“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.” –Revelation 12:7.
Lasia, Silene, on the Mediterranean Coast, 10th Century A.D.
The monk sweated profusely as he ran along the road to the coast. He was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He had trained for years to serve God, in any and all circumstances, but when it came time to stare almost certain death in the face, he found that training wasn’t enough. He wasn’t ready to die. Not yet.
The trail wound through the dunes above the beach, and he followed it faithfully, not sure if he wanted to reach the crest and the ocean beyond. But reach it he did, and what he found surprised him even after everything the stranger had told him.
For on the beach stood an immense, black dragon. It stood with its back to the surf, as if it had just risen from the ocean. It’s black scales shone like mirrors, with each one the size of a knight’s shield. The claws on each foot were the size of wine barrels, and as it opened its mouth, he saw teeth like small trees.
As soon as he saw it, he realized that it saw him as well. As the stranger had warned him, once he was committed, there was no going back.
“And so it begins,” the dragon said, its voice rumbling over the monk in waves. “Come forward, human. What is your name?”
“H-H-Henry,” the monk said. “I am here with a message.”
“Well then, spit it out, H-H-Henry,” the dragon said, its breath smelling of rotten fish. “Since the Jorg has found it necessary to send an emissary, it is only polite for me to hear what he has to say.”
“Saint George says that–.”
“Saint George is it?” the dragon said. “My, but we’ve come up in the world.”
“Saint George orders you to disperse and leave these shores forever, or else he will be forced to–.”
“Yes, yes, I know what he will do,” the dragon said. “This isn’t my first skirmish with St. George. By the way, he’s no saint, and he’s not named George. It’s Jorg. That’s what he is. Jorg means champion. He’s a champion whose fate it is to fight me for all eternity. Sometimes he wins, sometimes I win. But it is always interesting to watch.”
The dragon turned his attention away from the shaking monk and looked over his shoulder to a figure farther down the beach.
“Ahh, right on time,” the dragon said. “I was starting to be impatient, but after all these years, you’ve never disappointed me.”
“I don’t know why you insist on assuming the form of a dragon, Set,” the Jorg said from his seat on the large, armored horse. The man-figure lifted the faceplate on his armor and stared at the immense reptilian form ahead of him. “With all the countless possibilities open to you, why do you insist on such an archaic form?”
“I’m partial to tradition,” the dragon said. “I like to scare the locals. Besides, you’re one to talk. As if that armor will protect you.”
“You know the rules,” St. George said. “I am limited to the technology of the time period, but I get assistance from one local with each encounter. If I win, you disappear for two generations.”
“And if I win,” the dragon said, smiling broadly. “I continue to maim and torture.” The dragon turned to the monk. “You might want to get out of the way; up there on the dunes would be safe.” He then turned back to the Jorg. “Ready?”
St. George dropped his faceplate and steadied his charger. “Prepare to die!” he shouted in a muffled voice, kicking the charger into a gallop.
The dragon inhaled and then fire exploded from his mouth. Flames engulfed the charger and the man-figure atop him. A moment later, they both were a mass of blackened flesh.
“Not likely,” the dragon said to the former champion. He then turned to the monk, who stood on the dunes above, watching. “Now the fun part begins. Hmm, haven’t used pestilence for a while.”
The monk stared in fear at the dragon, until he felt an intense itching come over his body. Large pustules appeared beneath his chin and under his arms. He looked down at his hands, which turned black as he watched. Terror gripped him and he turned and ran back toward the monastery and town.
“That’s it,” the dragon said, more to himself than to the monk. “Take your plague back to your friends. Let’s see how far you can spread it.”
1918, Second Battle of the Marne, The Western Front
Artillery lit up the night, and the lone figure ran through, across and between trenches, barbed wire, and steel obstacles intended to stop the new metal weapons called tanks. Private Emil Marchand ran as if the Devil himself were after him, because really, he was. He had seen the Devil, and he was indeed a dragon. Not a figurative dragon, as the priests would describe when talking about the Revelation and the Last Days, but this was a real, flesh-and-blood, fire-breathing dragon. Maybe it was the end of days, Emil thought. He believed just about anything after surviving war in the trenches for the past four years.
