Observers, Observed

by Josie Beaudoin
 

“So let me get this straight. He draws you as a dragon? Like, some sort of caricature?”

“Oh no, no, no. That’s not it at all, Maggie. He doesn’t draw you. He draws your dragon.”

“Okay, that’s silly. Dragons are fictional, so how can I have one? I’m real.”

“Everyone has a dragon. You’ll have to come meet him and see what I’m talking about. He’s a really special guy. You’ll see.”

“I dunno, Amy, it sounds kinda psychic to me.”

“Yeah, maybe a little. But just because something is psychic doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.”

“If you say so.”

“I say so. Trust me.”

The hotel convention hall was packed with Klingons and Jedi Knights, anime characters and hobbits. Booths selling all types of fandom paraphernalia lined the walls and sectioned the room into paths like a fantasy labyrinth. The two friends wove their way through the throng with difficulty, dodging fairy wings and plastic swords as they went. At one of the wide double doors they passed out of the main hall and turned down a corridor to a row of private rooms. Stopping before one that was indistinguishable from all the others, the woman in the lead knocked softly. After a moment the door swung open, and the two were ushered inside.

It was a perfectly normal hotel room. Two beds, one bedecked in suitcases and boxes, the other rumpled from the night before. A TV, a bureau, a table, and a couple pseudo-comfy chairs completed the simple furniture. Tacky framed prints of landscapes decorated the walls, and an imposing air conditioner jutted from a window that didn’t open. A bathroom and kitchenette by the door rounded out the utterly average setting. Seated in one of the chairs was a very normal-looking man holding a sketchbook.

“Hi,” he said, standing up and extending a hand. “I’m Rob. Are you here for a dragon drawing?”

“Absolutely,” the first conventioneer said.

“Erm, I guess so,” the second one answered.

“It’s okay, I don’t bite,” Rob said. “And neither do the dragons. They’re really quite friendly. In fact, mostly they’re just curious.”

“This is... totally weird.”

“I thought so at first, too,” Rob said. “I was extremely skeptical when I began doing this. Please, why don’t you have a seat and get comfy? And I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”

“Um, I’m Maggie.”

“Well don’t be too freaked out, Maggie, because nothing weird is gonna happen. We’re just gonna sit and talk, and while we talk, I’m gonna draw. Does that sound okay?”

“I guess so.”

“Excellent. Just come on around here. Would you prefer it if your friend left, or would you rather she stayed?”

“Nawh, Amy can stay.”

“Oh, thanks! I love watching these sessions,” inserted Amy.

“Just so long as you’re comfortable. That’s most important for this to work.”

“I still don’t understand what ‘this’ is, exactly.” They settled into the chairs, and Amy perched cross-legged on one of the beds. Rob picked up his sketchbook and a dark red colored pencil, then paused and looked at Maggie.

“How much did Amy explain to you?”

“Well, only a little. She said you would draw a dragon for me, but...” Maggie shrugged.

“Not just any dragon. I will be drawing your dragon. The dragon that has attached itself to you, the dragon that has watched over you your whole life.”

“Like a guardian angel?”

“No, not really. More like a fan. Are you comfy? Shall I begin?”

“I’m fine, yeah.”

“Good. This will take a little while, so settle in.

“You see, humans live in three dimensions. You understand that, right?” Maggie nodded, and Rob continued. His pencil was moving across the paper while he spoke. “Good. And we travel through the fourth, but only in one direction. Time is the fourth dimension, but we can only go one way through time; we’re very limited. But these creatures, these observers, they live somewhere in the fifth dimension, at least, or possibly higher. When they watch us, it’s sort of like when we watch reality TV. So just like your favorite TV shows, what they want from us is for our lives to be as interesting and long as possible. Makes sense, right? So while they might nudge us here and there, or guide us now and then, mostly they just want to watch.

“When I first began seeing peoples’ dragons, all I could see was just a face. Yours has a nice face, by the way. Big, big eyes. He doesn’t miss a thing. I bet you don’t, either. That’s sort of the thing about peoples’ dragons, that they have features that reflect things about their humans’ personalities and souls. I guess that’s why people think that I draw them as a dragon, but that’s absolutely not what I’m doing.

