Wasteland Dragon

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Wasteland Dragon

Flash Fiction

by Huina Zheng

Over a decade ago, in that barren expanse, Ba, a visionary, ventured into the vastness of Northwest China, with Ma by his side. A sower in lands ravaged by wind and sand, he believed life could spring from his toil. I was born in the tranquility following a sandstorm, in the year of the dragon, a zodiac sign considered to bring rainwater and prosperity. It was at the very moment Ba was sweating profusely, working the land, trying to coax life from its fissures. This, he said, was evidence of my tenacity, a deeply rooted fortitude I was meant to inherit.

On our village’s fringe, Ba battled sands, planting hope with every tree, his fear merely the desert’s creep and life’s retreat. Evening winds danced, dust swirling, as he nurtured fragile green under calloused hands. Here, amid windswept sands, it was not easy for green things to grow—everything we owned was covered by wind and sand, the color of Ba’s hope, the color of plants, the color of life.

As a child, Ba would take me to the edge of town, where weathered stones and dried-up riverbeds whispered stories of the past. It was there that I met Xiao Mei, a poet’s daughter, her gaze holding myths’ own sparkle.

Her words stirred dreams within me. Each smile of hers was soft as distant waters. “If you wish, I shall pen your tale.”

Years later, as the world showed its harsh face, turning lush oasis to barren sands, I found solace in Xiao Mei’s haven. The village alarm echoing, I rushed to find Ba, hoe in hand, seeking life in earth’s crevices. Beyond, a silent riverbed spoke of time’s hush.

“We don’t need to leave, do we?” I asked.

His look, steadfast. The hoe rested, embraced by the sands. “With age comes understanding. Persistence, itself, is a wonder.”

What I fear: the storm’s roar, the thirst of the land, Ba’s quest for life in dormant twigs. What I’ve forgotten: those things I wanted from Xiao Mei, how her verses planted hope in my heart, why the earth denies our pleas. When we sat on the parched riverbed, our ears were tuned to the whisper of the wind. All the lands we had ever left or lost were arid streams around my heart, their silence profound. Perseverance felt almost divine.

dragon illustration
About the Author

Huina Zheng, a Distinction M.A. in English Studies holder, works as a college essay coach. She’s also an editor at Bewildering Stories. Her stories have been published in Baltimore Review, Variant Literature, Midway Journal, and others. Her work has received nominations twice for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She resides in Guangzhou, China with her husband and daughter.