The theme of this film was not easily seen by me, so I’ll tell you plainly it was actually about sexual abuse. People educated in film or literature could have easily scooped it out from under the surface, but I was too superficial and ignorant to notice. Looking back on it now it does make sense and adds a great depth to the story.
I remember watching the preview and thinking it might be too horrifying for our target audiences. The clip they had showed was the death of my character. I played the part of the hero in a group of wizards and warriors. I was hiding behind one of many stone pillars of the mountain cave next to its entrance, hidden from the dragon’s eye which was squinting and searching in fury. The wall opposite me was covered in a metallic crystal and formed a nearly perfect mirror which I could see him and myself in. He also saw me in its reflection so I made silly faces fearlessly, as any great hero would, and the dragon became even more enraged. He began pushing his enormous head through the opening causing the whole cave to shudder and rocks came falling down. He managed to squeeze his head in little by little so I dashed forward to the next pillar in line just to feel even more secure that he couldn’t reach me. But the stones were tumbling forward, he was pressed in deep up to the base of his neck and although his long muzzle couldn’t angle towards me to bite, the worms began erupting from under his scales, much like the boar-demon from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. As the tendrils wrapped themselves around my arms and began pulling me towards him the anger and hate was swelling within my heart, I could almost hear her crying, “No! No! I don’t want to become a demon!” as he pulled me in.
Today I dreamed that this had all turned out very differently. Instead of playing with the dragon I had fully respected the danger and fled deep into the cave. The crashes behind me had sent my backpack tumbling and the treasures spilled out across the floor. Twinkling in my torch’s light were the two magic gems I had found and had intended to mold into rings. One was blue and as I squeezed it in the palm of my left hand it turned me invisible. My friends emerged from the deeper tunnels and saw the destruction at the cave’s entrance, my pack in shambles, and me gone. They were only right in assuming the story had played out as intended and that I had been eaten. Invisible, and trying to be as quiet as possible, I snuck down deeper into the tunnels and there found an incredibly large and hallow cavern.
The other gem I had found was yellow and when I squeezed it in my right hand it would show me visions of past events. As clutched it the cavern’s torches turned into shaded lamps and the stones shifted into bedroom furniture. I recognized that it was my sister’s childhood bedroom. It was evening, there was christmas music playing downstairs and a cake on her dresser that still tasted fresh. I cautiously moved down the hallway and familiar voices downstairs could be heard. Suddenly I remembered this night. Sitting in the room was my adolescent self, Alfred, the man who had adopted me, and June, who was the daughter of one of Alfred’s friends. He was trying to set us up.
Alfred was mostly creating the conversations for us. I found it still very difficult to talk to girls at that time. June was happy to be giving us her thoughts on everything but I was too underdeveloped at that age to have proper thoughts on anything at all, so I sat in silence. Both her and Alfred were from a different world compared to mine, a world full of wealth and culture that I was still trying to understand and for whatever ridiculous, adolescent reason was still jealous of. I saw that anger show through within what words I did give. The experiences of abandonment from parents I never knew, along with the harm to me done in the orphanage, were still reeling in my heart. When the night was over and June had left, Alfred in his caring and understanding way talked to me about it. He knew what he was getting himself into when he picked me out of hundreds of other kids, out of dozens of hispanic orphanages. He knew that trauma would be long lasting in me but made it clear that through it all I would be his child. In all his words I felt him looking forward to the man he was confident I would one day become.
On the cave’s floor someone had left behind a sword and I had it sheathed then slipped it under my belt. Each gem was placed carefully in its respective pocket and I exited through the mouth and descended the mountain. The wasteland was vast and lifeless. Although it was day there was too much haze and the sun couldn’t be seen. I was at the bottom of the canyon and at least a mile away the dragon was thundering and booming against the side of the canyon trying to get at the rest of my friends. I ran along the cut out rock and before the monster could see I turned the corner down into a narrower passage deep into the canyon’s wall.
Full skeletons and random bones filled the corridor and I knew this is where wanderers had tried to escape but were instead trapped, as I was, and then burned. The dragon had sensed me and came down the corridor. In a frantic scan for escape I spotted a lance stuck into the rock surrounded by a heap skeletons telling me they had all tried to pull it as a final act before dying. After holding onto the gem that made me invisible I also tried grabbing it, but it wouldn’t budge. The dragon was over top of me and smelling at the air. There was one last trick I had, and thought perhaps a vision of the past would tell me how to gain this weapon.
Firmly grasping the yellow stone in my pocket the narrow rock walls came together and shortened into a grocery store aisle. I was walking alongside my mom as a small child as she pushed the cart. This was a store for only witches and wizards and the shelves stocked with ordinary things also had butterbeer and every-flavor beans. It was back in the 60s and if you can imagine the technology regular people had then you could apply the same thing to magic and believe it just wasn’t very advanced.
At the checkout line my mom had noticed a man wearing a cross necklace that had slipped to the outside of his collar. She asked him if he was really a Christian because it was so hard to imagine a wizard would be. He was too embarrassed to speak but she encouraged him that she was in no way trying to humiliate him but was only very curious. That very day there was a story headlining the newspapers about another church molestation scandal. Seeing the man with the cross now I know he was just a regular guy who happened to be Christian, but for some reason through the eyes of a child I remembered him as a priest, and not just any priest, the one whose face was pictured on the newspaper placed at my eye level at checkout. He said that he was actually a Christian and why but for whatever reason my mom refused to hear him. She was already convinced that no reasonable man could be a Christian and so he just called himself one for simplicity’s sake.
When we arrived at home I had to go to the bathroom but almost as soon as I closed the door the dragon’s large snout came bursting through it. A sticky mess of sludge and snot erupted from its nose splattering all over the glossy tiles, and still in a fury it was cursing under its breath as I held it out with what was left of the broken down door. I was having a moment of terror as still a small child, I remembered I wasn’t actually in the bathroom but rather just a sub-layer of reality produced by the gem still in my hand. I had nearly forgotten that I was actually still in the desolate canyon. The yellow gem was growing brighter as the dragon was stepping forward and as it stepped further into my vision it was shrinking down in size and turned into a man. He had scales and sharp teeth but he was also slightly crippled and very weak. Unable to support himself he fell through the door and I no longer needed to hold him back. I fell back in horror. The man was my exact twin, in fact I recognized him as myself and while sobbing he crawled into the bathtub and waited for me. I looked down into the bright yellow light erupting from my hand. It was growing warm. Suddenly I remembered, I was sexually abused.
As if it was a long forgotten dream I remembered the dragon was born in that moment. It was born from me so many years ago and grew up alongside me.
I was molested.
I sat down in the bathtub beside him with my face in my hands also sobbing. When I looked over at him the gem, which was now a white and hot light, brought my hands up around his throat. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed, “I’m so sorry for being here.” All that rage was reduced to sadness and fear, “Thank you,” he said, for letting me be here.” And as my grip tightened he shrunk even more until fading completely and was no longer there.
After all this I went downstairs into my brother Sam’s room. He was watching a basketball game on tv and I asked if I could finish watching the movie. The climax was over but for perfect resolution I wanted to see how the final scene played out. He agreed to let me use his tv but when he was setting up the game console to play it I remembered I had sworn never to use an xbox again (mostly for video games, but this still counted), so I decided to wake up instead.
Copyright 2016 Jason S Cooper