Some people will tell you that dragons are mythical creatures, but I know better. My dragon is very real and this morning it sits in the corner, cleaning its scales. It’s about the size of the clothes dryer, dark red and black, and smells like a desiccated frog. Some days my dragon follows me everywhere I go, watching me, judging me. Other days it stays in the corner, curled up and sleeping. Once, on a very bad day, it flapped its leathery wings and landed on my shoulders, digging its claws into my shoulders and chest. I could barely breath that day. I could barely walk that day. How I got through that day, I still don’t know. No one seemed to care, or if they did see my dragon, they mostly averted their attention, looked anywhere but at me. I mean, how could you miss a guy with a dragon on his shoulders?
The morning fog settled in around them as Eli struggled with the wagon wheel.
“You should have replaced that a week ago like I told you,” admonished Hermoine perched atop the buckboard seat holding the reins. “You never listen to me.”
“As well I shouldn’t,” Eli muttered under his breath.
“I said its all the extra weight in the back what’s done it,” said Eli, loud enough for his wife, who was a tad hard of hearing except when he didn’t want her to be, could hear it.
“I am not fat, if that’s what you are implying sir.” She pulled out a small derringer from her purse and pointed it at him. He’d emptied the weapon before they left the homestead this morning to ensure no one would be shot. Her proclivity for waving that pearl-handled gun around in public was well known, and quite possibly why the townsfolk had insisted that the old married couple move to the outskirts of the village proper.
The wagon creaked under the weight of the new harvesting machine Eli had been working on. They were to deliver the machine, all two tonnes of it, with conveyors and wires and a clanky loud motor when it was running, to the train station to be shipped back east where a group of investors waited most anxiously to see if their funding would produce the promised revolution in picking peaches.
Mary brought me a slice of warm apple pie, a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, just the way I like it. A stream of coffee refilled the cup at my elbow. Better to be inside than out in that storm. Things were the way they should be.
The door blew open, rain poured in to the diner. I stood to close it and a flash of lightning revealed the outline of a man in the doorway. Thunder crashed around us as he stepped out of the night and into the fluorescent lighting. Another gust of wind blew the door shut behind the stranger and he stood there, drenched, and leaving an expanding puddle around his feet.
“I need some help,” he said.
My understanding of his countenance changed from seeing a menacing figure to a desperate man, a man on the run. That’s when I noticed the water on the floor was pink and turning red. The lights flickered and went out with another crash of lightning as the man collapsed to the floor.
He overlooked it the first time.
The moment he saw her, he knew she was the one.
The soul blossom glittered in the morning light.
She coughed, once, then spat in his face.
Every once in a while, something extraordinary happens.
Her name was Ferocity, and she lived up to it.
The ground shook with every step.
“Get off a my lawn,” was about the only thing anyone recollected he ever said.
His payment hardly covered his expenses.
The train was late; it was never late.
The following case files are sealed by court order.
Icy river water filled his shoes.
The reason she ran away from home is this: she’d killed her sister. That’s a little imprecise. She’d actually felt responsible for her sister’s death. Yes, that’s more to the point. Blame is always easy to cast about, like spaghetti sauce flinging from the end of a gob of pasta noodles spinning on the end of a fork, and about as difficult to clean up after.
The truth is all nuanced and perspective dependent. One perspective, that of Ferocity, goes something like this.