Dragons are notorious teases. It is well known that dragons can recognize someone that they have only met once, and one meeting with a dragon is all you ever get. They are creatures of novelty. At best they are bored if you attempt to find them again, and their lairs are strewn with the bones of the victims of obsession.
The ones who don’t waste away on their quest to find the dragon they once met; well it is hard to tell if they are lucky or not. The only people who find the dragon a second time are killed by him. See, the dragon doesn’t care about anyone. The only reason he doesn’t kill at first contact is the dragon’s interest in a new obsessor.
Personally, I never cared to see a dragon. While it is rare he kills someone who sees him for the first time, the thought of being that close to a two-ton fire breathing monster terrifies me. And then suppose I become obsessed? Lots of people think they can just find the dragon once and be done, but there’s a dark magic in dragons that we don’t completely understand.
When I first met Akamu, I didn’t know he had ever met a dragon. He had a job and a hut, and seemed to be just a normal island boy. But Akamu didn’t want to hide anything from me. One day I met him at his hut, and we walked back to mine. I could tell he was nervous, and finally he spoke up.
“I should probably just turn around now,” Akamu said, “You won’t want to hang out with me when I tell you, but… I’ve met a dragon.”
I was surprised. Akamu didn’t look like the typical dragon chaser. They tended to become so obsessed with catching their dragon that they forgot to eat. And most of them had scars and burns from close calls with dragons.
“I haven’t gone on an expedition in six months,” he explained. “All the same, most people don’t want to associate with dragon chasers.”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” I said. “If you’re done with dragons, I want to stay friends. But if you ever decide to chase the dragon again, I won’t hang around.”
I had known others who were killed by a dragon after trying to catch him, and didn’t want to watch that happen to someone I cared about.
Everything was fine for a while; Akamu and I swam in the ocean, and hiked up mountains. Akamu heard that a friend of his had been killed by a dragon, and this was tough for him.
We laid under palm trees, we basked in the sun. Akamu found out that another friend of his had been eaten by a dragon, which made him very sad.
I had to go out fishing on a boat for a week. Akamu and I knew we would miss each other, but it was only a week. When I got back on the island I ran to Akamu’s hut to say hello.
Akamu was staring at a chart of the island, eyes darting back and forth across it. His hair was longer and messy, and he was much skinnier, more skinny than it would seem possible to become in only a week. He didn’t look like he had gotten much sleep either. He just furiously scribbled notes. He was planning another expedition to catch the dragon he once met.
“Just go,” Akamu said to me, “I can’t stop now. Hearing about my friends… it was too much to think about. But when I am chasing the dragon, I don’t think about anything else.”
I didn’t understand. How could he be comforted by his quest for the dragon, when his friends had died engulfed in the dragon’s flames?
Another lonely week passed, but island wisdom says there is not much we can do for dragon chasers; they have to abandon their obsession on their own. Then, when I was walking in the woods, I saw flames shoot into the sky. I ran towards the fire to find Akamu huddling crouched outside his hut, while it burnt to the ground. Akamu had a burn on his arm.
“He was so close!” Akamu said. “The dragon was so close I could almost touch him.” He started to cry. “I can’t do this! I don’t want to chase him anymore, I wish I had never met that dragon!”
I helped Akamu up, and we started walking back to my hut. He wanted to take a different path, so we walked up a hill, and over a cascading river. Around the corner he stopped and looked toward some rocks.
“There’s a cave in there.” Akamu said. “That’s where I first met him. Sometimes he returns here, and you can see him flying over the valley”.
His eyes were glazed over, and he seemed to forget the world around him as he stared into the cave. A song about dragons came to him, and he smiled as he hummed it. But I didn’t smile. I saw the cave drawing him in.
“Let’s go Akamu. This is the last time you should come here,” I said, and he agreed.
After spending the night in my hut, Akamu and I walked down the island until we came to the beach where small but well built huts were kept. The island people all chipped in to build these huts as far away from the mountainous dragon lairs as possible. Dragon chasers could come to this beach, and rest easy, knowing that they would not spot a dragon in the skies.
I let Akamu be, and after a few weeks, he was looking and acting like his normal self again. Akamu was grateful to me that I helped him abandon his dragon chasing quest. Since his hut had burned down, Akamu came to stay with me while he figured out the best way to move on, and not again catch the obsession with dragons.
One day, I heard Akamu get up early and leave the hut. I hoped that he was going to find another job. When he returned he seemed distracted and aloof. I was suspicious but didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.
But then in the middle of the night, I heard a rustling. I got up and found Akamu at the table, pouring over a map. It was labeled with the movements of his dragon, and the most likely places the dragon was to be found.
Akamu was surprisingly efficient at chasing the dragon. He was capable of organizing a fruitful expedition on a moments notice, with hardly any supplies. In fact he was so adept at chasing the dragon, it would have been a marketable skill… if there was a market for chasing dragons.
Akamu’s initial defensiveness quickly turned into sadness and shame.
“I don’t want this obsession,” he cried, “But I just can’t get away from it! I wish I never saw a dragon, it ruined my life.”
“But your life isn’t over, Akamu,” I said. “You are so young!”
“How can I get away from dragon chasing though? Everywhere I go I am reminded of him–his breath is in the camp fire; the glisten of the sun on the waves, becomes the shimmer of his scales. There is nowhere I can go, it is all I think about!”
“When we swam together you didn’t seem distracted. When we ran through the hilly trails, were you thinking about the dragon then?” I asked this dejected.
All the time spent with Akamu had been the best time for me.
“No,” Akamu said, “I didn’t think about dragons then.”
“I know I can’t replace what chasing the dragon gives you,” I said. “But can’t I be your reason to stop looking?”
“It’s not fair to you!” Akamu said. “Dragon chasers are playing with fire, we wrestle with a two ton monster! We can’t have people that we care about.”
“I care about you Akamu, I don’t have a choice in that.” I said. “If you can try to forget about dragons, I can be here for you”.
Akamu shook his head, “But this is what happens to dragon chasers! I can’t promise you I will never pick up another map and start another quest, all I can do is take it day by day.”
“Well, let’s start today,” I said, and walked with Akamu back to the huts on the other side of the island.
As I left and walked back to my hut alone with the setting sun on my back, I started thinking. This was the second time since I had known Akamu that he once again started chasing dragons. I told him that I couldn’t be around him if he continued, but then I didn’t follow through with my ultimatum.
Each time that Akamu went back to chasing dragons, I went back to chasing Akamu. But there was a relief in it. Something in me told me that I could make progress. Something told me if I kept chasing Akamu, then I could get back to the place where we happily began.
Was Akamu as elusive as the dragon he sought? Was I caught up in my own kind of obsession, desiring love from Akamu?
Akamu told me that if I’m involved with a dragon chaser, I can’t expect him to forget his obsession forever.
I told Akamu that if he’s involved with me, he can’t expect me to remember my obsession forever.