The Dragon and the Dolphin

The fire dragon requested of the village a quantity of virgins, a moiety of newborns, and a bride from each solstice faire. The villagers bent to these requests woefully. But with promptitude they bent. The requests were more than requests, they knew. Left to his hungers, the fire dragon would anger. Left to his angers, the fire dragon would ignite.

The water dolphin requested of the village a bushel of wheatcakes, a spillage of goat's milk and a pie from each solstice faire. The pie could bulge with whatever filling, the villagers knew. And so of berries, they baked pies, and of yams. And so of squash, they baked pies, and of apples. Proudly then all of these competed. And finally then the best of them fed the dolphin.

By these offerings and sacrifices the fire dragon and the water dolphin lived, and the villagers lived beside them.

In every season, from every corner of the village, the villagers watched the fire dragon and the water dolphin clash. From way on high, the legends explained, the fire dragon saw the water dolphin swimming deep beneath the surface of the sea. And from deep beneath the surface of the sea, the same legends explained, the water dolphin watched the fire dragon soaring way on high.

The legends must be true, the villagers avowed. For, on those days that the fire dragon plunged toward the sea from way on high, and in those last moments before his breath fouled its surface and he whipped away, then and there the water dolphin leapt from the crest of a wave, leapt high into the sooty air, and met the fire dragon bodily. For such a singular joust to be joined, the villagers insisted; for such ominous dives to cross such splendorous jumps so precisely, they averred, the water dolphin and the fire dragon must watch one another very closely indeed.

In every season the villagers watched this battle breathlessly. They watched the fire dragon plummet and the water dolphin arc and the two of them clash in mid-air. They watched this battle breathlessly, for, in those moments of their clashing, the water of the dolphin extinguished the fire of the dragon, and the fire of the dragon evaporated the water of the dolphin. Hours passed then as the two entities hung faintly translucent, in mid-air, over chop of sea, just sheer interminglings of smoke and steam. The villagers roused then and marched in complex patterns. The villagers cried then and beat cooking pots with bricks. Incantations they invoked. Ancient chants they intoned. All the known powers of yore, the villagers conjured, and of their day. And all the while they uttered this one feverish prayer: "Let the steam dispel the smoke," they beseeched. "Let the dolphin consume the dragon!"

But it never did.

Despite earnest appeals and divinations, despite awkward spells and prostrations, the smoke finally rose to reform again the fire dragon, and the steam finally fell to gel again to water dolphin.

And downwardly finned the one.

And upwardly winged the other.

And desponding stood the villagers, gazing, weepfully cursing the fiery snorts that would cook again their young. And despairing stood the villagers, dazing, doubting the prophesied end of their pangs: That day when only water dolphin held sway.

A record of these passings stood prominently before the village common hall. The record was a rock; a broad clean rock upon which the village mason documented battle after inconclusive battle between the dolphin and dragon. The two would clash, the villagers would wail forth their mystic entreaties, and next day the well-watched mason would hunch his brawn over the rock's face, chiseling there yet another tally.

The villagers believed completely in their supernatural rites. And they believed their village rock to be a necessary testament of this faith.

The villagers called the rock their history.

John Dishwasher

The Dragon and the Dolphin