Ouroboros Part Five - The Dragon

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: Write about a character with an unreliable memory.... view prompt


Sad Science Fiction Fantasy

The blog woods had never looked so beautiful. With the dove gray sand cushioning Ophi’s feet and the dark connectrees shielding the clearing from the sky, Ophi stood in awe as though he had never been there before. Could it be?

The Internet user cocked his head to whistling coming from a gray bush, and saw a bright pink ad-bird wading out of the bush. Ophi recognized the bird and something lit up inside him. He turned back and saw a clear path leading to a leafier area. Thick, dark green wood greeted Ophi with a list of the users that lived here. 

His own name at the bottom of the sign was nearly reduced to scratches. It had been so long.

Ophi’s hooves thundered against the smooth road. He kept running until he reached a cul de sac rimmed with user-sized bushes. Ophi cocked his ears and heard nothing. So Ophi ran over to the bushes and skimmed them until he found the thorn bushes. He frowned. He felt a twinge of remorse for choosing thorn plants for his fencing.

Ophi turned and flicked his tail at the bushes. That didn’t matter. The sky was a cool white, the connectrees were as robust as ever, and all was right again.

But then, Ophi heard a distant rustling. The bushes across from him rustled and gave way. 

Another user. She was red, like Ophi, except she resembled a geometric doe. Ophi waited. The doe slinked closer. 

Ophi bucked in joy. “Heidi!” 

Both users galloped towards one another. The clearing around them stretched wide into a field. 

Ophi squealed, “Heidi, it’s been so long!”

The doe scampered on without a word.


The doe’s polygonal face wrenched open to reveal a visceral bear trap coming for Ophi’s face. 

The dream ended.

Ophi lurched to the side and destroyed a table in the process. He could still hear snapping teeth. He couldn’t think if the droplets on him were his own sweat or Heidi’s spit. 

Then Ophi remembered. He was no longer a browsing user, sleeping in his own grove. No, he gave that up just to become a homeless fire serpent.

The cold grays of the abandoned site settled in, only to be blurred again by Ophi’s tears. “Why? Why? Why can’t I forget?”

Ophi’s throat tightened. No. Just stop that. If you waste your tears on that pig, you won’t be able to hunt today.

Ophi forced himself out of his coils and slithered across the room. Beyond the narrow doorway was a huge hallway with one wall having a weblike, abstract mural. Ophi searched the dark pattern, ignoring the dust irritating his eyes, until he saw an elaborate circle. He rammed his tail into the circle and the mural changed to a mirror.

Yes, Ophi had big doe eyes, but his focus darted to the blood red tear stains. The stains against his paper white face were hideous, making his eyes look more like gaping holes.

Ophi squinted and sneered. And like a poison dart frog’s spots, my face is now a warning sign. Maybe the boars will leave me alone today.

The tip of Ophi’s tail rose up next to his face. He still hadn’t gotten used to his nose. It jutted out so much it looked less like a human nose and more like a shark’s. 

Well, it was enough to keep Ophi out of the uncanny valley, and with the huge fangs crammed into his mouth, he could befriend the local artists. The thought of that happening made him uneasy. Their habitat still felt too gloomy for his liking.

Ophi shifted his eyes to an old trash can. But… Considering what happened with Heidi… Ophi felt tears welling up again, Just forget her. It was going to happen one way or another.

Ophi made his way out of the hallway and into a room just like the one he was sleeping in, except for the gaping hole serving as a doorway. Ophi slithered out of that and into the edge of a connectree forest. 

The leaves of the connectrees Ophi was familiar with came in cyan or gray. The ones here were a somber purple and hung on the branches like rags. The branches themselves drooped, too. Ophi looked around. Besides the forest to his left, he saw obelisks and other carved stones lying in the white grass. Ophi had to squint to see the stone platform ahead, with everything beyond that obscured with fog. 

Ophi saw a flicker or two in the fog. Ophi crept forward. His fiery colors stuck out among the dreary purples and grays here. Whiffs of smoke rose up from under Ophi and sickened the air. Ophi could see them, all humanoids with black hair reaching their knees and paper white skin. More showed up, and Ophi spotted dark purple gills on their necks, and purple circlets around their limbs. 

