In which our heroes go tight rope walking
It took Tony Tony a very long time to regain consciousness, and when he finally did he kind of wished he hadn’t.
His senses came back to him slowly. Smell came first, the oldest sense, he remembered from an article he had written once, but smell didn’t really do much except confirm that he should have done a better job with washing last night. Somewhat discouraged, he let his sense of touch feel his surroundings, he was clearly lying on something, it felt too rough to be anything manmade and too regular to be anything natural. In frustration he opened his eyes, and even this didn’t help, all he could see was solid whiteness, it was like looking at the inside of a ping pong ball.
“Where am I?” he asked,
“You’re laying on top of a dragon”, came Greg’s voice from nearby, Tony Tony, nodded, as solemn as a mountain gorilla, and wished that he could lose consciousness again. That didn’t seem to be an option; holding his head he sat up and looked around.
He was indeed on a dragon; it was large, white and completely unaware of their existence. Tony Tony was somewhat underwhelmed, “shouldn’t it be more vicious?”, he asked Greg.
“According to Free Flower, they’re only like that a sunset”
Greg nodded, which hurt quite a bit more that it should have, he made a note of this. “What happened?” he asked
“You fell off of Mr. Ian Woon’s board. Free Flower dived and caught you, but you broke her board when you landed on it. Then the three off us landed on the back of this dragon, and we held on until it stopped bucking. Since then we’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”
“When did I go out?”
“You hit you head pretty hard when you hit the board.”
Tony Tony held his head, it still hurt. He took a better look around him, it seemed easier now. Greg was sitting cross legged next to him, watching him carefully. Free Flower was laying some distance away, hands crossed behind her head in the classic star watching position, except that there were no stars.
He also noticed something that he hadn’t noticed before, long stout chains were wrapped around the dragon’s body and leading off to the left, and right, behind and up, and although he couldn’t see it Tony Tony would have bet on below as well. He tried to make sense of this, but his head didn’t seem to work right. He pointed a shaky finger at the chains and gave Greg an inquiring look.
“They seem to go everywhere”, Greg replied, “we’ve been talking about them and we think it’s a lattice of dragons.”
“A lattice of dragons?” Tony Tony asked, Greg was clearly using English, but the sentences he was forming weren’t making a lot of sense.
Greg pointed up, “Dragon here,” he said, ”Dragon here”, pointing left, then right, down and inward. Tony Tony noticed that his finger lingered on the inward. “Someone chained a couple of thousand dragons together and made a giant flying box.”
Tony Tony let the questions spin around this head, until they calmed down enough that one became the most obvious, “Why?”
“Either as a juvenile prank, or because they wanted to lift something, either way we’ll find the answer at the center.”
“Were you making a joke there?”
“About a thousand dragons’ being a juvenile prank.”
Tony Tony held his head again there didn’t seem to be anything else to say, and that is always a bad sign in a reporter.
“Are you up to walking?”, asked Greg
“Where did you want to go?”
Greg pointed inwards again. “There’s no rush if you’re not up to it”, said Greg, “They won’t go nuts again until sunset, and it’s barely sunrise”
Tony Tony thought about this, the truth was that he needed some more time to rest, but he didn’t know how Free Flower knew about dragons, and he wasn’t sure he could trust her to know all the berserk times of by heart. “I’ll go.” he said.
Free flower must have been listening, because she immediately jumped to her feet and started walking inwards. She crossed over the dragon and walked onto the chain without significantly changing her stride. Tony Tony thought her sense of balance was incredible, and he watched as she strode into the mist and was gone.
Greg helped Tony Tony to his feet and then walked to the chain himself. He was much slower over the chain than Free Flower had been, picking his way delicately along. He didn’t fall though and Tony Tony was impressed, until he realized that Greg was using his levitation to stabilize himself. Greg took one look back, and then the mist swallowed him too.
Then it was just Tony Tony, alone on the back of the dragon. He walked his way to the edge of the dragon, looking braver than he felt, and looked down. He had somehow been expecting vertiginous heights, instead it was just the same ping pong ball inner as the sky, and he was surprised to find that this was absolutely no comfort.
He put his first foot on the chain, then his second foot. Not so bad, he thought to himself, and he made his way down the chain like this, doing a kind of hip heavy shuffle, which would have been very fashionable in certain dance halls. The mist was ridiculously thick and the dragon behind Tony Tony disappeared in barely any time. He had no way of knowing how long the chain was, so he just kept walking.
All things considered, he thought he was doing rather well, and then his front foot slipped. The chain came up to meet him at high speed, and he grabbed it and hugged it tighter, his other foot slipped, and then his arms lost their grip, and he was left there dangling, by his hands, over a indeterminable drop.
Tony Tony called for help, put it was no good, the mist swallowed all sound. He tested his arms seeing if he could lift himself back onto the chain, maybe twenty years ago, he thought, while he continued dangling there. He remembered the playgrounds of his youth, and picked out the direction of the center, and finally he began to swing, hand over hand, down the length of the chain. Say what you like about Tony Tony, but he was not a man that quit easily.
Tony Tony felt light hearted, or was that light headed? He was a long way up. He realized he was moving a lot faster under the chain, than he had been over it and for the first time since he had woken up this morning he felt like smiling. He was almost disappointed when hands grabbed him and started pulling him upwards.
“What happened to you?” asked Greg
“Fell.” explained Tony Tony
Greg didn’t say anything back; perhaps he was relieved to see Tony Tony smiling again.
This dragon looked, to Tony Tony’s eye, exactly like the last, and it had exactly the same array of chains. Free Flower was waiting at the center, and once she had seen that Tony Tony was safe, she turned and walked inward again. The other two followed her.
That’s how they went on, chain after chain, dragon after dragon, again and again, through a solid white sky. Until Tony Tony began to suspect that someone had set his life to infinite repeat, and failed to tell him.
At what must easily have been the four billionth dragon, Free Flower, stopped for a moment, and then she turned and started walking left. Greg and Tony Tony, followed her, for dragon, after dragon, after dragon.
Then, quite suddenly, something different loomed out of the mist. Tony Tony had no idea what it was but he almost cheered out of shear novelty.
“It looks like, an island”, said Greg.
Tony Tony looked closer and realized that he was right, “Why on earth would someone want a flying island?” he asked, mostly rhetorically.
Greg said nothing, but Free Flower kept walking, so the other two kept following. Tony Tony’s feet touched grass; this cheered him up a great deal, so much that his sprit wasn’t hampered at all by Greg wondering aloud how grass could grow so high.
“Oh what does it matter, Slim G?”, asked Tony Tony, completely rhetorically. He danced around and walked backwards in front of the other two, “I say, that we have our own little bit of a paradise here. We should enjoy it”.
Greg was looking at him rather strangely, “Tony Tony, I think the thin air is getting to you.” he said.
“Spoil sport” Tony Tony shot back. He spun away, and walked flat into man about seven foot tall, and about as broad across the shoulders.