English - contos - poesia -
The Eye of the Dragon
by Pedro Fonseca
Oh thou most splendid of creatures, show me thine eye,
So that I, may have the blessing of eternal life,
Once upon bestowed upon my fathers,
According to great legend
Thou Great, Oh Thy Marvellest of Creatures
Bestow Upon Me Thy Pride
Thy Glory and Thy Vengeance
For I will be, Your Slave, Your Master and Your
In the name of the Light,
And in the name of my Will
I bestow myself upon thee.
Olaf and the Balloon – part 1
There was once a man called Olaf who believed that everything you have is a prison, and only what you do not have is a reason to fly.
He therefore set himself to search for the Dragon (Hail Oh Dragon!), which he did not know if it really existed or was only a folklore legend. But he didn’t care much, he wanted to see the sky, and the green pastures. Olaf had been dreaming, wide-awake and for a long time, about the day he would finally leave the village. For years his eyes and ears had been set on the news of strangers that had been into town, and his mind reeked with images of distant lakes, of the wide shores of the sea, of immense, deep, dark and impenetrable forests, of the high mountains and the deep blue sky one could see from their icy top. Since he was a little boy he had seen with a sense of mystery and marvel the beetles and the ants, the houses and the people. And his penetrating eyes would search for every novelty, for every glimpse of pleasure that each new understanding brought. He saw the rich, upright widow, all dressed in black, including her high hat, who only cared for the compassion someone could throw at her. He saw the mill’s man, the merchant, fearing poverty, abhorring the poor, despising and fearing to be despised. He saw children, playing with whatever ephemeral thing the moment had brought, singing and laughing as if celebrating the fact that they were alive, as if a part of them still remembered the long eons that they had been dead.
He saw the ox, and the owl, he saw the tree, and the birds, and everything filled his imagination and his feeling, his desire, to travel, far, far away, in a country where everything was new and unexpected. In a place where his understanding could be enriched still more, where the trees spoke a different tongue, or perhaps there would be no trees at all, but something entirely different.
In all the years he sought and heard news from strangers he became accustomed to politics and religion, to science and mysticism. In all he just saw a sparkle of truth, veiled under an immense robe of fear and ambition for a shade of power; he saw mystery and ignorance associated with a want to know more. But in every science he could only see the mystery getting deeper. The main questions that, in an early age, upset the children smiles, and take away their laughter, such as: “who am I?”, or “what am I doing here?”, “what is the purpose of life?”, “could I be someone else?”, “could have I been born in a different place?”, “if I had a different name, different parents, what would make me, me?”. Questions such as these were only protracted in scientific discourse, and someone could spend ages thinking he was unraveling the deep mysteries of the universe, only to find out that a new generation of scientists would find the same questions, the same mysteries, as if untouched and unsolved, and would the try their hand too at the same fundamental problems, only to be diverted, more and more, by details: instead of “why” they slumbered on “how” and “what”. Interesting questions in themselves, but the fundamental question that had led to them remained untouched, unsolved, and, sometimes, forgotten.
Olaf, therefore, lost his desire to explore the big cities. He went there, at an early age, but he found the same widows and merchants, and the kings and princesses, and artists, were all variations of the children and the mill’s men that he had encountered in his home town. So he returned and let the eyes of his imagination wonder, endlessly, through worlds he himself did not understand. He veiled his eyes to his immediate surroundings, and imagined different stars and planets, and everything was so beautiful, like an immense symphony, a cosmic symphony, of which we hear just a slight echo when, in silence, we look deeply at the stars. Infinite, perfection, adventure. These were the words that sparkled Olaf’s eyes when, with veiled eyes, he sought the infinite through the lands of his imagination.
But one day he got tired, and that is when his eyes first got set in looking for the Dragon. The big white Dragon! Or was it really red, or shinning, like Fuchur, Atreju’s friend? Olaf didn’t quite believe that there was a Dragon at all. Nobody he knew had seen him, only old tales, of old folk, would speak of him. But the story made an uproar in Olaf’s mind each time we would think of it. «Just imagine», he would say, «a Dragon who’s eye would give eternal life, just by gazing at it – how absurd, and yet, how appealing such a story would be, if true!» Olaf imagined, many times, the strange powers such an eye would have to had, even in a pure imagination land, to have such an effect on its beholder. What would one have see, looking at the Dragon’s eyes, to attain such a long reached for prize? Or would it be something the Dragon would do to you, after you had look into his eyes? Perhaps he would bite you and some of his blood would enter into you and then you would be immortal too? But how could the blood of a Dragon made you immortal, and how could a Dragon attain immortality by himself, and who would want immortality anyway? Olaf would very soon get tired of these questions, but, contrary to other questions, these he could not solve, perhaps if he could imagine the Dragon better, or perhaps the story didn’t quite make any sense anyway. But he returned to it many times. And the only answer that came to him, was that the Dragon must had some kind of deep knowledge deep within him. And just as Olaf, sometimes, could see a person’s mind when he gazed deeply into her eyes, so, perhaps, it would be the same with the Dragon. If he gazed deep inside the Dragon’s eyes, he would know what the Dragon knew, and perhaps it was this knowledge that gave the Dragon his immortality! But then, Olaf thought, how could mere knowledge, something you just have on your head, provide you with anything besides an idea you have on your head? Certainly, it would not give your body more strength, or cure any disease!
