One winter evening when I was living in Stockholm, at around 5PM when the infinite night was already well settled, I was reading in my little room I was renting in a Jesuit residency on the island of Lidingö. I was quite happy there; the house was warm and at a walking distance from a forest and a lake – sometimes, in the night, deer would come in the garden, looking for roots- and the supermarket was nearby. I had covered the walls with bits of Scandinavian fabric I had found for very cheap in the shop of the Design School, and the several lamps I had gave me light both for studying and for meditation.
I was reading a news website and eating healthy snacks (slices of celery and fennel, goat cheese, pepper crackers, sun dried tomatoes). I could see that it was snowing outside; the classical radio was broadcasting a concert of early baroque music… And, in the deepening obscurity I caught sight of a little creature, slightly bigger than a prawn, writhing towards my night table, where it sheltered in the closed book I had left there.
Somehow I thought that it must be a dragon and, after opening the large windows, I lifted the book gravely with both hands, to allow the creature to fly away, but it refused to move.
Thinking that maybe my behaviour had not been polite enough, I took the book back to the night table, lit an incense stick and made a deep, respectful bow. Then I carried the book back to the open window, and there I waited for a while (snow flakes were entering the room, but the cold was quite pleasant) until the creature stretched its wings from inside the pages and flew into the air, like a ball of incandescent light. When it disappeared towards the forest, I closed the window and tried to go back to reading the news website, but the incident had left me somehow melancholic. I realised that the dragon must have come out of a small wooden box I had bought the previous day in an anonymous flea market, one of those small acquisitions one needs to have without knowing why.
I put on my winter clothes, took a lantern, and brought the box to the forest, where I covered it with branches, moss, and snow, to shelter whoever was still inside.
Story inspired both by Pu Songling’s “Dragon Dormant”