The boy lived within the ports of Draka for almost all of his life. He nestled in a hidden spot underneath the most northern docks and seldom left it. The sea ports were his safe haven as the creatures in the city rarely came close to the water.
Ever since he was a child, the boy encountered a creature that his family kept claiming to be imaginary, and they beat him as punishment. During many cold nights, he would lay paralyzed in bed with a six legged serpent crawling down the wall. It had black and green scales with overgrown fangs hanging from its upper jaw, and its fiery yellow eyes stared at the boy without ever blinking. It would crawl down the wall towards the top of his head and its orange rotted tongue would peek out of its mouth and fill the air with a repugnant stench. Drool oozed down the boy’s face, which often made him spew vomit upwards while laying down. The creature would scurry away as it heard his parents rush into the room to find their child choking on his own vomit.
On other occasions, his father found himself alone in the fields waiting impatiently for the boy to come out from his room. He burst in one day to find his son stiff and motionless in bed while staring aimlessly at the ceiling and would shake his cold body until he gasped for air. The boy explained that a creature sat on his chest and pinned him down. He described it as a small grey goblin with furry wings, a hunched spiked back, and rosebush thorns protruding from its blistered forehead. He swore that it would laugh and mock him for hours until dawn and fly away from the sounds of his parents footsteps approaching; however, his parents did not believe the boy’s experiences to be true and continued to severely discipline him.
As he grew older, the creatures continued to follow him around. They lurked in the house, in the fields where the boy helped his father lay crops, and through the busy marketplace on their outings to buy meat and fish. Whenever he pointed them out to his siblings, the creature would quickly disappear and leave him feeling shameful. They continuously mocked and ridiculed him for the rest of his childhood.
His parents raised all the children with strict authority and traditional beliefs. It was said that if a child continued to believe in their imagination through their adolescence, they were possessed by the spirit of Lazlo and would remain lost in their imagination forever. His father would beat the boy until he bled. The boy eventually became old enough to run away and live in the city of Draka.
One cool morning, the boy awoke to loud sounds coming from a hundred feet away. Construction began for the building of a massive new vessel by the Metaxis family. Months went by and the vessel started taking shape as hundreds of men worked on the floating base at the port. When all the workers had gone for the day, strange figures started to appear. They were hairy beasts with folded wings who crouched down and sniffed the wooden floors. They would crawl around in the pale moonlit sky until the early light of dawn. The boy watched from afar in silence and prayed for his childhood toy of a ceramic figurine to help repel any evil spirits from coming close.
Over the next several weeks, dozens of these creatures compiled onto the floating base of the vessel and circled around limping men and women who appeared severely burnt. The men and women had melting flesh that would leak from their face and their tattered garments would leave trails of ash on the wooden floors. The winged creatures snickered with each other in amusement at the people who walked around aimlessly until night’s end.
Late one evening, the boy watched the winged creatures sprawl over the vessel as they continued to mock the burnt victims, until one of the creatures noticed him from a far. It pierced a deathly stare while spreading its long black feathered wings to hover high off the ground. The other creatures stopped to notice and also began to hover as their wings flapped energetically while pointing their snouts at the boy. Their gaping mouths and eyes started melting while screeching a deafening high pitched tone. The boy frantically got up and sprinted away. He ran until his lungs gave out and he collapsed on a street in Draka.
The harsh sun woke the boy as he felt it beat on his face. He rubbed his eyes and collapsed in a busy area. As people were giving him unusual stares, their faces became grim and dark like the creatures on the vessel. The boy began to panic as his anxiety overtook him. One by one, each person turned their heads and screeched at him the same tone as the creatures on the dock while their faces melted like oil paintings set on fire. Some appeared similar to the winged creatures while others appeared burnt and rotten. He fell on the floor in a cradled position and screamed as the creatures took turns tormenting him as they each passed by.
The boy lived nomadically in remote areas throughout the city for the next several years, avoiding populous regions. One early morning, he found himself at the same port of entry of the gigantic newly built vessel that he watched in early stages of construction. It was a magnificent sight to see with no one around, and so he found a spot under the dock with a great view, and he fell into a deep sleep.
He awoke to the sound of the massive iron bridge slamming onto the dock as a herd of people celebrated the first boarding. He watched from below as finely dressed men, women, and children walked through. Their robes and garments started to catch fire but they kept walking. He shrieked and began to panic, looking for a way to escape. He was trapped on the shore under the dock between massive wooden beams, and the only way out was to climb back up where people stood or swam out to open water. He watched people on the sides cheer and applaud the burnt victims who dragged their flesh torn bodies across the bridge to board the vessel. Their fine garments were turning into ash as their skin melted from burning flames to reveal flesh and bones. The boy began to scream, causing people to notice him on the sides below. The same winged creatures from several years ago flew over the crowd while laughing and snickering at them.
As the people walked, limped, or crawled by, the boy stopped screaming after noticing a small girl in a yellow dress. She appeared unharmed but held on to the skeletal hand of a freshly burnt corpse that walked alongside her. His teary eyes gazed into hers. She had also been crying heavily but paused as their eyes met. They exchanged a steady glance until she disappeared within the same crowd that was boarding the vessel.