These thoughts would not have given Olaf the will to give even a step in search for a Dragon. For, where would he find him, in the land of imagination? And why would he search for him? Eternal life was probably too long anyway! But then, someday, a strange thing happened, or better, a strange man appeared, a stranger who had come into town. He was skinny (much unlike Olaf), and didn’t bring much with him. He spoke little, and apparently didn’t care to stay for a long time. He ate little, but in his manners there was something quiet invisible that Olaf had never seen. Well, not that he could “see” it in this guy. It’s just that people are sometimes predictable, sometimes understandable. With this stranger nothing was quite clear, when he was silent he seemed all silent, almost transparent, as if the trees and the river spoke through him, as if he had no voice, but only a distant shrill of a will. But when he spoke, his words were marvelous and full of wisdom.
The stranger spoke of many things, when he was in town, and children and small men would come to see him. Important folk usually ignored him or scorned him, for he would give no importance to power or fame, and so, he would not pay respect to those who seek it, by giving it.
Olaf had a deep desire to hear the old man, and, strong as a willow, there he was, every night, by the firelight, listening to words of the old man. He spoke simply, and softly, sometimes about the lands beyond distant seas, sometimes about the stars, sometimes about the cosmos and the universe, and, most times, just about how you and me can be happy, just doing what we want to do, and how, what we want to do, although it might seem bad at first, is, in reality, just an obscured wish to love and be loved in return, how we all just dwell in love, when our seashells are taken out of order.
He would say to youngsters: «you love two people at the same time? – continue to love them both and help them the most at the same time. Look always to the deep inside, because to love, to help to grow, is not always simple, and demands that you know where the person is and where she could be, and what she must do to make that step. But do not help her too much, just give her the extra step, if she needs one, for the joy of life is in solving the little mysteries, and no one would like to be without them.» And, at other times, he would say: «many people have told you what to do, how to behave. This is good, it maintains a stable society, but if you also want a happy one, you should strive, not only for acceptance and harmony, but for passion and truth. Only when the freedom that is the seed of passion, unites with the realism and love for the outer world, will we be able to live in world that is both happy and harmonious.»
Olaf had many questions. Perhaps he was the most insatiable and inquisitive of all who searched for the stranger in that town. For all his life he had searched for answers, and now he was finding someone who had found, at least some of them, and he took with great glee the banquet of food and water, especially water, that he was now receiving. Why water? Because what he felt in the presence of the stranger was the dissolution of fears and prejudices that still lingered and held him to the ground!
One night he, filled with awe as always, asked, «where did you learn all this, was it by yourself or did someone taught you, some even greater master than you appear to be?» The stranger laughed but he soon replied, he said: «I learned all this because I traveled a lot, and my eyes are not closed, just as yours, but opened and seeking the magical mysteries of the world. But it is true» he continued «that I would not have learned half of what I did had I now found the Dragon that lives in the East!» Olaf was staggered beyond comprehension: this old man, who had never told anything suspicious like a tale until now, who always spoke simply and plainly about the truth, was now blasting away about a Dragon, the Dragon that Olaf could not get out of his mind, but always postponed, as a sidekick, as a legend, used to inspire, or to bash, or to put a sleep, but never to be taken seriously. Olaf looked slowly at the fireplace and imagined a world where such a Dragon was as real as he, Olaf, was, and as real as the stranger, the trees in the neighborhood, the children around, and the fire that slowly emerged from the blocks of chopped trees were. Reconfiguring himself has he could he stopped his wondering to ask: «Is this Dragon real?» «As real as anything is real, or more.» The stranger replied. «But» Olaf asked «how is this dragon, and how and where can it be found?» The stranger replied, in fact he said many things, but Olaf wasn’t listening. In his eyes, and in his mind, many images of a distant white, flamy dragon, passed like a strong wind. His imagination was troubled and full. This was not something that has been seen by science, not even in the world of adults, but only dreamed in the minds, in the joyous games and stories of kids. They stood there, by the fire, for some time, but Olaf would not be able to say if it was minutes or hours for his imagination seized him in a world far beyond the senses. He headed home afterwards but, late in bed, he could not find sleep: if the Dragon was real, everything would change. The meaning of the world itself would change! Tomorrow, Olaf would ask himself to the stranger how the Dragon looked like (he already did, but he couldn’t remember the answer), and what he had taught him, and if there were any other strange creatures like him.
Suddenly, tomorrow seemed like an eternity away, but Olaf soon felt asleep, with a grin in his mouth, for now he was sure, he could find the answers he needed, and the world, for sure, for sure, was a magical place...
