REMEMBERING THE DRAGON • by Aidan Doyle

Do you remember me? I was once a great adventurer, journeying to distant lands, exploring lost ruins and chronicling momentous events. Now I’m trapped in a decaying ruin. If I show any weakness, my fellow prisoners will try to take everything from me.

“You’re sitting in my chair, Henry. I reserved it because it has a view of the driveway and I want to know when my family arrives.”

It was the anniversary of your mother’s death yesterday. Alice used to get annoyed when I told my stories, but now they’re all I have left. Most of my captors assume that because I’m old I must be stupid and torture me with cruel games.

“Residents are reminded that bingo starts at two o’clock.”

When I was younger, I loved sleeping by a campfire under the stars. Now, an unlocked door doesn’t feel like enough protection. Each time I go to sleep, I wonder if I’ll survive the night. So many of the prisoners don’t. Some of the others get confused and walk into the wrong room. I’ve pleaded with my captors to let me have locks installed.

“What if you have a heart attack in the middle of the night, Henry? We need to be able to get into your room as quickly as possible.”

I never hoarded gold. Memories were my most precious treasures. Exploring the tomb of a king who ruled more than one thousand years ago. Running across the snow at midnight and leaping into a mountain hot spring. Walking on frozen sea near the great southern continent. Almost everyone I shared these memories with is now gone. It gets harder to remember.

One of my captors is different from the others. She is kind and has taught me how to use magic. I think she used to be an adventurer as well. At least she knows how to wield a weapon.

“Okay, Henry. Roll over, it’s time for your injection.”

The other prisoners dismiss magic as evil or at best a distracting illusion that ensnares children. I know it holds the key to my rescue. It was a battle to unlock its arcane secrets, but I don’t give up easily.

“Just click this button and you’ll have finished creating your profile, Henry.”

“Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

I know you think I betrayed you and your mother by leaving, but I had always wanted to be a travel writer. When I was younger, people told me it was important to follow your dreams. I wanted to explore the world. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in the same room day after day, doing the bidding of a wraith-like overlord. I looked at the old maps marked Here Be Dragons and couldn’t understand why dragons would spend their time in dark caves when they could fly anywhere. Now I wonder if adventurers that are too old to move become dragons.

I pleaded with your mother to come with me, but she didn’t want to give up her comfortable life. I think she had already decided the relationship was over, but it was easier to blame me for leaving than to admit we had failed to make things work.

Do you remember anything of the time before I left? I used to tuck you into bed and read you stories of magic and kingdoms by the sea. One night you told me you were tired of stories about princesses who needed rescuing. You wanted to read a story where a princess rescued a dragon.

“My daughter works so hard and lives so far away. She doesn’t have much time to visit me.”

“Click on your daughter’s profile, Henry. Then click the send friend request button.”

“And then I’ll be able to video chat with her?”

“Once she accepts the request you’ll be able to chat as often as you like.”

My new powers allowed me to send a message to you last month. I still haven’t heard back. I know you’re busy, but please reply soon. I’d love to talk to you and my grandchildren. Please.


Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. He has visited more than 80 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    What a sad story. It would, however, have reached heartbreaking status if the MC had been blameless in the estrangement from his wife and daughter.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    What a sad story. It would, however, have reached heartbreaking status if the MC had been blameless in the estrangement from his wife and daughter.

  • MPmcgurty

    This is intriguing, but it doesn’t completely work for me. The author almost – almost – made me care about this guy who left his family to be a travel writer/adventurer and wants us to believe that his wife is at least half to blame, and wants the daughter to know that about her dead mother.

    The reveal of the “magic” was done rather well through the italicized ‘graphs. It was clear to me where the MC was from the start, but I thought that the son or daughter might be visiting.

    The last paragraph is a bit melodramatic. The first two sentences would suffice.

    • S Conroy

      Actually on 2nd read I at least half agree with you and Paul. (That “please” pulled heartstrings and blinded me!) I think it ok that he shows this selfish side, but a bit of regret, at least over the consequences, would not have gone amiss at all, would definitely have made him that bit more sympathetic. After all he didn’t just leave the relationship; he abandoned his daughter.

