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Regina Glei was born in Germany but nourished a fascination for the Far East ever since she was a little girl.  She graduated with a degree in Japanese studies and has lived and worked in Japan for over eight years.  Her other fascination is with words, and although she does speak and read/write Japanese, she still prefers to write in English.  Living far away from her home country for so long has surely influenced her writing, too; it's speculative and sometimes weird....

Find out more about Regina at


Regina Glei

I like only one member of my new family—the youngest, Master Clifford.  He is the only one who ever looks at me.  His father never does, though he was the one who brought me here.  The rest of the rude brood completely ignores me.

Cliff’s sister Ann only has eyes for herself.  I have never seen a girl or a woman stand in front of a mirror that long, and I have seen a lot of women standing in front of mirrors in my time. 

Cliff’s brother John has already discovered that girls are the most interesting thing for a boy to look at, and thus he doesn’t waste a glance at me either.

The children’s mother, Harriet, never had an eye for her husband’s collection anyway, and he, Thomas, has lost interest in me ever since he bought some silly landscape painting. 

So that leaves only Cliff.

I am very concerned these days because I don’t know what’s wrong with him.  Yesterday, Cliff came running into the salon, flung himself onto the sofa, and cried bitter tears, and I don’t know why.  After he finally calmed down, he looked at me once and then left the room.  I have no explanation for his weird behavior.

The next day he positioned himself in front of me and stared at me intensely.  I must say I was delighted by so much attention, and I shuddered with joy when the boy suddenly spoke to me.

“They’re not telling me what’s wrong, Ryu, but I know he’s dying.  I don’t know what to do....” Cliff said, then burst into tears again.

I was shocked.  Dying?  Who was dying?  Mom, Dad, brother, sister—all looked perfectly healthy to me.  There were grandparents somewhere, but they lived far away, and I hadn’t met them yet.  I have been with this family for only a year now.

Cliff turned away and ran crying out of the room.  I was flabbergasted.  It had been a long time since someone had talked to me.  The last time was more than two hundred years ago and it had been the honorable Lady Komine.  I adored her.  She was such a beauty when she was young, and she aged most gracefully.  Some people just wither away when they grow older; others become mature and noble and are so dignified—Lady Komine had been one of the latter.  I was in her possession for almost forty years, and we had highly enjoyed each other’s company.

Usually people only talk about me, not to me.  That Cliff had talked to me now touched me deeply, and I felt some of the old magic already creeping into the air around me.  If only he would speak three times to me, then I would be able to answer.  I got excited.  Very excited.  Two more times and I could answer Cliff.  I hoped and prayed that he would keep talking to me.

I was very disturbed at not knowing what was bothering the boy.  I thought feverishly about who could be dying.  A friend perhaps?  Or maybe a pet?  It couldn’t be the dog; he was the father’s dog, and I had seen him only yesterday.  He was in fine shape.

I pondered the whole afternoon about who or what could be dying.

In the evening, I found out.

Cliff brought a hamster into the salon.  He positioned himself in front of me with the tiny animal in his hand and showed me to the hamster.

“Meep, I want you to meet Ryu.  Ryu, this is Meep; Meep, that’s Ryu.  You two are my only friends, and I wanted you to meet before....” he sobbed.

I shuddered with anticipation; that was the second time Cliff had talked to me.  I was happy it was only the second time; had it been the third, I would have laughed at him.  A hamster.  He was heart-broken about the imminent death of a hamster?  A tiny little hamster that I could have crushed with a quarter of my smallest toe....

Meep lay listlessly in Cliff’s hand and didn’t even bother to look at me.  With a sob, the boy turned around and left the salon.

I scolded myself.  Life wasn’t defined by size, and Cliff was a good boy if he was compassionate about the death of his hamster.  Nevertheless, I had difficulties with the fact that Cliff had introduced me to Meep.  A far did I yet have to sink?  Wasn’t it enough that I had to hang here in the salon of this weird family with strange names and pink skin?  Wasn’t I doubly cursed by having had to cross the big ocean to be, now, far from home, in a country I had no idea about, surrounded by people I knew nothing of?

I had promised myself to stop the self-pity; after all, I had spent almost a century forgotten, rolled up and catching dust in some box somewhere, and now I was so much better off.  Nevertheless, I hung there sullenly throughout the rest of the night.

Around noon the next day, Cliff came back, sad but composed.  He stood in front of me and looked fully at me.

