’m here my love.”
She shivered where she lay, as if sobbing. “I miss you.”
Drake felt a tear roll down his cheek. An odd thing about ghosts, though they lack any real biological systems, they can still spit, salivate, breathe, feel their heartbeat or cry sometimes, simply because it seems right to them that they should. He buried his head in his hands.
‘Maybe . . . maybe I can come back.’
There’s no way to go back, Drake, that voice again, emotionless, flat.
‘No! There must be a way. If you can get in, you can get out too. There is a way, and when I find it, you just try and stop me!’ The voice was silent: perhaps in shocked silence, or perhaps indifferently.
‘No, there’s got to be a way. Nothing is impossible. Death isn’t the end. Death wasn’t the answer.
‘Death was just the beginning.’