In the far distance lay a particularly spiky part of Switzerland, where there stood a magnificent mountain. This mountain was so huge that it wore the clouds around its shoulders like a scarf, and it’s peak was like a nose on a face forever pointed upwards and staring at the icy stars.
Part way down this mountain was a cave. It sat dark and forbidding like an empty eye socket, just above the tops of the clouds. No one had yet been there, partly because most didn’t know it existed, and partly because those that did know couldn’t scale the thousand feet of sheer cliff face to get to it.
There was no other way.
But if someone had indeed made the effort, they would have found themselves standing in a dark cavern that opened up wide behind its entrance. They’d have marvelled at the smooth, almost glassy, walls. And if they’d stood very still and quiet, the blood would have run cold in their veins because they would have heard not one but two things. There would be the steady and resonant plip plop of water dripping for ever into puddles that never filled, and there would have been something else. A regular breathing noise, with an impossibly long cycle. A thirty second long noise that whistled sibilantly from the dark cave depths, followed by a shorter wheeze, but a wheeze way down in the bass notes.
It would have taken this adventurer no more than a minute to turn and run, like the wind, towards the edge of the cave, whereupon one can only hope he would have had the presence of mind to lower himself down the cliff face in an orderly manner, rather than simply jumping into the void.
But of course, this never happened. It’s mere conjecture, because no one had ever been there. No human anyway.
One bleak day in early Spring, the sound of the breathing in the cave started to change. It became less deep. And shorter, mimicking the quickening pace of the sound of the dripping water. And eventually it became irregular and was punctuated by an occasional grunting sound.
Sixenz, as he’d been named, although he didn’t know that yet, was very young. He lay curled in a corner, with the point of his fiery red tail stabbed deep into a rock nearby, so it didn’t flail about in his dreams, and cut him.
This was only his thirty fifth year in this world. Equivalent to a mere toddler in human terms. But he was already as aware of the world as any adult human. His parents had prided him with this cave shortly after his birth and then left him there, as Dragons do.
That was almost twenty five years ago. And as baby Dragons do, he’d leaned to kill and eat and survive, as baby Dragons do. Far below him lay a thickly wooded forest. And when the clouds decided to sink to earth, as they sometimes did, and the forest there lay deeply swathed in fog, Sixenz would slither forward in his cave and peer down at the fog below, that lay like an undulating, gossamer blanket over the world.
He knew that his food lay there somewhere. A rogue deer that had strayed from the herd. Or a bleating foal, whose mother would bleat and squeak and huff great clouds of steam into the air as she ran about helplessly watching Sixenz crush her child alive with his huge, beak like jaws.
This was to be one of those days. As Sixenz stirred slowly, the sides of the tunnel that he saw as he opened his eyes shimmered in reflected sunlight, for here up above the clouds, the sun always shone. He’d been asleep for nine long months, and he was hungry.
In the usual way, he heaved and squirmed his way down the tunnel towards the dazzling cave entrance, the spines on his back grating into the groove that ran the length of the cave, worn into the rock by thousands of Dragons before him, going back to a time before mankind.
He reached the edge and, eyes narrowed against the bright light, he gazed down below. There lay the fog. Like a slow motion river in languid, silky flow across the gentle, hidden hills.
Sixenz longed to stretch his wings, which hadn’t unfurled in more than nine months. He didn’t look up. He didn’t need to as he knew there was no one up higher then he was. Dragons ruled this world, although the world didn’t realise it. So he just looked down, to make sure all was safe before he launched himself from the cave mouth, and shot like an arrow downwards, eight hundred feet to the fog wherein he slipped and vanished silently.
The forest was still and grey. Monotone shades from pale grey like bloodless skin, to dark shadows within shadows. All creatures stayed still and waiting for sun.
Leaves on trees were deathly still and dripped gently. Except some, that quivered momentarily as though something had passed that way, disturbing the tense air.
A lone stag stood still as a statue, his antlers gleaming wet and his dark eyes watching. But he didn’t see enough. For him, the air moved suddenly, a blur to his right and the agony as his rig cage was crushed between two halves of a hooked beak three times his length.
Sixenz had enjoyed the hunt. It was good to feel the cold pressure of the wind under his wings again. And the taste of warm blood brought him alive. Concluded his slumber. The fragile body of the deer collapsed in his mouth.
And then he looked up. Stood not thirty feet away was a man. Watching him. Stood stock still like a statue, eyes wide.
Stillness returned to the forest for a full half a minute, as each looked at the other.
Sixenz saw a man stood there in the wood. But something happened to him then. Then at that point, he grew up and became what he was meant to be. Sixenz wasn’t like any other Dragon. In fact, he wasn’t like any other creature in the world, this one or any of the others. Sixenz came to realise this within the first five seconds of having seen the man.
Sixenz realised with a shock that he could remember his past life, in every detail. All in one moment, he not only acquired this knowledge of a different world in a different form, but he also acquired the ability to process it. All at once. And a mere babe-in-arms Dragon, barely out of the nest, suddenly faced a world with the comprehension of a human man some seventeen times his age, in human-dragon years.
Actually, now Sixenz had seen enough, he saw that it wasn’t a man, it was a woman.
But what Sixenz saw in front of him was no longer a beast called a woman. What he saw was both what he saw normally, as a Dragon, plus what the woman saw. As a woman and also as a Dragon, with warm blood running down its iron hard chin, and warm blood curdling in the other.
Ten seconds had passed.
The woman turned to run and started to scream. Sixenz saw prey and death simultaneously. Sixenz understood the world in a much wider sense. He, in a moment, came to understand the perspective of everyone and every thing. And he knew that he had once been a woman. He lived the life of a human female, before he was born as a Dragon.
As the woman turned and ran headlong away into the disinterested fog, Sixenz reflected. He remembered hating his/her life. He remembered a life of angst, and doubt, and anger at the powerlessness.
He remembered a life of servitude and cleaning and being quietly but obviously afraid of her next lodger. She had to run this hotel and so she was going to have to face down threat with threat.
In the woods, Sixenz lay, dead deer in his jaws. In another world that’s supposed to be past us, a lonely soul lived her life imagining herself defending herself, and never doing anything else.
Everyone down at the local village pub, busiest on Fridays, thought she was a right old dragon.