Dragon Song

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Silver
Jessica Colomb

Kali stared down at the girl who hesitated at the edge of the inferno.

The girl, oblivious to the gaze of the Mother Oracle, contemplated the fire circumscribing the tower before she walked through it.

From her perch, Kali watched the surefooted stride, swaying hips, and gleaming eyes of Murin as she moved through the first challenge. The girl’s clothes smoked and smoldered at the edges.

Guards stopped her at the entrance, as they had been instructed. Her hands flared but they remained silent in her path.

The roar of the girl wafted to Kali and cloaked her in its anger. The prognostication of Murin’s arrival had revealed her arrogance and pride. It had not prepared Kali for the scent of it, the taste of it, harsh and pungent at the back of her throat. It choked.

The cooling air wicked moisture from Kali’s lined faced and sank into her joints. Still, the Oracle continued her vigil, waiting to see if Murin could contain the burning within her. It was near the hour of stillness when the girl finally calmed and sat in front of the guards.

“I seek the guidance of the Oracle Kali,” Murin whispered hoarsely. “May I please see her.”

The guards looked to Kali. Murin followed their gaze. Moonlight glinted off the claws that gripped the balustrade and shimmered off the dark scales as the dragon bowed her head in assent.

In Kali’s chamber, Murin tiptoed across the translucent alabaster floor to where Kali sat at her throne. In her human form, Kali was terrifying. Her skin glinted blue-black, her nails were like shards of hematite, and her hair silky and sparkling like a moonlit river. Her skin undulated as if some creature burrowed beneath it. Murin stumbled backwards as one of the Oracle’s legs spilled out into the massive hindquarter of a dragon and then returned to the knobby human shape.

“It is difficult to maintain another form when I am cold and tired,” Kali said.

“If you’d let me in sooner you wouldn’t be so tired, Old Mother,” Murin snapped. She stood with her hands on her hips and was filling her lungs to begin a tirade when it struck her.

The blood vessels in Kali’s brain dilated as she shared the stream of visions. Quickly, she dammed herself.

Murin fell to her knees and clutched her head. She spiraled to the floor, unconscious.

Kali’s skin tumbled into the scales of her dragon form. She picked up the slack body and cradled it. Pressing her snout against Murin’s hot forehead, Kali chanted an incantation of protection. Her tail whispered across the floor as she carried Murin to bed.

Murin stumbled from the thickness of sleep. She searched the room for a glimmer of familiarity, but all was foreign. The ache in her head announced that another attack had happened. The blackouts brought bouts of memory loss; a minute, hour, sometimes up to a week evaporated.

Flashes of scenes from the visions between blinks disoriented her. A murmur slithered through the air and insinuated itself into the firings in Murin’s brain. Like a compass, the murmur snagged one of the images and brought it to the foreground. A black dragon sat in the center of a white floor with its eyes closed and its lips twitching in speech. Murin touched the threads of the pathways of sensation in her body and traced the one for sound. “Come to me, little one,” the dragon was saying. “It is time, Murin.” Murin flinched and her skin prickled. She burst out of the door and ran in a random direction only to find herself in that white-floored chamber, facing that dragon.

“Let me out of here,” Murin yelled.

The dragon cocked a brow and opened her eyes. Kali’s fabled topaz eyes regarded the frantic girl with a mixture of humor and sadness. “Only yesterday you were yelling to get in and now you’re yelling to get out,” Kali said, her multi-phonic voice expressed a range of tones in each syllable.

The sound of her flowed over Murin and doused the fear in her belly.

“Which is it?” Black lids veiled the pale eyes once more. Kali breathed evenly, with the patience of the universe. Without permission, Kali forged a mental connection with the girl and drew her into the time stream.

Murin thrashed at first, gasping for air as if she was drowning. She felt pieces of her consciousness breaking off and becoming entangled in the stream.

Kali supported the weight of her and sang to her.

All the tones collected the scattered parts of Murin, reassembling her to a point of singularity. She settled into the flow. She felt the past, present and future swirl around her in jumbled confusion.

Kali waded into the deep. Her intrusion sent ripples and cut a V-shaped swath. The stream expanded in all directions at once. Her mental self floated on her back and sank into the waters of time so only her snout emerged from the flow.

Murin detected the Oracle sensing the luminous incandescent particles and waves surrounding her.

Kali picked one.

It was of the past, something Murin had not yet lost to the blackouts, either because it was too far back in her memory or it was something she held too close to release to the mist. She sneered at the man who had called himself father and seethed at the moment she had stopped being his daughter and became, instead, a shameful burden.

