A Boy and His Dragon
During that night, the wind kicked up again, howling fiercely. It rattled the house so severely that Bradley Wallace woke several times fearing the structure would be viciously torn from its foundation and whisked high above a writhing funnel of spinning air, just like Dorothy’s house in “The Wizard of Oz.” The Murphy home, however, remained earthbound.
By morning, the street outside looked as though a battle had been raging all night long. Broken, splintered tree limbs, and several of the uprooted trees from which they came, were scattered sadly to and fro across the pavement looking lost and forlorn. Plants of every description had been torn from the ground, fences ripped from their foundations, garbage cans rolled and clattered up and down the street, and thousands of leaves blew in every direction, whipping constantly off the asphalt into mini-tornadoes. And the wind continued unabated. If anything, it increased in sheer force, and Bradley Wallace found it difficult even to walk outside – it felt like he was trudging through three feet of snow during a raging blizzard. But there was a good side to this weather, he noted to himself – it wasn’t raining.
The tempest continued to grow in strength throughout the afternoon, with winds being clocked at over one hundred miles per hour, and threatened to rip the mighty Golden Gate Bridge from its moorings. The TV news had live cameras at the sight, and Bradley Wallace gazed in fearful awe at the swaying span, which looked no more solid than a hammock in a blustery summer breeze. The wind was reportedly getting stronger, the newscaster said, adding that bridge officials feared this could mark the end of the world-famous landmark.
Katie desperately wanted someone to drive her out to the bridge just so she could watch it fall and then call all her friends to tell them about it. But neither parent would consent to go with her, as it was too dangerous and too crowded. The TV newscasters kept telling people to stay away. Angrily, Katie stalked off to her room to sulk, muttering about what she’d do when she was old enough to drive on her own. Jack finally changed the channel to the golf tournament, and Marge went back to her room to read a book. All of which left Bradley Wallace on his own with nothing to do except homework, and he just didn’t feel in the mood. Not with all that was happening at the bridge and everything.
On impulse, the boy donned his heaviest jacket and gloves and dashed out the front door into the street. The wind nearly knocked him down, and he could barely open his eyes against its force. He summoned Whilly, and the two rendezvoused deep within the Gully. The aged warehouse in which he’d first found the dragon stood naked and exposed against a stark background of weeds and dirt, and the old, familiar rope swing twisted frantically in the wind like a snake in its death throes.
*I want to go look at the Golden Gate Bridge,* he said telepathically once the dragon had landed beside him. It was much too windy to talk out loud without shouting.
*Do you think it will fall?* Whilly asked, reading the thought behind the boy’s request.
*I don’t know,* Bradley Wallace answered truthfully. But he knew he didn’t want it to fall. *Let’s go see.*
When they arrived on the scene, all roads onto the bridge from both directions were closed off and barricades had been set up along the perimeters to keep the hundreds of milling spectators back away from the danger zone. The bridge creaked and groaned in pain as it was stretched and buffeted about like an old piece of string. One of man’s greatest engineering achievements was clearly no match for the awesome power of Mother Nature, and looked close to collapsing at any moment.
Whilly set down atop a ragged bluff overlooking both the highway and the dying bridge, and instantly made himself invisible so no one below might look up and spot him. Bradley Wallace slipped down to the rocky surface of the precipice and gazed in amazement at the sight before him. He couldn’t believe that mere wind, something he couldn’t even see, had the power to sway such a massive steel structure with so much ease. The grating and twisting sounds of struggling metal rose to his ears, and a wave of sadness came with them. The bridge had existed long before he was born, and should remain long after he died. It was special, almost a living being unto itself, and he didn’t want to see it die.
Whilly hesitated before delivering his next thought. Even though he’d been told it was now Bradley Wallace’s time, still he hesitated. He knew the boy had to find out, but was this the right moment? Would Bradley Wallace be able to handle such a revelation, or would it destroy his rather fragile mind? He knew the boy better than anyone else, and even he didn’t know the answer to that question. But then, he believed in this child, didn’t he? Yes, he decided, he did.
*You can save it, Bradley Wallace,* he finally said, hoping his judgment was correct.
Bradley Wallace gave him a sharp look. “Don’t kid around, Whilly,” he chastised out loud. “This isn’t funny.”
*I’m not joking, Bradley Wallace,* the dragon assured him seriously. *You have the power to save that bridge if you choose to use it.*
A sudden chill, like the realization of impending death, curled slowly around the boy’s heart, and he felt exactly the same as he had with Mr. O’Conner and the unspoken matter of the pictures – afraid. “What are you talking about?” he asked uncertainly.
*If you concentrate hard enough, and I help, you can stop that bridge from swaying,* Whilly explained simply, carefully.
“You’re crazy!” the boy scoffed, unable to hide the quiver in his voice. “No one can control the wind.”
*Not the wind, Bradley Wallace, the bridge. You can create a force equal and opposite to that of the wind with your mind, a force that will cancel out the effects of the wind. And the bridge will stop swinging.*
“That’s impossible!” Bradley Wallace insisted, refusing to meet the dragon’s probing eyes. He gaped instead at the Golden Gate below.
*It is possible, Bradley Wallace. And if you don’t do it, the bridge will be destroyed. It’s your choice.*
Bradley Wallace was silent. He knew Whilly well enough to know the dragon didn’t joke, but he also knew that what his friend suggested was simply impossible for any human to accomplish. Especially him. And yet, that little subconscious voice tickled at the back of his mind, assuring him he could do it.
Another wailing banshee-like shriek from the tortured bridge painfully pierced his eardrums, like fingernails scratching across a blackboard, and he knew he just couldn’t stand there and watch the Golden Gate plunge into the ocean.
*Just concentrate, Bradley Wallace,* Whilly told him quickly, while the boy’s feelings of compassion were strongest.
*Focus every part of your mind on the image of that bridge as it should be, stationary and unmoving. Your will must be unbending, Bradley Wallace. You must want it from the heart before it will come from the mind.*
Almost robotically, Bradley Wallace obeyed. He concentrated, emptying his mind of all images save that of the bridge as he’d always known it – solid and eternal, untouchable by wind or rain, a lasting tribute to man’s ingenuity, strength, and artistry. But the image wasn’t pure. Something crept in, traces of fear, droplets of doubt telling him what he was attempting was impossible and foolish.
Whilly knew he had to awaken pleasurable memories the boy associated with this structure, for Bradley Wallace’s mind was fighting him, setting up barriers that only strong emotions could break down. He searched back into Bradley Wallace’s past, and plucked out an incident that might serve his purpose. *Remember, Bradley Wallace, the time you and Mr. O’Conner walked across this bridge? It was a bright summer day and you were six years old. You carried an ice cream cone, and you were so excited about being up so high that you threw the cone off the bridge into the water below. Remember how much you laughed at that?*
Bradley Wallace smiled. He did remember, and with the memory came the feelings of joy associated with that day so many years ago, feelings that unlocked the power within him.
Without warning, the roaring floodwaters that signaled its release pounded through his head like a whirlwind, and he felt himself in touch with everything around him – the water, air, plants, rock, everything. It felt as if all those things were part of him, and he them, and the power was his to command. His eyes blazed bright red, and his body coruscated with pulsating energy, the energy of the earth itself. He felt ablaze with power, and locked his eyes and heart on the swaying Golden Gate Bridge below. And he commanded it to stop moving.