Olaf and the Balloon – part 2
The morning finally arrived, eager and fast she rose, as if her only end was to bring on the night, and Olaf yearned for the night, the moment where he would sit again, near the fire, with the stranger that had brought him the news of the Dragon, and, with it, transformed his vision of the world, from something which could be merely understood, to something which was magical. Now he understood how all those books for children greeted and applauded magic and dreaming. Not because children need those incentives to play and dream, but because adults, who write these stories, feel an immense lack of it in their life. And they feel so empty that they create a world where magic is possible, a fairy tale, in some old scrapbook that revives their life as kids, that may give them the magic back which made life seem worth living!
So to actually see a dragon, not in some old strange book, but in real life, or to hear about such a thing, made Olaf’s mind go berserk. It was as if there was no distinction, once again, between the world of magic and the world of reality. As if they could be once more united, just by a sight, of such an unimaginable creature as a Dragon.
And so, off he was, glad as a merry-maker, shinning as polish, stirring within him a thousand thoughts, in his eyes, hands and feet, the will to go out to a thousand adventures. And then he came to the spot, where the fire was light just yesterday, and he was the first to arrive.
We waited and waited for the others to arrive, in his mouth the questions formed, words and words again, that asked the same thing: “where does this Dragon live, where can I find him?” Finally the strange seeker arrived, as always truly silent, as if all reality pass through him, as if through a more or less clean mirror with the design of a smile and a whisper. Olaf was impatient, and he immediately begin to ask: “Hello! How are you today? Could you tell me of the Dragon some more, I was so excited last night about what you said, I never dreamt that such Dragons may be real. I only know cities and people, and rivers and lakes, but never have I seen a Dragon, never have I look at such tail, never have I imagined he could be more than a mere dream, an illusion made to put children to bed, and to make the fearful obey. Where can I find such a Dragon?” Olaf’s respiration was fast, his body was wet of anxiety, he wanted to know the answer, he needed it very much, more than the air that he breaded. If at all possible, he would have liked for the Dragon to simply appear in the thin air and send a fiery smoke trough the field. Then, only then, would everyone know that it was a magical place this in which we live in.
The stranger smiled, he was not fast to reply, and, sometimes, his words were not fast to understood, they gently stood on the air, as if waiting for some mad man to catch them and, just by the very act of becoming taller to catch them, would see things in an entirely different light. This time he just said: “What Dragon?”
Olaf stood in amazement... Could he have dreamt the whole thing, have he just imagined, or dreamt the talk last night? Or was perhaps the stranger kicking him in into some weird joke? A shadow of doubt passed through Olaf’s mind, that would, for a long time, linger there, almost forgotten. But, for now on, a fear of having trusted and be disillusioned would accompany him, right to the end of this story. And so, he now looked with some mixture of distrust and fear to the stranger and said: “But, don’t you remember, you spoke of a Dragon last night?”
— “Oh, Aldhair, the flaming Dragon!” said the stranger, “Of course, I saw him, it was very important to me.”
— “But then,” said Olaf, doubting slyly “how come you forgot it so easily?”
— “Well,” said the stranger “I thought you were speaking about somebody else, I mean, you spoke of the Dragon as if it was some magical thing, some weird thing that would put magic back in the world, but it is just a Dragon, a simple Dragon!”
— “How can you say that?” Exclaimed Olaf in a mist of amazement and regret. “How could a Dragon, ever, ever, be something natural? He can fly, can’t he? And he launches fiery smoke from his mouth, and, well, and there simply is no such creature. I have studied, I know. In all the books of geography, and biology, and even if you study physics and chemistry, you will never find an explanation for such a beast!” Olaf was abashed, sitting and looking at the calm and apparently amused face of the stranger. “Well, can you?” Olaf exclaimed at last!
— “My dear friend,” started the stranger “Dragons are only mysterious as long as they are not finely observed under the cool scrutiny of science!” He continued: “Imagine a dead Dragon appears, falling from the skies, if his body was strained and captured by the physicists and the biologists, soon everything from the top to the toe of the Dragon would be neatly analyzed, divided into categories, swiftly annotated into twenty or thirty books, then published, republished, copied, printed, included in the geography tests, biology exams, and in all the kinds of disciplines you find at school. And then you would certainly find it as boring as a star, as short lived of emotion as a ladybird, as unmagical, boring and trivial as any other think you were forced to learn at school. Face it, whatever is real you’ll find boring, you only see this beaaauutiful Dragon as magical because you think he is not there, if you were able to see it, just flying above the trees, you would find him as boring as a rhinoceros, and why wouldn’t he be? What makes him so special after all?”
Olaf didn’t know. He was amazed. Yesterday had seemed so special, like he had found out something beautiful, and precious, and long-forgotten. And now, the same person who had brought to him the mystery and the marvelous, was also taking it apart. In fact, Olaf could see the stranger’s point: the magic is in the eye of the beholder. But, somehow, this failed to ring-a-bell. Olaf fell silent and dull, he wanted to go home, but it was as if he had no strength in him left. He just stood there, looking at the stranger, while he cooked some food in the fire, and they both awaited for the others to come.
