It was the boy’s second week at the Retreat in the Countryside that was Far Away From Anywhere Else.
The young boy awoke – as he had every morning since he had arrived – to the sound of incessant buzzes and giggles of the dragonflies.
The dragonflies were only going about their daily business in the bright flower-filled gardens. The boy wouldn’t have minded too much, but it was just that the dragonflies were being really, really loud. And they were waking him up really early. By contrast, the bees were much more polite.
The boy’s eyes brightened. Still. He was used to his custom-made body-brace now. He reached a sleepy hand and pushed off his bedcovers and snapped his fingers.
The magnetised hexagonal pieces obediently began slithering their way towards his body, in perfect sequence, in perfect order. They started as they always did, just below his belly button and they clipped themselves around his lower torso, all the way down his legs to his ankles and feet. Fast, efficient and in less time than it would take to roll a wheelchair from the door to his bed. Then the magnetic hexagons clipped their way carefully up his back to provide the necessary full support to his spine, chest, neck and shoulders.
And just like that, the boy was sitting up on the edge of his bed in his customised, braced walking suit in his favourite orange colour.
No more ringing helplessly for assistance – just so he could slowly scramble his way into the wheelchair – just so he could get to the bathroom.
It was glorious.
After just a week, the boy didn’t know how he’d ever managed without the suit.
Now, if he wanted to hop up and walk outside to have a chat to the dragonflies, he could.
So he did.
He didn’t even bother with shoes. A mere five minutes later, he’d strolled over the soft green grass – no need to stick to even footpaths any more – down to the stream. The dragonfly buzzing noises were much louder here near the sparkling water.
Surprisingly though, the boy couldn’t see any of the dragonflies. Not straightaway. The Retreat doctors had commented that the dragonflies were only loud and bold and noisy until a person appeared. Then they got all shy.
So why could he still hear all their buzzing but not see them? The boy turned left and followed the meandering path of the stream.
The dragonflies’ buzzing got louder and louder, and at last when the boy stepped around a tree loaded with fuchsia-coloured blossoms, he thought he’d found the noisy noise-makers at last.
But, the boy hadn’t found them.
Before him were two dragons.
One was purple, one green. Their scales were shimmering iridescent in the early morning sun. They buzzed back and forth to each other, and the boy felt temporarily deafened.
The green dragon was carefully carrying a tea tray filled with a tea pot of steaming tea, cups and saucers and two jars, one with milk and the other honey.
The dragon placed the tray in the middle of a carpet of fallen blossoms and then looked up, saw the boy and buzzed loudly to the purple dragon.
As the boy watched fascinated – he knew dragons existed of course, but had never seen any in person before – the green and purple dragons buzzed and buzzled loudly some more at each other.
Then the purple dragon switched to human-tongue and grunted a good morning and politely invited the boy to sit down and have some tea.
The boy stepped forward hesitantly and mumbled a shy good morning. The orange hexagonal pieces of his body brace glittered in the sun with the same brightness as the dragons’ scales.
They all sat in the deep pink petals.
The green dragon poured the tea, asked the boy how he liked his (lots of milk, a small teaspoon of honey), and made it deftly.
They sipped from their tea cups and there in the early morning sun, began a conversation and a friendship.
Above them, there where the river sparkles met the sun, the dragonflies watched, laughed and went about their daily summer rounds.
Backstory: The story is an expanded microfic from Twitter. The image was generated by AI image generative tool, DALLE-2, based on my prompt. As you can see, trying to include the boy in his futuristic metallic-orange body-brace suit was a touch too ambitious for my prompting abilities (and for the number of image-generation credits I had). I also attempted to clean up the image a bit in Autodesk Sketchbook and I did a bit of light photoshopping too. I put this image into Google image search to check if it was an obvious theft of an image; nothing similar came back. So I hope this is a legit, hybridised piece of AI digital art. I will review it as needed.
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