As long as his hard-drive is still there, his life will be fine. Oh, and he'd need his mobile phone. But he doesn't care about the rest, just as he has stopped caring about fairytales, and seeing white horses in the clouds. Her window is immediately over the top of his computer screen. He sits in front of it all day and all night. His window is only a frame, since the dragons have eaten the rest, but hers is still intact.
A lone guard watching over her window, Zhaishao drops off to sleep. Maybe, after moving house for the first time, when he came back to look for his Toy Story Cowboy, she had also come back to look for her rag-doll. Maybe in the dark, his hand had touched hers, or by some stroke of magic, her lips had touched his, so so softly. Maybe the meeting of their souls was written in the spatial motion of the planets. I don't know, and neither does my little Zhaishao. All I know, and all he knows, is that whenever he thinks of her, his heart skips a beat, and that beyond the three-dimensional world of his computer screen there is a fourth dimension.
It doesn't matter where they first met, or that she has turned into a dragon. None of that matters. When Zhaishao wakes up, something has changed. There are dragons eating the steel structures! A second generation of dragons that eats concrete and steel!
The people inside the metal structures have turned into dragons, and they are eating too. They are all eating at the same time, and as they eat the buildings diminish. The steel structure of the entire town is gradually disappearing. It is like a movie playing backwards: the buildings grow back into the ground, the mish-mash of roads re-appears, the cars crawling in traffic come to a standstill. The wheels and bolts have been eaten.
The engines have been eaten …. Zhaishao starts to drift amid the dereliction, the urban landscape morphing into a metaphysical metropolis. As apartment blocks disappear, computer screens and TVs begin to proliferate, and mobile phones twinkle like stars in the sky, except they are twinkling on earth, flickering, glimmering, buzzing, humming.
The people still on two legs go in and out of their temporary shells, the rich in their tall wooden towers, the ordinary folk in straw huts and the migrant workers under plastic sheeting. Some climb into the broken shells of cars, with black rubber tyres, rows of seats, a steering wheel, a board here and there, just like the make-believe games they played as children …. Outside, the world has gone quiet, except for the sound of rushing water. It is the sound of fountains, of sand sliding down dunes. The dragons have digested the concrete and excreted sand. The tall concrete buildings have been replaced by dunes of white sand.
The greenery is still there, although there have never been many trees in this small town.
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There are little gardens in the streets, pots of flowers on balconies, seductive little oases in the desert — no need for a mirage. As the human population diminishes, the number of dragons increases. But the first generation dragons are now dying of hunger. The wind whittles away at their bodies till their bones fall higgledy-piggledy to the ground, the larger bones stacking up like giant bricks making a white dragon bone wall.
Zhaishao watches as two new humans-turned-dragons emerge, one from a wooden building and one from a straw hut, look back at their shells and eat them. He understands immediately: a third generation of dragons is appearing. The third-generation dragons can eat everything: plastic, glass, wood, rubbish. The town is covered in the stuff, but before long everything has been cleaned up, even the last bits of greenery. The Dragonslayers have vowed to trace the dragons back to their source — the first human-turned-dragon, the Mutant Dragon.
The final act will be an execution, elimination of the mutation.go
In Zhaishao's palm the bite marks ooze blood. His stigmata. His call of duty. Zhaishao has his suspicions. All the buildings in town have been eaten.
The building opposite has also been pulverised, yet that window is still there, floating in the air. It is like an illusion, yet so real, and from time to time she appears there. The humans-turned-dragons must share his suspicion for a crowd has gathered beneath the window.
There is yelling and shouting. Without stopping to get dressed, Zhaishao leaps into action. He must go to her rescue. Yes, she is the Mutant Dragon, but how did she become the first one? I am trying to work this out. Perhaps she really was sick, with an incurable disease, and had been lying in bed by the window.
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Turning her head on the pillow, she could see the back of his computer through the window. At night-time, when all the lights in the building had gone out, she could see this single dark square with coloured lights shimmering around the edges, like a rectangular eclipse. The girl stared and wondered how she could go to see what it was.
Her father was into bionics, and used the flat as a workshop in which to seek for the elixir of immortality, that lost ancestral art. The girl simply wanted to know what was behind the lights. She dreamed of putting her feet on the ground, of getting out of bed, walking into the sunshine, and across the footbridge.
She drank the potion her father had made, turned into a dragon, and floated in the air by her window. Damn the legend of Chang Er drinking the elixir of immortality and flying to the moon! How did I get caught up in this stuff? Do I really have to explain how the girl became the first dragon? Does it matter if she was the first? Does it matter what she dreams? What matters is that she is at the heart of his troubled mind. Zhaishao has already endured the full range of impossibilities: through burning flames, across sheets of ice, past bolts of thunder, but he still has to get through the crowd of dragons.
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They come up to him and bite at his body, ripping and tearing at his skin with their sharp teeth. They eat his T-shirt, his pants, his slippers.
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He runs naked towards the little dragon girl's window. When he sees her, he reaches up to her. She stretches out her leg with the coloured bands. Their fingertips touch.
As the dragon claw turns into a hand, a wild outbreak of laughter explodes behind him. He looks round and sees the Dragonslayers brandishing their swords at the dragon girl. She's an illusion! She's living in your head, you've got to get rid of her, root out this madness, then everything can go back to how it was!