In the following days Olaf avoided the stranger and the merry group that gathered around the fireplace every night. He dazed in a somewhat confused state. He could not go back to his previous state, where he would just studied the world as an impartial and detached spectator. For, some part in him was anxious for the child that was once awaken in him, would came back to life. On the other hand, he felt that that was a childish procedure. Children see magic everywhere because, he thought, they do not understand the world around them. Understanding is the end of magic. And wasn’t that what the stranger had told him? That, once the Dragon was captured, his skin revealed under the scientist’s microscope, all the magic would run away, under the weight of chemical compounds and physical explanation? Perhaps magic is just the absence of an explanation, and only children can see it, because they are blind. Perhaps, thought Olaf, there was once upon a time, where human beings had access to no explanation, and, at that time they could believe in magical things until it was time for their death. Perhaps, Olaf thought with a shiver, they would be happier than us, for they would not come to know that we are just thinkable machines, in a machinery world. Everything we look at has a reason, everything is explained by something else, and yet, Olaf felt, it was as if nothing really explained anything else, and it was all a big mystery, including the reason why some things seem to be able to explain others. Or, why is there anything at all in the world? And why do we fight, even for life? It was has if everything was veiled in a deep secret that no soul could reveal.
Olaf remained confused, amazed and sad for a long time, he saw the children playing and he could see no reason for their laughter: “We are all going to die,” he thought “what is the reason for so much laughter?” And, where he used to see the beautiful shinning of apples and oranges, now he just saw apples and oranges, dull, full of chemistry, pesticides and specific weights, and it was as if oranges carried with them the Latin name by which taxonomists all around the world speak about citrines and pomaceous fruits. All was without joy. Even a Dragon could not save such a world from the monotony of the savant. He attempted to go to the choir around the firelight (called a choir because the children and the stranger were now making up songs and singing them as their merriment suggested they should), but even there he could find no joy or peace. Then, for a few days, he just stayed in bed (for he had no fixed job, and could give himself that luxury, although the money wasn’t much), strayed in a world in had come to dislike even more and more. Until one day (and there is always “one day” in such stories) he went, just as he usually did everyday, to the bathroom, and when he was there, just washing his dull, bald face, looking himself in the mirror and seeing his face, just then and there, he gazed into his eye, and, somehow, within his eye, he saw his own eye. “My own eye,” he exclaimed “my own eye!” And it was as if he was not really looking at his physical eye, but at what allowed him to see everything else, his ‘inner’ eye. He thought about the eye of the Dragon, what would be like to see the eyes of such an unworldly creature? He didn’t care much about eternal life now; life seemed so dull, if anything he wanted that it wouldn’t last much. But the idea of the Dragon’s eye filled him with hope. For a moment he could imagine it, he could almost savor it: an eye that had seen almost everything, a flying eye, inhabiting a powerful Dragon, an immense and immensely free eye and soul. And then it happened: just for a moment, a very short, fleeing moment, it seems as if he had caught the flying glimpse of the Dragon’s eye, and it filled him with Joy. A joy so immense it seemed it could fill all the oceans and the airs where the Dragon dwelled. The moment changed Olaf’s life for ever. And, if you want to understand exactly why, it would be very difficult, even Olaf would have trouble in explaining to himself why, how or what exactly had changed. Perhaps it was a hope of finding a better place, where life would seem joyous, or perhaps it wasn’t that at all, but a strange sense that, whatever would happened, freedom would always be with him, or perhaps it wasn’t that at all, but, whatever it was, Olaf was overfilled in joy, he wanted to find the Dragon, and he certainly wanted to look deep in his eye, to find out if, what he had seen in his fading glimpse, was in fact true.
It is difficult to understand how certain things can change, completely, the life of a person. In that particular moment Olaf felt touched by something he did not quite understood, except, that it was undeniably magical. He didn’t know what it was, perhaps he just saw a reflection on the mirror, something he wanted to see, perhaps he had imagined the all thing. Perhaps... he didn’t know, but he was going to find out.
That day was a very particular day to Olaf and all his family and friends, for it was the day he would leave town, and little they knew, it would be the last time they would see him, alive at least. Although they would certainly hear about him, and the many adventures that would soon ensue. Preparations were made for his departure, and, with each goodbye, the happier he felt. Not because he was cold hearted and didn’t miss his friends. But because, without magic in the world, there seemed to be little point in having friends. He was going to discover if there was such thing as magic, and, if he found out that there was, he would come back, he thought, and spread the news, so that the whole Olaf’s country would be full of joy, and wars be replaced by games and fights by laughter. No longer would Man be so much absorbed in possessing dead things or living bodies, knowing that there was a world beyond this one, which cannot be possessed, but only shared, where magical and much more important and delightful and happy things were happening. Everyone would want to see a Dragon, and would want to have a Dragon as friend: and that is why he was happy that he was leaving everything behind, because he was certain that somehow, somewhere, everyone would meet again in a world much fairer than that one. For the first time in his life he understood how everything he possessed was just a hindrance that postponed his dreams and tied him up to a reality where he didn’t want to be. He didn’t belong there, he never did. And now, finally, he was free.
