I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with the birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like a castle overlooking the countryside; the sky, soaring through the clouds, with the birds high in the atmosphere; moving with and against water currents, playing with the ocean dwellers; traversing the great underground caverns and tunnels. Inexplicable joy and longing at these…memories? Dreams? Wishes??
The feelings are so powerful I’ve considered asking my family, but something keeps telling me not to. To keep it a secret.
The town is small and only getting smaller as the youth leave for the cities. They are drawn by the allure of jobs, mates and lights. It’s not like I’ve never been to the city before, but the countryside, the land, always calls me back. Urbanity oppresses me, induces anxiety, closes in on me as if I’m being fettered and choked. No one understands it. They tell me I’m a strange hill-billy.
They don’t have to get me. Heck, I don’t even get myself.
Today, I’m sitting on a fence after finishing my chores for the day, when Farmer Tom leans on the fence beside me. We watch the fields, the cows and the setting sun for a while in silence, the chilly autumn breeze feeling good on our skin. Suddenly he says, “You feel the call, dontcha.” It’s not really a question. It startles me that he seems to have read my mind: I was just trying, for the millionth time, to make sense of the urges and tugging at my mind, heart and soul. He catches my eye and winks. I gasp aloud. For the first time in my life I see eyes that look like mine. Ever since I can remember I’ve worn special contacts in order to disguise the unique shape of my pupils that change depending on what and how I wish to see.
He then raises his nose to the air and says, “Goody Martha’s quiche is about ready to come out of the oven, but…”
“The crust and cheese are slightly burnt,” we both finish the sentence together. I can’t help but stare at him. Good Martha lives on the far edge of the town.
Farmer Tom just smiles and after a moment asks, “Do you want to know? There’s no taking it back once you do.” There is weight in his words, but a clear message appears in my mind. It is time. I only nod at him, my mouth unable to operate. He puts down his pitchfork and beckons me follow across fields, through trees and into the rocks.
My body tingles with anticipation, but my hands wring in anxiety. We stop at the edge of the highest cliff, the sun almost completely sunk below the horizon. I can see the lights in the town below us.
He turns to me, sheds all his clothes, and falls backwards off the cliff. I am transfixed to the spot, terrified, when a massive beast shoots into the air and lands with a thud before me. The eyes prove his humanity, but the scaly hide, the gorgeous wings, powerful tail and the ferocious heat emanating from his body…Farmer Tom — and I — are dragons.