Delusions of Grandeur by Aidan Catriel
On the first night, I dreamt I was a bear; strong, resilient, with tough hide and sharp claws. I roamed the woods, taking what I needed and nothing more. I walked with a steady, slow gait because I had all the time in the world. None dared deny me or my fangs, but none had reason to. I was a titan of justice, a forest god.
But then the humans came, making noise and cutting trees. My trees. No one had dared to offend me before, but I met the challengers all the same. Fear is not the way of the bear. The humans panicked at my presence and rallied under their leader. I charged while they readied their weapons. It was a glorious battle; claws met flesh, steel met hide.
I defended my land, killing the intruders. They would never come back. But the humans had inflicted grievous injuries; my lifeblood poured out in a steady stream, slow but unstoppable. I didn’t mind; the forest would recover with time, would find a new god. And so I died as I had lived, with iron will and contentment.
On the second night, I dreamt I was a lion. My muscles were powerful, my roar instilled fear in all it reached. Life was hard; prey was scarce, water was even scarcer. But we survived. I led my family through the vast Savannah, always in search of something edible. We rarely rested. The cubs were always hungry.
I didn’t know the humans had found us until it was too late. My brother was dead. My mate lay dying, surrounded by her parents’ corpses. The cubs were being put in cages and hauled away. Everything I had worked for was gone.
I contemplated running away but knew I couldn’t. My family was dead. There was no point in living anymore. But I couldn’t die yet; I desired revenge.
The humans were wary, on guard. I leapt from the tall grass and mauled one, tearing into his soft belly. The humans shot me with their weapons. I ignored the pain and slashed another one. The third one, I was too slow- a metal slug ripped through my skull mid-leap. I don’t know if I killed him. I was dead before I hit the ground.
On the third night, I dreamt I was a dragon. My gargantuan body was covered in impenetrable scales, I burned anything in my path. I was a force of nature; as unstoppable as the tornado. On the peak of the mountaintop I perched, gazing at the world I owned. The entrance to my cave was littered with the bones of past assailants, all of whom had died. I had lived a long time, long enough to remember when my mountain was a small hill, when I lived alongside my landlocked brethren.
When the humans came back, I felt a mild annoyance. It had been many years since the last assault, but the results would surely be no different. I would burn my enemies with hellfire and eat the scorched remains, which would sustain me for the next century.
The humans thought themselves so clever, hiding inside metal boxes for protection. They would roast for such foolishness. I flew down lazily, setting myself a short distance from the group. My shadow covered them completely. Small projectiles bounced off my armour and I laughed. Soon the humans realized the uselessness of their weapons and the valley was once again quiet.
I prepared my fire, creating the spark, fueling it with my own flesh. It grew, bigger and hotter, ready to consume everything in its path. When it was time, I opened my maw, ready to kill the miserable parasites- and then I was dead. In my arrogance, I had revealed the one place not covered in scales. The metal boxes - tanks, they’re called - launched powerful explosives into my greatest weakness. I died without a fight, killed as easily as one might step on an insect. In a strange twist of irony, my corpse was consumed by my own flames.
On the fourth day, I dreamt I was a sparrow. A small, insignificant creature, I had hollow bones made of glass and small talons. I had no delusions of grandeur; I was nothing. Ignored by creatures in search of greater power, I survived. And as the humans killed the bear, the lion and the dragon, I flew away, in search of lands still untainted.