Online Publication

The Duck and the Sea Dragon by Avie Eichelberger

The night seemed fully normal. If a man were to walk by the ocean would have noticed the light of the full moon dancing on the water, the scent of a salty ocean breeze, the sound of crashing waves. No, nothing would seem out of the ordinary in this seaside scene. But if the man were to look a little closer he would notice something rather peculiar: ducks. Hundreds of birds gathered on the beach tentatively waddling back and forth, gazing off into the darkness, occasionally shivering and flapping their wings, waiting uneasily until the dead of night.

One duck was watching particularly closely, straining to see anything in the darkness. Bufflehead, as he was called, heard a splashing sound. A splash could mean a number of things, a fish jumping, a boat sailing down the coast, a pelican catching a late night snack or exactly what the ducks had been waiting for. He stretched his neck forward to see and listen for anything. He heard another sound and saw a very large something swimming straight toward the ducks.

“It’s here,” he whimpered, took a few steps back and pulled his rubber duck closer to his feathers. The yellow bath toy did not provide as much comfort as it usually did. The birds huddled together in dread. A great scaly head rose up out of the ocean, the water dripping off of it and onto the ducks like rain. The monster stared at them with vast yellow eyes and encircled them with its giant serpentine body. It lowered its head, it could’ve eaten them with one bite but to their relief it only sniffed them.

“The conditions are as always: you may have any one duck of your choosing,” Master Mallard, the leader of the ducks said. “And you-”

“I will leave you and this land in peace for another year,” The Great Sea Dragon finished for him. “Yes I remember.” He scrutinized the birds who in turn inspected his very large teeth.

Bufflehead was nervous but not overly concerned. He imagined that the Sea Dragon would choose one of the bigger ducks much more readily than him. To his relief the monster’s eyes dully glanced over him but then he paused and looked directly back at Bufflehead. Petrified with fear all he could do was stare as the monster moved his terrifying face closer to him. The ducks fled from around him and the Sea Dragon’s mouth opened.

“What is that?” He asked Bufflehead.

Bufflehead was baffled and still so afraid that he was unable to speak.

“Is it your child?” The monster pushed Bufflehead aside to get a better view of his bath toy. “No, I can tell that it is not.” He poked it with his tail. “It looks like a duck but it is not like a real one. Were you trying to trick me?”

“No,” Bufflehead stammered.

“Good,” the Sea Dragon returned his attention to the rubber duck. He revealed his frightening teeth in a horrifying and dangerous smile. “This thing pleases me very much. I choose your clever little fake duck as my payment,” he stated and with that disappeared into the deep ocean.

The flock all quacked in joy at the monster’s departure knowing that for yet another year they were saved. The price was almost nothing they decided. Not a single feather was damaged. Bufflehead did not join in their celebration; to him he had paid a very great price. He had lost his rubber duck, his favorite toy, his yellow friend, his pride and joy. The whole rest of the night he thought about this until he came to a decision.

“I am going out to the ocean!” Bufflehead declared. “I am going to take back my rubber duck.”

The ducks went silent with shock at this announcement and then laughed very hard. The sea monster was too big and no water birds were meant to go that far into the ocean, especially not Bufflehead who was not generally a lucky duck.

“How can you?” They asked.

“I will bite his tail if necessary,” Bufflehead answered. All the ducks roared with laughter except for one who took this matter as seriously as Bufflehead did.

“Bufflehead, I will not allow all these ducks to be endangered for your greed!” Master Mallard glared at him.

“Master Mallard, I will not allow all these ducks to be endangered for that monster’s greed!” Bufflehead argued.

The ducks all whispered considering this and then discussed with each other. They realized something did need to change. Eventually they came to the conclusion that Bufflehead could go and retrieve his duck and they would fully support him if he had to bite the Sea Dragon’s tail, unless of course he failed, in which case they had nothing to do with it. They all wished him good luck and even gave him Ernie the seagull as his navigator and traveling companion. Ernie had never been very useful anyway, but he would be now they were certain.

