Published on 2011/12/11

Deshka's Landing

S. L. Lytle

Deshka Ramirez drove around the bend, her dark brown eyes shooting fire. Traffic, which had been going at a fast clip up until now, had slowed to a crawl. A motor home was blocking traffic, windows rolled down on the right-hand side. She glanced down to see what the commotion was and noticed a small, terrified brown bear running next to the vehicle at top speed. Deep, rich fur stood straight up as the bear swung its head back and forth in what Deshka believed to be a panic-stricken manner. Moments later, she sighed with relief as the creature veered off into the safety of the woods.

Her relief was short-lived. Seconds later, the motor home pulled over and she watched as tourists spilled from the vehicle. Parents, grandparents and small children were all chattering excitedly, clicking cameras and holding video recorders high above their heads. Deshka shook her head and drove on.

Nothing ruined fishing season more for her than tourists. Each year brought more and more of them to her state and she was convinced each one was looking for a real-life version of Yogi Bear. A cartoon version of Jelly-Stone Park, Alaska was not.

This trip to the Russian River alone, Deshka had seen everything from a black bear to a mama moose with calves. Each animal sighting was accompanied by yelling, hand- waving humans.

Having lived in Alaska all her life, Deshka knew with a certainty deep in her bones, that wildlife rarely bothered humans; humans, however, needed to learn to keep their hands to themselves.

“Respect wild life and it will respect you.”

She could hear her grandfather’s raspy voice echoing in the back of her head. She was still thinking about him and his storytelling ways when she pulled into her favorite pullout—one big enough for several dozen vehicles. She slid out of the truck and glanced around.

The area was full of men. Most of whom refused to give her a second glance. She was aware of what they would see if they did: a pudgy, middle-aged woman with a tinge of gray to her long black hair, over-sized glasses, and a firm chin. She shrugged it off as she pulled her tackle out of the truck and began the long trek towards her favorite fishing hole.

The river was running slow and clear. Deshka was able to see through to the rocks at the bottom and the salmon that swam over them.

A few miles from the truck, she located a likely spot. It was an eddy off to the left, with a narrow bend to the right and a convenient sandbar upon which she stashed her backpack. Several moments later, she was peacefully enjoying the serenity of the river. The view of the mountains covered in deep green fir trees and the soothing sound of swishing water soon put her in a pleasant trance.

She was reeling in a fruitless cast when a movement across the river caught her eye—another brown bear. It was her second bear sighting of the day. Not the same bear she had seen earlier, however cute, the four-inch claws and jaws of steel could turn deadly in an instant.

Deshka glanced at the small revolver tucked just inside her chest waders, and then let her eyes travel up and down the river. Plenty of anglers were between her and the bear, so she continued fishing reassured; one eye on her line, the other on the bear.

Three hours later, Deshka headed back to her vehicle. Her plastic garbage bag was full of bright red fish fillets and her hands were river-washed clean. The smell of decomposing fish carcasses along the way annoyed her, but it was soon washed away by the fresh piney scent of fir as she marched back.

As she rounded a bend, a mosquito buzzed near her ear and she slapped at it. As she did, a loud, grunting noise caught her off guard. In a motion that would have brought praise from her instructor, she dropped the tackle box and gear and cupped the gun in her hand as the bushes parted.

The beast was nothing she had ever seen before and it appeared to have come right out of a storybook and her eyes were drawn to the creatures long, white neck, and rows of shiny teeth in its elongated snout. Luminous, dark brown eyes with flecks of green and red in them stared back at her, and its wings folded neatly against its back.

Deshka became aware she was moving backwards when a tree root tripped her, and she began flailing her arms wildly. She hit the ground with a large thud and watched her gun tumble down the path, out of reach.

Curling into a tiny ball, Deshka covered her head and waited. She was going to die, she decided, and rather messily too.

For a few moments, nothing happened. Then, warm breath was on her fingers.

A nudge against her shoulder, more curious then threatening, and a deep scratchy voice startled her. “Is it a human custom to lie on the ground when one sees a Drachan? Because if so, it is a strange one.”

Deshka opened her eyes to see a dragon seated next to her. It was so beautiful that she clenched her hands together at the urge to touch the beast. The bedtime stories her grandfather told her as a child had come back to haunt her.

The dragon cocked its head from one side to another and snorted. Its large liquid brown eyes seemed to take in every detail.

Something about the dragon’s face gave Deshka the impression she was being laughed at. Deshka sat up warily and rested her hands on her neoprene-clad knees, realizing that, if needed, her gun was now more than two feet from her.

“I… I tripped.” Deshka stammered. She searched the area for something useful and her eyes landed on the garbage bag full of salmon fillets.

She wondered if the creature was hungry. It was, after all, fishing season and perhaps like the bears she was so scared of, this creature too ate salmon, one after another until gluttony paled.

With slow, deliberate, movements Deshka reached for the bag and opened it, with hands that trembled with uncertainty. Gently, she pushed the bag towards the beast, which ignored the salmon and continued to watch her every move.

After a few awkward moments of silence, Deshka re-tied the salmon bag and began to shuffle it nervously from hand to hand in quick, jerky movements.

“Perhaps you could do one a favor,” The beast finally spoke, breaking the awkward silence.

Deshka nodded briskly, devoutly praying that any favor she performed did not include becoming breakfast.

“One has an injury that must be attended to.” The dragon stretched out a foreleg and Deshka noticed for the first time long, raw scratches. “Claws, as useful as they are, are inadequate for the job. It seems the small growling creature was curious about me.” The beast uttered a harsh, guttural noise that Deshka decided was laughter.

