Nothing but a Wyrm (part 2)

He had stopped at an intersection and was waiting for the lights to change in his favour.
“Can I take a look at your book?” she asked, reaching over from the back, resting her hand lightly on the cover.
He hesitated, and then shrugged.
“Sure,” he said.  “Just be careful, it’s old.”
“Oh, I can see that!”
She leafed through the aged, brittle pages while he kept a nervous eye trained on her.
“What is it?” she asked after a while.
“Oh, it’s just a hobby of mine,” he tried to sound blasé, almost bored.  “I collect old books.  I found this one at a swap-mart in Stepney.  Good find too.”
She wouldn’t know what it is anyway.
“Is it worth much?”
“Not a huge amount, but definitely more than I paid for it.” 

“So, was it a good night?” he asked casually, some bitumen later.
“Hmm, hmm,” she answered distractedly.
What can possibly interest her so much about the book?
“Do you go there often?”
“To the casino,” he elaborated.  “Do you go there often?”
He was starting to get a queasy feeling in his belly.  Unease, apprehension.
“I work there,” came her reply.
His ploy had not worked at all.  Maybe he should try a more direct approach.
“Do you find that book interesting?”
“Fascinating,” she answered.
“So you read Latin, do you?”
“De imaginibus Capitis et Caudae Draconis Lunae.,” she read the chapter heading impeccably.  Then returning to the vernacular she answered, “Yeah, as a matter of fact I do.  I studied it at uni.”
He felt an involuntary shiver lance his spine.  He had to swallow before he could speak again.
“And did you understand what you just read?”
“Of the images of the head and tail of the dragon of the moon,” she recited, without missing a beat.
“Wow, so you read Latin and you work at the casino.  What exactly do you do there?  Translate Roman numerals at the roulette table?”
She raised her gaze towards him, but her eyes looked distant, lost in some unfathomable inner reaches.
“I clean.”
He stared at her reflection in the rear-view mirror.
“You’re a cleaner?  A cleaner that reads Latin?”
“It helps me remember who I really am,” she elaborated, an edge of irony creeping into her tone.
“Which bit helps?” he returned.  “The cleaning or the Latin?”
She didn’t bother to answer.
He glanced at her with new interest now.  He had underestimated her.  In this day and age it was easy enough to do: one assumed the worst until proven otherwise.  That was his formula anyway, anything else simply led to too much disappointment.  He liked her smile.  It was like a remembrance of light, faint and unreal.
“So when you remember your self, who do you remember being?” he asked,
They had reached the Devil’s Elbow and the road meandered treacherously up into the hills.
“I’m not sure you qualify for that answer.”
Her eyes were laughing now: at him.  He nodded.
Fine.  I can play this game.
“What must I do to qualify?” he asked, daring her.
“Nothing at all,” she told him, quick as lightening.  “It must already be done, or else it would be just a game.”
He felt pleased with this encounter and yet his discomfort grew hand in hand with his pleasure.  He felt the faintest trace of déjà-vu.
They drove in silence until Eagle on the Hill, where she asked him to stop at the service station.  The meter read $18.20 by the time she returned.  The cab lunged happily back onto the freeway.  He kept on casting occasional glances at her as he drove: she had resumed reading his book with the inside light on.
They were about level with Bridgewater before she spoke again.
“Fascinating book!” she said, and placed it carefully back on the seat next to him.
When he made no comment she lit a cigarette and opened her window a fraction.
“Why do you drive a taxi?”  Her voice was soft, almost intimate, pretending she wasn’t really prying.  Payback time.
“It’s the only thing I know how to do,” he lied.
“You’re lying,” she countered, not looking at him, gaze fixed outside.
She’s looking at the moon, he thought, and grinned to himself.
“Okay,” he laughed.  “You win.  I drive cabs to get away from women.”
This time he was rewarded by instant, delighted laughter.
“Any woman in particular or is it a non-specific phobia?” she giggled.
“Oh, it’s all-encompassing, I’d say,” he answered.  “Never met a woman that didn’t get me into trouble.”
“Where are you from then?” she asked when she stopped laughing.  “I can’t place your accent.  Is it Polish or something?”
He slid the taxi into the right lane to overtake a convoy of trucks fleeing east.
“Finnish,” he lied. “I’m from Finland.”
The lying was a habitual thing.  Whenever someone asked him anything personal he gave them whatever they would accept, whatever they found credible.  He was doing the same thing now.  It was just a routine thing. Nothing personal.
He stole a look at her in the mirror.
Her eyes were open but unfocused, glazed, lost in thought.
Quite suddenly, without warning, he felt lonely.
He felt a wave of sadness rise up in his chest like surf, drenching him, sapping his will.  Without really consciously doing so he made a decision.
“Actually, no, that’s not true,” he found himself saying without turning, without even looking at her any longer.  “I’m not Finnish.  In fact I come from a place that’s not even on the maps. I don’t talk about this because … well, nobody really cares.  And anyway, no one would believe a word of it … so, why bother? You seem… different, but if you’re not… does it really matter?”
She was silent for a while.
“So where are you from?” she repeated.
“Aragón,” he answered, and sighed.
“The Kingdom of Aragón, to be precise.  And it is important to be precise because there’s still a remnant of Aragón on your maps, but it’s not really representative of what the kingdom was like in my time.  It is now a part of Spain, just to the south of the Pyrenees.”
Your time?” she asked.  “You can’t be that old.”
“Thank you,” he replied.  “No, I’m not that old, although I do look younger than my true years.  Nevertheless my time… goes back much further than my years…”
He glanced at her in the mirror to see how she was doing with the story so far.
Her expression was quite blank.
“Go on,” she urged.
“Okay,” he obliged.  “My name, my true name, is Valfior and I am a hunter of Wyrms.”
“You hunt worms?” she asked, her tone predictably incredulous.  “Oh!  You must mean… dragons, don’t you?  Wyrms with a ‘y’! Well, that’s different!”
“Yes,” he confirmed, surprised and taken aback by her knowledge.  “It is different.  But you know, hunting wyrms rubs off really badly.  Wyrms are deceitful, dishonest and dangerous creatures.  I think I’ve spent so much time chasing them – and later being chased by them – that I’ve become a little like them: living a life of deceit and lies.  I tricked a wyrm once, you know. And I’m still paying the price.  Do you want to hear a story?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the earth,” she replied promptly.

( Part Three continues soon… )

Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)

  1. Alan Adnan
    8 years ago


    Talkin bout suspense and thrill!!

    Thats super awesome man, the suspense is killing me.

    How can he come from Aragon, is he immortal? Are you saying dragons exist on this planet. I’ll join the fight.

    Victory to the brave!!!


    Claudio Silvano Reply:

    Hey Alan, glad you’re enjoying the ride! Posting the final installment tonight, so… no spoilers.


  2. Robert
    8 years ago

    Kewl……keep em comin’


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Posted 15 December 2017

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