Here Be Dragons? Code 45’s Apparitions Explored

Why dragons? It’s a question I’ve been asked more than once by people curious about the use of these mythological creatures as the focal point for a story that, for the most part, takes place deep underground within the borders of a major metropolis. Not typical ‘dragon country,’ either geographically or in the imagination.

It began with Code 45‘s opening line: ‘There are dragons in the tunnels.’ That one phrase had been stuck in my head for several years as I struggled to find a way to build a story around it. I knew the bones of what I wanted to write about, but the details of how I was going to get there took quite a while to settle.

The one constant remained the idea of dragons lurking beneath Montreal’s streets. Although dragons are often depicted as massive, cumbersome beasts in media, eastern cultures offered a broader range of how these nightmare creatures might manifest, include more agile examples. Given the disconnect from reality that the city’s metro drivers were already dealing with, it wasn’t hard to develop the kind of malleable demons that would offer maximum terror regardless of how large of a canvas there was to work with.

I also liked the idea of a group of people giving a name to their collective fear. It’s that much harder to differentiate a mass hallucination from a legitimate supernatural phenomenon than it is to dismiss the crazed ramblings of an individual. There’s power in a crowd to not only convince outsiders of the validity of their experiences, but also further reinforce the beliefs of those who’ve already bought in to the nature of their affliction, and keep them from seeking an alternative explanation.

Finally, when’s the last time you read, or watched, a story that dealt with dragons in an urban setting, or at the very least, one that wasn’t in some way post-apocalyptic? The idea of using these creatures in a narrative where they are hidden, yet present within the infrastructure of our daily lives was more fascinating to me than the well-trod ground of a kaiju-like attack.

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