WARNING: READ THE DESCRIPTION FIRST (again)
Culpeper, Virginia, Confederate States of America
August 10, 1862
"Come, now. That can't be all you know." he says in his thick Alabaman accent.
I don't say anything.
"What else do you have to tell me?"
I huff and repeat again "I'm Private First Class Douglas Chromworth, born July 1, 1843." In the Marines, that's what we're taught to do. If we're captured as prisoners of war, we can only tell them our name, rank, and date of birth.
The sergeant sighs and looks at the guard standing by the opening in the tent. The guard only purses his lips and looks to the side awkwardly. The sergeant looks back at me. Kneeling down, because I'm tied to my seat, he looks at my leg, with a splint and a bullet in my shin. He takes a quick glance at me before taking his index finger and shoving it right into the bullet hole.
I grit my teeth and grunt, trying not to cry out.
"What else do you know?" He asks again.
I just shut my eyes and take a deep breath. He then twists his finger and presses harder, which finally elicits a shout from me. He does this for a few minutes, which feels like weeks to me. Finally he takes his finger out. I'm sweating and moaning at this point, and now my leg has started bleeding a lot again.
The sergeant tells me "I'm going to get a towel to clean up this mess on your leg. In the meantime, I want you to think about what you think you're accomplishing by protecting those autocrats, and what you'll feel later if you don't stop it." He then turns to the guard and says "Keep an eye on him, will you?"
"Yes, sir," the guard says with his Texan accent.
With the sergeant gone, I'm left alone with the guard and my own thoughts. This searing pain in my leg reminds me of yesterday. Defending Culpeper didn't go well at all. We were outnumbered over two to one and, as usual, we lost more than they did. I'm worried that the United States might not win this war. And I'm starting to have contempt for the South now. All this just to keep their slaves and save some money.
And then I look at the guard. He's looking at me with a mixed expression on his face. Kind of like he's telling himself that he'll shoot me if he needs to, but he also doesn't know if he can. I also notice his hands are trembling as he's holding his weapon. I start to sympathize with him. Odds are, he's not fighting for the glory of the South or just out of spite against Washington, like some of his comrades. He probably doesn't have anywhere else to go, or maybe he's just trying to provide for his family.
Just like me.
I then hear a commotion outside. Some men are looking up and pointing. Apparently there's something circling the sky above the camp. Gradually, the troops start to get nervous, getting their weapons ready. Finally I hear interjections like "Oh my God!" and "What the hell??" I then hear a loud and deep thump, followed soon after by panic, horses neighing, and gunfire. This is accompanied by the roaring of a fire, and the roaring of a creature.
I crack a smile, knowing exactly what's going on.
The guard turns to look out the opening in the tent. We both see some guys running, some opening fire, and some barely clinging on to their fleeing horses. Finally we see a big blueish-green eye appear in the opening. The guard gasps as he stumbles backwards. Suddenly, the tent is peeled upwards away from us to reveal the twenty-foot-tall tsulahili beast that was raiding the camp. The one I had come to know and befriend. She sees me and the wound on my leg. She must think the guard did this, because she looks at him and snarls before bringing her claws on top of him, baring her fangs to finish him off.
"ADSILA NO!!" I yell.
She looks at me, and then at the panicked and hyperventilating guard at her mercy. She tightens her grip on him. "You're lucky he's here," she threatens before releasing him. "Untie him," she orders. The guard shakily nods before rushing to me and untying me.
"Here," Adsila says much more calmly to me as she gently grabs me. As she lifts me up, I see four injured prisoners lying beside the tent. She reaches for them too, holding me and one other in one paw, two in another, and one in her prehensile tail. Leaning slightly backwards on her haunches, she starts flapping her wings.
She then launches herself forward into the air. I lose my breath as I watch the ground drop 20, 50, 100, and then 300 feet. As my ears pop, I hear the other prisoners shouting and panicking.
The prisoner next to me in Adsila's paw tries shouting over the wind "What's going on?? Where's this thing taking us??"
I say "She's getting us out of here. We're going to be alright."
"How do you know that?"
"Trust me." I look down again, seeing the forests zoom by below us. I gasp, burying my face into Adsila's paw and shutting my eyes. This is not helping my fear of heights.
About ten minutes later, Adsila eases herself down in a clearing in a forest. She starts walking forward, on her knuckles so that she doesn't hurt us. A few minutes after that, we stop before another clearing in front of us, giving way to a settlement with what looks like a hospital. She loosens her paws and tail on us, gently setting us onto the ground, before arching her back in the air and gagging. I wonder what's wrong, until four more prisoners slide out her throat and into her mouth. I grimace as she uses her tongue to set them onto the ground. As one would expect, they're all panicking. One looks at her and shouts "NO! GET AWAY FROM US!" She ignores him and turns to me.
