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Strange Dreams: Old Women and Dragons

The old woman was considered crazy by the townsfolk. She wandered around the village muttering the same old mutterings about dragons and loss and fear and hope, and destiny. Her small twisted frame seemed to close in on itself. Most people avoided her, but Muriel was different. She listened. She cared. She was older now, but still young enough that everyone thought she might be a little too influenced by the old woman. One thing Muriel did not do was assume anything about anyone. Everyone else thought the old woman was crazy, but Muriel knew that the old woman was young once and grew to who she is now. There might be things in her past that made her the way she is. She couldn’t have been a young toddler, wandering her parent’s home muttering the same mutterings she does now. Something changed fundamentally within the old woman at some point in her life that made her not care what people thought and have such a focus on “fantasy” that she is who she is. So Muriel befriended the old woman. She’d visit her every chance she got, apart from her chores and her studies, which wasn’t very often. The old woman resided in an alley, which was made comfortably enough because of some lumber that a kind traveler built for her some years ago. It had walls and a sturdy yet stout roof. There was always a fire in a metal barrel. It was small but provided enough heat and warmth to cook her mystery victuals and keep her comfortable in the cold of winter. Muriel would come over with tea and a few carrots or onions, and a small squab. She would prepare a meal for the old woman as her mutterings grew quiet when she watched Muriel cook. Then Muriel would lay out the feast and tell the old woman about her week. The old woman would eat slowly, looking up into Muriel’s eyes once in a while with a huge grin on her face. Sometimes she would chuckle at a rare bit of comic life Muriel would share as a printer’s daughter. Muriel would ask the old woman questions, trying to find out about the old woman’s previous life, but was always met with mutterings. She could not glean anything from the visits except for the fact that the woman enjoyed eating and maintained some sense of humor.

One day the townsfolk were all agog at some occurrence near where Muriel’s family lived. Some light appeared in the sky for a night and steadily grew brighter. In the morning it was bright enough that the people saw it hurtling down, crashing near the family property of Muriel’s family. None would come near because of the reputation of Muriel’s father. He would laugh and sing nonsensical lyrics to music only he could hear as he worked or came into town. The townsfolk considered him just as strange as the old woman, yet still of a mind that you could deal with, for the few moments you had to. The town was dreary. It was always raining, it seemed, and cheerfulness was a commodity rarely traded. Muriel’s father’s inexplicable joy was to be avoided.

The old woman appeared from her alley on the morning of the occurrence and stood on the street dancing and twirling her heavy canvas skirting. The people soon lost interest in the light that appeared the night before, because if it was that the old woman began dancing in conjunction with the occurrence, nothing of interest could come of it. They had lost their sense of curiosity, if it ever was there. The rains come and wash it all away.

Muriel could not be found where her father expected to find her. He began searching the grounds. Eventually he found her in the unused stables. She had something behind the gate of a rear stall. He approached quickly, for his curiosity and sense of wonder would not be lost as the townsfolk; washed away with the rain. Every new experience was to be treasured, sought after. Even coming to this town many years ago, he knew it was his destiny. He felt compassion for the people and their loss of flavor in their lives. He sensed something wonderful was going to happen someday in this town, and he stayed. He made his way to the dim corner and saw something undefinable. It had an unreal quality about it. The thing standing before him, looking down on him, was fashioned in such a way that he couldn’t really see. It was outlined in such a way that as it turned, the lines defining it outer edge moved. The viewers eye constantly caught a black edge on the creatures surface. It was a rough line, made as with a child’s hand. The creature had a mouth oddly shaped. There were no lips on a flat surface, but… drawings of teeth and a tongue came out of the area, all with that same dark outline. It was tan. It had a large, round body and it’s neck came out from the front center and ended at a barrel-like head. The eyes popped out of the top, wide and blank, staring at everything with a small black dot as it’s pupil. It spoke. “Sshparklethresshh,” it seemed to say as it’s tongue got in the way. It said it over and over again. Muriel’s father stared with wonder, a slight grin turned up on his face. He knew that the creature should evoke fear or disgust, but he felt nothing but joy and wonder when looking into the creature’s eyes. He knew that if anyone chose to look at this creature they would feel the same. He knew this inherently, just as he knew that those who looked at it had to do so willingly and most would choose not to look. Most would probably not even see it. He knew that if he dragged one of the townsfolk in here, kicking and screaming, they would frantically look around, claim to see nothing and run out as fast as they could.

He looked down at his daughter seeing a knowing look and grand smile in her face. They knew whatever he had chosen to stay here for, had begun this day. He heard a crack and a squeal behind him and turned to see the old woman come in, her body untwisting before him as she set her eyes on the creature.

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