The forest was crawling with shadows as Jack slowly made his way home. He had taken the short cut in desperation, something he was starting to regret. With a shaky hand, he took his phone out and hit the flashlight symbol in hopes that it would illumine which way he should go. He could barely make out what was a few feet in front of him with the brave little light.
“Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay,” he moaned.
He wanted to call someone but didn’t want anyone to know how scared he was. After a few moments of hesitation, he decided to call his mom and ask her to pick him up. So, what if he got in trouble for wandering through the woods at night. His mother had repeatedly warned him against the idea, but he never took her seriously. The rumors of the disappearing children weren’t real; at least, no one he knew had disappeared. It was with this comforting knowledge that he had decided to take the short cut.
Jack unlocked his screen and started to scroll through his contacts. It was just as he was about to click on the word “mom” that something ran in front of him. He froze. What was that?
“It’s just a raccoon, everything is okay,” he mumbled. His legs turned into jelly as the hairs along his arms prickled to attention.
“I’m not a raccoon. Jack, you should have listened to your mother,” something whispered into his ear.
Jack screamed and dropped his phone.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t see, as something bit into his shoe and into his big toe. Whatever it was adjusted a few times so that its teeth weren’t tearing through the tender flesh of his foot as it dragged him through the rock and leaf-littered forest floor.
He wanted to scream, but couldn’t talk, nor could he stop the tears that bleed out of his eyes. He closed his eyes, wishing that it was just a dream. It had to be a nightmare, and soon his mother would rush in and wake him up. She would hug him close and tell him everything was okay, but he was still in the forest when he opened his eyes. He could vaguely make out the shadows of the dancing trees above him.
“Don’t look up at them. You will only encourage them to torment you,” the voice growled at him as it spit his foot out of its mouth.
“Close your eyes and hold your breath for a moment, until they stop moving. Maybe we will get lucky, and they won’t alert her about your presence here.”
Jack compiled to the command; it wasn’t like he could make anyway. He had tried, but his legs and arms still wouldn’t obey him.
It felt like he had fallen into an endless blank void. Just as he was about to hit rock bottom, something shook his leg, and then nipped at the tender flesh of his elbow.
Jack jerked upright. He was lying on a plush bed of leaves, and there was a small fire burning a few feet away from him. He looked around in a hazy daze. He was inside a warm homely cave. Colors were splashed over all the cave walls, from what he could see. Bright, brilliant, and inviting colors lined each stone wall that he could see. The more he looked at the enticing blues, purples, and pinks, the more he wanted to reach over and touch them.
“Don’t give in to the impulse. The magic will fade if you touch the glowing dust on my walls, and then I will have nowhere else to hide.”
Jack jumped at the voice. There was that voice, the voice who had stolen him away somewhere. He whipped his head around and completely froze.
A small dragon was lying curled up in a ball at the foot of his leafy bed. It wasn’t until the dragon started to unfurl itself in a long stretch that he noticed the glowing branch on its forehead.
“Don’t look so surprised, boy. I was once like you until the witch that dwells within this forest cursed me.”
The dragon cocked his head and huffed out a cloud of golden smoke, which hid half of his face. Jack stood up and immediately fell back down onto the plush leafy bed.
“My venom has not completely worn off, boy. I’d advise you to stay still for a bit longer. The more you struggle to be free of it, the stronger it will become,” the small green dragon sighed. The golden branch dulled. Jack leaned heavily against the cave wall as he watched the smoke swirl and slowly evaporate, reviling the dragon’s divided face. The right side of his face was covered in thick scared, and vine encrusted green scales while the left side of his face was exposed bone. He had one burning red-eye, which he closed as he turned away. Soon all Jack could see was the dragon’s skeleton.
“This is what some humans might call nightmare fuel,” the dragon laughed.
Jack didn’t see what was so funny; in fact, all he wanted to do was scream.
The dragon sighed as it jumped up and stretched his wings, his bones click-clacked as he flipped them open and closed.
“I can’t fly, as much as I try, because only half of my body is covered in flesh. It’s bad enough she turned me into a dragon, but a dragon that can’t fly, laughable,” he mumbled as he puffed out small fireballs at a distant cave wave. They popped and fizzed out when they right before hitting the blue and purple colored stone.
“You weren’t always a dragon,” Jack asked in a hoarse whisper.
“I told you, I was once like you. I was about your age when I became lost within these woods. That was about a few centuries ago by now, but who’s to say, time works differently here,” the dragon mused.
Jack shudder as worry worked its way even deeper into his bones.
“Am I, am I…going to become a dragon, like you?” Jack choked back a sob.
“No boy, that is why I pulled you here. If I hadn’t found you first, who knows what she would have done to you. There are worse things than becoming a dragon, trust me.”
The dragon sighed as he curled back up into a ball.
By Ashley Houston.
My son drew the dragon. 🙂
I was inspired to write this short story, because of a picture my son drew. I told him when he finished it that I would write a story to go with the picture. Proud of my 12 year old little (not so little) artist! Although I think the story turned out a little spookier than he thought it would.