The old man's eyes slowly opened, revealing the misty gray remnants of a wise soldier that once was. His great grandson stood at his feet, both hands laying on his knees. He had dozed off in his rocking chair on the old beaten porch that overlooked the country side.
"Grampa?" the young child asked again.
"Yes, yes," he said, stretching his arms upward and pushing his feet down, starting his rocking motion.
"You sleep loud, you know," the boy said, placing one hand on his hip.
"Do I, now?" A smile crept across his sunbaked skin.
His grandson reached out his arms to be picked up and the old man obliged, softly placing the child on his lap and continuing the rocking of his chair.
"Grampa, mom said you knew this world when it was a different world."
The old man stared off into the horizon, not wanting to answer.
"Grampa!" The little boy got louder.
"Yes, yes... I guess I did," he said
"What was it like? Was it like the stories mommy reads to me?"
He continued to stare off into the distance. The rocking of the chair stopped. "It was nothing like the stories read to you." his voice trailed off, then the chair started to rock again.
"Were there dragons?"
The old man stopped rocking again and paused. "You could say that..."
The young boy’s eyes remained attached to his grandfather, awaiting elaboration. The old man sighed, smiling.
"You see out there? Look." He pointed into the distance. "What do you see?"
The child's eyebrows raised and then dropped low. "Nothing, Grampa, just dirt."
"Exactly," the old man said, still smiling. "It used to be green—like a big green carpet, soft to the touch. You could take your shoes off and walk across it. You could lay on it and watch the clouds."
"What are clouds?"
The old man stopped and looked into the sky at the red fog that overcast as far as he could see.
"Clouds...? They were... giant white pillows in the sky. Sometimes they would be shapes, and you could guess what they were."
"Shapes, son, and yes, sometimes in the shape of a dragon... Sometimes in the shape of a building, or baby, or car."
The boy looked confused. "Like the ones that are all over the roads?"
"Yes. You know they used to move, don't you?"
"On their own?"
"Well... no, somebody had to drive them. They would go very fast; you know Sytheria to the east?"
The boy scowled. "We don't like them, Grampa."
"No, we don't, but a car would be able to get us there in no time at all."
"I wouldn't want to go there anyways," the boy said.
The two sat in silence as the boy leaned forward, squinting his eyes into the distance, trying to imagine a world he had never seen. The chair stopped rocking and the boy looked back to see his grandfather had dozed off again.
"Grampa?" he said lightly.
"Yes, yes," the old man replied, opening his eyes again.
"You said everything used to be green. I hear about it in the stories from Mom, too. Where did it all go?"
"Well... it just started to disappear one day."
"Like magic?" the boy asked.
"But why would somebody make it disappear? The books make it seem wonderful."
"I don't reckon anybody meant to make it disappear—it just kinda happened," the old man said, scratching his stubble head.
"A lot of reasons, I guess. Cars and giant machines that caused..."
"Giants?" The boy sat straight up, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped.
The old man chuckled. "You betcha, and the giants destroyed… the roof of the world."
"The world has a roof?"
"Why did they destroy it?"
"Well... They didn't do it on purpose, but by the time they saw what they were doing, it was far too late."
The boy looked down at the porch, furrowing his eyebrows. "So the roof disappearing made the green leave, too?"
"That... among other things. What mostly did it were the bombs."
"Er... Fire eggs... that were dropped—laid—by... flying dragons."
The boy hopped off his grandfather's lap, giggling hysterically and jumping up and down. "I knew they were real, I knew they were real, Grandpa!" He spun around to face the old man again, both hands on his hips. "So where are they now?"
The old man leaned forward in his chair putting both hands on his knees sighing deeply. "Gone, now. But they were everywhere; everyone had one."
"People owned dragons? Like pets?"
"Not at first—only a few had them, but everyone else wanted them. Some devoted their whole lives to getting one."
The boy leaned against the wooden post. "Why did everyone want one?"
"To fight against each other."
"Well... People believed in... two different sons of God."
"Never mind," the old man sighed, leaning back in his chair.
The boy looked out into the sky for a moment as if looking for something to appear.
"But... why would anybody fight over different suns? I thought there was only one."
The old man shook his head, looking down. "There never was one," he whispered.
"So, the dragons made the green go away?" the boy asked.
"The fire eggs made the green go away."
"What did the fire eggs do?"
"...They turned everything... into nothing."
"So, the dragons were bad?" the boy asked.
"Well... they were good in theory, until everyone had one. Then everyone used them against each other."
"But... why? Why couldn't all the dragons be friends with each other?"
Their conversation was sharply interrupted by the eruption of gunfire in the near distance, startling the boy and causing him to back himself against the wall. The screen door flung open and his father burst through the opening. "Everyone get inside—now! Sytheria is closing in!"
The boy ran inside and took his usual hiding spot in the far corner. His grandfather limped his way in through the door and took his usual place on the recliner nearby. The boy’s father slammed the door shut and placed two long, heavy boards into secure positions at the top and bottom. He spun around and handed the old man his shotgun and took off to the other side of the house, grabbing his rifle as he went.
The boy curled himself into a ball, jumping at each gunshot as they came closer and rattled the windows. He looked up at his grandfather, who put on a sarcastic half-smile and cocked his shotgun.
"Because people don't learn, son... and they never will."
About the Author
M.J. Sutton is a horror and fantasy writer. His work can be found in Hellbound Books and Blood Moon Rising Magazine, and he's currently working on his biggest post apocalyptic project to-date. For more information about M.J.'s work and artwork, check out his website: http://darkroadfiction.com/