The Dragon That Couldn’t Fly by Katherine Luo

One of four Young Writer Award winners in the Mensa Canada 2020 Literary Contest

Amethyst stared out of the small window, pressing her talons against the reinforced fireproof glass. It was nearly sundown, dying the sky a raw, crimson red color.

Her wings ached with longing. She should have been up there, soaring and diving, laughing with her siblings. Not in this damp, solitary, claustrophobic cell in the midst of nowhere. She could nearly feel the refreshing spring breeze against her scales. She wondered what it would feel like. Does one even feel it?

Except, of course, she wouldn’t know. Barely in her dreams has she ever flown, and she longs to experience it with all her senses.

Amethyst sighed wistfully, “Whatever am I anyway?” She scoffed at the dim reflection in the window. “A flightless dragon? Try a malformed fire-breathing lizard!”

Her groan turned into a roar, “You likely deserve it,” Amethyst bellowed. She can sense the rage and heat build up in her body, “You disgrace of a dragon!”

She sent a bolt of flames into the opposite side of the cell. It darkened the already charred surface.

“Stupid, stupid dragon!” She thought fiercely, “Everyone would have heard that.” Everyone that’s left, at least. Her few prison mates and the one singular guard. But the fire that burnt inside still wasn’t extinguished.

With another cry of anger, she drove her horns into the wall. She immediately rebound back with a small yelp of pain. Amethyst stared at the 2 tiny holes that she left in the wall.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” her voice broke down to a whisper. “They just wanted to get rid of me.” She had told the queen that over and over during her trial. She didn’t seem to care.

“She probably wanted to get rid of me too,” she whispered. A single stream of crystal blue tears ran down her left cheek. She crumpled to the floor, returning her gaze to the two moons that peeked out from the distant cliffs.

Amethyst traced her spine with her claw, starting from her shoulders. She slowly and lightly dragged it down her back and away to the side. She could feel the sudden rise in the flesh, exploring the sad bony stump next to her shoulder blade where her wings would have grown, but never did.

She squatted on her rear haunches. Her body quivered slightly, a rush of exhaustion hit her.

Every day spent in this cell, she can feel herself losing her mind. It’s a daily routine at this point. Amethyst can find black spots and cracks wherever she looks on the formerly light gray walls. She had no idea how the prison survived and is still standing after all the dragons trying to burn it down. After all these years, the cell looked rickety and ready to tumble to the ground and bury her under the wreckage. She shuddered at the image that she had put in her head and hastily disposed of it.

Standing up, Amethyst slowly made her way to the corner of the cell. She raised one claw and scratched it against the wall. It made an unpleasant screeching noise that vibrated off of her ears. She had originally scratched the marks onto the wall to keep track of how many days she had been trapped. But now she knew there was no point, she will never be released. She’d probably missed quite a number of days too.

One day, the walls would probably collapse on her. She bit her tongue and swallowed the thought. There was no escaping that fate.

Amethyst picked up the metal tray containing only a single piece of decaying meat and a half-full cup of a murky liquid from weeks ago. She never ate the prison food if she didn’t have to. They always made her sick and vomit all over the floor. But she didn’t want to starve either. She clamped her jaw around the rotten flesh, and she started chewing. She had blasted the meat in the fire, hoping that it would taste better. She’d prefer the taste of ash and char over the revolting taste of decayed, raw meat. It didn’t make it better.

She forced the flesh down with a sip of the murky water. It only made it worse. It tasted exactly the way it looked. Tangy and infected, filled with insects and covered in crusty burnt skin. She took another bite and immediately regretted it. The second taste was even worse. She spat the meat out and didn’t bother attempting to consume that again.

The two moons were full, now high up in the sky. Amethyst rose to all four talons and walked over to the window once again. Was this going be her life? In a cell?

No, she wasn’t happy like this, not now, not ever. She wasn’t going to stay like this all the rest of her life. She turned back to the holes she left in the wall, cracks now run down where the holes were. Adrenaline rushed through her veins, the wall must be thin enough, she could see a little moonlight that escaped from the other side. Using all the energy left in her, she rammed her side hard, into the now fragile wall. It broke and left a small hole big enough to fit a wingless dragon.

Her mind started: ‘What if I can’t survive out there? What if they find me?’ She let the negative thoughts flow away out of her mind. She was not letting them ruin her only chance to be free. Her lips curled up slightly to a hopeful smile. Her muscles loosened. At last, she was at peace. Amethyst let herself go, her ugly past melting into the background.

She, Amethyst, a flightless dragon, was happy. Hopeful, that we, as dragons, can live in a world where they are respected, accepted, and loved for their differences. A world where she could fly free.