Yup. This week’s challenge was inventing a new -punk, a la steampunk or cyberpunk… Mr. Chuck Wendig’s got a sick sense of humor, is what I thought when I read the challenge, all because he’s played inventor and have made a reality of cornpunk.
I suck at genres. I read it all the time, but whenever a genre challenge emerge, I feel lost. Write superhero, Chuck says, and my mind go blank… how was it superhero went again? Do house of horror! I run for my bed and hide my head, cue sinister music.
Ah.. but inventing your own genre, hey that’s easy. It would be all yours, nothing epic to live up to, no expectations. Except punk… what the hell defines punk?
So, I did some thinking. If cornpunk is a world run by the echonomic of corn (haven’t read Under the Empyrean Sky yet, it is on hold on my kindle though.) and if steampunk is a world where everything is run on steam, well then I just have to find something that could fuel my newly invented world.
I chose dragons. TA DAAAA!
which makes my story Fantasy, and I found out, is not a new invention.
I’ve decided I don’t care. If I fail in the art of punking my story, then at least I do it in the company of dragons, and that makes up for everything in my book.
So I give you:
by Trine Toft Schmidt
I was following the raiders through the woods close to the vast open prairie, when suddenly my left foot was yanked out from under me. I landed in a stagnant pool of stinky water. Something was holding on to my ankle, hard enough that it was already going numb and I thrashed and kicked furiously, blinded by the water in my eyes. I didn’t hit anything, but someone snickered maliciously. A snicker I recognised.
I relaxed, cursing, and the grip on my foot was released.
Crash, Raven, Wasp and Wing scowled down at me. Wasp was already in my face, grabbing the front of my shirt. He pressed his tattooed face close to mine, but it was Wing who talked.
“What are you doing here, Mole?” She hissed the words through her gritted teeth. The point of her spear was pointed at my heart. I squared my shoulders, as much as I could.
“You know what I want. I want to be a raider.” Raven snorted, and folded his arms across his chest.
“We told you no, you’re just a snivelling little kid.” He sneered and turned away, showing me his disregard. Crash giggled and Wasp let go of my shirt and I plonked back into the water.
“I’m not a kid!” I sounded like a sulking babe, but I couldn’t stop myself. “If you’ll just let me run with you I could show you.” Wasp’s filed pointed canines glinted, and I knew I shouldn’t be pressing it. “Please, let me run with you. Just once.” Wing leaned down over me, put her foot on my chest and pressed me down.
“You’ll never be more than a burrower, Mole.” She grinned at me and old resentment made me want to hit her. It had always been like this. When we were kids, playing, she was always dragon and no matter how much I fought and cried and begged I was always the prey she bloodied with stick claws. I was about to open my mouth and curse her when something passed under the sun and my arguments dissipated like mist under a burning sun.
“They’re coming!” I pointed to the sky. Huge dragons swooped over us, the air suddenly filled with the sound of flapping wings and screaming men. The caravan was here.
Raven cursed and started running, and one after one they sprinted away. Wing hung back a second and bend down over me one last time.
“If we don’t make it in time, I’ll cut off your hands and feed them to the dogs.” Then she was gone too.
I rolled around and got up. I was drenched in mud, twigs and dry grass. Great. Now I even looked like a burrower. Maybe they were right. I couldn’t run fast or silently enough, I was crap with a spear and dad always told me I couldn’t hit a sloth bear with a boulder, when I practised my sling. They all hated me. Wing wouldn’t cut off my hands, but she would tell the elders and they would send me underground for disrupting the raid. I shuddered.
The sound of flapping wings lessened and I looked up. Young dragons, only starting to come into their colours formed the rear end of the caravan. There were emerging greens, blues, and reds, and I even spotted one that might be a silver. A rearguard, a massive deep red, was growling and snapping it’s teeth impatiently at the last stragglers, hardly more than yearlings, struggling to keep up with the pace of the caravan.
And then they were gone, the sound of flapping wings fading and I leaned back against a tree. All I’d ever wanted was to be a raider, to hunt and provide for my family like Wing did, to raid the caravans, when they came to graze on the wild herds on the prairie. I wanted to be big and strong and wild and adored like Wing. I didn’t want to be a burrower, I didn’t want to spend my days in the dark narrow tunnels, wrestling slime worms and harvest mushrooms. I fought the tears that were starting to form childishly in the corner of my eyes.
There was a crashing noise above me and I looked up. Something tumbled out of the sky, coming toward me. It was grey, flapping leathery wings frantically, inexpertly, as it crashed through the canopy, falling without control to the ground. It landed with sick thud a few feet before me, the ground shaking and branches and leaves raining down on me from above. The dragon made a keening noise and then it collapsed.
I stood still for a long time watching the small dragon. This was the closest I’d ever been to a dragon. Normally we only see them flying above or when the Sky Lords come once a year, demanding tithes and men for their armies. Grown dragons are monsters, tall as trees, wings like houses, stinking of sulphur and roaring like volcanoes. Mother always pushes us into the hut when they come, but I’ve watched through the cracks in the hut, admiring the long slender necks, the burning eyes and the pointed teeth. And I’ve envied the men who can control these animals, who ride them like they are winged horses.
And now there was one in front of me. Small, and broken, but a dragon none the less. Plans started to form in my head.
If I came home with a live dragon, I would be the hero none of the raiders would ever be. And I wouldn’t have to burrow, the elders would never send a dragon finder underground. I nodded to myself, satisfied with my new destiny. I could see myself riding this dragon. I would be fierce and awesome. I would be respected and feared.
I walked closer to the dragon, circled it, watching carefully for any signs it would wake up. It was probably female, I thought as if I knew. Still grey, but already it’s wedge shaped head was longer than my arm and her body was three or four times the length of mine.
She looked unhurt, except for her right wing, which was folded under and behind her in a unnatural angle. Bones had snapped and protruded through the thin membrane of her wing.
I stepped even closer and she opened her eyes and looked straight into mine.
I was lost.