So Bufflehead the duck and Ernie the debatably useful seagull set out to the ocean to rescue the rubber duck and bite the tail of a sea monster. Bufflehead was determined to save his toy and traveled courageously forward. The journey went smoothly, with Bufflehead being courageous and Ernie being debatably useful. He was a fairly good navigator, until after a while they couldn’t see the land anymore and Ernie said, “Honestly, I have no idea where we are. Do you know where the Sea Dragon lives?”

“Certainly,” Bufflehead said uncertainly. “He lives in the ocean.”

“Oh!” The debatably useful seagull was relieved. “We must be heading the right direction then!”

They carried on with a new found optimism for weeks with still no sign of the monster. One day they just rested and floated- with optimism, of course. They were very tired, homesick, lost and unsuccessful, but optimistic. It began to rain a little bit and then it rained a little more and even more until there was a great tempest. They could not fly because the wind was too strong the waves battered them mercilessly the thunder crashed above them. The rain was so heavy that they could not distinguish between air and ocean. They cried out in vain for help, but it seemed this storm would be the end of them.

Then suddenly they saw something heading their way. It was a boat.

“We’re saved!” They shouted and tried to capture the attention of the sailors. This worked and shortly they were pulled up on deck while they shouted many thanks to their rescuers. When they reached the top they were not so grateful because they were thrown in cages and the pirates laughed at their new captives.

“Look here, ye landlubbers!” One called to the rest. “Lunch just swam into our hands!”

“I do not think we are as saved as we thought,” said Ernie the debatably edible seagull.

“Argh!” they cheered and laughed and decided to eat them immediately.

“Wait, here comes Captain Noodle!” A pirate said. The crew respectfully made a space for their captain to come through to inspect the caged birds. Bufflehead was shocked at what he saw.

“You-you’re a-a,” Bufflehead stammered.

“I am a penguin. A macaroni penguin to be exact,” Captain Noodle stated and stood before them as majestically as is possible for a small penguin.

“I thought all the penguins were extinct!” Ernie gawked at the sight.

“He’s the last,” a pirate said reverentially.

“Yes. Why are you here in the middle of the Ocean?” The Captain inquired them.

“I am Bufflehead the duck and I am out seeking revenge on the Great Sea Dragon,” Bufflehead said. “And that’s Ernie.”

“Release them immediately!” Captain Noodle commanded. “My entire family was killed by that monster and I will aid these birds and we will take them to the sea dragon’s home and seek revenge.”

The pirates cheered and when the storm was over they set sail for the Sea Dragon’s lair. The news spread far and wide of the noble people who were going to save the earth from the wrath of the Sea Dragon, or maybe anger the monster and destroy the earth. Many people were excited and many were very worried. A large group of these very concerned folks decided to take action. They sailed out to meet the pirate ship in a very large boat. They boarded the small pirate ship and began battle. The pirates fought hard but they were outnumbered and their efforts were not enough.

“If you abandon this silly hunt we will leave you be,” the leader of the attackers said.

“Alright, we give up!” The debatably useful seagull surrendered.

“Never!” Bufflehead shouted.

“I suppose we aren’t giving up then.” Ernie looked down in embarrassment.

“Aye!” Captain Noodle agreed. “That deceitful Sea creature has caused more destruction in a day than any force in this world could manage in a century!”

“And we don’t want it to destroy anymore do we? We have agreements with him now. Do you realize how much you could upset him? If you go break your promise to him he will break his promise to us!” the attacker challenged. “Now, why don’t we all just let go of these ridiculous grudges and life can continue in peace?”

“Ridiculous grudges!?” Captain Noodle said furiously. He started to say more but stopped. The attacker they had been speaking with looked off into the distance his eyes wide.

He desperately commanded his men to let go of the pirates and they ran back to their own ship. “I want no part in any of this!” He shouted as he sailed away. “For your own sakes I beg of you; don’t do this! It will only end in disaster!” He yelled a number of more warnings and continued even when he was out of earshot.

Bufflehead heeded none of this council. His rubber duck was something that was worth risking his life for. He was confident that nothing could stand in the way of him and getting his duck. He would go to the monster’s home, sneakily take the rubber duck and then leave and if necessary, bite the tail of the Sea Dragon. He turned and noticed what that man had fled so quickly from. It looked like a bunch of black rock protruding from the ocean but Bufflehead saw a gap in it and new that these were no ordinary rocks.

