Author: Robert Beech
There was a snowblower in the living room. If the weather broke soon, they wouldn’t need it much longer, but for now it sat by the door, intermittently belching a spray of fine white crystals over the living room floor. The snow dragon nestled down into the soft white stuff blanketing the floor and dreamt of the day it would be cold enough to go outside again.
In the next room, the wizard melted snow in a cauldron to feed the snow blower. It was an unending process. The snowblower turned the warm water back into snow and sprayed it back into the house to replenish the dragon’s bed then, as the snow gradually turned into grey slush, the wizard shoveled it back into the cauldron and melted it to begin the cycle anew.
Once, there had been no need for any of this. Once, the snows covered the tops of the mountains all the way through the summer and then swept down into the valleys when winter came and the days grew short. Even longer ago, the valleys, too, had stayed frozen year round, humans had fled south in search of warmer climes, and the snow dragons soared freely between the mountaintops and the clouds in a world that was wholly theirs. But now, the tide had turned again, the world grew warmer, and each year the snow came later and melted sooner, and the dragon and his keeper were forced to retreat to their tiny artificial ice age at the top of the mountain.
The snow dragon was bored and hungry. He could go a long time without food, months or even years if he needed to, but the chase was what gave life its meaning, its zest. But there were no ibex now skipping nimbly from crag to crag to exercise his skills. The humans had eaten them all, even as their farms moved ever higher up the slopes of his mountain. The dragon snapped idly at the spray of artificial snow as it arced over him and settled disconsolately back into his bed. He thought briefly of eating the wizard, but he needed the wizard to keep feeding the snow blower. And there would be no joy in such a meal, no thrill of victory after a long and glorious chase among the peaks, merely a sad acknowledgement that the end of an era had come.
Ice crunched under the dragon’s claws as he burrowed himself into the artificial snow. All too soon, they came up against the hard stone tiles of the floor. The dragon shook his head in annoyance. The tiny bit of cold space he could find left him no room to move. At this rate, he would soon be reduced to nothing more than a frozen lizard curled up inside a snowball, waiting for it to melt. The thought infuriated him.
From the doorway to the other room, the wizard watched as clouds of steam began to billow up from the heap of snow in the living room. With a roar, the dragon stood, shaking off his covering of snow and ice. His eyes, once pale blue, now glowed a fiery red, and streaks of crimson began to ripple along his flanks. The wizard opened the door and the dragon stepped out onto the bare mountaintop, devoid of any hint of frost. The dragon spread his wings, which now pulsed with the heat of his re-born fire, and launched himself into the sky to soar over the scorched plains below. A new era had begun.