Cleo's Fire
Chandra Ghosh Ippen

@Ghosh Ippen, 2019 all rights reserved

When Cleo was mad, the whole world knew it. Her fire destroyed houses . . . fields . . . and friendships.

But when she saw what she had done, Cleo did not feel strong or powerful. She felt ashamed, and she hid. But everywhere she went, clouds of smoke and ash haunted her. Cleo wanted it to stop. So one day she decided that she would never ever, ever be angry again.

This worked for a while, when there were good times, and there were good times. But when bad times came, when others were mean, when they hurt Cleo, and when Cleo saw great suffering, the fire inside Cleo grew. 

It grew and grew, and the more it grew, the more she swallowed it. Down, down it went, deeper and deeper. It filled her belly and made her feel hot and crispy. The fire burned up her joy.

Now when Cleo looked at the world, she did not see the beauty. She felt sad, angry, and lonely. Surely no one else had a fire inside them that could destroy the world. Heart heavy and body aching, Cleo went away. She found the ugliest, darkest cave and crawled inside. She thought she would stay there forever. She felt so alone.

But Cleo was not alone. Friends and family watched with care but did not know what to do. They were too scared to go into the cave. After all, she was a fire-breathing dragon. So they cooked her favorite foods and blew the delicious smells into the cave hoping that Cleo would come out. They played sweet music and remembered how much she liked to dance. They told stories and jokes and hoped that Cleo was listening and secretly laughing.

But she wasn’t. Cleo was deep in the cave, and the delicious smells, loving music and funny stories couldn’t reach her.

It hurt to think of Cleo alone in the dark, so her friends and family decided to build her a window. They hoped the sun would warm her, and the twinkling stars would remind her of love and hope. Carving a window through solid rock was almost impossible, but working together, little by little, they did it.

And one night, as they lifted the last rock away, a beam of starlight entered the cave. Cleo looked up and heard her friends’ sweet music. It wrapped around her like a warm hug and filled her heart.

Cleo felt her fire rise, and this time, she did not swallow it. She opened her mouth and began to sing. Her song was magic, pain and joy, sadness and love blended with fire. Outside her friends and family recognized her song and began to sing too. 

Cleo’s fire travelled across the land and woke the sleepers who rushed to their windows and saw their towns through the light of this beautiful fire.

Then deep in her cave, Cleo began to hear a new sound. At first she thought it was the echo of her fire bouncing off the walls, but the rhythmic beat, like booming thunder, came from outside. Curious, Cleo stood up and began the long journey to the cave’s opening. With each step, the music grew as more voices joined with Cleo’s.

When she reached the door to the cave, Cleo looked up and knew she was not alone, for she saw her friends and family. And, soaring in the sky, their wings flapping in a rhythmic beat were beautiful, ancient dragons with fire in their hearts.
One by one as they circled in the sky, these wise dragons each let out their own precious fire. Angry fire, sad fire, creating shining pictures of stories that need to be remembered.

And then, when they seemed to be finished, they turned to Cleo and nodded their heads as if to say, show us your fire too.

And Cleo looked around at all who were with her, breathed deeply, and slowly exhaled sending light that was needed out to the world.

We are planning on launching the book in 2020 but wanted to share the story with our Piplo friends and hear what you think. As it is a non-traditional story, we would really love to hear your thoughts about its utility or lack thereof and any suggestions you might have. Comment below or email us at

A small note, for those of you affected by fires, we wrote this story before the most recent wave of fires. We are thinking about all of you but thought it was still important to share Cleo's story.