“NÍÐHÖGGR” by Vajra Chandrasekera

The dragon Níðhöggr sleeps at the foot of the world-tree Ygg-drasill, which is time. You know this because you’ve seen movies. We know this because We’ve been there. We run down the world-tree sometimes to watch over him while he sleeps. We miss him. He was Our playmate.

You do not know that the dragon is a vampire with fangs taller than you. We know this.

We know this because We made the dragon.

We made him from a kit. We stole it from a place high in the world-tree, from a moment when you had learned to make dragons.

Ygg-drasill is time because time is the great branching tree that links together the many-worlds. You know this. We know this.

We made the dragon in the future at the end of all things, at the top of the tree where We live.

Who are We? We have been eloi and morlock, light elf and dark elf. We are god, child, bound in time. We made the dragon, you understand, because We had always made the dragon, and because We chafe from restriction. We can only run up and down the tree. Father-Mother Hræsvelgr will not allow Us to leave time. They say We are not mature enough.

We are Ratatoskr. We run wild. We make mischief. We make dragons.

We were you, once. So in a way it’s all your fault.

We made the dragon but We couldn’t keep him. Mother-Father Hræsvelgr wouldn’t let us keep him.

“You can’t feed him,” Hræsvelgr said, in Their aspect as Father. “He’s an apex predator without a pyramid.”

“We’ll take him down the tree and feed him,” We protested. “We’ll take such good care of him, We promise.”

“He’s too much responsibility for you,” Mother-Hræsvelgr said.

We had to let him go, They said. So We took him down the tree and dropped him off with the dinosaurs and wept.

“Run and be free, vampire dragon,” We said, as We scampered back up the tree. Mother had said We had to be home by götterdämmerung.

We watched over him anyway. We watched him.

Níðhöggr gamboled through the Mesozoic with zeal and abandon. He loved the diplodocus for their virginal neck, so sinuous and pure. He loved them, knee deep in the swamp, bellies low in the water, the way they twined and nuzzled against him, the thunder when they fell to earth.

He loved triceratops, the way they lidded their eyes and dropped their heads. Beneath the placid vegetarian exterior, beneath the frills, they were hot for him and he knew it. We knew it. You know it.

He loved the great icthysosaur leaping in joy from the waves.

He loved the therapods the most because they were the most like him. He clasped t-rex to his breast and kissed their thick neck while their tiny, useless hands waved weakly in protest.

He had so much love to give.

By the time he had loved them all to dust and only the rats were left, he had grown so fat. So full, so hungry, so endlessly hungry. He was bored. The earth developed a wobble on its axis from his restlessness.

We ran down the tree to calm him and put him to bed before Mother-Father Hræsvelgr noticed that anything was wrong.

We sang him to sleep, and covered him gently with continents when We left.

We can’t take him back up the tree with Us. He’s too big now. But We know what to do.

We are sneaky. Father-Mother Hræsvelgr will have no choice but to love him when they see how beautiful he is. And We know he will love them too.

Until then, We leave him to sleep under the earth, to sleep and dessicate for millions of years, taking the long way home.

That’s where you come in.

You know how he wakes because you’ve seen movies. All a dry vampire needs is blood. We know how he wakes because We’ve been there. In your billions, in your trillions all the way up the world-tree, you are the blood and the life. You are all Our little renfields and We love you.

We know and now you know, when enough blood is spilled on the earth at last, when you have done your best to serve him, to feed him, that the dry cells of his body will shiver to new life, and he will upend continents when he raises his great wings and yawns and takes a bite out of the moon.


Previously published in Grievous Angel.


The little dragon clip-art is sourced from the British Library, accessed via openclipart.org 

Vajra Chandrasekera is from Colombo, Sri Lanka. His work has recently appeared in Aleph ReviewClarkesworld, and Fireside, among others. He blogs occasionally at http://vajra.me and is @_vajra on Twitter.

Truancy 9, July 2021