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Flash Fiction 2012 Honorable Mention


 

 Connor's Dragon

by R. F. Marazas


Connor marched from his grandfather’s cottage toward the forest below to find a dragon, determined to make it his pet.  His grandfather had read him many stories about knights and dragons and magic and other wondrous things in the old days when Granpa was a boy and all the children had pet dragons.

“But Granpa, why don’t I have one?”

He got down on one knee and gripped the boy’s shoulders.  “You will.  If you believe, really believe, you will.  Imagination!  Use your imagination!”

Now Granpa watched from his doorway as Connor marched.  He carried the wooden sword and shield Granpa had made for him — just in case — and a sack of bread and cheese to keep his strength up.  Granpa smiled and frowned at the same time.

Every year since had Connor started to walk, he had spent a summer week at the cottage while his parents traveled to the castle to join other Advisors from across the kingdom.  During this annual conference they advised the King on how best to rule his subjects.

Connor’s parents often scolded the old man about filling the boy’s head with nonsense, but he ignored their protests.  Reality would come soon enough for the boy; imagination was important.  Too many grownups in the kingdom lacked it.  As Connor disappeared around the bend the old man tried to ignore his growing doubts.

In the forest clearing Connor saw an opening at the bottom of the rocky hill.  He peered into the cave and heard a snuffling sound.  “Hello,” he called.  A low rumble sounded.  A giant head appeared: angry lidded eyes, swept-back horns, long snout, curled sharp teeth, and wisps of black smoke from the mouth.

“You’re a dragon,” Connor said.

“Yesss.”

“And you can talk!”

“Yesss.”

Connor saw a giant tear snake down the snout.  “Why are you crying?”

The dragon hissed his story.  A mean wizard had passed by one day.  The dragon felt playful, so he spat out a small flame just to startle the wizard.  The flame hit the ground harmlessly but then bounced up and singed the wizard’s robe.  The angry wizard chased the dragon back into the cave and cast a spell.  The dragon could no longer fly nor belch fire, and he found himself chained by his leg to the wall of the cave.  Every day the wizard returned to the cave to taunt him.

Connor frowned and thought hard.  “My granpa will know what to do.  He has imagination.  If I save you, will you be my pet?”

The dragon bared his sharp teeth.  Connor jumped back but the dragon said “Yesss.” 

The old man was tending his garden when Connor ran breathless to him and gasped out his story.  What an imagination, he thought.  And I taught him.  He believes me.  What do I do now, laugh at him and tell him I was fooling, or go along with it to the end, whatever that is?

“See those mushrooms back there under the trees?”

Connor nodded.

“They’re magic mushrooms.  Pick them all and put them in a sack.  Then run back and feed them to the dragon.  Here’s what will happen.”  He bent down and whispered in Connor’s ear.  Connor’s eyes went wide and he smiled.  “And don’t forget, run out of the cave and hold your nose.”

Connor skidded to a stop.  The wizard stood at the entrance to the cave.  Connor swallowed hard.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the wizard said.

“I came to break the spell and save the dragon.”

The wizard laughed hard, then frowned and narrowed his eyes.  “Go away, boy, before I turn you into a toad.”

Connor shivered but forced fear from his voice.  “Are you afraid that I can do it?”

“Try it, then,” the wizard shouted.  “If you fail, I’ll chain you beside the dragon, where you’ll both rot!”

Connor rushed into the cave.  The dragon filled almost the whole space.  A torch on the wall cast the only light.   Connor petted the dragon and whispered so the wizard couldn’t hear.  Then he opened his sack and threw mushroom after mushroom into the dragon’s open mouth until the sack was empty.  The dragon belched once, rose, and turned his back to the wizard while Connor slipped past and outside.

Holding his nose, Connor watched the dragon raise his long, arrow-tipped tail and blast a foul-smelling cloud of gas from under it.  His belly rumbled like a volcano and he let out another loud blast, which knocked the wizard against the wall.  The wizard coughed and screamed for help as the dragon kept blasting, filling the small cave with a horrible smell.

Connor yelled to the wizard.  “Will you undo the spell on the dragon?”

“Yes, yes anything.  Just make him stop!”

There was a flash of light and a roar and the wizard stumbled out, coughing, tears streaming from his eyes.  He ran and fell.  He got up again and disappeared into the woods.

