There is a dragon that lives inside of my chest, just above my heart. Even though he is curled behind my ribs, I can hear him breathing, coloring my blood with smoke. I have lured him to sleep, with the practice of years giving me ammunition against his formerly frequent rages. The drudgery of routine, of quiet pattern and empty spaces, has slowed his breathing and made the evil pounding of his heart quieter and easier to ignore. But still, occasionally, he wakes, and I live in fear of those days. Sometimes I hear the whisper of his breath quicken, the rhythm of his heart grow stronger, and I can act quickly to avoid it. Others, my first warning is the sudden talon-sharp tightness across my heart as he clutches it and spreads his wings. Scaly and sudden, they spread themselves against my bones, rubbing the inside of me raw. His tail drops with icy alacrity down into my stomach and sometimes I double over because it feels like it will break out from within me. My legs weaken against his onslaught and his smoky hot breath turns my blood black. I hear him in my shoulders and head and neck, roaring now, not to be ignored. I am helpless when he is awake.

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