the Unreliable Narrator loves stories–customized to his specifications. i’ve become his enabler, his amenuensis, for stories he tells such as Owl and the Magic Carpet (“it can fly without no wings”) and Owl and the Magic Frog, in which said frog makes a rather belated third-act appearance. i’m delighted by this new development in his imagination. HB and i race to set down his tales on paper. later, we’ll type and print, and have the Unreliable Narrator make some drawings to go with them.
i’ve also written about TTE fanfic which the Unreliable Narrator commissions me to write. it’s a way for my to culture-jam a world he likes but i have reservations about, and rig it with my own more contemporary values. (i know there’s a story involving thomas and percy and a chinese dragon, but i’ve never read it.) i present herewith:
Thomas and the Beautiful Dragon
One day Sir Topham Hatt summoned Thomas and said, “Thomas, I have a special special that only a brave and adventurous engine can carry out. Are you that engine?”
Thomas said, “Yes, sir, I can do the job! What is it?”
Sir Topham Hatt said, “You must go to Brendam Docks and bring back a most dangerous and beautiful thing which has just arrived on the Island of Sodor. Everyone is a bit afraid of it, but you must ignore any strange noises it makes. Bring it directly to Limehouse Station before noon. That is when the Chinese New Year parade starts.”
“Sir?” said Thomas. “What is it?”
“It’s a snake–but bigger. With wings, and claws like an eagle…and…well, never mind what it is. Just bring it back,” said Sir Topham Hatt.
“I will,” said Thomas, and set out for Brendam Docks.
As he positioned himself under Cranky’s crane, bracing himself to have a large, mysterious crate loaded onto his flatbed, Thomas thought he heard some strange noises coming from the crate. He glanced up nervously at the crate swinging in the sky, halfway between the ship it had arrived on and the rails.
Cranky’s scowling face alternated between scared and grumpy expressions. “Look what this strange creature has done!” he exclaimed.
Sure enough, there was a big black scorched hole in the side of the huge wooden crate. Tendrils of grey smoke swirled out of the hole and teased Cranky’s face. And every so often everyone heard a long, rattling roar, thumping from inside the crate, and the silvery sound of many metal scales shaking together.
Everyone was really really scared! The dockworkers, the train conductors, even the trains themselves. Only Thomas stayed put while the others backed away.
Just as Cranky manuevered the crate over Thomas’ flatbed, a big orange flame shot out from the crate and singed Cranky’s startled face. “Ouch!” he bellowed, dropping the crate. It landed on Thomas’ flatbed with a crash and split open, revealing a shiny golden dragon. It had leathery-looking bat wings and shimmery scales that made musical chiming sounds when he moved, and a beard like a goat’s, big bulging eyes, long spiralling antennae, and claws like an eagle.
Before the dragon could flap its huge wings and fly away, the dockworkers grabbed strong steel chains and tied it down to the flatbed. It groaned and hissed sparks in protest.
“Hurry, or we’ll be late!” shouted Thomas’ conductor. It was almost noon. The Chinese New Year parade would begin soon.
Thomas peeled away from Brendam Docks with a screech and a big puff of steam. The dragon writhed under the cables; it hated being cooped up.
Thomas chugged hard up Gordon’s Hill. It was steep. The top of the hill seemed to be miles away. The fireman broke into a sweat as he threw shovelful after shovelful of coal into Thomas’ engine. But it backfired, as the fire was too weak and the new coals smothered the old. Before the new coals could catch fire, the old red-hot coals underneath were choked of their fire and grew colder, not hotter.
“We’re losing our flame!” shouted the conductor.
Thinking quickly, Thomas called out, “Unchain the dragon!”
“What? We can’t, it’s too dangerous,” said his conductor.
“Just do it–we need his fiery breath,” said Thomas.
So, it was very exciting: as Thomas surged onward, the conductor and the fireman climbed out of the cab and carefully crawled over to the flatbed coupled behind. Thomas kept chugging up the hill, for if he stopped, the fire would go out completely and they would roll backwards. Very dangerous. So Thomas labored to keep going uphill as the conductor loosened the chains around the dragon.
In between huffs and puffs, Thomas called to the dragon, “Come to the boiler and breathe on the coals!” The fire was about to go out.
The beautiful dragon stood and shook itself, then gracefully alighted on Thomas’ cab. With a few mighty fire-charged breaths, the dragon soon had the coals burning nicely and more steam gathered and pushed the train faster. Thomas felt the boost.
“You did it!” cried Thomas and the conductor and fireman to the dragon. “You aren’t terrifying and dangerous at all, but powerful and really really useful!”
The dragon smiled and shook its glittery scales slightly. They made a sound like strings of cowrie shells being rattled. “Thank you, yes. I am.”
“Please, sit up on top of my cab,” said Thomas. “You’ve saved the day. The view of the Island of Sodor is much nicer from above.”
“How nice. I believe I will,” said the dragon. Its voice was low and deep.
And so, that’s how Thomas the Tank Engine bore aloft his new friend, a beautiful and amazing dragon, on top of his cab. It was quite a vision to see the magnificent creature arrive triumphantly at Limehouse Station, gleaming in the bright winter sun, and adding his smoky breath to Thomas’ cheery steam.
The many Chinese Sodoreans cheered loudly and long when they saw the sight. They danced and beat their dreams and gongs.
“Come and watch the parade,” said the dragon. “I think you’ll like the firecrackers and the colorful costumes.”
And Thomas did. News of the wondrous dragon spread quickly among the trains, and all competed to take him on errands and be his friend. And ever after, the dragon had the seat of honor atop any train’s cab he liked when he traveled about the Island of Sodor.