There was a dragon with dull fangs and a belly full of ancient dead snow. His scales were dark blue.
Lying in his cave, pine needles and siphoned leaves on the forest floor outside, he rested in the opening while the phantom wings on his back twitched like dog legs when dreaming.
Eternal grey clouds rained, and the rain would freeze as it passed the exhaust of his nostrils, forming a pile of frozen droplets under his mouth.
After waking, he would wait and watch, in vain, for the sun to rage down on the earth so he could boil the cold in his stomach. Hope was his shadow.
His heart attached like a leech but deadened like nerve endings. The skeletons of rodents cleaned of their resources stained the floor of the cave with screams that faded long ago.
They were easier on his soft enamel.
Whenever he would finish feeding, he would try to fly within his cave; but pale monsters force-fed him his amputated wings as a baby; and like a baby he never understood loss.
Bloated with dead snow, cold esophagus, he would drag his underbelly back through the tiny frozen bones just to look out the open jaw of his cave.
Then there was a day when, while scanning the tree branches for animals and birds from his cave, the rain pouring, he spotted a pale, hairless creature holding the skeletal frame of a rat,
standing upright on a branch looking down at him. Of all the things to fail him his eyes did not: he knew the silent behavior of vampires. He roared, shaking the leaves and the air as a warning.
The bleached limbs of the vampire reacted like a corpse as he smiled with yellow fangs.
Making eye contact, the dragon, pupils burning, arched his head back and spewed snow flakes and pebbles of hail into the air, creating a weak mushroom of mist.
Staring into the dragon the vampire said, "Wings won't stop you from falling through ice." The dragon raged toward the tree, smashing the trunk with his tail.
The tree, cracking and snapping, crashed to the floor of the forest, releasing a sudden force of sound. Panting, the dragon looked over to where the vampire's body should have been.
Nothing there. He sprayed his eyes back and forth. Nothing. He turned around, stunned, and stopped breathing. "I've been watching you for some time, now. I know who made you wingless.
I know who smothered your fire in dead snow, and I know you won't last much longer. I've seen this before." Then, like ashes, the soulless creature faded into the forest.
The dragon rattled off threats through the trees that couldn't be heard, then sighed and turned around,
dragging his gut along the bed of pine needles and leaves toward the safety and worn stone floor of his cave, hungry for the fear found in small animals.
Feeling the familiar chill of the darkness, surrounded by the stonewalls, the dragon moved slowly, sniffing the ground for a thin meal deeper in the cave,
scales numb from his lifeless breath pushing off the stone back into his body. A pressure grew in the side of his neck. A slight sting. Smell of blood.
His legs were starting to warm, and his stomach was bubbling a bit. The heat rushed to his head. Knees weakening. Heavy eyelids. A warm darkness. Stomach sick. A steaming puddle of melted vomit.
No one home. Dreams fevered behind his drenched forehead as he rested. Yellow bled into his dead, dark blue scales like streams of water breaking off from rivers, changing green like meadows.
Eyelids flickering. Blurry and heavy. Coming into focus. Trees surrounding. Outside somehow. Dry mouth.
The dragon, rubbing his eyes, yawned fire into the sunlit sky, splitting infinity with his eyes widened.
Jumping around, laughing, washed over with waves of golden heat, he stopped and looked down at his belly: it was flat. His scales like healthy grass. Fire inside him.
A shadow of hope touching the forest floor. He looked around and saw the opening of the cave frozen shut with a sheet of dark blue ice. He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.
As he took a step forward,
he noticed by the dead body of the tree he had recently tail-struck a pile of ashes smoldering a pale yellow smoke; and a message inscribed with stones: sacrifice for a sacrifice.
The dragon dropped to his knees, head hanging over the dead, yellow clouds passing against his cheeks, tears evaporating in the heat, one at a time.