Each and every night, before I go to bed, I travel to another world. It’s not a dream, since I can still control myself. When I drift off into sleep I leave this place. Tonight I’m lying on a hill in a spruce forest, the needles smelling sharp in my nose. I can see the pale blue sky with paler clouds stretched across. In the distance was a jagged mountain. It was like a pyramid; I knew there was something buried deep inside.
The dragon that lived on the cliffs took flight. I never get to get close to it, I usually fall asleep before that. There had to be other creatures that lived in this world, though I’ve never seen them. I haven’t seen much of here, but the mountain is always there, somewhere in the distance.
People keep saying that I need to apply to colleges. I don’t want to. I know I’m not good enough to get in. I never did well in classes. I’m not good at anything. There’s the state school I could always go to. Everyone treats it as a joke. It’s where you go to be a gym teacher. .
I don’t want to be a gym teacher. I don’t want to get stuck at school. But I don’t want to get stuck at a shitty job, either.
Now I find myself on the mountain itself. The rock is shorn sharply, as if someone came down with a knife and carved it from something else. That’s how glaciers form mountains, isn’t it? By just cutting into the Earth and pulling everything else away.
You can see out for miles up here. There’s the spruce forests covering the rolling hills and a glinting river through one of the valleys. Up to my right I can see a plateau. There’s a meandering heard of brown creatures out there. I wonder what those are. They could be horses, or buffalo? Maybe they’re aurochs like in that book I read once.
A sudden updraft of wind knocks me backwards. It’s the dragon taking flight. Its flint-grey hide matches so well with the mountain. It circles around the mountain a few times, too high for me to get a good look, then it flies off in some direction I can’t see; the entire mountain is in the way.
Mom gave me some applications to fill out. I check what they needed. Transcripts of my grades (shit). Letters of recommendations from teachers (shit). Essays on why I want to get in (fuck). $100 application fee each (christ). There’s 5, 6 of them here.
Is this what everyone else is doing? How do they expect me to get this all done? The due dates are all in a month. What am I going to do.
I’m now on some other part of the mountain tonight. I feel uneasy, exposed, like I’m backed up against a wall. I scan the land below me to see if I recognize anything. There’s a big lake that I think I’ve been to once before. There’s more forests out there, but I think I see some deciduous woods this time. I look up to see, right at eye level, another mountain in the midground.
On it was a bristling black tower. It looked like a fortress rising out of the face of the rock. Seeing it made me anxious. Things like that just don’t appear on their own. How long were other people here? Did they know I was here too?
A deep sound hit me as it shook the ground. I could hear rocks tumbling down the mountain off to my left. My eyes snapped to the tower, something rising from it. It, too, was a dragon.
Today I fucked up. After class I went to my Spanish teacher and asked for a recommendation. He just looked at me. Are you sure about that? he asked me. I just left the room. I hid in the band closet the rest of the day.
I tried looking over the applications again, and I just couldn’t do it. I’m not going to get in with my grades. My teachers don’t like me. Do they even know who I am?
I was on the mountain again. It was so odd, that I ended up here three nights in a row. Normally I don’t end up at the same place twice in a week. I could see that dark tower out on that other mountain. I didn’t like that there was another dragon here. Or that there was someone out there who controlled him, and enough people to build himself such a fortress, too.
I sat down and pulled my knees to my chest. I didn’t want to leave this place, but when I’ll get found out, I won’t be safe anymore. There was no way that I could defend myself, either. I didn’t know how to fashion tools out of stone to create better ones. I couldn’t just punch a tree down to get wood.
Next to me sat the flinty grey dragon. It was big, but it didn’t seem to be aggressive. It was looking out at the black tower.
“You know there’s another dragon out there, don’t you?” It didn’t respond, but I knew that it understood me. “You might be able to stand up to it, but I don’t know about everything else that lives there. It’s probably bad, too.
“What are you going to do?”
The dragon stood up, but then lowered its side towards me. It looked at me with silvery-blue eyes. In that moment we understood each other. I used its leg as a step and swung onto its back, where the neck met the body. I twisted my fingers in its soft mane and the dragon slipped off the mountain and into flight.
I knew that everything was going to be okay.
I’ll talk to my English teacher in the morning.