“Honestly, I thought it was kinda kooky, like I was seeing things, you know? I mean dragons? That’s weird, right? But they kept on showing up. And the more I worked on the drawings, the more details I would see, until now I can usually see the entire dragon. If they decide to show themselves, at least. I am just here to facilitate communication. Sometimes they’re not interested in communicating, and keep more to themselves. But usually I can see most of the dragon. So once I’ve drawn your dragon, you are aware of it, you've acknowledged its existence, and that makes you more interesting to them, makes them watch you even more. Some people are even able to work with their dragons eventually, and interact with them.”

The trio continued chatting while Rob sketched, working first with the dark red pencil, then moving to other colors, filling in the contours and shades of Maggie’s incorporeal companion. Behind her, unseen by the two female humans, the dragon-shaped being watched, utterly bemused and chuckling to itself.

“Well, well, well,” it said at length. “What do you know? This human really can see us.”

“I told you so,” Rob’s dragon said. “And it’s no use blaming me, I didn’t tell him. He started doing this all on his own.”

“Has he drawn you yet?”

“Of course, quite early on, in fact. My face was the first one he saw.” It crossed its forearms and wrapped its tail around them primly.

“As if that two-dimensional scrap of paper were actually you!”

“Oh, you know what I mean.”

“Fair enough. But I wonder what his plans are for this skill of his.”

“Well these are spiritual matters, quite personal and private, aren’t they?” Amy’s dragon chimed in from the other side of the room.

“Private spirituality is such a recent human phenomenon, sometimes I forget they even have it,” Maggie’s dragon admitted, dipping his wings apologetically.

“Some of them have come quite a long way,” Rob’s dragon said. “Mine has even admitted we might not be dragons!”

“Oh, might we not, now?”

There was general laughter among the extra-dimensional beings gathered.

“And just what might we be, if not dragons, I wonder?”

“Well that’s just it - he doesn’t claim to know. Which is awfully civilized of him when you think about it. He’s not setting himself up as any kind of authority on the subject at all. He just draws what he sees, without making a big fuss. He sees dragon-shapes, so that’s what he draws, but beyond that, he doesn’t know what we are and doesn’t pretend do. Which I for one find refreshing.”

“It is tiresome being labeled a demon by every sensitive with a holy book.”

“Quite.”

“He’s not even looking at me anymore.”

“Oh, I think he’s gotten enough of you in his head now to finish his little picture. Let’s leave the humans alone for a bit, shall we? Adjourn to someplace more civilized?”

“You mean the convocation.”

“Naturally.”

The three dragons shifted part of themselves out of the third dimension, leaving just enough of their forms and minds in the room that the artist and his companions were blissfully unaware of their partial departure.

“Can I see it?” Maggie asked.

“Of course, though it’s not quite done yet,” Rob said. He held the sketchbook out so she could see the drawing taking shape on the top page.

“That’s in the room with us right now?”

“Every second of your life. They can move through time and space much more fluidly than we can, of course. It doesn’t limit them the way it does us. We can only move through it one way, but that doesn’t apply to them.”

“And everybody’s got one, huh?”

“As far as I can tell, yes. Or rather, I’ve never tried to see a person’s dragon and not seen one. That doesn’t mean that they’re all different dragons. For all I know, it could be just one being, and what I’m seeing is just how it manifests through each person, if that makes any sense. Really, I don’t have the answers any more than you do. I just know what I see. I also know that what I’m seeing is real on some level, because other people can see it too.

“I’ve had people come up behind a subject and describe the dragon I’m drawing in perfect detail without ever seeing my sketch. So whatever it is I’m seeing, I’m not the only one seeing it, and it looks the same to different humans. So there’s something there. Something dragon-shaped, and benign, and curious about humans. And I think that’s kind of wonderful.”

In the fifth dimension, the convocation meets whenever there is a need for it to meet. The dragons gathered at the place that was ordained and conferred on the subject that concerned them.

“We are being observed again,” Rob’s dragon began.

“But this is nothing new,” another said, and several agreed.

“No, it is not, but this one... he is different. He is telling others about us. He is showing our likeness to others, opening communications between our kind and humankind.”

“Opening communications?” “How is that possible?” “No human can do that!” There was a general confused rumble of concern and consternation from the assembly.

