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The Dragon Tamer Part Three

Dragons in the desert were often the most unforgiving. Many would say there were no worse fates than being hunted by a sand dragon. Miko closed her eyes as the dragon flew low enough to almost hit her and the group she was travelling with. When she dared reopen them, much to her surprise, she was still alive. She remembered hearing stories told by the boys in school when she was a child: being hit by a dragon would obliterate you on the spot, you would not have much time to feel anything. At the time, she thought there were worse ways to go, and seeing how you were fated to die, it might as well happen fast. Her views on it had radically changed now. She did not want to die, and she did not want to have to hope that it will at least happen fast enough for her to not register the excruciating pain accompanying her last breaths. She looked up and saw that the dragon was now swirling in the air, diving towards the group once more. When it missed them again, Miko understood it was toying with them, pretending to make their deaths quick. Giving them some bitter-sweet hope that they might make it out alive somehow, that it was clumsy. ‘You evil creature…’ she whispered, an intense feeling of hatred rolling over her, like the heat of the desert. The camels knew instinctively to fear the dragon and became restless. They started running desperately, but nothing could outrun the flying beast. It hovered above the group and with its incredibly long and strong wings, it was stirring the air currents, soon causing a sandstorm. Suddenly, it was not only the dragon catching up with Miko and the others, but the sand too. ‘Papa!’ Miko screamed in terror as she saw her father and his camel disappearing behind a curtain of sand. Her own camel got so crazy with fear that it threw her off, running like rabid into the mouth of the desert. Without anticipation, Miko found herself all alone, the sand rising around her as dense and compact as walls. It was closing in around her. She started crying, looking for a way out, screaming for her father and the others who were now impossible to spot. Sand bit her cheeks, dried up her tears and chocked up her words. She covered her head and face with her arms, but they were little shelter against the wrath of the desert. ‘Always use this to cover your mouth and nose if ever caught in a sandstorm!’ she remembered her mother’s words from when they were travelling through the desert together, to go see Shamel and his new-born. Blessing Orma’s name, Miko removed her head-wrap and used it to cover her face with it, then put her head in between her knees and wrapped her arms around her. Miko…’ she thought a voice called her name. ‘Papa?’ she tried calling back, but the sand silenced her. She listened carefully for a few moments, but other than the howling of the desert, she heard nothing. Miko…’ the voice called again, clearer, fuller, more intentional. ‘Come find me…’ the voice beckoned. ‘Papa’ Miko whispered to herself with hope, unwisely crawling on all fours through the sand, directionless, head held low, breath shallow. She kept crawling and crawling for minutes which felt like hours, reaching nothing, going nowhere, exhausting, and hurting herself. She felt tears gathering up in the corners of her eyes, as her hopes waned. She was undoubtedly lost, the difference between her imagining that she heard her father and him or anyone being able to call her name in that chaos was the storm itself. She stopped to catch her breath. Her throat felt coarse, blinking was incredibly painful. She had to face the reality: at this point, with the sandstorm continuing like this, her chances of survival were minimal. She at least had to stop moving. Miko, come find me!’ the voice said again, this time more persistent, almost demanding. Unexpectedly, the sandstorm began to quiet down. Miko could not believe it; a smile started forming on her face. And then she realised that her wandering had brought her now just a few steps away from the sand dragon. She sat there, in front of the massive creature, on her elbows and belly, motionless, barely daring to breathe, to think. The wind was now a soothing whisper and soon the storm settled completely. The dunes returned to their silk-like shapes, unbothered, while the sun was shining brightly on the unclouded sky. That was the thing about sandstorms. They could come out of nowhere and return to it almost as soon as they started. Not the same could be said about dragons. Miko could hear her own heartbeat. She could feel it in the depths of her tummy. The dragon was stood there, and it reminded her of Tabahir, her pet antelope. Whenever she was waiting for food or a walk, she gathered her back legs under her body and rested her head on her front ones. What could this dragon be waiting for? ‘Was it you that called me?’ Miko whispered, with tremor. It was more of a thought uttered out loud, both brazen and potentially stupid. Her entire body was shaking. The dragon blinked at her slowly, its big, round eyes reminding her of the copper they extracted at the mine she and her father worked at. The beast was itself the colour of the dunes, dusty brown. Its tail wound around its muscle-wrought body. It huffed once. Miko…’ she heard the guttural voice echo again inside her mind. The sensation of barging in over the intimacy of her own head made Miko jump. Sand fell off her and scattered in the air, carried by the breath of the dragon. Was it really talking to her?! Its eyes looked so alive, so full of old knowledge and secrets. It seemed to Miko less evil now, and more anciently…sage. ‘What do you want from me?’ Miko asked, against the maddening thumping of her heart. She could feel her stomach jolt with emotion. Please, help me! Miko blinked confused. She did not expect to hear about vulnerability and need. She probably expected to hear…well, something awful, but not an admission of weakness. And then she remembered of her own defencelessness. ‘Where is my father, where are my friends? The dragon huffed again. Miko started shouting for her father and the others. She ran back through the sand to what she thought was the last place she saw them. She started digging through the ever-so-hotter sand, with her bare hands, hit by hysteria. Miko. I am lost. I need to find my home, please help me.’ The dragon whispered in Miko’s mind again. Its body remained still, shadowing the sand around it like a blotch of ink on a piece of paper. ‘What can I do? Why are you doing this to me?’ Miko burst out, another fresh set of tears in her eyes. You are my master. Please, help me!

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