The beach creatures of varying shapes and sizes, with short, spindly legs, pay no attention to those huddled around the body where it lies as still as stone on the beach. The well-armored platoon of crustaceans works quickly, as if driven by a single mind, each taking its place next to an empty location adjacent to a sling brought by one of the larger non-human shapes. The sea creatures first work together to straighten out a nearly invisible line of rope which they found somewhere in the middle of the sling, then they work in unison to spread the sling out like a flattened alia leaf. With this task completed they turn in silent unison and make their way to other unmarked yet unquestionable locations next to the horizontal, motionless corpse just a few feet away.

 

 

 

 

A thick, charcoal gray blanket of clouds hovers above them as an unwelcome cool mist covers the huddled group with a thin, damp blanket of moisture. The foamy, liquid edge of the nearby lake is still somewhat choppy, pulsing in the slow, rhythmic process of settling down after an earlier commotion. This liquid oasis is the former home of the Castle of Tears.

Other than the group surrounding the corpse on the beach, there appears to be no other form of visible life anywhere around them. The eerie growls heard earlier in the murky carpet of fog are now silent, and the lifelike bank of wispy tendrils which covered the lake earlier finally begins to dissipate. Various sized slivers of golden and salmon colored rays of sunlight marking the end of a day to remember break through the thinning clouds, gently pushing away the events of the past few hours like a bad dream. Even the spinning, fish-spewing funnels are nowhere to be seen anywhere across the recently dark, menacing body of water.

The mourners watch in silent disbelief as the nearby shoreline suddenly comes to life, giving birth to dozens of sand crabs as they erupt from their hiding places like lava from mini volcanoes.

Perhaps asking each other why something so unfortunate, so wasteful, had to happen to this particular human on this particular day...

Perhaps offering sympathies in a strange language that, no matter how hard the surviving humans tried, remained misunderstood.

Once the sand creatures have the motionless corpse completely surrounded they move in unison to raise the lifeless husk off the sand. Then, inch by slow inch, they carry it like an offering to a king over to the sling where they gently lay it down on the thick, woven mesh of dark brown fabric.

The dragon watches the proceedings in silence.

 

 

The sad group watches the scene before them in silence, somehow knowing what was happening – what MUST happen – to their former comrade, each of them struggling with their emotions – stifling cries that beg to be released...

Each understanding that Grief is both a powerful emotion and demon…

Each hoping this demon is one that can be overcome with vigilance, time, and a little bit of luck.

The only sounds heard as the sand crabs take their unmarked places alongside the corpse are the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach, restrained liquid cries for the loss of one so special - one so young - and the click, click, clicking of the sand creatures as they speak in a foreign tongue to each other…

Perhaps sharing tales of other senseless deaths...

Unrecognizable, grieving shapes stand in shocked silence around a horizontal object on a beach in the growing twilight, before the death of night has settled on the world. The morose shapes are clustered in mournful huddle around the form before them where it lies motionless on an uninviting, sandy beach not far from the place where the water meets the land.

The unrecognizable, motionless shape is that of a once vibrant yet now lifeless corpse.

 

 

Dragon's Breath
*** To purchase an autographed copy from the author, please click here. ***

Upon completion of the grim chore, the horde of sand crabs shuffles in a scattered line to the border of the lake, just shy of the water’s edge. As the tide first rhythmically pulls away then returns to the beach, small waves lap at the crabs’ armor-covered legs with repeated, liquid caresses, yet the sand creatures seem to not notice.

The sound of a sniffle breaks the thick silence as a trail of unrestrained tears cascades down one of the mourner’s cheeks.

Today they have lost a friend.

Dragon’s Breath

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