Olaf and the Balloon - part 3
When the night came, Olaf was ready, he prepared his tent, a small batch of clothes, some food and provisions, he said goodbye to his friends and relatives with tears in his eyes (and their eyes too, as he likes to remember), and set off to the fireplace where the stranger should, at this hour, be. But, when he arrived, there was no sign of the stranger. Only the small child still gathered around the fireplace, and they were telling stories and singing tunes and songs, some repeated from the stranger’s voice, some made up by them, they were singing happily when Olaf arrived and did not stop. Olaf stood there for a while, waiting for the stranger but, as the hours passed by he started to see that he would not come. He asked the kids around the fireplace and they confirmed his worst fears: the stranger would not come, not this night, and, possibly, not ever. Olaf didn’t know what to do, he already said goodbye to all his acquaintances, but now, he had nowhere to go, for the Dragon could be South, North, East our West. Olaf didn’t know. How he was sorry not to have asked the stranger when he could, now it was too late, and there were so many days when he could have simply asked: “Oh Stranger, where had thou seen the Fabulous Dragon?”, but now it was too late. It was too late in the night, and it was too late to ask, and too late to stay.
Olaf didn’t know where he was going, and now, not even very well why he was going, perhaps he just didn’t have enough to make him stay, perhaps somewhere within him the marvel of the world still enchanted him, and he just wanted to see new things, the places where the tales the travelers who passed by had breed. Or perhaps he was just so lost he had the need to feel physically lost as well. Whatever the reason was, Olaf collected his belongings and went on to the place where the Balloon he had spent all his money on was. It was a beautiful balloon, and he could it see it even at a great distance. It had yellow and blue and small red stripes all around, and a white circle on the top, where the parachute valve was. Olaf wandered what the Dragon would thought of it, when he saw it. The balloon was already inflated, and the wind made it turn like it was very anxious to fly. The small basket attached to the enormous floating ball seemed like a small flee attached to a dog. Olaf had never stepped into a balloon before in his entire life, and, at the measure he approached the enormous, unpredictable monster, he felt a shivering all through his body. He was VERY scared but, he had thought, if he wanted to see the eyes of the Dragon, there was no other way then flying, and there was probably no other open to Olaf then to fly in a balloon. He put all the food in the car and the few clothes he had with him in the small car. The huge bottles of gas that would feed the hot air balloon should last for days, or perhaps weeks, and Olaf had took enough money with him to keep flying for months or maybe years. At least that was what he thought at the time, for he did not know, really, since he had no previous experience with balloons.
He imagined all the people standing all around him, in a big farewell party, seeing the balloon departing in the midst of a warm day. But it was night, he was alone and inexperienced, he didn’t know where to go, and he also didn’t know very well why he was going... but, anyway, nothing hold him in that town anymore. He wanted more adventures, the smell of magic still enticed him, even if it slept on a far-away land, and he dreamed of the many tales of the Dragon he would find in far away lands. But, as he got more and more stuff inside the small gondola, and went closer and closer to put confide his own body in it, the idea that he would be soon flying got all over him, in fact, he was thriving with the prospect of flying, and fantastic images of the dark but beautiful horizon filled him imagination, so much he felt he couldn’t hold it anymore. He was anxious to see the nightlights of the city he had grown him, and the fields and the roads, from above, like a towel holding some fabulous meal. Would he see some people by the houses or the roads? It was already so late. But, even if he saw them, perhaps he would not even recognize their individual figures, if he was very high. He would only know that they were people, by the side of the road, or illuminated by the light of a house. Olaf jumped inside is bumbling gondola fired up the burner, and stared for a moment, amazed by the noise it made in the silent of the night. Slowly the balloon ascended to the skies, pulling the cords that still provided some protection, holding it, and Olaf, to the ground floor. Olaf knew he had to make sure the balloon was excited enough to raise high into the air, before he cut the ropes. Olaf needed a good ascension, or he might get stuck in the nearby trees. He waited, and his eyes and heart were full of passion for the adventure that had yet not even begun. Or had it already? Where was Olaf going to go? What lands would he see, what new things would he discover, what perils would he have to face, and would he be able to win them in the end? He didn’t know anything about that then, but he saw the fire blowing the balloon up, roaming to an undefined roam that only the future could tell, and all the magic in the world, was, at that moment, with him.
Waiting, waiting, the balloon was pulling the cords violently. Olaf thought, now it is time. Let us go and face the infinite sky, let us blow ourselves in the wind, and see where he blows us too. In a single gesture, he cut the ropes and untied the balloon which immediately glided with glee thorough the night skies, as if dwelling in the night stars, as if no tomorrow existed, and no yesterday as ever passed, and Olaf had his eyes full with tears, not of sorrow, but of happiness, has the lands beneath him suddenly transformed, from a path, into millions of paths, and he could see, at the same time, the way to the sea and the way to the mountains, in a single glance of his eyes. Everything seemed so clear now, the land where he inhabited for all these long years was in fact so small, and now he could see, east and west, north and south, with just a turn of his face, places of which he only had heard and dreamed of. He was off, to a world he did not know but that was far vaster then what he had known so far, in his short life.