      • MPmcgurty

        A bit of regret might have made him more sympathetic, but it doesn’t appear to be needed, judging by some comments. But I don’t even mind that there was no regret. I can respect an MC with narcissistic tendencies or just plain old selfishness if the story stays true to that.

        It’s even okay that we are getting only his side of the story. But the story isn’t written strongly enough to highlight the juxtaposition of his selfishness to the kindness he desires from his daughter. As written, it garners sympathy for the old dragon, somewhat due to readers apportioning 50% of the failure to the wife even though she isn’t present and this screams “unreliable narrator”. Even that would be okay if carried through to the end, so that we see the flaws and his failure to recognize them, but instead we see “magic” and the daughter’s obvious inheritance of his desire for adventure and the pitiful ending that is plucking heartstrings.

        I just think it could have been so much more. There’s a lot of talent there.

        • S Conroy

          Basically I agree, though think I instinctively liked the story more than you did. Your point about who the author wants us to sympathise with hits the mark imo.

          Either a clearly unreliable narrator or a slightly more sympathetic – if imperfect – dragon would be (even) better.

  • MPmcgurty

    This is intriguing, but it doesn’t completely work for me. The author almost – almost – made me care about this guy who left his family to be a travel writer/adventurer and wants us to believe that his wife is at least half to blame, and wants the daughter to know that about her dead mother.

    The reveal of the “magic” was done rather well through the italicized ‘graphs. It was clear to me where the MC was from the start, but I thought that the son or daughter might be visiting.

    The last paragraph is a bit melodramatic. The first two sentences would suffice.

    • S Conroy

      Actually on 2nd read I at least half agree with you and Paul. (That “please” pulled heartstrings and blinded me!) I think it ok that he shows this selfish side, but a bit of regret, at least over the consequences, would not have gone amiss at all, would definitely have made him that bit more sympathetic. After all he didn’t just leave the relationship; he abandoned his daughter.

      Hm, haw. I’ve just spotted something which the old man slipped in slyly.
      “One night you told me you were tired of stories about princesses who needed rescuing. You wanted to read a story where a princess rescued a dragon.”
      Originally I thought it showed how cool the little girl was. I didn’t get till now that the old man is the dragon pleading to be rescued. Devious, but it doesn’t improve his sympathy ratings!

      • MPmcgurty

        A bit of regret might have made him more sympathetic, but it doesn’t appear to be needed, judging by some comments. But I don’t even mind that there was no regret. I can respect an MC with narcissistic tendencies or just plain old selfishness if the story stays true to that.

        It’s even okay that we are getting only his side of the story. But the story isn’t written strongly enough to highlight the juxtaposition of his selfishness to the kindness he desires from his daughter. As written, it garners sympathy for the old dragon, somewhat due to readers apportioning 50% of the failure to the wife even though she isn’t present and this screams “unreliable narrator”. Even that would be okay if carried through to the end, so that we see the flaws and his failure to recognize them, but instead we see “magic” and the daughter’s obvious inheritance of his desire for adventure and the pitiful ending that is plucking heartstrings.

        I just think it could have been so much more. There’s a lot of talent there.

        • S Conroy

          Basically I agree, though think I instinctively liked the story more than you did. Your point about who the author wants us to sympathise with hits the mark imo.

          Either a clearly unreliable narrator or a slightly more sympathetic – if imperfect – dragon would be (even) better.

  • S Conroy

    Oh god, that “Please” at the end got me, made me wish I’d spent more time with my mother. Lovely structure and great idea to use the facebook message as a carrier. 5 heavy stars.

  • S Conroy

    Oh god, that “Please” at the end got me, made me wish I’d spent more time with my mother. Lovely structure and great idea to use the facebook message as a carrier. 5 heavy stars.

  • Tim STL

    This resonated with me. Although I realize it is about a travel writer who left his family many years ago, the fantasy language reminded me of the fate of Tom Hanks’ character in the 1982 movie Mazes and Monsters. As a gamer and general escapist myself, I envision being ultimately trapped in a nursing home while remembering the glories of past adventures (on or off gaming boards), and mixing up fantasy and reality. Although I wouldn’t leave my family, I am sympathetic with the MC (and he did plead with his wife to come along). He had a dream and he chased it. So many people don’t do that, and they are trapped for their entire lives.

