Beneath the Shadow of the Dragon
by Erin Cashier
"You need to bring her body back," my aunt said as I ate at her table. "They're
lighting the Dragon soon. Go and get her."
I frowned, but only my soup could see. "There'll be other lightings --"
"How often do officers die? You get her. Leave tomorrow. You'll have a week to
bring her body back."
I sighed and watched the contents of my dinner ripple beneath the weight of my
chore. "I don't want to."
My aunt leaned back, and crossed her arms across her wide bosom. "Bring her
back, or don't come back at all," she said sternly. I looked up and saw the
memory of my mother cross her face. "But wait until tomorrow."
I started off in the morning, my aunt setting me on my way. I complained that I
couldn't remember where I'd buried her, but my aunt knows that's a lie. I
protested and she ignored me and we danced until I was out the door and it was
locked behind me.
The Dragon's metallic carcass casts my aunt's home in shadow. She lives in the
wake of its botched landing, in a place where five generations of weather have worn
jagged rubble into grassy foothills. Massive fragments of the Dragon litter its self-made valley floor. Far below, on the other side of the ridge, engines as wide as
four arms apart are dreaming giant rusting dreams, waiting to be woken.
We light the Dragon when an officer has died. There's a ceremony, a long
procession, and everyone deposits the remains of their loved ones in the blast path.
Then the engines turn over, and -- chuggity-chuggity-chuggity-woooosh! -- we've
cremated them to ash, so they can lift up into the clouds.
So now I've got a bag on my back meant for my mother, and a three day walk out
to get her.