Short story about a disabled girl who wants fly a dragon instead of go to war with it.
|She sat on a slab of rock under two pine trees with her dog named Poppy hopping on his three legs around her. She lay on her back to get a better view of the stars above. An oxygen tank lay next to her in the grass, a tube hooking behind her ears and meeting in the middle below her nostrils to provide her with fresh air.
The twelve year old girl sighed heavily, her small hand running through sharp green blades of grass. The grass in these hills looked like daggers, though couldn't cut the legs of a fly. The dandelions uprooted themselves and blew around in the night air in hopes of finding a new home to stay. Perhaps they thought it was getting boring here near the small wooden house? Made sense, now that her favorite older brother Mathew had left. Mom wouldn't stop crying, saying her baby was still too young to join the dragon war.
For centuries there had been a war between humans and dragons. Men in big, bulky armor with guns and swords would head into the mountains to stop the scaly beasts from entering the villages. Creatures that varied from shades of blue so dark they looked black, bright shades of yellow that could distort your vision, powerful reds that filled their victims with fear, and even camouflage in the rare, smaller species. Twelve year old Andrea had always had a fascination with the colorful winged animals with the piercing acid green eyes and slit pupils that mimicked those of an angry cat. Horns in the shape of fire and forked tails long enough to wrap around full grown trees and strong enough to crush a man like a constructor snake.
Mom had always chuckled and shrugged it off when Andrea would say she wanted a pet dragon. She may only be twelve, but the curious little girl knew it wasn't just her imagination running wild. She had an experience that would never leave her mind to this day. One that made her love to study the behavior of the beasts that burned down villages and raided homes. Despite the death of her father when she was only five, and the injury of Mathew after just two months at war leaving him in the hospital for an approximate three week recovery, Andrea wanted to know more about dragons. Was it because she longed for the freedom they gained through flight? Or because that life changing night that happened just four years prior?
When Andrea was just eight years old, she was on a trip with her five year old brother Mikey through the hills near their home. Mom had said it was fine so long as they brought dad's old Golden Retriever he'd named Moby after his favorite book before he died in the war. Moby pulled a small red wagon by a rope that carried Mikey. The five year old had started complaining about his legs hurting half way up the hill, and insisted on carrying Poppy who must've been tired because of his missing leg.
Andrea didn't mind the climb uphill despite her oxygen tank and weaker legs. She'd been a weak baby when she was born, though had gained some strength through the years. The midwife who was now like an aunt to her had told her the story about how she was thought to be lifeless for a solid five minutes before finally crying when she was born. It was a miracle she wasn't stillborn.
Mathew usually came on trips like this, but today it was just Andrea and Mikey. Their older brother had run through the field to stop at the town nearby to get groceries from the market. Unlike here at home, the town was built with stone, metals, golds, and had gravel covered roads and small automobiles. Here in the hills it was just the garden, the hiking trails, the sunsets, and the family.
An hour past as Mikey and Andrea continued on, before they stopped to catch lightning bugs when night fell. They got too caught up in their fun, and didn't notice the deadly cold dropping in until Andrea was hardly able to breath and snow began falling. In an instant, the mood changed. The two siblings and their dogs went from chasing little flying lights with jars, to huddling beneath a shelter of old pines. Moby lay next to Andrea to keep her warm. Mikey curled up in his sisters lap. Poppy was only a small puppy at the time, but still tried to help by lying over his human's feet.
An hour went by. Snow fall soon turned to an ice storm. Mom hollered for them in the distance for half an hour, though the two siblings were so cold and lost in the night they couldn't move. They heard Mathew start yelling for them, and guessed he'd taken the lead on finding them. No such luck came.
Another hour past. Moby had fallen asleep, and do to hypothermia wouldn't wake again. The wind screeched like dragons around Mikey and Andrea. The ice falling from the heavens left cuts on the girl's exposed arms. Her tight blue knee high dress with a laced chest was soaked and see through. Her fur boots were covered in snow, and her curly auburn mop was matted with the pine leaves that had fallen from the tree. Mikey was asleep, and Andrea may have been eight, but she knew he was in trouble.
Out of no where, a different sound came from within the wind. It was similar to the screech of the storm, but sounded softer. Like a curious animal. Suddenly, out of the white fog a scaly, brown-red snout poked into view. Andrea gasped as she saw acid green eyes gaze at her. The weird thing was, unlike most dragons she'd met, these eyes weren't filled with fire. They seemed sad, maybe worried.
