The Golden Dragon of Ang
Chapter 1--Dark Times
Numb. That’s all he felt. He sat there in the pew, the words of the priest flowing over and past him, none of them sinking in. Just like when his mother had told him the news. Just like when his father had died.
He’d been through it all before. He never thought he’d have to go through it again so soon—too soon.
Eric Scott shook himself, trying to snap back to the here and now. It did not seem possible. His mind kept straying to the day before yesterday, the day Gordy was killed. There had been a car accident. Eric’s cousin, Gordy Bungee, and his family had been coming back from their summer vacation when their SUV had been sideswiped by another vehicle that had drifted into their lane.
Their car had flipped over the guard rail and down an embankment. Eric’s uncle Rocco, his aunt Matilda and his cousin Jeff had escaped with minor cuts and bruises. Gordy had not been as lucky.
So now, just three years after his father had died in a hiking accident, Eric found himself at a funeral for another family member who had died much too young.
He had not been particularly close to Gordy until this year. For one thing, at 13 Eric was two years younger than him. He had always been closer to Jeff, who was his own age.
Still, all three had spent a lot of time together over the past year or so. Although he could be a real jerk sometimes, it had been Gordy who had encouraged him to keep playing hockey after he had been ready to quit.
After a nearly fatal first practice where he almost got his head knocked off, Eric had vowed never to play again. Gordy would not stand for that, and became almost like a personal coach to him. He helped Eric learn to really skate, develop his stick work and his awareness on the ice. By the end of the season, he was no longer an embarrassment. Eric had been looking forward to playing again this winter, but now…
The service was concluding and everyone stood to go to their cars and drive to the cemetery. Then there would be a gathering at his house. His mom had offered to host it. Great. No chance to slip off home and leave the sadness and gloom behind.
What had Gordy done to deserve this? The same thing my dad did, he thought, nothing. Why did this kind of stuff have to happen? And why was it happening to his family?
He did not have any answers, and that frustrated him.
It was dark. Eric could not see anything. Suddenly, a sickly green light illuminated the room. It wasempty except for a group of people in the center. They were gathered around something that he could not make out. As he came closer, he recognized his mother, his uncle Rocco, aunt Matilda and Jeff among other friends and relatives. They were weeping over the object, which Eric now recognized as a coffin.
A black sparkling mist leaked out from under the lid, trickled down the sides and spread out across the floor, obscuring everyone’s feet. It crawled along the ground toward him. It chilled him as it engulfed his shoes and his body tingled all over. A feeling of dread crept over him.
With a creak the lid of the coffin was slowly opened from the inside by a skeletal hand. Eric tensed, not knowing what to expect. The coffin’s occupant sat bolt upright, and Eric gasped.
It was a corpse. Rotting flesh revealed glimpses of the skeleton beneath. Its head turned to Eric and regarded him with worm-riddled eyes. The zombie’s decaying lips drew back from yellowed teeth in a cruel smile that both repulsed and intrigued him. There was something familiar about this unholy creature.
“Hello Eric, so nice to see you again,” it rasped. “I trust the Assignment in Vynistra City had a satisfactory conclusion.”
That voice, it sounded like…”Selango,” Eric whispered.
The zombie smiled wider, and part of its left ear fell off.
“Ah, it’s good that you know me,” Selango said. “So often people are forgotten after they’ve died. I was worried that you might not remember, but I knew that you could not be so cold and heartless.”
Eric looked at the people crowded around the coffin, all of whom were still sobbing, seemingly oblivious to the grisly specter.
“What are you doing here?”
“For starters, I’m dead. I can be wherever I want. But the real reason I am here is to give you my condolences. A terribly tragic loss—he was too young to die so senselessly. And to think that it all could have been avoided. I don’t want you to blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault, not really.”
“What wasn’t my fault?” Eric asked.
“Your cousin’s death,” Selango said.
“It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“No, that’s true. You did not cause the accident, but you could have prevented it”
“What?” Eric could not believe it. “How could I have done that?”
The zombie Selango shook its head. “If you had only accepted my offer, this whole tragedy might never have happened.”
“Your offer? What offer?”
“Think my boy. Think back to that distasteful chain of events in Vynistra City. You and your friends had me locked up in that cell with all the other riff-raff. I offered you the chance of a lifetime. My freedom for the most powerful weapon ever created. You turned me down. And now your cousin lies dead.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with it,” Eric frowned.
“The mist! Did I not say it was a source of unimagined power? If you had heeded me, I would have
shown you how to mold it, shape it, use it to achieve your heart’s desire. With it you could have done anything—prevented that accident or brought your cousin back to life.”
Eric glanced down at the mist swirling around his feet, then back at Selango. “Dad,” he murmured.
“Yes, you could have brought him back, too,” Selango said, nodding sadly. “Ah well, the road of life is littered with missed opportunities. Still, it is a shame. What did you gain by denying me, anyway? Freedom for some mongrel cat people you’ll probably never see again. Was it really worth all this pain and anguish?”
The zombie gestured at the people around the coffin. They were looking at Eric with a mixture of rage and contempt. They began marching, arms outstretched, toward him.
“Your fault, your fault!” they cried.
“I want my son!” his aunt screeched.
“My husband, I miss my husband!” his mother wailed.
The crowd was closing in, ready to overwhelm him. Eric covered his head with his arms as the zombie Selango cackled and the sparkling mist rose to blind him.