The dragon emerged, flapping his giant wings and taking deep gulps of the forest air.  He peered down at Connor.  “It will be yearsss before the smell goesss away.  I mussst leave the cave.”

Connor touched the dragon’s snout.  “You’re my pet.  You can live with me now.”


Granpa waited for Connor, worrying.  Were Connor’s parents right?  Had he filled the boy’s head with nonsense?  And what would he say when Connor returned disappointed?  Like most adults, the old man had lost the ability to believe, to imagine.  He didn’t want Connor to lose it too.

Suddenly the sun was blocked.  The old man looked up to see a dragon swooping down with Connor on its back.  “Granpa, Granpa, the magic mushrooms worked.  Come see my new pet!”

The old man gaped.  Then he laughed and jumped up and down, putting aside the thought of what Connor’s parents would say. 


 

 The Dragon Coin

by Barbara Purbaugh


Gavin stared at the gold coin in his hand.  He had never seen one before.  It couldn’t be real.  They were only myths, legends that had nothing to do with him, a long-haired carnie at a backwoods fairground.  But even as he pulled the hair from his eyes and tasted the dust of the fairgrounds on his lips, he knew it wasn’t fake.  He knew it was a golden coin from Merlin the magician.  Gavin stood in the doorway of his camper and ran his fingers over the coin.  It was engraved with the head of a dragon.

“Where did you get this?” he asked the girl who had handed it to him.

“My mother gave it to me, but you know where it came from.”

According to the legend, the bearer of the coin would receive one spell from Merlin or his descendants.  The original reason for the coin and the favor was lost to time, but every descendant of Merlin knew the legend.

“What do you want, kid?” he asked.

She bristled.  He looked at her.  She was small and thin, dressed in an oversize T-shirt and jeans.  She wore flip-flops, and her feet were dirty.  Her dark hair was long and pulled back into a knot at the base of her neck.

“Do you have any family members?” she asked.

He grinned.  “What’sa matter, kid?” he asked, stepping from the camper.  “Don’t I look like a magician to you?”

“No,” she said honestly.  “You look like a carnie.”

He laughed.  “Ta-dah,” he said, making a gesture like a magician.  “I’m sad to report, kid, that the last of Merlin’s great descendants are indeed carnies.  Not a one of us possesses an ounce of magical power.  All of our magic has been lost through the generations.  We do have a spellbook, but none of us can read it.  Hell, some of us can barely read at all.”  He tossed the coin to her.   “Sorry, kid, we couldn’t do you any kind of magical favor — and the other kinds of favors we can do for you, you don’t want.”

“Is this a test?” she asked.

He laughed.  “Fuck, no.  My family isn’t very good at tests either.”  He started to walk away.

“Can I see the book?” she asked.

He looked down at her.  “Sure, why not?”  He motioned for her to follow him.  The fair was closing for the night, and the smell of stale carnival food drifted through the air.  “Kid, for a little thing, you got a lot of nerve.”

He took her to his grandmother’s trailer.  His grandmother was well over seventy years old, one of those skinny, hunched-over old ladies with a thousand miles of lines on her face.  She made cotton candy and read tarot cards at the carnival.  She didn’t even blink when he walked into the trailer with the girl behind him.  She was sitting in an old recliner, soaking her feet in an old dishpan.

“This is Lindy,” he said.  He walked to the back of the trailer, where his grandmother kept the book in a plastic tote.  “Show her the coin,” he shouted to Lindy as he searched for it.

He heard his grandma suck in her breath as she viewed the coin.  “Oh, Gavin,” she said to him as he presented the spellbook to Lindy.

The girl sat on the couch and opened the book, flipping through the pages.  “I can’t read it either,” she said.

Gavin looked at her.  She looked tired, like an old woman in a young girl’s body.

“What is it you want?” his grandmother whispered.

“I don’t want to be a dragon,” Lindy said.  She looked up at him.  Her eyes were distinctly reptilian yellow, with a black slit down the center.  They were filled with tears.

“Fuck,” he muttered.  He never knew that dragons weren’t dragons, but...

“Shapeshifters,” his grandmother said, finishing his thought.

Gavin didn’t know what to make of this.  It was no secret that Merlin had had a love/hate relationship with dragons.  Why would he grant them a favor?  Why would he give them the coin?