“He’s dead, Ryu.  Meep is dead.  He died last night.”

I rejoiced and had to execute quite an amount of self-discipline in order to not giggle.  He had done it!  He had addressed me three times.  I could now speak to him.

“I am very sorry to hear that, Cliff,” I said.

Cliff jerked, looked behind him—nobody there—and stared back at me.

“Yes, I am who you hear talking.  You call me Ryu.  That’s a nice name.  I like it, thank you.  You know, I have myriads of spells on me.  One of them is that I can talk to anyone who addresses me three times.  You just did that.  I can talk to you now, but you’re the only one.  You hear my voice in your head.  If your father or someone else were with you, they wouldn’t be able to hear me, only you can.  Well, they would be able to hear me, too, if they also addressed me three times.”

The boys eyes widened in terror.  He staggered backwards.

“Oh, please, don’t be afraid.  I intend no harm; in fact, I can’t do any harm.  I’m sealed in this picture.”

The boy’s eyes turned from terror to curiosity.  Very good.  He was mine.

He made a step towards me, leaned a bit forward, and his nose almost touched my picture.

“Wow...who are you?”

“Well, you call me Ryu.”

“Yes.  Dad said that’s Japanese for dragon.”

“Oh, you even know what Ryu means.  I’m delighted.”

“So,’re really a dragon?”

“Well, I was a dragon once, yes, before someone sealed me into this lousy picture.”

“Wow!  I thought dragons were legends.”

“Now they are, unfortunately, but there was a time when...anyway, yes, I’m a real dragon.  I mean, I was a real dragon, once.”

“What do you look like?  Like in the picture?”

“Yes, that evil wretch of a painter trapped me in the picture by painting me.”

“Oh, that’s so cool!  You look great!”

“Well, thank you.  That’s very nice of you.”

How had I looked...I was twenty human meters long, I had four legs and wore the horns on my head high and proud.  My whiskers were longer than anyone else’s, and my eyes shone yellow and mellow when I was content and red and fiery when I was furious.  My scales had glistened once in the sun when I flew above the clouds, parting them with my tail.

I felt like crying when I remembered all that.

“What’s your real name?” the boy asked me.

“I lost my name, Clifford.  The one who banned me took it from me.  You can call me Ryu, as you did before.  That’s just fine.”

“That’s terrible that you lost your name!  And who sealed you into the picture?”

“The priest who painted me four hundred years ago.”

“What was his name?”

“That’s the trouble, I don’t know.  By magic, they concealed the priest’s existence from me; otherwise I could have intervened.”

“Is there no way to set you free?”

“Oh, being finally able to talk to someone again is almost like freedom,” I sighed.  “The last one I had been able to talk to was a Japanese lady two hundred years ago.”


The boy examined me so closely it was almost intimidating.

“Why did they imprison you into the picture, Ryu?”

“Humans were afraid of me.”

“Had they reason to be?”


I found that a bit hard to answer.  I didn’t want to frighten the boy.  His eyes were glowing.

“Okay, don’t tell me, at least not yet,” he said, and I was astonished by his wits and more than delighted to have found such a formidable human to talk to.


It was exhilarating for both of us.  Cliff visited me every night from that day onward and we talked and talked.  I told him about dragon life and times and he told me about the young 20th century, about giant ships made of steel and that now there were even planes in the sky.  Even if there had still been dragons around, they’d have had competition in the air from more than just birds and insects.

The more I talked to Cliff, the more I longed for freedom.  How I would have liked to be able to see all the things Cliff talked about with my own eyes, to smell or touch something again!  The only senses I had left in my frozen state were my sight and my hearing.

The boy felt that I was unhappy and suffered with me as he had suffered with Meep, the hamster; although I still resent the comparison to such a small and insignificant animal.

“Ryu, please tell me, how can I set you free?”

“There is one way....”


“You could destroy this painting.  Burn it.”

The boy staggered backwards.  Then his eyes turned to anger.

“Hey, I asked how to set you free, not how to kill you!”

I sighed deeply.  “The magic that trapped me into this picture was very powerful and is probably long forgotten.  The world you told me of seems to have forgotten magic.  I mean really powerful magic.  What’s left now is a few tricks to merely entertain, not to change the world and work wonders.  I cannot tell you how they trapped my spirit into this painting.  The last thing I remember is that I was flying through the clouds, and then suddenly I couldn’t move.  I saw the inside of a human temple and the wicked priest who smiled at me with a brush in his hand.  I knew humans were trying to extinguish dragons, but I have and had no idea how they did it.”