  • Tim STL

    This resonated with me. Although I realize it is about a travel writer who left his family many years ago, the fantasy language reminded me of the fate of Tom Hanks’ character in the 1982 movie Mazes and Monsters. As a gamer and general escapist myself, I envision being ultimately trapped in a nursing home while remembering the glories of past adventures (on or off gaming boards), and mixing up fantasy and reality. Although I wouldn’t leave my family, I am sympathetic with the MC (and he did plead with his wife to come along). He had a dream and he chased it. So many people don’t do that, and they are trapped for their entire lives.

  • Man, this got me thinking about my not-so-distant future. Nearly a similar scenario, with me being the dragon. This was a very sentimental story for me, but it worked on every level. I’ve long wrestled with my dreams and my duties as a parent, and this story brings it home. I’ve got some more thinking to do.

    Thanks so much for sharing. You’ve got my 5 stars on this one.

    • I don’t consciously try to be so self-centered in my comments, but I’m aware that I often do. My apologies. It’s how I relate to writing.

      • S Conroy

        I figure if you can relate a story to yourself, it’s a sign of a good story, not something you need to feel guily about.

      • MPmcgurty

        I admire that about your comments. It allows a view into your opinion-shaping, and sometimes makes me think twice about mine.

        • Wow thank you. I sometimes struggle with a story that is “technically” good and sound but just doesn’t resonate with me. I guess sometimes the only thing I can say is, “I didn’t like it.”

  • Man, this got me thinking about my not-so-distant future. Nearly a similar scenario, with me being the dragon. This was a very sentimental story for me, but it worked on every level. I’ve long wrestled with my dreams and my duties as a parent, and this story brings it home. I’ve got some more thinking to do.

    Thanks so much for sharing. You’ve got my 5 stars on this one.

    • I don’t consciously try to be so self-centered in my comments, but I’m aware that I often do. My apologies. It’s how I relate to writing.

      • S Conroy

        I wouldn’t apologize. I figure if you can relate a story to yourself, it’s a sign of a good story and a compliment to the author.

      • MPmcgurty

        I admire that about your comments. It allows a view into your opinion-shaping, and sometimes makes me think twice about mine.

        • Wow thank you. I sometimes struggle with a story that is “technically” good and sound but just doesn’t resonate with me. I guess sometimes the only thing I can say is, “I didn’t like it.”

  • I like this a lot. Found it to be original, well-written and moving. I particularly enjoyed the relationship of the elderly character to modern technology…

  • I like this a lot. Found it to be original, well-written and moving. I particularly enjoyed the relationship of the elderly character to modern technology…

  • Connie England

    you can blame the MC all you want for the marriage breaking up, but remember, marriage takes two giving 100%. sounded like there wasn’t that from either one. I feel what the MC feels, at 61 and in bad health this story could well be mine in a few years. no wonder it made me cry a bit.

    • MPmcgurty

      I agree that it’s a two-way street, and both have to give 100%, but we are only getting half of the story so that’s why it “sounded like there wasn’t…from either one”. The wife isn’t alive to give her story, and several passages are of him implying she is to blame.

      • Connie England

        Well, she did refuse to follow him. But wasn’t like a say, a doctor that has a better job offer in another city and they need to move? Maybe I’m just more symptomatic becasue soemthing like this happened to my brother.

  • Connie England

    you can blame the MC all you want for the marriage breaking up, but remember, marriage takes two giving 100%. sounded like there wasn’t that from either one. I feel what the MC feels, at 61 and in bad health this story could well be mine in a few years. no wonder it made me cry a bit.

    • MPmcgurty

      I agree that it’s a two-way street, and both have to give 100%, but we are only getting half of the story so that’s why it “sounded like there wasn’t…from either one”. The wife isn’t alive to give her story, and several passages are of him implying she is to blame.

      • Connie England

        Well, she did refuse to follow him. But wasn’t like a say, a doctor that has a better job offer in another city and they need to move? Maybe I’m just more symptomatic becasue soemthing like this happened to my brother.

  • Netty net

    It sounds like they all want something different.

  • Netty net

    It sounds like they all want something different.