“And this is why we are meeting.”

“Clearly.” “And a good thing, too!” “Indeed, we must nip this in the bud.”

“I am not so sure the group will wish to put an end to this,” Rob’s dragon said. “What my human is doing may be quite beneficial to both species.”

“Humans are not meant to interact with dragons,” said an Old One. “It has never been beneficial to them in the past that we should do more than observe.    All our attempts at interference have been disastrous to them.”

“Before now, I agree,” Rob’s dragon said. “But this is a new age among them, and what my human is doing is quite different from what has gone before. He is teaching others of his kind to use their minds and hearts to tap into their innate abilities for the benefit of all. By bringing humans an    awareness of our existence, he is allowing them to communicate only with their own dragon, not dragonkind at large. Some of the results have been marvelous.”

“Only their own dragon?”

“Precisely so. He is connecting each individual human with their individual dragon, forging an awareness between the two, creating a bond that goes both ways. Just as we observe them, now they are beginning to observe us, as individuals.”

There was an uneasy mumbling amongst the dragonmoot.

“So far, he has done hundreds of these pairings, and no harm has come.”

“How does he do it? Explain this to us.”

“He draws a portrait in two dimensions of what we look like, so that the human can visualize their dragon.”

“Two dimensions? That is all?” Laughter filled the infinite chamber.

“It is enough,” Rob’s dragon said as the laughter died down. “Their understanding is greater than you give them credit for, if you think a drawing is insufficient to explain to them something beyond and outside of themselves. Once they are aware of our presence, their behavior pattern shifts. They listen for our voices. They pay attention. They address empty air as though we were listening - which of course, we are - and take our thoughts and feelings into account when they act. And you know some of them have always been able to see and hear us. Now, some who would never have thought to listen for us are hearing us.

“I am telling you, a human who knows you are there is a thousand times more interesting than a human who lives its life in a numb blur.”

“How can I get my human to speak to yours, to get my portrait made?” a young dragon asked eagerly.

“I do not know,” Rob’s dragon said. “Whisper to it at night, try to make it listen, but if it cannot hear you, that is something no one has ever been able to force upon a human mind. You know that perfectly well. We would not be fascinated with them if we could control them, would we?”

“Hold on, we should be putting a stop to this, not encouraging it,” an Old One countered. “Communications between humans and dragons are dangerous and should be limited in scope. We don’t want another Inquisition or Crusades on our hands. This needs to be ended as soon as possible for the safety of the humans that we all love.”

“I disagree,” Maggie’s dragon said. “I just came from observing this human as he drew me, and he is very respectful and gentle. He will not incite that sort of madness in these people. He does not make any claims on our identity.”

“Leaving his people free to make their own claims, to start the insanity on their own,” the Old One said, its wings flapping in alarm. “No, that is not safe. One of them will use this knowledge to do harm.”

“It will not work.” Another dragon spoke up from the throng. “My human is an anthropologist. Based on my observations, no one believes in dragons in this era. They speak of us frequently, yes, romanticize a dream of us, but we are only creatures of fantasy and daydreams to them. It is not like the past, for unlike us, humans change over time. A human who tries to incite a religious fervor on these grounds, in this time... no, it will not work. This man is harmless, and may be doing good. Besides, even if one of his clients believed and tried to incite others, what could they do? He is the only one drawing us.”

A murmur of assent rippled through the gathering at these words.

“Imagine it, your human speaking to you, addressing you, listening to you as they go about their daily life. Think what they could accomplish with you to guide them. How interesting that would be, how much more fulfilling their lives might be. We all know not one of us here would dream of bringing harm to their human. What could they achieve if we became a part of their everyday world?”

“You cannot ask us not to approve of this,” one of the older dragons said to the Old One. “It is too tantalizing, too wonderful.”

“No, you are right,” the Old One said. “Even I am not beyond temptation. I must rise above my own fear. Perhaps I shall visit this man myself and observe him for a while.”

“I would be most honored,” Rob’s dragon said.

“Yes, let us go see about your human together. Perhaps we will sneak a peek into his future and see what it holds, just in case, hm?”

Rob’s dragon smiled. He had already peeked. He knew what the Old One would see.

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