My opponent had chosen his feeding ground well; Burgoyne Woods, according to my grade five social studies report, "is located in the neighborhood of Old Glenridge in south St. Catharines, and is a 122 acre municipal park complete with open fields, wooded paths, picnic areas, a pavilion and a swimming pool and concession stand open seasonally. The park features both paved and maintained trails for accessibility and for those wishing to walk, jog or cycle. School boards throughout the Niagara region use the Woods to host their annual cross-country invitational races. Visitors are welcome year round to Burgoyne Woods, located North of the Niagara Escarpment."
I think I would have had a bright future in municipal pamphlet writing, if fate hadn't decided to saddle me with dragon-slaying, that is. The only detail I left out should have gone something like this, "Burgoyne Woods was recently discovered to be the home of a creature once thought to have existed only in myth, raised from its ancient slumber by a group of psychotic teenagers with delusions of necromantic grandeur and access to talismans and a book of ancient spells."
Green lush fields, dense wooded areas, waterways and hundreds of children racing around? For a recently-resuscitated dragon, Burgoyne Woods was an all-you-can-eat buffet. The park was playing host to the Bulldog Invitational cross-country meet that morning, but the last thing the organizing committee expected to find when they arrived was a nine-year-old boy surrounded by skeletons holding a spear with what appeared to be a human bone polished to a fine point lashed to it. When you factor in the steam from the dragon, the dirt covering my face and the sweat I worked up, I have to admit, I wasn't a pretty sight...
Wendy McConnell, overzealous girls' gym coach (she really loved her job, some said too much), began to shake when she saw me, but when she caught one good whiff of dragon blood and various other bodily fluids, she immediately vomited on coach Phillips who in turn vomited on his assistant, Pete "Crazy Legs" Reynolds.
The whole thing was a like a Saturday Night Live sketch, but the organizing committee beat SNL to the punch. What happened next drops in and out of my memory, but here's what I remember clearly:
A strong wind rose up and helped clear the stench of vomit and dragon's blood (and other assorted reptile bodily fluid) away. Personally, I think fate was throwing me a bone. It wouldn't be the last.
Dozens of paramedics, police officers and even firefighters showed up. I honestly don't know why the fire department was there; the fire-breathing dragon was dead.
I was hustled off to the St. Catharines General Hospital and checked out by dozens of doctors and nurses, most of whom just wanted to get a look-see at "the freaky kid with the spear".
My guardians came in and hugged me - hesitantly - and then they let some detectives talk to me. After thirty minutes of listening to me say "I don't know" to all their questions, they walked out shaking their heads.
And so two hours after he slew a dragon, a little boy found himself alone once more. This time he was sitting in a hospital room. He tried to lose himself in the sound of the world outside the window, the world he had once been a part of, but his thoughts kept crashing down like thunder.
He thought about how quiet the world was at five o'clock in the morning... and how quickly that could change.
He thought about the five-minute storm that kicked up as he approached the park; the wind made it even harder to breathe (he realized that adults take having a license for granted) and the rain, though brief, made it even harder to stand his ground as he peered into the biggest hole he'd ever seen.
He thought about the dragon. When you're nine, the world is very big... the dragon was even bigger. It lumbered about in the sky as though it was confused - and scared. But then it saw him and everything changed.
Finally, he thought about the shard of the ancient weapon that he had dug up that morning and how easily it ripped into the dragon's chest. "It shouldn't be so easy to kill anything." he thought.