“Where are your people?” his grandmother asked.

“All gone,” Lindy said.  “I’m the last of my kind.”

“What happened to the others?” he asked.

“No one knows.  Some say we killed each other.  Some say Merlin cursed us.  Others say we just went extinct like other species.”

“Are you sure there are no others?” he asked.

“Positive.  Dragons are not wanderers.”  She looked at the coin.  “Merlin knew there would be only one of us left someday, and there’s a spell in the book to make that one completely human.”

“How did you find us?” Gavin’s grandmother asked.

“The coin led me here.  It glows.”  She reached out to take it from his grandmother.  As she did, the coin glowed over the book, and the book began to glow too.

“Look,” he said.  He sat on the couch next to Lindy.  He opened the book to the dragon pictures.  He knew the pictures by heart from the hours he’d spent as a kid poring over the book and trying to understand it.

She moved the coin over the dragon pages.

“Fertility spell for the last dragon,” he read.

Lindy looked at him.

“It’s not a spell to stop you from being a dragon.  It’s a spell to create more dragons.  He wasn’t ending dragons.  He was saving them.”

Lindy smiled.


 

 Feeding Time

by Christopher Sandusky


She glided through the air, the whistle of the wind broken by a solid fwoomph, like sailcloth catching a strong wind, as her leathery wings beat downward to give her lift.  On the ground far below, the shadow of her bat-winged form skimmed silently across the green forest canopy.

The burden carried in her forefeet was lighter now, the blood having painted that same canopy in streaks of red as it drained from the gashes her talons had raked as they clutched the now-dead cow.  She could still feel its lingering warmth; it hadn't been long since she'd snatched it from the field leagues distant on the forest's far side.  She could still hear the farmer's squeals of protest as she snatched it in front of him.  He'd been about to kill the cow himself, and she found it amusing to think that she'd stolen the kill from another predator.  Actually, the thought of that grubby, clumsy creature as a predator was probably the part she enjoyed the most.

The brief stings of his neighbors' arrows as they bounced off her scales were far less amusing.  They had no chance of piercing the silvery-blue armor that shimmered in the afternoon sun like the fish swimming just below the surface of the river she was passing over.  But those arrows might find purchase in the softer, unprotected membrane of her wings.

When the forest gave way to fields, she swooped downward, startling a herd of deer and sending them scattering through the tall grass.  Circling lazily, she gave chase to a couple.  Had she not already acquired the cow, the deer might have made a good meal.  Actually, she preferred the taste of deer but the cow had far more meat on it, and quantity was what she needed.

After wasting a few minutes amusing herself, she flapped her massive wings and rose back into the sky again, idly noting the wolves below as they took down two of the deer that had become separated from the rest.  At least someone would enjoy venison that day.

The sun sank lower.  Plains gave way to foothills and valleys as she neared her lair.  The cow clutched close, she dived into a valley.  Clouds of dust rose from the ground as she flapped her wings to slow her descent, releasing the carcass to hit the ground with a solid thump before she landed beside it.  She turned to face the cave and then bellowed in pain as cold metal pierced her left wing.

"Get the other one!" someone shouted as the barb of something much larger than an arrow snagged on one of the bones of her wing, dragging it toward the ground.

Snarling, she whipped her tail in the speaker's direction.  His own sound of pain, following a sharp crack, ended quickly.  His compatriot’s next harpoon sailed well past her wing, falling to the ground as the rough hemp rope draped limply over her scaled back.

"No, forget that one!" a new voice shouted.  "Get the wing, damn you!  You can't tie its body to the ground!  Get the WI—" The sound cut off as her fangs sank into the speaker's body.  Her nose wrinkled at the taste of the unwashed human.  The third harpoon struck home, however, and the men on both sides began to pull, yanking her wings toward the ground, keeping her from leaping back into the air to escape.

"Now hold it there," a third voice commanded.  This one was calm, lacking the frantic tone and labored breathing of the first two men.  The speaker was someone who hadn't exerted himself trying to subdue her.  He had saved his energy to finish her off.  He wore steel armor; his sword glistened in the fading sunlight the way her scales did.

She let out a roar as he walked between her and the cave, sword outstretched and shield at the ready.

"And now, dragon, you die," the man said.

Behind him, her hungry young answered her call with their own.