“Someone’s Dragon Is Double-Parked Outside” is a flash fic challenge from Chuck Wendig’s site Terrible Minds. I placed this story in my Vegan Vamp world, and it takes place about ten years before the soon-to-release Night Shift Witch (update: now available!). First draft version follows, editing errors and all.
Someone’s Dragon Is Double-Parked Outside
Magic—it’s a thing. I knew that.
My foot hovered above the bottom porch step as I eyed the great scaly beast squatting half-on, half-off the curb in front of my house.
Nope. Nuh-uh. Magic or no, dragons weren’t real.
It grinned at me.
I did a one-eighty and went back inside. I didn’t need to go to school today. Not really. I closed the front door and leaned back on it. The cool metal felt solid, real, and that gave my mind enough of anchor to consider my sick excuses. Achy tired? Upset stomach? Migraine? I just had to pick one, and tell mom I wasn’t up to school today.
And when she left for work—I glanced at the hall clock—in fifteen minutes and that thing turned out not to be a figment of my imagination?
The sharp pain of my head falling back against the door made my eyes water.
If magic was a thing—and it was. I’d recently become a witch-in-training, so of course I believed in magic—then it wasn’t so far-fetched that a dragon was double-parked outside my house. Although, taking up that much space, it’s great body flowing well into the street, one of our neighbors had to have seen it.
No sirens, no flashing lights, no choppers… The breath I’d been holding left my body with a whooshing noise. It was my imagination. Obviously. I’d been under some stress lately, what with learning about magic, starting the apprentice witch gig, and juggling all of that with school. Whatever Mom said, sophomore year wasn’t a walk in the park. Yep, stress.
Before I could reconsider, I opened the door and stuck my head out.
It fluttered it’s freakishly long, feminine lashes at me.
I walked down the steps to get a closer look.
Oh, yes—lashes. It fluttered them again, and I started to wonder if the poor creature had a speck of dirt in its huge reptilian eye.
The fluttering stopped, and its grin drooped at the corners. After a few seconds of much too intent scrutiny—which, frankly, made my skin prickle—it dropped most of its bulk to the ground. The loud thud made had me checking the length of the street for curious neighbors, but not a single soul scurried outside.
When I turned back to the dragon, it had planted its chin firmly on the ground. There was a bizarre resemblance to my friend’s begging Labrador. The slight incline of the yard meant I was higher than the monstrous creature, so it looked up at me just like Snooker mooching a piece of bacon from the kitchen floor. There was even a similar wide-eyed look of mingled hope and despair.
“Oh, lord. Are you someone’s pet?”
I’d swear the thing’s tail twitched.
“Are you lost?”
It lifted its head slightly. No clue what that meant.
At this rate, I wouldn’t be fibbing to claim the onset of a migraine. Free pass from school—yippee. Hard to take any pleasure in that, though, when the very real problem of a scaly fanged critter on my doorstep needed sorting.
It cocked its head curiously at me, for all the world as if it could read my mind and thought the answer to my question ridiculously obvious.
“Right. I see how you are.” I considered my options, figured there was really only one, and then said, “Stay.” I held up hand and started to back away. “Stay.”
Tendrils of smoke or steam puffed out of its nostrils, and then it settled itself into a tightly wrapped ball with its long spiked tail curled all the way around its body.
Seemed like agreement to me, so I turned around and hot-footed it to the kitchen, slowing down just long enough to make sure the front door closed quietly behind me.
It was probably protected from view, otherwise, someone would have seen it by now—but who knew how long that would last? And while it seemed harmless enough, what if a neighbor dog came along? A dog might seem like nothing more than a bite-sized morsel to such a giant creature.
I sped up a bit when I realized that hypothetical neighbor dog would be attached to a neighbor. I practically slammed into the wall as I used it to stop myself.
Huffing and puffing, I grabbed the kitchen phone off the wall, dialed my mentor, and then hid in the pantry. I didn’t want to consider the consequences if Mom heard this particular conversation.
Camille’s mellow tones came across the line. “Camille’s Crystals, how may I help you?”
“There’s a dragon on my curb.” I gasped for breath. “In front of my house.”
A range of shuffling noises followed and then a moment of silence. Finally, Camille said, “Oh, my. Is she still there? You can’t let her leave. There’s no telling when her protective charms will wear off.”
“What? How do I keep her here? And please, please tell me no one can see her.”
“Ah…” Camille paused, and I could see her in mind, searching for an answer that wouldn’t tip me over the edge. “Have a chat? She’s really quite social. And she’s probably terribly confused. Her djinni, the woman who cared for her, just died rather suddenly. We’ve been looking for Marge for the last few days.”
“Stephanie!” my mother called from the kitchen.
I poked my head of the pantry. “Hey, Mom. I’m not really—”
“You look terrible.” Mom’s brow crinkled in concern and I felt a pang of guilt. She reached out a hand to check my forehead. “You’re all clammy. You don’t think it’s the flu, do you? I can stay home, if you—”
“No!” I took a breath and said in a much calmer voice. “No, I’m just getting a friend to pick up my homework. I’ll be fine with a little sleep, I’m sure.”
She gave me a worried look.
“Go. I’ll be fine, and you’re going to be late to work.” Maybe this would be easier than I’d thought…
She brushed a damp tendril away from my face. “Okay. Drink lots of fluids, and I’ll call to check in before lunch. If you need anything—anything—you call me at work.”
I nodded, and tried not to feel like a rotten little sneak.
Finally, she left—and I definitely felt like a sneaky turkey.
After I heard the back door click shut, I said into the phone, “Sorry—just had to get my mom out the door. Oh, no. You said those protections might wear off?”
“They shouldn’t—but with the djinn’s death, several unforeseen variables have been added to the mix.”
I was already sprinting to the front door. When I cracked it open, I saw Mom backing down the drive…pulling into the street…driving away. “Thank god. Now what do I do with this dragon?” I rolled my eyes. “Marge. What do I do with Marge?”
As Camille explained why Marge, let loose from her djinn bond, might have been drawn to me—something to do with new magic and maidens, all very unicorn lore sounding to me—I tried not to drown in a wash of panic.
The dragon outside my door? I could handle Marge. The more Camille said, the more Marge sounded like a sweet, lost, confused puppy.
But dragons were real.
More real than the imaginary monsters lurking under my childhood bed.
Magic was real.
More real than the best friend who’d faded away when I was six and made real friends.
Really real. On my doorstep, in my life real.
I swallowed my panic and hung up the phone. I had things to do, like entertain a dragon for twenty minutes while the rescue crew made their way here.
Piece of cake.
That other thing, that cliff I’d just well and truly stepped off, that was no problem. Not at all.
To read more about Stephanie, aka Star, check out Night Shift Witch, releasing soon!