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So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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The Race
by: Zanzibar

It was time for the race. Dakar’s nostrils were filled with the smell of the other dragons, twitching with energy. Just seeing the starting line made Dakar’s breathing shorten, his muscles go tense with anticipation. He could see his brother, his brilliant scales reflecting shards of light across the slanted shadows of the other racers. He was in the centre of the starting line, whereas Dakar, as usual, was relegated to the twelfth position against the canyon’s wall. The route was simple: it ran along the sandy bottom where the river used to run, limiting the dragons to largely one dimensional movement just above the canyon floor. There were several close turns and they would slow Dakar considerably since he was in the extreme outside lane. Spectators were present; they were carrying flags of their various lineages and some of the DROM, though patriotism in the new government was pale and somewhat forced. Dakar could remember when the sky above the canyon rim was filled with whirling banners of Celestite. Back when the world was new.
He took his place in the twelfth lane. In position for the start, he could not see the other dragons behind him on the curve, he could only hear them. He could hear the strained, explosively tense sound of their breathless, waiting silence.
The horn sounded. Dakar lurched forward, taking to air. His mind was blank; the pounding of his wings against the air filled his folded ears. Any loose mass that lay on his muscles itched and burned as he surged over the sand and rocks. He wasn’t breathing. He sucked life-giving air into his lungs. He relaxed his straining neck and leaned forward. He could not tell how close the next dragon was. He needed to keep his head start to make up for the curve. He banked hard into the first curve, barely staying in his lane. The cool air of the canyon burned in his lungs. He swept over the short rise that marked the halfway point. The spectators came into view, waving their banners furiously. He did not see them. They were cheering, screaming countless names and bits of advice and encouragement to the racers. He could not hear them. He was through the second turn. The others were closing in. Not close enough. The last stretch. His vision was black at the edges. He could not go any faster. He went faster. He heard one shout out of the hundreds of spectators. It was his father’s voice. Cheering for Chalco. He could see his brother out of the corner of his eye. He fell across the finishing line. He raked the sand almost immediately, coming to a crushing halt before his lane disappeared to a blank slate wall. With rasping voracity, he sucked at the cool air. His whole body felt light. With each breath his chest released a measure of its contraction and the black faded from the edge of his vision. His wings felt like rubber.
He turned and looked back at the finish line. Everyone had come across. They stood, staggered after the finish line, chests heaving. His father flew down from the cliff’s edge into the shadow, landing softly behind Chalco and putting his hand on his shoulder.

It was like Dakar was in a dream without sound. He could see his father’s mouth moving, smiling. Chalco’s lip curled up as he nodded, flushed and gleaming. Other dragons filled the space between him and his family. Second place. Second place, again. He could imagine if his father were like other fathers, how he would take a son under each wing. How he would boast that his sons were the two fastest dragons in Celestite. How proud he would be that his sons took the highest prizes again. He shook his head as if to shake the idea from his mind.

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