He indeed saw the village where he was born and lived until now. The wind had conceded him that grace. But no one he could recognize. Only the houses, old and full of generations and their stories, and the roads that connected them, and the farms that fed them, and the churches that gave them hope to go on. If anyone had been there to see Olaf’s balloon depart to never go back, he would have seen a flying balloon going over a white full moon, in a clear night, with some clouds, but full – and Olaf’s balloon and travel would be sufficient to assure that ¬¬– of magic.
From the balloon Olaf could see only the mountain coming. He flared up the burner, scared of hitting or crashing into the mountain. He didn’t want to get stranded anywhere just now when he was beginning to fly, and he was grateful for the thought that the sky has no limit, and even the highest mountain cannot imprison someone on a very hot balloon. Olaf was also somewhat less sorrowful for not having asked the stranger where the Dragon was, for he had no idea how a balloon could be directed to any place at all. He could only be grateful for the wind, as long as there was wind he could travel. And besides, who could assure anyone that the Dragon would still be in the same place where the stranger had seen him. Olaf had hope, very high hopes, that he would soon find the Dragon, and he looked to the horizon, partly looking for the flaming Dragon, but largely because he was enchanted with the night, and it was, that night, as if all the stars were chanting for him. Now that he had nothing, now that he had abandoned everything for a dream, for an adventure, all the world seemed to be as thrilled as he was, to see how it was going to end.
And, to be truthful, it didn’t run so well, at least for a long time. Or perhaps it did, it was all a matter of perspective. Wherever Olaf was, he couldn’t find news of the Dragon, and most people seemed to consider it just a very foolish fantasy, and they mostly laughed and scorned when they knew that that was what Olaf was looking for. So he learned to keep his secrets to himself. On the other hand, he found it very difficult to fly the balloon (or was the balloon flying him?) and also landing and keeping the balloon safe while he did his errands on earth was very difficult and demanded great attention, for people would always be trying to use, rob, or simply slay the balloon for their pleasure, and robbing Olaf of his dreams, to keep him close if they liked him, or to abash him if they disliked him. It was a bit tough. On the other hand, in spite of not having found the Dragon, or even (apparently) signs of him, Olaf was having wonderful adventures. He was meeting many different people, ways of living and seeing things. He come to see that even usual words like “chair”, “eat” or “table” had very different meanings and evoked different feelings depending on the person, the mood of the person, or the society. For some people it might mean to eat fruit and rice, while for others, it meant taking the life of some innocent beings to maintain their own. Even when it was the same sound and writing, the meaning was not quite the same. And the word “tree” for instance: for some people it meant something beautiful, whereas for others it meant something full of bugs, that need to be discarded, stay away from, or be kept impeccably clean. For these persons, who saw bugs and filth everywhere, Olaf felt pity. He wanted to show them a different world, full of color and joy. But he found out he couldn’t, and a lot of the trouble come from the words he used. Because if he were to talk of the beauty of the sun, the sky, the birds, the fish and the trees, some people would only see bugs, food and temperature. And where is the fun of that? They were arrested in that strange ugly world, and no description could help them, for the words themselves, as they used them, were ugly and incapable of sharing the joy Olaf saw in the world. He also come to understand that all the ugliness that people saw in the world came from what they think they possess. Because it is freighting to think of anything that might grow or change, because growth or change might take away what you’ve earned. And because all the world is changing, in unpredictable ways, and all the time, such people are the most scared of all of everything that exists. And the more they have, the more castles, the more lakes, the more people at their service, the more afraid they are, that, some day, all that will be over, and so they live each moment of their meager lives in isolation, and fear, and restlessness, for the moment that may come, when they will be poor again. And Olaf, who had nothing, had all the world happily living with him and sharing his dream and adventure.
Because of such thoughts, he didn’t care much when his money ran out, and he hat to work for food and gas for his balloon. But he had many adventures in the months and years that passed by. He met many people, he tried to help many of them, and helped a few, but with everything he learned, and many strange adventures were his, but that his another story, which shall be told in another occasion. For now, what interests us, is is encounter with the Dragon. Was it a real Dragon, or just something out of his imagination, or simply a mischief cloud in the sky? But lets not anticipate the order of the story and lets go back to the day where Olaf met the Dragon.
It was in July, more precisely on the 4th of July. And Olaf was very glad. Everything had been going on quite well for him. Finding the Dragon was now not so important for him, he had found a beautiful girl, whom he liked a lot, the sun was shinning, the hot air was flowing through his strong back, nourished by plenty food, and grown on plenty work. He loved the wide blue skies, and the green fields bellow him, he had learn to see the farmers in them and wandered how they could be satisfied in living without ever seeing where they lived, and it was in all this amusement and contentment that Olaf saw, or at least thought he saw, the red flaming Dragon.
