|Photo by Carl Spencer|
To Cole, the storm clouds looked like a giant dragon flying through the sky. The lightning was the dragon's fiery breath, and his giant wings created the wind and thunder. Cole liked to imagine himself riding the Storm Dragon through the sky.
But Cole knew that, in reality, a boy is too heavy to fly. Even so, he liked to climb very tall trees because it was the next best thing to flying up into the sky. One day, he was out in the forest behind his house, and he climbed higher than he ever had before. Up in the high branches, he saw a strange little yellow bird. "Hello, yellow bird," said Cole.
To his amazement, the bird answered him! "Hello, Cole," said the yellow bird. "I've been watching you, and I know how badly you want to go up into the sky and ride the Storm Dragon. I'm here today to grant your wish. Follow me!"
The bird flew down to the ground and waited for Cole to follow. It led him deep into the forest, far from paths and fences, to a place he'd never been. There, among the tallest trees, was a small, rocky pool.
"Drink this water," said the bird. "It will make you as light as a cloud, and you'll be able to visit the Cloud Kingdom in the sky. But the magic will only last until moonrise, and then you will return to earth again."
Cole knelt by the pool and cupped his hands. He drank and drank, until he started to feel kind of funny and tingly. He stood up and had a hard time keeping his feet on the ground. He began to float up through the trees; slowly at first, then faster and faster, until he was racing through the sky toward the clouds above.
Then, he was up through the cloud layer and into the Cloud Kingdom. He saw castles, trees, and mountains made of clouds. And before him stood the Storm Dragon, with cirrus clouds for wings, a thunderhead for his body, and crystalline icicles for teeth.
The dragon spoke in a growling, cloudy voice, "Welcome, Cole. I have seen you watching me from below. I was glad to see a boy who loved storms so much, so I decided to grant your wish to join me for a ride during a storm."
"Thank you, Storm Dragon!" said Cole. He climbed up on the dragon's back.
The Storm Dragon beat his wings and flew up into the sky. Below, on the ground, the wind began to pick up. The dragon blew dark, smoky clouds that covered the sun, and the sky grew dark. His wings beat faster, the wind whipped the trees. The Storm Dragon spit lightning from his mouth and clapped his wings together with a thunderous boom. All the while, Cole sat on the dragon's neck, marveling.
But all too soon, Cole saw the edge of the moon peeking over the horizon. He began to feel heavy, like a rope was pulling on him. He knew that his time in the Cloud Kingdom was over.
"Goodbye, Storm Dragon!" he called, as he sank slowly down, down, down to the ground, through the wet trees and back to the forest floor.
The moon had risen and the storm had ended. Cole walked home, filled with wonder at all he had seen.