Ophi’s heart thumped inside him. Some of them began to dance, making the thought of them rushing at Ophi even worse. The venomous spines hidden throughout his body threatened to explode out of their pores. 

But something crawled onto the platform. Something pitch black and the size of a horse. Raising its striped, abstract head, it stood on its scarlet points of feet. It was a nightmare of a quadruped.

And one of the humanoids walked up to the creature and tousled its head like it was a pet. 

See? Ophi told himself, If that abomination can walk on that platform scot-free, then so can you. The ones that enjoy strange company are the most understanding, after all. Go up and say ‘Hi.’

Ophi barked and the users turned his way. They were only staring at him, so it may be safe. Ophi slithered on the platform. There was silence, and it burned Ophi’s composure.

Finally, one of the piscine users put out a hand. “Hello! Who are you?”

Ophi’s voice came out like a tortured violin. “I’m just a lurker who’s enjoying your art.” 

The littler users broke into chatter. Inevitably, one of the users asked, “Can we visit your place?”

Ophi’s mouth clamped shut like a vice. The spines hidden in his body pushed against the pores. It took a silent breath to relieve the pressure. “You know I am not just a hobbyist, right?”

“No, we just met you.” The red and black creature stood with his legs splayed out.

The hidden spines pressed against Ophi like teeth. “I mean … I don’t really have a blog … anymore.”

“We … don’t understand.” The red and black creature lowered his tail.

This was it. One wrong move and Ophi would lose another chance at normalcy. “Okay then tell me. There are no thorny creatures in this domain, right?”

The smaller creatures shared confused glances.

Then a squeal ruined the atmosphere. Another horse-sized blob rushed from the bushes behind the platform. The users, to Ophi’s bafflement, made room for the new contender. It looked just like a boar, one living as a venomous pin cushion!

Please, for the love of God, don’t hurt me! Ophi tensed his pores, but his mane rose to his defense.

One of the little humanoids waved to the pig. “Hello! Who are you?”

The boar opened his tusk-stuffed mouth, and shook his quills. Ophi’s heart sank. The more and more the boar talked, the more and more the spikes in both of them poked out.

The boar continued, “...And due to such analogies, I’ve come to realize what your art represents: it’s not just fanart, it’s warning signs. Signs against commonality, like this dime-a-dozen dragon in your midst!”

Ophi bristled. His pores felt like they were going to rip asunder if he didn’t say something. “I knew it, I knew it! You’re just here to start a fight. Well I won’t let you.”

The boar lunged. Ophi’s spikes exploded from his skin. Already blinded by pain, Ophi bit at the epicenter. Ophi clamped down on something hard and furry and pulled as hard as he could, but he fell over and let go for a split second. Both monsters were knocking into columns, obelisks, whatever couldn’t get out of the way. Then, with the boar sounding as livid and loud as ever, Ophi knocked into something sturdy. Pushing his back against the object, he pulled the boar off. Now the boar thrashed in his teeth.

Ophi pinned the boar to the ground and wrapped his coils around the squealing offender. He dove for the throat and squeezed on everything with all his might until the boar fell silent. Ophi rolled off the boar and collapsed in a bleeding heap. His vision allowed him to see the platform, only to blur into nothing.

Ophi opened his eyes and saw that the sky was an angry slate gray. Ophi noted he only felt sore throughout his body, no longer feeling burning cuts. When he curled up to rise, however, the blurry figures all around were the natives, scattered on the ground, with red spikes sticking out of their backs.

He turned to the boar. It looked less like a game animal and more like a cheap fur rug. The boar’s spikes were turquoise. 

Oh no.

The red and black creature hopped from behind an obelisk. He walked towards Ophi, with his head dipped low. 

Ophi felt something churn in his stomach. “I-I-I’m really sorry. I-I was only t-t-trying to drive off the boar-”

The creature threw his head up. “May the hackers come for your scales! You have no place here. Get out, and don’t come back.”

Ophi might as well have shrunk in front of the creature. Then Ophi gave a hard glare. “I figured.”

One of the pale users ran towards the creature. “Wait!”

Ophi turned back to the abandoned building. “No.”

Ophi felt throbbing all over his body. He ignored the slate walls at the corner of his eye. Maybe if I just avoid them for a while, they would understand. ...Would they understand?

April 02, 2022 22:21

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