This story has been rewritten and republished, originally posted on fictionspawn.com August 5. 2017 as “Dragon’s Breath”. Some major changes have been made.
Ali and Migue had been walking through the forest clothed hills of the Chinese Xinjang province for days, up towards the mountains. The landscape was getting steeper, and the guide went back towards town. He wasn’t paid to climb. From here they were on their own.
The path was steep, but it was not their first mountain trip. Soon they were high up in the mountains. They could feel the air getting thinner.
They found it, right where Adventurer Magazine had said, half covered by bushes and vegetation. One of the least investigated caves in the world. The trekkers that had found it hadn’t explored it much, they weren’t used to these kinds of things.
Ali and Migue were.
Finally they were here.
They walked down through a tunnel, and came out in a big hall. Further in there was a lake. The water reflected the light from their flash lights, made the walls dance in beautiful colours.
It wasn’t deep, and they crossed it wading. Huge columns were hanging from the roof, and there was even a waterfall.
-This is the most beautiful cave I’ve ever seen, Migue said.
Ali agreed in silence.
The cold water was refreshing, and probably drinkable although they didn’t dare to try. They got up on the other side, dried up and kept moving, deeper into the unknown. The hall was getting wider. The roof could no longer be seen.
Look! Ali said. What a strange wall!
What is it? Migue lifted his hand, touched the shells in front of him,They were hard, but underneath there was something soft, organic.
Step aside, Butch! Said Ali. Migue turned around. Ali was holding a rock in his hand.
Ali threw the rock. It bumped into the soft wall and fell down.
-What did you do that for?
-Just to see what happened, Ali laughed. He saw Migue’s worried face. -Don’t worry, this cave is as solid as rock. It won’t f…
The wall moved. Ali stared, his mouth half open.
-What? Migue followed his look turning around.
The wall slid to the left, away from them. A sound. A strange, deep roar from the deep of the cavern. The wall disappeared into the darkness.
-I think we should get out of here, Ali said, taking a step back.
Something appeared in the light. A huge, reptile like head. It was bigger than a bus. Bigger than a building. Staring at them.
Smoke emerged from its nostrils. It looked angry,
They ran. Ran towards the tunnel they had come in through. Swam across the water. Threw their bags behind. Ali looked over his shoulder. Light. Heat. Fire.
They could feel their skin burn, their hair curl. They fell out of the cave. Rolled down the mountain side.
The ground shook. An explosion of fire and rocks blew out above them. Stones were falling around them as they sat covering their heads.
A scream. A roar of a bird, the terror of a lion. Dark. Powerful. The dragon came flying out, up in the air. Circled the sky.
It saw them. Turned around.
Came straight at them.
Migue stood paralysed watching the huge beast charge. It opened its mouth. He saw a light in its throat. Fire came shooting towards them.
Ali grabbed Migue’s arm, pulled him. They fell down into an abyss. They slid down a slope, through a hole in the rocks. They fell out on the other side. Fell a long way. Fire came shooting out over their heads as they fell into a river, wide and deep. The strong current carried them down streams.
As they got up on the bank, they could see the dragon fly over the cliffs, down the mountainside, over the hills. Every once in a while it spat fire, leaving whole forests burned to the ground.
It disappeared over the hills in a far.
They lay there for a while, getting their breath back.
-What the fuck have we done? Migue was watching the horizon in disbelief.
-What do we do now?
They stood there in silence. There was nothing they could do but get out of there before the dragon came back.
The original version can be found on my Tumblr account.