Welcome to a new short story. This one started from a random dream snippet of a dragon walking on me. Go figure. I don’t usually remember my dreams but this one stuck and I couldn’t resist attempting a story.
It grew longer than I’d like but I really prefer to keep it all within a week, so I’ll post it in three parts with an extra post on Saturday. Personally I prefer that over posting two gigantic posts. Let me know, Dear Readers, if you would prefer something different because these stories are for your enjoyment. Or, if you have any editing suggestions that would help tighten the story, I’d love to hear those too.
Again, welcome and I hope you enjoy=)
When Sticks Move
I should know better. Layla prided herself on being able to see practical jokes coming. She’d never been the brunt of one—until now. Micah would never let her live it down if he’d just succeeded in pulling one over on her.
But he swore dragons existed and there’d been something to his confidence that made her believe him. Said he’d seen a few but most people never slowed down long enough to see what lay hidden right before their eyes.
The tall grass swayed, tickling Layla’s cheek. She resisted the urge to scratch. Laying on her back, she remained still, taking slow, long breaths.
She wanted to believe Micah but now she was starting to think he was making a fool out of her.
He lay a few feet to her left, probably laughing this whole time, staying still just to see how long she would wait.
Layla could see it. His silent laugh spread across his face. That was Micah’s way. He played jokes on people all the time and this would be the laugh of the month for him. She almost sat up to see but then stopped herself.
What if he wasn’t lying? What if there really were dragons?
She stopped a snort in her nose. It tickled. Blinking a couple of times to distract herself from sneezing, she refocused on the stick jutting out of the grass several yards from her feet.
The tree it came from probably lay hidden in the grass, recently fallen. At least Layla guessed recently fallen because the bark still covered the branch in a thick layer of dark ridges. It curved toward the end and rounded out like a snout.
If she imagined it, she could believed the little bowl toward the end to be a nostril and the oval circles farther back to be a closed eyelid and brow ridge.
Perhaps her fancy was getting the better of her but the longer she stared, the more like a head the stick looked.
It moved. Layla twitched and blinked. Then kept her lids open for a prolonged period of time, watching. It moved again, swinging slowly to the left, then the right with the nostrils flaring in air.
The lids opened just a crack. Emerald green glinted through. Layla bit the inside of her lip to keep from squealing.
It rose in the grass and the hint of a back emerged below the long neck. Layla wondered how she ever mistook it for a stick but Micah was right, she usually would have walked right past it without a question in her mind.
The neck stretched out like a cat getting up from a nap before the dragon moved off to the right.
Layla wanted so badly to follow it. To simply pivot her head to keep it in her line of sight. But Micah had been adamant about not moving. He said dragons sensed motion. Any movement and she’d never see it again.
She could hear it though. The creature’s sinuous steps swished in the grass, slow and cautious.
Something brushed her arm and Layla choked in a scream. A clawed foot rose above her, the toes stretched out for balance. The dragon’s head lifted high above its body, not watching the ground it walked on but watching the horizon like it expected something to appear.
The foot came down across Layla’s torso, shifting heel to toe from her right to her left and pressing into her rib cage as the dragon put its weight down.
Micah swore she wasn’t to move, especially if it’d spook the dragon because then it might attack.
Layla held her breath and tensed her stomach as the weight pressed into her. She rolled slowly with the heel to toe motion, right to left. Tears pooled and then streamed from the outside corners of her eyes and into her hair.
The dragon never looked down. It placed its other foot and the weight slowly lifted.
Just as Layla started to relax, the tail drug across her body. Its rough scales heated her skin and, when the tail was gone and she braved looking, she saw it had burned her like the rug in her mom’s living room.
“It burned you!” Micah held her arm to examine the burn.
“Its tail did,” Layla attempted to pull away but it didn’t work. “Alan would love seeing a dragon! I’ve got to tell him.”
Micah’s grip tightened, keeping her from racing home “He’d hate it.”
Layla stilled, searching Micah’s eyes. “Hate it?”
Micah looked away and released her arm.
“What do you mean, Micah?”
“Nothing.” He walked away, no sign of humor in his eyes.
Layla kept her head down as she ate dinner. Beside her sat Alan, his elbow brushing her burned arm every time he lifted his spoon to his mouth.
His elbow brushed her again and Layla winced. She covered it by taking another bite.
“Long sleeves, Layla?”
Layla looked up. Mom interrupted Alan to ask the question. It was Mom’s way. She blurted whatever caught her attention.
Layla tried not to look at the scar that ran into her Mom’s hair. Being hit by a runaway wagon had done more than leave a scar. It’d destroyed a part of their Mom’s brain. The part that could track a whole conversation.
“Just chilled,” Layla lied. In reality it was hot—really hot—but she couldn’t think up a way to explain her burn without confusing her mom. “Too much sun, maybe.”
Mom hummed and Alan picked up talking again like nothing happened.
Layla finished eating and took the plates, rushing away to escape Alan’s elbow. She’d never noticed before how much he bumped her while eating.
She spun to find Alan leaning against the kitchen doorframe.
He smirked. “Long sleeves when it’s burning hot outside? Really?”
The mention of burning made Layla twitch. “Just got burned when Micah was showing me how to start a fire using witch’s hair. Didn’t want to explain to Mom.”
Alan eyed her and Layla knew he didn’t believe her. He shrugged before turning away. Layla breathed in relief. He hadn’t pressed, which was odd, but she wasn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth.
Maybe she should have looked the gift horse in the mouth. Layla lay still in the middle of the field. Micah refused to come with her. He said too much time out in the field and someone might start asking questions.
But Layla hadn’t been able to resist. She’s waited for everyone to leave the house and then headed out the back.
Instead of seeing a stick or something that might resemble a dragon, she was pretty sure she’d been followed.
To Be Continued on Thursday…