But the champion, St. George, had given him–him–an important assignment. Even though the night was light with explosions that threatened to destroy all of Belgium, his task was much more important than stopping the Bosch. For he knew that he was part of a larger war, the purest form of war, a war between ultimate evil and consummate good.
He heard a roar behind him, and felt hot breath even though he dared not turn and see. He knew that the dragon was behind him, somewhere in the dark. Others had seen it as well, both French and German, and he heard, rather than saw, them abandoning their trenches to run aimlessly in the darkness. But he knew he had no such luxury.
His breath came raggedly as he dodged the obstacles and finally fell into the last trench. The large man he knew as St. George was there, dressed as he was in French battle gear. Emil gasped for breath and nodded. It was enough. He had done his job.
“Fire!” St. George shouted into the radio that he held, and the artillery that had lit the night fell on top of them. Emil buried himself in the mud, with the concussion of shell after shell exploding around him. He ears bled and the air left his lungs. And after five minutes of shelling, he lay among the dead and dying, just as his colleague and hero, St. George lay dead.
Thirty feet away, half buried in the mud outside the trenches, an enormous lizard-like shape lay dead as well.
It was a bittersweet victory for St. George, one that he could not savor.
Oct. 28, 1962, off the coast of Cuba
The world had never come closer to destroying itself. Russian naval forces and American might were deadlocked over the right of Cuba to arm itself with nuclear missiles, not 90 miles from the United States. Shots had been fired on both sides. In years to come, there would be historical and news account regarding what happened over the Gulf. None of those reports would include what many thousands of military on both sides saw that day.
For in addition to armed vessels and military aircraft, the sky was filled with the smell of brimstone, the sound of roaring, and the form of a reptilian figure straight out of medieval literature. No one wanted to acknowledge what they saw, especially considering the precarious situation they were all in. And yet all saw it, flapping with leathery wings over both navies. No one really knew what to do either, until one U.S. Phantom jet appeared and fired both air-to-air missiles at the beast. The missiles exploded and the beast fell into the ocean between the two navies, obviously dead.
It was perhaps this rude interruption to their encounter that led them to make peace instead of war. And it was with a strong sense of satisfaction that the pilot of the Phantom jet with the emblem of a knight and the words “St. George” painted outside the cockpit turned back toward Florida. He had put off the apocalypse for two more generations.
Atlanta, Georgia. Present Day.
“That’s quite a story you have there, uh, what did you say your name was?” She took another sip of her coffee.
“George,” the man said to the woman on the other side of the table. “George Knight. And it’s more than a story. It’s my life, Brandy.”
“Right,” Brandy said. “Well, that must be a doozy of a life.”
“It’s like no other,” George said. “It has its drawbacks, but I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Speaking of which, you know it wasn’t coincidence that brought me here. Tonight. To this very table.”
Brandy looked at him warily, then smiled slowly, waving her finger. “Ahh, got me there. You were about to tell me that I was the next helper on your long list.”
George smiled thinly back at her. “It is a great honor to be chosen. After all, you could play a major part in keeping the world safe.”
Brandy nodded slowly, then snapped her fingers. “You know, I was just thinking that. But the trouble is, I have a delivery schedule to keep.” She reached into her uniform and pulled out a wallet, placing a five-dollar bill on the table. “It’s a honor to meet you, George, but I really have to get back on the road.”
George didn’t reply as the young woman in the light blue coveralls stood up and wiped her hands, waving bye to him and stepping out the door of the coffee shop. He watched her as she walked over to a white van with the words, “Centers for Disease Control” painted on the door. As she drove away, he turned back to the television standing in the corner of the room and watched the news with the three other people in the late-night restaurant.
“…wildfires continue throughout the northern part of Georgia and parts of Alabama, with little success reported in containing them. Meanwhile, scattered reports continue to come in of what some are calling a ‘dragon’ in remote parts of the fire zone. Apparently, the long hours and dangerous circumstances are leading to hallucinations…”
George looked at the TV, then looked back at the van, which was pulling away from the restaurant. She was the one, and time was running out. But he still had lots of work to do.
The dragon wouldn’t win this time.