The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2011 Sheila McClune
The dragon’s words slammed into me like a freight train, leaving me gasping for air. “Not…true…here?” I said, feebly. “But…then…where is ‘here’? Aren’t we under Denver International Airport?
The dragon’s great maw opened wide. Its laughter shook its entire body, and me with it, until I was certain the vibrations would bring rocks down from the unseen ceiling overhead. When it finally stopped, wheezing for breath and blowing brimstone-scented air over me, it said, “Are there dragons in your world, little hoo-mun?”
“Well, generally, no,” I had to admit. Though I’d had a boss once….
“And has there ever been a cavern underneath your–what did you call it?–your airport before?”
“No, I don’t think so.” I didn’t get to DIA a lot, but I think I’d have heard of a cavern like this. Especially since the train track apparently led right into it.
“That is because you are no longer in your world. You are in mine.” It swung around so that we were facing back toward the train. “Do you see that greenly glow?”
“Yes.” And it looked awfully far away. Especially with the dragon’s words echoing in my head: No longer in your world…no longer in your world…. I whimpered. “So what is that thing, anyway?”
“That’s a Fae Gate. You must have come through it to get here. Though I must admit, I thought all the Gates to your world were closed. At least, they’ve been closed for the last thousand years. But I know there used to be a Fae Gate here, once upon a time, and so I check on it from time to time, you see.”
“From time to time? How often is that?”
“When I think of it. Perhaps every three or four years.”
“Of course.” Just my luck, to pop through that gate-thingy on the very day the dragon came a-calling. “Look, can we at least–”
“Hello-o-o?” a voice called from the darkness below. “Hey, lady, are you still out there?”
For a moment, I couldn’t imagine who it could be. Then my bruised pubic bone reminded me: the guy from the train.
I was saved! “Help!” I screamed. “I’m being kidnapped by a dragon! Help!”
There was a long, long pause. One in which I could hear water dripping somewhere nearby, drops plashing into a pool far below.
Before I could answer, the dragon interrupted. “You didn’t tell me there was another hoo-mun down there!” We started to move back toward the train. Quickly.
“Get back in the train, you idiot!” I yelled. “Now!”
But I couldn’t answer him, because the dragon’s claws tightened around me, squeezing every last bit of breath out of my body. I struggled, but in vain. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even cry. And Lord knows I wanted to do all of the above.
The next thing I knew, I was plunging toward the ground, still pinned in the dragon’s claw, still fighting for even a sip of air. The green glow grew brighter. But my vision had gone all blurry. I tried to focus, but couldn’t. All I could think about was my body’s screaming need for air, Real Soon Now.
The claws around me loosened abruptly, so much so that I nearly slid out of the cage-like paw. I dragged breath into my lungs as I struggled to hang on to the nearest claw. I had to pull in three more ragged breaths before it registered in my brain that someone was screaming, and two more after that before I figured out that this time, it wasn’t me.
“What’s wrong with it?” There was an edge of panic in the dragon’s voice. “Why won’t it stop screaming? You stopped screaming. Why won’t it stop? Make it stop, little hoo-mun!
Squinting into the darkness, I could see that the dragon was holding the man from the train in its other claw. His arm was bent at an awkward angle; his screams made my throat ache in sympathy.
“Put him down, Dragon. But gently. He’s broken.”
“He broke his arm when we crashed through that gate-thingy. Put him down. Please.” The man’s screams had reached new heights of agony, and I could only imagine the kind of pain he was in.
“He will stop screaming if I do?”
“Yes. Just please, put him down.”
The ground loomed closer once again, and the dragon laid the man gently down in a flat spot within the radius of the Gate’s green glow. The man rolled onto his side, curling around his broken arm. His breath came in weak sobs. “Oh, God. Oh, God.”
“Are you all right?”
“What is that thing?” The man uncurled long enough to look up to where I still hung from the dragon’s claw, about ten feet above the rocky floor of the cave.
“I told you, it’s a dragon. But are you all right?”
“I…don’t think….” And he projectile vomited across the cave floor.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then,” I said.