- Vol. 08
- Chapter 07
They called it a dragon, the folk who lived by the luminous river, a river dragon, a god, spirit, creator. But the folk who lived in the river knew better. The half-fish, the dolphin people and the fishwives knew it was no dragon. The folk who lived by the luminous river trailed the pale tail they called legs and covered it in long robes out of modesty and the women covered their pale faces out of modesty too even if the men wore their boy-barbels with pride. The river folk though knew what was behind the veil and beneath the robes.
In the river, the people with dolphin snouts or fish fins or whose arms and legs were clad in the glinting mirror scales of deep sea fishes swam back and forth on the tides, going about their eternal business of water-rippling, colouring the foam white, tressing water weed. They paid no heed to the monstrous pale thing, catfished and face-painted that had crawled out of the reactor and coiled about the world. What could be done to them had been done. But the folk who lived by the luminous river and thought they were men, had still some sport left in them.
The thing that crawled out of the reactor stretched and uncoiled, rippled out of the water, wrapped a coil or two about a mountain, and squeezed hard. A shower of mountain folk fell like ripe plums, rolled screaming from their caves and perches, down to the river that flowed like a luminous necklace in the darkest night.
The catfishy thing glowed with pleasure and shook its barbels gaily, spraying the withered grass-sedge with the stuff that withered and watched it wither more. A woman rolled, covered in dust, her hair tangled with bramble and mountain muck, into the pale thing that reared and roared, and though she screamed, it took her anyway.
The fish-folk saw and slipped away on their business. Soon there would be more pods to clean away, rush down the rushy river to the great sink of the sea where the black and toothy things lived. The new clutch would hatch from the pods with their boy-barbels and long pale tails that some pious soul would cover up, out of modesty.
All praise to the dragon, they would chant, while the fish-folk sang their sad songs of the time before when nights and the river were dark and gentle, and there the only light was the stars.