I dreamt about being a dragon slayer that night, a true hero, a brave Cossack, hunting evil where nobody dares to go. When I told my pals about it, they said dragons weren’t real. How should they know? Dragons are shapeshifters. They can be Makar-the-bully from our class or even their dads when drunk and angry.
This winter, nobody is drunk or angry, because they’ve all joined the army. There are no more school or bedtime stories, only air-defence sirens and distant booms around the village. We sleep in the corridor and never stop watching the news. It’s only bad news that makes everyone cry. Everyone but me, that is. Cossacks don’t cry. Instead, I do something totally “unhealthy” – play Candy Crush on Mommy’s smartphone. And she doesn’t even mind it.
Nobody expected the windows to get blown inside and the shelves to fall down. Something massive drones past our house. Everyone screams and runs. I grab Grandad’s rifle, scramble outside and follow the trace of the black smoke in the grey skies.
It smells of burnt rubber and metal. I peek through the shrubs at the flames licking at the plane wreck with an enemy red star on the tail and notice a move in the distance. A man lands behind it with a loud thud and a f* word. His parachute falls on top of him, and he fumbles under it like a bug tangled in a cobweb.
My knees tremble when I walk towards the pilot. The soil is hard and frosty and the gun weighs a complete ton. But my hands are steady when I point it at him.
The pilot turns his helmeted head at me and freezes. “Hey, kid, hey, hey…” he stutters. “I’m a friend. I came to save you.”
He looks around and reaches his arm to a pistol some metre away from him. I pant heavily. Grunting, he crawls closer to the pistol and raises his voice. “I said, put that down! I’m your friend.”
“You’re lying!” I yell back, “I know who you are, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”