Yep, that time again. Two days past that time, in fact. So, without further ado, here is:
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2011 Sheila McClune
As I started to back numbly away from the bar, six more bars slid in front of me from the other side, in roughly even intervals from shoulder to thigh, all seven together forming a cage and trapping me against some sort of leathery cushion that had appeared behind me. My heart raced; I hated feeling trapped. “Hey. Hey! Let me go!”
In response, the bars slid more tightly around me, squeezing the breath out of me. I wanted to struggle against them, to try to break free, but my stinging, bleeding hand reminded me of the sharp ends and I held still.
The cage around me rose slowly into the air, taking me with it through the darkness above. In the greenish glow of the strange curtain, I could see the wreckage of the train dwindling below.
I’d like to be able to say that I didn’t do the girly thing and scream at that point, but I’d be lying. I also wanted my mommy very badly, which was saying a great deal given that we hadn’t spoken in three years. But at least I can truthfully say that I didn’t pee my pants.
When I and the cage around me stopped moving, I strained to see in the dim green light from below. All I could make out at first were two darker patches in the dimness in front of me, side by side, about two feet high. I heard a sound of rushing air and a low rumble. Then the view shifted, and as my eyes grew more accustomed to the dim lighting, I was able to make out a smooth, shiny orb hovering in the air in front of me. It helped that the orb glowed a little, a warm ruby-red color. Its light seemed to soothe me, and I began to relax, just a little.
And then the orb blinked, and if I’d had room to recoil in shock, I would have. It wasn’t an orb; it was an eye, the biggest freaking eye I’d ever seen. It was at least half as tall as I was, and as I watched, it glowed more brightly—and so did the other one, just a few feet further away. In their light, I could see more of the enormous face in front of me: eyebrow ridges, muzzle, ears, nostrils—oh wait, those were the dark patches I’d seen before—and teeth. Not just teeth. Teeth.
These were the biggest, nastiest-looking teeth I’d ever seen, longer than my arm and slightly curved, coming to needle-sharp points at the ends. The skin on my arms crawled at the thought of those teeth piercing my tender and all-too-shreddable flesh.
Every instinct in my body urged me to run, to get away from the thing as fast as I could. Not that it made a difference. Even if I did get free of the cage around me—which I suddenly realized was not a cage at all, but a giant paw, with seven sharp claws—I’d fall to the ground, who-knows-how-far below.
It was not the kind of fall human beings were designed to survive.
As I stared at the gigantic eye in front of me, I began to shiver. I was going to die, I realized. Torn to shreds by those needle-like teeth.
No, I tried to reason with myself. If the creature really wanted me dead, all it had to do was squeeze a little harder. I could barely breathe as it was; a few more ounces of pressure ought to do me in. The fact that I was still gasping at all told me that the thing must not want me dead. Yet, whispered a more fatalistic part of my brain.
The nostrils moved toward me and sniffed me again. The eyes glowed even brighter, and as I caught another whiff of the fireworks smell, I suddenly put the pieces together.
“You’re a dragon!” It came out a little louder than I’d intended.
The eyes blinked their surprise. Then, I swear to God, the thing smiled, showing me more teeth, this time molars that looked more suited to grinding than shredding. “A very astute and accurate observation,” rumbled a voice so low that I felt as much as heard it. “And you…” It sniffed me again. “I’ve never encountered your kind before, but from what I’ve read, I must conclude that you are…a hoo-mun.” More sniffing. “A female hoo-mun. A maiden, most specifically.”
I felt my face go beet red. “That is none of your goddamned business!”
“Oho, but I think it is.” The sniffs turned into deep, savoring inhalations. “You do smell every bit as delicious as the ancient tomes describe. Delicate, really; rather like sunrise, mixed with hope and dewfall and delbow blossoms.” It gave another deep, savoring sniff. “With a hint of…hazelnuts, I believe.”
I gulped. And then, as much as it pains me to admit it, I whimpered. Trembling? I did that, too.
A deep rumbling sound echoed around me. It took me a moment to realize that the dragon was laughing—at me. “Worry not, little hoo-mun. As delicious as you smell, I don’t plan to eat you. Your kind are far too rare for that.”