"How did you know where to find me?" I ask as I sit up.
"I didn't," she says. "I hadn't heard from you in a while, and I was worried. So I searched the area for prison camps. I'm kind of surprised you were in the first one I came across."
I smile warmly and say "You're the best." She brings her head to me and I hug it.
I then hear one man say with a faint German accent "Wait a minute. Are you friends with that thing?"
Adsila replies "Yeah, and that thing can hear you, so watch it."
The man looks down and says "Sorry."
We all look and see some people outside the hospital. I turn to Adsila and I say "Thank you."
She smiles and says "You're welcome. See you soon." She then turns towards the clearing and shouts "HEY! THERE ARE INJURED MEN HERE! WE NEED HELP!" The people turn towards us. But before they can spot Adsila, she turns and disappears into the forest.
After we're all rushed into the hospital, doctors take a look at my leg. They call over another doctor, a middle aged woman with a name tag that says "Barton". She also takes a look at it. "There's a bullet still lodged in his tibia. Get me some vodka, a pair of medical pliers, and a wooden spoon." Another doctor gets them. She takes the vodka and pours a little onto the wound. I grunt at the stinging before she takes the spoon. "Open up," she says as she holds it in front of my face. I open my mouth before she sticks it in sideways. Two other doctors come and hold down both my legs. "Now listen carefully," she tells me, "this next part is really going to hurt, but you need to bear through it if you want to keep your leg." I nervously nod before she sticks the pliers in to fish out the bullet. It's all I can do to not exhale my own lungs as I clench my eyes and bite down hard on the spoon as I scream bloody murder.
Later that day, I've finally settled down. My leg is now bullet-free and in a cast. Looking around, I see the other former prisoners in a similar state. There's also a preacher passing out bibles. He comes to me and says in his Irish accent "Would you like one?"
"Sure," I smile as he hands me one of the bibles.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better. Still aching, but better."
"That's good to hear. Is there anything else you need?"
There is something that's been on my mind for over a year. Since there's a preacher in front of me, I think this is a good opportunity to ask about it. "Yeah," I say, "there's kind of a big question I have. Do you think you can help?"
"I'll see what I can do."
"So... suppose I were to write a story. A fantasy. There's a knight that's supposed to slay a dragon, but it turns out the dragon is nice. He befriends and later falls in love with this dragon. Would that be wrong? I feel like there's something in Scripture that says something against it."
The preacher scrunches his eyebrows and looks to the side thoughtfully. "Well, it does say in Exodus not to have relations with animals."
"But this dragon is... even though she's not human, she's still a person. She can think, she can talk, do math, even understand things only humans can, like God and faith. So she's not really an animal."
He nods and says "Interesting. So... she's not a spirit being, is she?"
"No. She has a spirit, but she's also flesh and bone like us."
"Hm. Well, as long as it's a fantasy, then I don't see anything wrong with it. Animals and spirit beings are off limits, but something like this I don't think the Lord is against."
He finishes "Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13. Pray about it, too"
"You're welcome," he says before he leaves.
I open my bible and turn to the chapter he recommended. It's mostly details about love and how anything we do is futile without it. But the last verse really got me: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity," charity meaning love.
"Hey," I hear a voice next to me say. I turn to see it's the German guy from earlier. He continues "The dragon in that fantasy story I overheard; is it actually the one that took us here?"
I'm actually not sure what to tell him. This does seem kind of odd, and I'm still not sure whether it's okay.
"It's alright," he says, "no judgement here. Just be sure to tell her that I and the others said thanks."
"Sure thing," I say. "Also, do you think you could... not.."
"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone."
"Oh good. Thank you."
A couple of weeks later I'm visiting Adsila at her cave again. The Marines gave me temporary leave to allow my leg to heal. I advised Adsila not to cure my leg by doing... that... because my leg healing in a matter of days would seem suspicious. And coupled with what happened to my eyes, somebody would be restlessly demanding to know what's going on. I've also been praying about the possibility of being in a relationship with Adsila, that God would tell me if it's okay. I mean, I suppose I have been getting some kind of... peace about it, I guess. But I'm looking for something a little more clear.
Adsila is lying down near the entrance watching the sunset. I'm lying down on top of her head, my chin resting in my folded arms just above her eyes, also watching the sunset.