At first he didn’t quite believe it, or even noticed, for it seemed just a red something dancing on the outskirts of a flaming red cloud in the afternoon sky. But something kept him looking, with interest and increasing despair at the reddish, flaming point, dancing, dancing, as if it was an enormous, gargantuan laughter, which continued, as if to fill the entire sky. Olaf was very far to tell with assurance it was the Dragon. Hell, he had never seen a Dragon before. The wind! «Where is the wind flowing?» He thought. It was somewhere in the direction of the red spot, but now fast enough and not in the right direction enough. Olaf immediately raised the burner, he wanted to search for an air current that would put him right in the Dragon’s course. But the first current he got was precisely in the opposite direction. He thought «Calm down, you haven’t come all this way to loose now, you are going to catch the Dragon, or something like that, now where is the right current? Up or down?» Olaf fell into a deep silence trying to ‘feel’ his luck. He felt the air, imagine the strength of the willows, the lightness of clouds, the transparency of air, the laughter of birds «UP!» he thought «perhaps not immediately, but after sometime» he guessed, «a favorable current will appear.»
He put the flame to the maximum, he had a good batch of gas, but for how long would it last at that rate of expenditure? The balloon rose and rose again. But the currents, more or less successfully, didn’t do much to make Olaf approach the even more red cloud that seemed to linger on the horizon. Olaf kept saying to himself «Rise up, rise up... even more... a current will appear», but no such current of air appeared and the balloon was as high as it ever had been. Olaf had difficulty looking at the ground, he had never been so high and, although he was used to heights by now, heights that height made him very scared, almost as if he was so high as if on peril of disappearing into thin air, into the sky, of dissolving into the atmosphere, as high as he was. With that image in his mind he declared in high voice «Perhaps...», he thought, «everything is possible.»
With eyes full of fear, and trembling hands and feet Olaf tried not to look at the ground, for, from the height he was, he was afraid he could faint and fail to see the Dragon, or what looked like it. He rose the flame even more, the air was thin, but the balloon was starting slowly to go towards the cloud. Olaf had the sensation that he should already be above the cloud, he was so high. But a thought came to him and said, upwards even more, and so he continued, and a great wind caught the balloon, and the small gondola seemed to whirl deeply in the wind, the balloon carried by a great force, now traveling at an enormous speed towards the faraway cloud.
Olaf wasn’t quite sure of his adventure now, he was scared and bewildered, somehow all these years he had spent looking for the Dragon (at least apparently) now seemed very far away, very removed from being able to giving him the security and the strength he needed now. The giant cloud was slowly approaching and Olaf felt at the same time afraid and enchanted. He couldn’t see the red, flaming, dancing spot anymore, and, in some strange sense Olaf felt somewhat relieved. In any case, seeing a flaming, possibly gigantic Dragon, was something not to be taken lightly, and Olaf felt very light right now. All this space between him and mother earth made him feel very small and helpless, almost a drop in some cosmic ocean. Now he could not even see a trace of people, roads or barely discernible, a small lake seemed to wandered far on the horizon, and yet the balloon was steadily and rapidly approaching the place where Olaf had seen the speck of a Dragon. It was a very rapid wind and the basket seemed a helpless leave floating in a very strong wind. Olaf was slowly loosing is fear to concentrate on the horizon where the Dragon had seemed to appear. In the profusion of fear the high heights were giving him, the even deeper, and somewhat different fear of meeting the Dragon was gaining a very deep foothold. His eyes become more and more anxious, he was approaching the big cloud, the sun was already set, but the last rays could still be seen from the height where Olaf was standing. Above him the stars seemed to look at him, expectant on the result that would follow.
Olaf stayed alert, completely focused on anticipating the Dragon. His wandering eyes were as attentive as a rock is close to the ground, and his mind, as if born with the sole purpose of finding a creature that he, on one side find impossible to exist, and on the other, found more obvious than the air that he breaded. He then it occurred, the moment that would change forever Olaf’s life. He saw the impossibility, reflected on the external part of his eye, coming in through his cornea, very deep into his optic nerve, decoded and arranged in proper silhouettes and color by his brain, the Dragon, flying, majestic. It is very hard to understand what Olaf felt at that time, even for someone who might be at the same exact place looking at the same exact thing that Olaf was looking at, would likely not understand what Olaf was feeling. For he was not just looking and the Dragon’s small wings, at his shinning and lustrous thin body, and even his eyes from afar. Olaf saw in the Dragon, and the Dragon’s flight a beauty that he could not have even imagined previously. It was as if he had found a loved one, long ago lost and forgotten. And, like many people, he stayed bewitched by his lover’s spectacle, by his grace, his movement, which seemed to talked of faraway and impossibly beautiful things, of a world so full of magic that it seemed impossible to bread its air; the Dragon was majestic, and in him all the world seem reflected, but all the more beautifully, splendorously, enchantedly. Olaf was in love, just like he was for his girlfriend. She had made him be in love with the flowers and the stars but, with the Dragon’s flight in sight Olaf couldn’t avoid being in love with everything. Beautiful and ugly things now seemed all part of an inner, deeper beauty, that no event could penetrate or disrupt; only the eyes put on the flight of the Dragon could unveil the magic beyond the world that feeds the world. Olaf was in love, and now, for the first time in his life, he wanted something, or realized he wanted something, more then his own life, something that he had wanted for ever and ever, without realizing. He wanted to meet the Dragon, to look him deep in the eye, to see him, to become the Dragon, or at least a part of him. (For now, it seemed, Olaf was sharing the old view of some ancient people that say once you make deep eye contact with someone, a part of her goes to you a part of you to her.)