Kali continued to pull pieces of Murin’s life out of the time stream, careful to only touch the shadowy reds and golds of her past. There was the particle of her accidentally burning the tomatoes with a fiery hiccup. There were her skin cells refining themselves into the golden shimmer of tiny tightly woven scales. Her thefts, her betrayals, her thick-throated desolation, and all consuming explosions. Kali plucked from the stream the moment of her conception, a mystery of cells merging, splitting, and roiling in the act of creation. There was the gilded face of a golden dragon, Murin standing at the fire, before the guards, before Kali.

Kali shifted her position and hummed at a different frequency. Now she pulled out images of the people Murin had collided with over the years. The slack weathered face of her mother, the seesaw limp of a tavern keeper who had refused her, the jagged scar marring the back of a friend who had intervened in a fight.

The humming grew louder and the images came more frequently until they barraged Murin like storm waves against a breakwater wall. The particles merged with her and she with them, exchanging pieces, shifting orbits and flashes of flame until she gasped for air.

Again, Kali changed the tone of her hum and picked out the moment that was now. Time zero. They returned to the chamber, Kali as tranquil as before, breathing deeply and drifting in meditation.

Some color sapped out of Murin’s skin, leaving her a sickly burnish of pale gold.  She rubbed feeling back into her fingers and wiped her sweaty palms on her pants. The spark of her anger would not grow no matter how she tried to coax it. She decided to sit on the floor, cross-legged, in front of the Oracle. She studied the chevron pattern of Kali’s scales and marveled that even dragons acquired wrinkles.

“You had no right,” Murin said after the hum dissipated and silence filled the spaces and gaps. It was a statement rather than the intended accusation that would have normally devolved into violence. Wading through the time stream, then the restoration and augmentation of her memory had somehow dampened her fire. Without it, she felt cold and vulnerable.

“Had no right to condense that of your life turned to vapor?”

“To change me.”

Kali turned her eyes to the girl sitting in front of her, whose mouth softened in a pout and eyes darkened by melancholy. Of the various paths, Kali chose the one that began, “What triggers your blackouts?”

Murin scoffed. Kali had seen her memories just as clearly as she had. “The visions, ancient one.” She meant the moniker as a barb, but it rearranged itself into a demonstration of respect.

Kali let quiet slip between them. It expanded.

Murin shifted uncomfortably, uncrossed her legs and still the silence crept ever outward. She tried to puncture it with the repetition of her answer, but her throat closed. And the stillness. In the space that was not the time stream but a waking meditation of every single moment of her life, Murin mimicked Kali and waded into her memories. She submerged herself in them. When her muscles tensed from the snarled undertow, Kali chanted softly. Unfurling her limbs, Murin opened the channels of her senses. Humming did not help her pinpoint the moments she was looking for. She turned to her gut and the other mechanisms that built emotions. She choked as she realized that her method of seeking and controlling her visions involved emotions and their infinite shades.

Testing this, she chose fear. It belonged to the family of blue, which also included sadness and heartbreak and despondency, and drifted closely to the tones of violet and cobalt, that dark edge before black. She found a tone of fear. Focusing on it illuminated the stream, these bits of fear-filled moments revealing themselves in their peculiar color. She selected a few to confirm that they were what she imagined them to be.

Next, Murin meditated on the color associated with the visions. It was nacreous. Slowly she examined the visions, asked the memories to form root systems so she could trace them backwards to the trigger. Her heart pace quickened as frustration set in. There was no pattern to the vision triggers. Sometimes it was touch, a sound, or a smell. Sometimes it was a feeling or a place. She began to withdraw from the trance but Kali’s chanting morphed. She uttered instructions, which inserted themselves into Murin’s subconscious. A spark. Murin returned to her search, looking now for the blackouts. The blackouts had no texture or color. They were like spots of nothingness drifting around her.

She eased one into her grasp and traced to its beginnings. A flash of red stunned her into dropping the memory. She repeated the process. Over and over red blinded her, stifled her breath, shocked her into jettisoning the memory. Methodically searching all the spots of nothingness, the pattern that emerged was stark.

Murin paused and wavered between escaping to the alabaster floor of Kali’s chamber and seeking out the red moments of her life. Kali sang her encouragement and support. Breathing deeply, Murin elicited the hue of her anger. Everywhere was red and it engulfed her.


“I have earned a B.A. in Creative Writing at UCSD and was awarded the 2005 Sherley Anne Williams Memorial Prize in Fiction for “Memoir, A Blind Spot.” During my studies, I was pleased to work with Eileen Myles, Anna Joy Springer, Ali Liebegott and Michael Davidson. My first publication is upcoming in Storyglossia.” E-mail: inkspotfever[at]yahoo.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email