“I will not burn your scroll, Ryu, forget it.  I will look for the magic that imprisoned you and reverse it.  Even if it takes my whole life!” the boy vowed, and I was once again moved by his compassion.


Cliff searched all his life and found nothing, or so he said.  Luckily, he didn’t forget to fall in love, and there were years he hardly spoke to me and others when he surely didn’t search for the magic that had captured me.  I don’t hold that against him; he had to live his life.  Although I have to admit that I doubted him more and more the older he got.  I had the feeling that he was keeping something from me.  Had he maybe found out during his research why humans had been so keen on extinguishing dragons?  He never spoke to me about that topic, though, and, of course, I didn’t mention that I had once looked at humans merely as a food supply.

I found it very interesting he didn’t tell his son or daughter about me, nor his wife.  I asked him why, and he said he loved them but didn’t consider them suitable to know of me.  I think he was jealous.  I was his dragon; he didn’t want to share me with his children.  However, I could see how he studied his grandchildren, and I knew, even before he chose her, that the only one of his five grandchildren worthy of knowing the secret was Lydia.  She was the only one with wits; the other four seemed rather dull and boring to me.  He introduced Lydia to me when she was ten, and the little girl was mighty proud to share this big secret with her grandfather and me.  My scroll hung behind glass meanwhile—my picture is almost five hundred years old now, and it had started to crumble because of something called pollution.  I found it very hard to believe that air could be so dirty that it could damage my picture.


Clifford died when he was 85 and Lydia 25.  He had not managed to release me from my prison.  It is not that I had ever expected that.  After he introduced me to Lydia I was convinced he had found out about dragon feeding habits and had not the slightest intention to release me but simply wanted to make Lydia my new guardian.  I was all the more astonished that shortly before his death Clifford came to talk to me and apologized for his failure.  If I had been in his shoes I wouldn’t have released me either and begged him not to feel sorry but thanked him for all the attention he had given me over the long years of our friendship.  We had known each other for 77 years. 

After he had passed away, Lydia showed me a book.  It was a handwritten journal filled with the research of a human lifetime into magic and dragons.  I was highly impressed.

Later on, Lydia scanned the book and put it into a computer.  She tried to explain to me what that was, but I am not sure that I understood.  She promised to continue with the research, but I must say that I doubted her even more than I had Clifford.  She had not shown me the whole book Cliff had made.  I was sure there were passages inside that described a dragon’s diet.  How could she want to set me free if she knew?

In the early 21st century, she moved my scroll into a new house that had a room without windows.  She put me into a glass case that was, as she called it, climate controlled.  The world had grown warmer, and my scroll was in great danger of crumbling to dust, she said.

When she grew older, she reminded me more and more of my Lady Komine.  Lydia was also a woman who aged with grace.  Clifford had had a tendency for negligence and forgetfulness beyond his sixties that had gradually gotten worse; not so Komine or Lydia.

She reminded me of Komine in her elegance and kindness and, once again, a great longing to be relieved from my frozen state came over me.  I wanted to die; I couldn’t stand so much beauty.

I couldn’t help telling her one day.  Lydia...I have a request.”

“Sure, Ryu.”

“Are you still trying to find out how to lift the spell that trapped me into this picture?”

“Of course.”

“Please stop.  Set me free, let me rest.  Burn the scroll.  Clifford didn’t manage to lift the spells that bound me.  I don’t think you will either.  What you tell me of the world is evidence enough.  There is no magic anymore.  Nobody alive remembers any of the magic that did this to me.”

She smiled suddenly, secretively.  “I didn’t want to tell you yet, Ryu, but I am this close to finding out how to get you out of there,” she said and held thumb and forefinger apart a centimeter.

I was more than astonished.  “Really?  How so?”

“I can’t tell you yet.  It’s all very complicated, but I found a Shinto priest in Japan who might be able to help us.  I’m in email contact with him, and he’s considering coming over!” Lydia smiled triumphantly.

I couldn’t believe it.  Hope surged through me.  A Shinto priest who might be able to release me?  That was sweet music to my ears.  I vowed to delete humans from my menu if I came free; I could survive on cows and pigs just as well, although they taste and smell far worse than humans.  Anxiously I waited.  And waited.  And waited....



The Scroll