“I’ll be glad to try.” Deshka stammered nervously.

The beast’s hide was like that of a moose, a soft, leather-like skin complete with rough hairs sticking out at all angles. Crimson-red blood was forming a thick crust and Deshka bit her lip as she checked it out.

After a few moments, she decided to rummage through her backpack. She found a water bottle and an old first aid kit. When she picked up the antiseptic bottle, she realized what she had to do and a look of alarm creased her forehead. “This will hurt.”

She closed her eyes and poured the contents of the small bottle onto the cut. A hiss erupted from the creature and the smell of sulfur had Deshka looking up to see a small curl of flame erupting from the dragon’s lips. She scuttled backwards quickly and it was a very long moment before she was able to find the courage to complete the wound cleaning.

Using an old T-shirt, she found at the bottom of her pack, she created a bandage and held it in place with her bootstrap. After the bandage was complete, the beast sniffed at it, but made no complaints.

A million questions swirled in Deshka’s head. She opened her mouth to utter them when a draft of air caused by the swooping of large wings blasted sand and hair into her eyes. Swooping her hair out of the way, Deshka spotted another dragon landing next to the first. They nuzzled each other affectionately about the neck and shoulders.

“Rachelon you are wounded?” The new dragon asked. His voice was a deep baritone and his hide a darker brown than the first.

“A small error on the part of the brown growling creature, Chadrachon,” the first replied. “I was out hunting the shinies when I felt its claws.” The female dragon snorted with laughter, “I convinced him with teeth and flame that his attentions were warranted elsewhere.”

The male dragon, Chadrachon, snorted a deep rumbling sound. Trees and bushes shook around him. His warm mood changed as he spotted Deshka. His claws dug into the ground and his chest broadened perceptibly. Chadrachon’s lips curled and he leapt. Within milliseconds, he was within mere inches of Deshka’s face.

“What are you doing here, human?” He snarled.

Deshka gulped. It took all of her remaining willpower to remain where she was. Just how far she could run amidst tangled trees and brush before he killed her, she didn’t want to think about.

“Chadrachon.” Rachelon hissed. “The human creature bandaged one’s leg. It even offered its red fish; do strive for courtesy.”

At Rachelon glare, the male dragon slunk behind her. His gaze, however, did not turn from Deshka.

"Do excuse my mate, young human. Eons ago, we Drachan’s were nearly exterminated by your kind. We have had little contact with you since. It appears my mate harbors resentment.” Rachelon said.

Rachelon bowed to Deshka, “Human creature, you have helped a Drachan,” Her voice rang through the clearing, “You may choose your reward.”

Confused, Deshka said nothing, aware that Rachelon was rustling her wings and cocking her head from side to side. “Drachan’s require courtesy for courtesy. Perhaps a ride to the straight rock would be enough payment.”

“Human, you may seat yourself upon my back.”

The male dragon let out a brief bark of disbelief, but after a piercing stare from his mate, he settled down quickly enough. The male dragon may have been larger than the female, but it was clearly the lady who was in charge. A brief internal debate ensued before Deshka gave herself the courage to kick aside her fishing gear and clamber awkwardly up the dragon’s side.

In no time, at all, they were in the air and the wind was whistling past her face. She clenched the dragon tight with her legs and raised her arms in exultation as she felt the wind tear across her face and through her hair.

A brief panic ensued over her eyeglasses, and for the remainder of the ride she hugged the dragon’s neck with one hand clasped to the side of her frames. Even in the semi-light of 4 a.m., the mountains below were beautiful.

The pair soared higher and higher, then, after a few minutes of beautiful windy eternity, they glided towards the ground to land in the parking lot. Deshka clambered down and stammered her thanks. She ducked as a loud clamber of sound erupted behind her.

Her tackle box, gun, fishing supplies and salmon bag landed near her. Chadrachon the fierce had brought her stuff.

“Thank you,” Deshka said, amazed that Chadrachon had turned into such a softie.

“Perhaps, human, we shall meet each other again.” Rachelon said.

“I would like that,” Deshka replied.

Before she could ask any questions, the pair launched back into the sky. Deshka raced to her truck, scrambling for her cell phone, grateful for the camera mode. She took picture after picture until the two became mere specks in the early morning sky. No sooner had they disappeared than Deshka looked around curious: After all, an event like this should bring the tourists running to ask questions.

To her surprise, the parking area was a rare case of desertion—not a soul visible; only deserted vehicles. She stood by the truck looking at the pictures. The dragons on the screen were as beautiful as they had been in real life.

When she glanced up from the camera, she noticed a motor home next to her, parked so close to her truck they seemed to be touching. Deshka put her hand on the camera menu, ready to email her pictures to her family and friends, when she realized what she was doing. She was acting just like the tourists she so despised. With a heavy sigh, Deshka hit the delete button and erased the pictures.

She tossed the phone into her bag and began picking up her gear. She was retrieving the bag of fish when a glint caught her eye: a diamond the size of her pinky lie beneath it. Deshka’s fingers curled around it and she found herself searching the skies again. She finished loading up the truck and took off, all thoughts of tiredness gone.

As she drove home, her mind kept wandering back to the strange encounter. Who would believe her? Creatures like dragons belonged to legends and lore. Or perhaps, she decided several hours later as she pulled into her driveway, Perhaps what happened to her, belonged solely to an Alaskan summer night.

S.L. Lytle enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy stories about Dragons. She lives in a small town in Alaska with her husband and their three cats and two dogs. She's short, with brown hair and hazel eyes and the rest changes with the seasons.