"So listen..." she starts, "I've been thinking and..." She takes a deep breath. "I've tried thinking of a less awkward way to ask this but... What would you think if we were.. you know.. together?"
I'm starting to get anxious. How do I tell her that I'm not sure? "You mean like, romantically?"
"Yes. I mean, I think it would work. We have similar interests and we love spending time together. On top of that... You've given me so much joy that I hadn't felt in over a year before I met you. After Mohe died, I felt empty. Like I had no purpose, and there was no way to get one. And then I met you. You looked at me like I was a person, and not just a strange creature. And you were actually willing to see me again and spend time with me. I actually like being alive again. So... what do you think?"
I slide off her head, carefully so as not to hurt my leg, and look at her to see calm anticipation in her eyes. This is going to be hard. "I don't know."
The hopefulness in her eyes starts to fade. "But... is it because I'm a dragon?"
"I don't see how that would make a difference. I mean... it's not like God has a problem with it. Does He?"
"I've prayed about it, but..."
"He's against it?"
"No. I guess I've been getting a peace about it."
"You guess. So why not?"
I don't know what to say. I want to make Adsila happy, but I don't want to upset God either.
She looks away, her face downcast, and says "Saying you didn't like me would have been less cruel." She turns her back to me.
My heart breaks at that. It's not that I don't like her at all! I... I love her. And it's not wrong, so why do I still feel so anxious?
And then, right out of nowhere, the message in the last verse in 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind. "Faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love." I put together in my head that there's no way I would have thought of that verse myself. There's only one way that would have come to mind. It's an answer to prayer. I need to show those things. Faith, faith that my peace is coming from God; hope, hope that a relationship with Adsila would be okay; and love. Love for her.
"Adsila," I start.
"Douglas, please don't," she sniffles before she lies back down with tears filling her eyes.
I limp around her in front of her face. Her head is dipped at an angle so that the tip of her snout is in front of my face. I lean forward and kiss her on the lips. She quietly gasps before I take my face away to look at her. Some hopefulness returns to her eyes before she kisses me, enveloping my face in her giant lips. She leans back and we look into each other's eyes as we both smile. Our lips meet again, for much longer this time. This is the most soothing thing I've ever done, I think. I don't even mind that her lips are too big for mine. It's like getting a big hug from two big, soft pillows.
After a minute of this, I feel her tongue slip out from between her lips and brush my face. As we kiss, it does that a few times, lingering sometimes. I can tell what she wants... heck with it. She's been good today; she deserves it. Without parting from her, I take off my vest, pants, shoe, and sock; leaving me in just my undershirt, underpants, and the cast on my leg. I then press my face further between her lips and slip my arms in too. I feel her big sharp teeth part from behind her lips, with her knowing exactly what I was thinking. I crawl further. I feel her lips slide down my torso and legs, until my feet slip into her.
Now that I'm once again in her mouth, her tongue becomes more lively. Almost playfully, it slides all over me, especially on my face and legs and arms. It even tickles me by sliding under my shirt. I laugh as I try pushing it away, but it seems insistent on tasting me. After a few minutes of wrestling the giant muscle, I hug it, and it even seems to curl sideways around me, hugging me back. Adsila's tongue finally relaxes, and so do I. I turn over, facing up as I lay on the tongue. I'm suddenly aware of a soothing vibration coming from deep within her. I smile, realizing she's purring. I decide to give her what she wants. I push myself backward, her uvula brushing past my face as I start to slip into her throat. Her windpipe closes as my head pushes into her esophagus. I push further until I can feel her uvula with my toes. And with a loud squelch, she swallows me.
After a moment of sliding down Adsila's throat, I'm released into her stomach. I'm soaking wet and I'm surrounded by pink wrinkles. I love her and I know I'm safe, but this is still going to take some getting used to. I then feel my world shift as she lies on her side.
"Oh Douglas," she sighs.
I don't say anything. Instead, I rub my surroundings as Adsila continues to purr.
"So, are you okay with this now?" She asks.
"Um," I mutter, "Kind of."
She giggles and says "I'll ask next time." A calm, quiet moment passes before she continues "I think I'm going to take a nap. Do you want to come out?"
"Nah. I'll be fine." I feel her curl around her belly before I say "Oh and, Adsila?"
"I love you. I really do."
"I love you too." She sighs before she says "Alright. Goodnight, my delicious prey."
I chuckle before I continue rubbing the walls. Over the next fifteen minutes, her purring gets quieter as her breathing deeper and more relaxed while her heartbeat slows down. She's asleep now.
Before I fall asleep myself, I kiss the wall I'm facing. "Goodnight, my beautiful predator."