Oh, Those Entitled Dragon Riders
I still vividly remember how we first brought Ligery into the house. He was barely the size of a dog, and he immediately hid under the couch.
If you ever owned a pet, you can probably imagine their ambitious appetite: a single cow can drink several buckets of water when it is thirsty, and a tiger eats more than fifty heads of cattle per year. Even a frail puppy, when especially greedy, can swallow a whole steak. Now picture a voracious dragon who quickly seemed to grow to the size of a house. As you see, only the richest families could afford dragons, because they needed at least three cows daily, and several fields worth of juicy green grass. Our plan was to keep Ligery close to a river, otherwise water bills alone would bankrupt us.
Unfortunately, feeding is not the only problem with dragons. As a matter of fact, they are fairly independent creatures, with great intellect, and they can get bored with only humans around. They must play with other dragons. Luckily, Ligery had a friend, a female dragon of our neighbors. They flew around our lands together, scaring the horses and burning whole alleys when they saw a fox. It became impossible to study around 2 PM without the habitual flap-flap-roar in the gardens. Around that time, when I looked out the window, I would see them two, tongues out, resting by the pond as they breathed heavily after their destructive journeys.
These hardships were nothing for becoming a dragon rider, though. He occupied all our free time, and it was quite something! The dragon was instrumental for our art, he gave us riddles that helped us realize so much about the world and ourselves, and told us his dragon secrets. He was ocean floor blue, dry and scaly, like an ancient statue. Ligery grew to be my best friend. I always felt so proud when I saw him fly or play, and remembered how he was so small that he would fit under the couch.
One day we were flying on Ligery’s back above a local village, and suddenly we heard a gunshot. It must have gotten Ligery as we all fell on the green grass which just recently was our playground. I had bruises, and my sister broke her arm, as it later turned out. Ligery moaned and complained, bleeding from his wing membrane.
After the fall, we were surrounded by a crowd of people in green clothes. I remember one of them, a tall man with a badge on his chest which said he was a speaker. None of them tried to help us, no, not even the speaker. They stood there for a while, looking at us from above, and then some of them started chanting. One girl filmed us.
“Dragons are death of the ecology!”
“One dragon eats as much food per month as a thousand humans per year!”
“Dragons dry out rivers!”
“Dragons reduce fish populations!”
“Dragons hurt this planet’s biodiversity!”
“The Earth cannot sustain dragons!”
“Dragons are created by man and are against God!”
And so on and so forth. I barely listened to the chants. With shaky fingers, I took my phone and called police and an ambulance. There was a lengthy array of cases: the shooter was not found, and the eco activists were fined. We stopped flying because whenever Ligery tried to exit the house, he would get a panic attack. He became isolated and would whine with his giant bass voice at night. We would come to his alcove and try to comfort Ligery in his dragon suffering, but it was never enough, and I remember his yellow mysterious eyes staring at me from the blue darkness. “Go, go away. I do not want you here.” He said.
Then the activists came to our gates. Some of them tried to climb into the lands, so we had to install an electric fence – which only made them more aggressive. When a stone painted green flew into my bedroom window, shattering the glass, we decided to move north for the winter. It gave us some rest for a month, but then the damned activists found us there, too.
In a few years it turned out that our dear government also considered dragons unsustainable, and a new law was passed. We hastily prepared Ligery to move to Norway, but we were stopped in the hangar next to our plane. A man in dark green, a member of the customs team, approached us. The bags under his eyes were an even darker shade of green, swampy and disgusting. He wore white latex gloves. “Please show us your passports, beast included,” he said.
The man in dark green looked at our documents and sighed. “Alright,” He said. “Just open its mouth for a quick check.”
Before we could say anything, Ligery opened his mouth. The customs officer extended his hand – a gunshot! Ligery sank to the ground. My sister and I ducked to the ground, terrified of the shot, and my heart sank when I felt the heat of the blood pouring abundantly from Ligery’s mouth. My eyes became heavy and cloudy with tears, and I was so scared and smitten that I was not sure who was shot, me or Ligery. I heard a scream, no, a roar of my father’s.
Later, they had the audacity to charge my father with assault. He rewarded the murderer with a few bruises, and the media went on a rave about the entitled rich. We cried for months, went to courts, but even our family lawyer could do nothing to convict the man in dark green. As it turned out, it was not just illegal to own a dragon, but legal to kill them. The government paid dragon murderers a six-figure compensation, and proclaimed them heroes like the knights of old. It was outrageous, all of it. Eventually, we left the country.
In the evening, when I am done with work, I often take a coffee and drink it while looking at the darkening city. It reminds me of Ligery. There are still countries where dragons are allowed, but their numbers are decreasing quickly. I never got pets again.
But the reason the city reminds me of Ligery is not that it is also bright and complex, no. I like cities for the same reason Ligery was so dear to me. They also collect gold and strive for the unknown, and they cannot live without civilization. They eat too much, you see, and they are afraid of foxes. They negatively impact this planet’s biodiversity. So, should we forfeit our progress? Murder all our dear dragons? I believe that one day we will free ourselves from prejudice, heal the planet and yet at the same time reach for the stars – taking our dear dragons with us. A shame Ligery will never see it.