Early spring. China, the Red Dragon, gruntingly wakes from its winter hibernation and starts to clear its throat. It’s been doing so for centuries. Each spring the Red Dragon burps up volumes of yellow dust into the air. Such is the quantity that satellite photos reveal the hairy bank hovering like a demon over all of the Far East. Carried by eastward winds, the bleak breath shadows great parts of China, North and South Korea and Japan. Some years the reptilian wheeze even licks at the shores of North America.
In ages past, the dust dragoon, irritable though it was, was also endured like the annoying ruffling of an older brother his kid sibling. All understood that the Red Dragon’s spawning contributed to the Korean peninsula. Obviously not noticeable in one season, but over centuries these coughs of airborne soil settled on the neck of land, adding, layer by layer, to its girth. And so, the burning eyes and scratchy throats were considered necessary growing pains.
However, the Red Dragon has been ill of late. It turned cyborg. It mechanized. It exchanged its silky scales for factory exhausts. Mixed with industrial pollutants the Red Dragon’s breath had become a nauseating miasma. The once glistening gold from the dragon’s throat had turned rancid. The precious metal powder became heavy metal laden. Now sulphur, soot and ash, carbon monoxide, asbestos, herbicides and other carcinogens cling to the dust and soaks like a deadly smog. Silent and condemning, as if the curse of displeased gods, the yellow dust contaminates the Korean earth. Caught in the foul pant, healthy people gasp asthmatic and sick people die.
Today is such a day. The Red Dragon’s fumes had settled over Seoul, Korea’s capital, like a slab of dehydrated yellow vomit. The weather bureau issued a warning and no one dares outside without masks palmed over mouth and nose.
On this day, with the sun drenched out by a suffocating cloud of mustard, he woke up.
“He” being the main character of our story.