“Well, here we are.” Ernie examined the formidable cave that was just ahead of them.

“The lair of the Great Sea Dragon.” Captain Noodle scowled at it. “May fortune be on your side, Bufflehead.”

“Hope you find your thing!” Ernie encouraged him.

Bufflehead nodded in gratitude, if there was ever a time that a duck needed luck it was now. Summoning all his bravery he jumped into the water and swam stealthily toward the ominous cavern. It was dark inside and a little bit difficult to see and he felt himself bump into something he looked to see what it was and held back a gasp. It was the body of the monster. It shifted slightly and he braced himself for the jaws of the beast but when he wasn’t bitten he realized it was sleeping.

He let out a muffled sigh of relief and looked for his beloved rubber duck. He found it floating in the water just by the side of the Dragon’s head. He swam to it excitedly but cautiously and moved to scoop it up with his wing. He had done it; he had retrieved his dear toy.

“What a touching reunion,” The monster said. His voice sent chills down Bufflehead’s spine. “Are you trying to steal from me little duck?” The monster snatched the rubber duck out of reach just before Bufflehead could take it.

Bufflehead took flight. He dived at the Sea Dragon’s tail.

“Release it!” He demanded just before chomping hard onto the creature scales. He clamped on as hard as he could while the dragon was trying to shake him off. He seemed annoyed but other than that, Bufflehead’s bite didn’t seem to bother him at all. Bufflehead’s bill was beginning to hurt quite badly. Humiliated he let go and fell against the cave’s wall.

“You are almost as amusing as your fake duck here!” The Sea Dragon laughed very hard. “But infuriating as well, no one has ever tried to deny me my payment but the penguins. I assume you are aware of their fate.” He chuckled at Bufflehead’s fear. “I’m sure I will miss the entertainment you provide but your bones will rest with theirs on the bottom of the ocean.” He looked over Bufflehead to decide how he wanted to end his life.

“You probably can’t even reach the bottom of the ocean!” Bufflehead taunted him, afraid but determined still, not thinking clearly.

The monster laughed again. “I may require air to breathe but I assure you the bottom of the ocean is very easy for me to travel to.”

“Then I have a challenge! If you can put my fake duck on the bottom of the ocean, then you can keep it and eat me but if you can’t keep it on the bottom than you give it to me and you won’t bother any of the ducks again,” Bufflehead suggested.

“Ah, what a terrible wager you’ve made!” The Sea Dragon laughed and looped his tail around the duck. “I do believe you have just planned your death. I may as well just eat you now. But where’s the fun in that? I accept your challenge!”

The Great Sea Dragon carried Bufflehead to the very deepest part of the ocean that he knew of. He then put the yellow duck on the water and said proudly “Now, we need only wait a small moment and it will sink to the ocean floor.” They waited for it to sink but it did not and the monster realized that it would not. “Ha ha! I tell you I love this little thing. It keeps surprising me. Well then, I suppose I’ll have to bring him there myself.” He dove under the water and a while later, returned looking very triumphant. Bufflehead bowed his head in despair.

“That’s that then,” The monster concluded. “You have- what?” To the amazement of both monster and duck the little rubber toy had resurfaced. The Sea Dragon dove back under with rubber duck in hand. Bufflehead waited and there it was! The buoyant, yellow miracle back at the top again. Now he knew his rubber duck could never betray him. The Sea Dragon shot up after it.

“It’s cursed!” He cried. “It won’t stay! But oh, just you wait I will make you stay! You will be obedient to me!” He commanded the rubber duck. He disappeared under the waves again. Bufflehead waited and waited. For what felt like hours he looked down at the ocean and waited for something to come up. At last the rubber duck perseveringly floated to the top and the Great Sea Dragon never did.

Soon enough the defeat of the Great Sea Dragon was known everywhere. Living thing in the world rejoiced. Justice was served and they could all live in peace. Captain Noodle the macaroni penguin was actually happy for the first time in a very long time. The ducks received Bufflehead as a hero. Even Ernie the seagull was considered slightly more useful. Bufflehead joined in all of the celebrations this time, he had his rubber duck and to him that was the greatest victory of all.

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