The Dragon flied and danced, and danced again, marvelously, for what seemed an eternity of time; the sun was fading but still the Dragon was fading, and Olaf did not know if he was in real land or fairy land anymore. But the sun was finally going to sleep, and the Dragon was more and more invisible all the time. The balloon had been rapidly approaching, to a point when there was only a few hundred meters between them, but to Olaf’s great surprise and chagrin, the fire was dimming. The gas had gone out, this was as far as the balloon was going to get him. The air inside the balloon was cooling down, and the enormous distance that separated Olaf from the ground was now diminishing, first at a small rate, but faster and faster it was taking him down. Olaf was crowned with disillusionment, all his hopes had been so strangely and strongly confirmed, beyond his highest dreams, only to now fade. He was so close, and so far away. It was almost impossible to believe, it was so cruel. Such a grand journey, to now end in nothing. Sure, he would have many things to tell and impress the people below, that was some comfort, of sorts. But once again Olaf looked at the Dragon, and the way he danced in the skies, and, once more he felt as if a strange and old language was reprinted, reborn in him, as if some strange world very far, far away, very old and full of mysteries, was now revived through that dance. Olaf started crying, more now than when he left his home town. He felt a strange scare inside him, a voice crying: are you crazy? But he went on, and a thought formed on his mind: «I will see the Dragon, at least I will try, even if I have to die.»
It is impossible to ever justify such a thought, for, whatever we might achieve with such errand effort, the death that would ensure would certainly take any valor fo whatever we might achieve. But Olaf was more than fearless, he was in love, he was almost love. And his only way to put it to practice, or, better still, to put practice in the way to love, was to do what he was going to do, or at least that was what he could have thought, if he had time to think of anything. He caught the sharpened knife that he had in his carriage by accident, and started cutting the many threads that tied it to the balloon. He looked down, to see if below there was some populated land, in which someone might be hurt. But, whatever few rays of light allowed him to see, just served to scare him more and more, for the night only revealed him an absurd highness that he could not even imagine. He tried to remember, on his way to the cloud, he did not remember any city or village nearby. He continued cutting the ropes. He shouted to the Dragon «Here I came! Wait for me!» And then he continued to sever the ties that tied basket and balloon together. One rope after the other. Olaf’s plan was to get rid of all the weight he could. He would grab on to the cords on the side of the balloon and try to ascend to the top of the balloon through them, and then he would go up (or so he thought), and call for the Dragon. He had to see him, once more.
The sight of an almost falling gondola, with a young man cutting his last thread connecting him with what was safe, and holding just to a few threads of thin wire was astonishing beyond belief. As if he was struggling for life, when in fact he seemed to be preparing his own death. The last cord was cut, and severed from the weightless balloon it felt deeply and fast, with all its attachments. Now Olaf was deeply alone, flying up again, in his, still, for the moment, hot balloon. Strenuously and slowly he went up to the top of his balloon feeling it die, for, without the gondola at the end, it would now cool down until all the air would escape from bellow. There would be no smooth ride for Olaf. He was in despair. And he looked into the airs. The Dragon kept flying, in the night it was very difficult to discern his movements, but Olaf imagined them, as before, and the magic of an ancient forgotten world immersed him once again in a wave of great joy and hope, and in that state of mind he spoke to the Dragon:
«Oh Great Dragon, of eyes and wings of Gold and Hope,
I Have come to thee in hopes of finding the Magic that could sustain my world,
But now that I saw you, I need no more, for a glimpse, not even of your eyes,
But only of your dancing, swirling, sweet, fiery body, were enough
To uncover in me the secrets of the Universe for which I came to find,
Even without knowing that it was that I had came to find.
Oh beautiful Dragon,
Thank you for showing me the World that was all around me
But that I was too blind to see.
Now I will die, but will die in peace, knowing that all I dream about life
No reply came from the Dragon, and no reply was expected too. Olaf just stood there, as he could, looking at the pleasure he could now better see in him mind and in his heart than with his eyes. The balloon was getting colder and colder, and more instable. The air made less and less pressure, and Olaf’s weight helped to push the air down and out. Until, soon enough, it fell completely, and Olaf was once again bellow it, just grabbing it by a hand, it would not save it from death, because they were falling at a very high speed. But even so Olaf felt a strange sensation of security, for the Balloon was still slowing down his fall, giving him perhaps a few more seconds to live. But Olaf was too deep within the vision of the Dragon to think about that, indeed, to think about anything. Everything was simply so beautiful. So beautiful! He just let go, he didn’t want to be concerned about anything, he wanted to concentrate on the mountains bellow and the clouds, and the flying sun, and the Dragon’s dance that put everything at harmony. Even his death would be at harmony. He opened his arms and embraced everything and his eyes were flooded by tears of joy. It was then the Dragon appeared once more, this time he stayed beneath Olaf, and, very carefully, took Olaf on his back, and flied him to a place where only dreams can travel.