The dragon came closer, and Andrea soon realized why he was more afraid than ferocious. The beast was much smaller than the others. His tail wasn't even half the length of the tree, and his front fangs were pointed outward rather than curved like a snakes. From what she'd been told in stories from her brother when he'd see a battle in the town, this dragon couldn't have been any older than a young adult just hardly coming out of his adolescents.
At first, Andrea thought the dragon was going to hurt her out of fear and the need to protect himself. He may have been smaller than most, but too an eight year old like her the beast was more dangerous than any mountain lion or wild dog. Poppy began barking loudly, but when the head soon turned into a long neck coming out of the fog, he quickly retreated behind his human.
Andrea held her breath as the dragon edged closer. He breathed a ring of smoke into her face, before sniffing her curiously. The eight year old was taught these particular creatures were ferocious, unforgiving, and merciless. She'd never heard about curiosity or hesitance.
In one quick moment, a long, scaly red tail wrapped around Andrea. This was it, she was sure he'd crush her. The dragon didn't though. Surprisingly, the tail rested lightly around her. The beast blew fire into the snow, and his body hummed before heating up. An odd but useful trait. Was this dragon comforting her?
"Why are you helping me?" Andrea whispered, reaching out her hand to touch the scaly snout. The dragon allowed her curiosity, allowing tiny, pale, shaking hands to brush across his head and gently pat his temple as if he was a dog. In response, he was gently nuzzled the oxygen tank in the snow, then Mikey who was still asleep. Andrea got the message soon enough, and her eyes widened.
"W-we're vulnerable. You're helping us like mom helps sick orphans who come out here away from town. We don't have a place to stay...s-so you...How? I mean...You're a-a dragon ." The dragon snorted in response, perhaps offended by the way he was called. He cocked his head sideways, before jabbing Andrea in the chest lightly with his snout as if saying 'I'm the one helping you here'.
Andrea let out a gasp as the snout collided with her chest, before chuckling softly to herself. "You're more intelligent than most would think. Not that that's a bad thing." The dragon cocked his head to the side again in confusion, before shrugging his bony wings as if to mimic a human. He lay his head in Andrea's lap, surprising her further.
A few more hours went by until sunrise finally came. Everything was blanketed in snow, and Andrea soon heard Mathew shouting for her and Mikey. She looked at the dragon who perked up in alarm to hearing the sound of a young man.
"Go. He can't see you." The dragon did as he was told, and quickly nuzzled Mikey to wake him up. After the boy was awake, the fearful creature quickly retreated before Mikey could get a glimpse of what had awoken him.
"Andrea? There you are!" Mathew quickly ran over to the group of pine trees after spotting his brother and sister. He pulled off his Jacket along the way, wrapping it around the two. He sat Moby in the wagon, and called Poppy to follow him. Mikey sat on his shoulders, and he carried Andrea in his arms bridal style after she quickly fell asleep as a result of exhaustion.
Years later Andrea was back here, on her favorite slab of rock just the day after Mathew went back to war in honor of his father after recovering from his wounds. Poppy now rested next to her, his head in her lap. The dog was older now, still full of energy but tall enough to reach her mid torso. Up in the stars, a shadow suddenly passed through the night sky. Andrea gasped in surprise as what was thought to be a comet shot down towards her. The beast landed nearby, and the twelve year old quickly pressed her back against the tree in fear. This was no adolescent or baby. This was an adult dragon. A fire breathing beast big enough to crush an army.
Surprisingly, the dragon didn't shoot fire like Andrea expected. Instead, he sniffed Poppy who whimpered at first, but then decided the best approach was littering the dragon's snout with doggy kisses.
"I wonder...." Andrea lifted her small hand up, shaking wildly as the dragon's piercing acid green eyes locked with hers. He snorted a ring of smoke, just like he had years ago, before pressing his snout into the twelve year old's hand and allowing her to pat his temple like a dog.
"Y-You're back. You've been here all along." The dragon nodded, obviously having learned more human gestures since the last time he saw Andrea. The girl smiled at him when he turned his back to her, and this time didn't have a little brother who might wake up and see her secret friend.
"It's worth a shot." Andrea took off her oxygen for the first time in a while, and despite finding it a bit hard to breath, she climbed onto the back of the giant dragon. Poppy climbed on behind her, and they took into the air. Somehow being the cooler atmosphere, high above all the dust and dirt below, it was easy to breath fresh air without the oxygen. Andrea was more free than she'd been in years, and didn't have to worry about weak legs because she had wings.
"We're doing this a lot more often." Andrea said with a sigh, patting the dragon's neck. The dragon curved his neck to face her, giving the twelve year old what looked like a wink. This would be a journey to remember.