Dedicated to Mr. Wiegersma, a local firefighter.
The moon hung large in the sky waiting for their next move. I watched the three fire-chiefs in a tight huddle shout to be heard over the roar, one side of their faces illuminated by the flashing lights of the fire trucks, the other side by the wild flames. My heart was attempting to escape my chest. As I handed a water-bottle to one of the tired, smoke blackened firefighters who had been here all night, my hands shook ever so slightly.
The fire was enraged, leaping high above the roofs of the three houses, like a flaming beast desperate to devour the pale, cold, white moon. I could feel the sweat dripping down the back of my arms inside my heavy fire-suit; I was pretty sure I would melt before my shift even came. Though, as far as I was concerned, I would rather be a puddle of nervous man-sweat than face that fire tonight. As soon as the fire-chiefs finalized their strategy, this brief repose would end, and we would be sent in against this all-devouring monster. I was terrified.
Fire was not an element like air or water, but an intelligent beast, cunning and clever and devastatingly dangerous. The Dragon. Who dared face him without respect, hatred, and, most importantly, courage? The very courage that I lacked. The fiend bellowed his rage to the sky, spewing smoke, ash and flames, filling the night with his rank, heavy stench.
Shuddering, I turned to see Victor approaching, his step clumsy in the heavy boots and thick fire-proof pants: thud, rasp, thud, rasp, thud. His expression was grim but confident, the confidence that came from many hard-won battles with the beast. Even the flickering light of the fire could not hide from him the paleness of my face, and, in response to some unknown prompt, he used his hands to gesture. A sign that every firefighter knew. Dragon Slayers!
I could feel something change inside of me; to me, there, then, the sign meant everything. The dragon’s roar deafened my ears, his blaze blinded my eyes, his fury smothered hope and kindled fear. But courage is a hero borne out of fear. We were knights, fighting a terror as ancient as the moon itself; mortal men against the fiery Dragon, with courage that only faltered, never failed.