The Dragon Room

I entered the Yeah Write Super Challenge #4 this year. There’s so far been 2 rounds to this event, and I’ve successfully moved forward on both rounds. I thought I might share the round 2 piece here, since I’ve been quiet the past few months. 

Group 1

Scene: An arched corridor

Event: learning a nonviolent skill

Summary: Custodial apprentice, Pip, sees his clumsiness landing him in so much trouble that he is led into the castle dungeons. Down there a room awaits him, a dragon room, filled with nothing but stone and obsidium to keep him company, and maybe a few dragon eggs.

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The arched hallway of the castle dungeons was much darker than Pip had imagined. The stone path was cold and coarse beneath his bare feet.

“Wh-what are we doing down h–ow!” he asked as his toes caught on a gap, causing him to stumble forward.

His heart raced, and sweat beads formed on his pasty skin.

No one has ever entered the dungeon before and come out alive!

“This is your fault,” Gregory harrumphed. The castle caretaker and master custodian pushed his way past the young man.

Pip sighed. He knew the old man was right.

The castle halls had not been the same since Pip received the custodial assignment at this year’s Naming Day. He remembered the trials – success judged by a series of events. Turned out, his skinny frame and tiny hands were ill-suited for sword-wielding, his archery skills were non-existent, and his attempts at magicka had disastrous consequences.

He knew he was rather unremarkable in almost every way.

“Did you have to spill the king’s chamber pot on Queen Symphonia’s baby gryphon?” Gregory stopped in front of a large double door.

Pip straightened himself; tears filled his eyes, “Please, don’t lock me away.”

Gregory chuckled, “Oh, dear boy, what kind of kingdom would this be if we locked every clumsy apprentice into a cell?”

“Bu-.”

Gregory shook his head and reached for the metal rings of the door.

“We can’t have you getting clawed to death by an angry gryphon, now can we?” Gregory pulled the doors open and exposed a large chamber with oval stonework covering the floor.

Pip squinted and cocked his head to the side.

“When I was young and nervous like you, the king sent me down here to work. There is naught but stone and obsidian.”

“Nothing to break?” Pip asked nervously.

Gregory shook his head, “And no one to harm.”

He gestured Pip inside, but the frightened young man hesitated. What if it’s all a trick?

“There are no locks on the door, boy,” Gregory sighed.

Pip swallowed, nodded, and stepped forward. “What is this place?”

“The chambers of the great dragon the first king slew two hundred years ago.”

Pip followed Gregory inside and put his hand on top of one of the oval statues. “Ow- It’s hot!”

“Obsidian,” Gregory said. “It retains heat.”

“What are they supposed to be?”

“Dragon eggs,” Gregory shrugged his shoulders, “or so I’ve been told, but never mind that fairy tale.”

Gregory handed Pip a thin cloth.

“The king. He asked for you to polish these dragon eggs.”

Pip raised his eyebrows, “Really?”

The caretaker narrowed his gaze, “It took me years to master. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.”

Pip watched as Gregory showed his expert skill. The motion of his polishing was methodical and unlike polishing a table or benchtop. Pip tried to understand it, but as he followed along with the master custodian, he saw dust and dirt reform on his egg while Gregory’s remained spotless. He couldn’t ever imagine being able to match that skill.

*****

For months, Pip practiced and practiced. He languished over the eggs. With every passing day, he talked to them, sometimes without even speaking, and from time-to-time, he thought he heard them talk back. He dismissed it as nothing more than loneliness. There were often voices in the corridor outside the chamber, so it could have just as well been that which he was hearing.

One afternoon, nearly three months after his assignment began, Pip heard the familiar voices again. Two men must have been in the halls, and for the first time, he listened.

“Your brother, the king,” he heard, “he knows something.”

“Nothing that he’ll be able to stop now. The unicorn horn has already been added to his stew for tonight. He’ll be eating it within minutes,” another voice said. His hushed laugh made the hairs on Pip’s neck stand up.

Unicorn horn! But it’s poisonous. If he eats that-

Pip backed up and fell backwards with an oomph.

“What’s that?” he heard. The door slowly opened, and Pip scrambled to hide behind an egg. His hands touched the obsidian, and he cried.

Please don’t let me die!

A crack appeared across the egg. The sound of shattering glass echoed through the chamber.

The Earl stood in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face as each of the eggs burst open. Whelplings. Hundreds of them burst forth and circled the diminutive Pip.

With a shriek, he sprinted down the halls of the dungeon, up the stairs of the castle, and into the king’s sitting room only just scrambling past the guards.

The king was lifting a spoon to his mouth. Pip screamed and dove at him.

“Unicorn horn!” he cried pushing the king’s hand.

Outside screams and a flurry of wings echoed through the castle halls. The man pushed through the dining hall door narrowly missing the fiery breath of the tiny dragons. Despite the chaos, the king remained resolute in his chair.

“This man tried to poison you,” the whelplings cried in unison. “Pip told us.”

Pip gasped at the words, at their meaning. They understood him. Every thought, every word, every emotion. The connection was real.

“Thank you, dear boy,” the king said. “You confirmed what I had already suspected and saved the kingdom.”

The little dragons swarmed into the room and surrounded Pip. The would-be assassin struggled against the strong embrace of the castle guards. The king stood up and patted Pip on the shoulder, “Oh, you unremarkable boy. You broke their sleep and have bonded with the dragons. Just as I knew you would.”

Pip squinted at the king, “Wha-?”

“You’re the third born in the third generation of dragon masters.”

The whelplings sang, “Master, protector, friend.”

Pip’s eyes grew wide, and a smile spread across his face. Their joy was his joy, and suddenly for the first time in his life, he understood his place in the world.

Miss Kylie

Miss Kylie slid the last of the outfit on. Long, shaven legs were accented with a pair of uncomfortable red heels. A short skirt barely covered the rear, and a tight top showed off more cleavage than should be possible. 

Blonde hair hung in ringlets around Miss Kylie’s face, and shades covered the eyes. The ensemble was complete with a scarf in a bright shade of pink tied around the neck. 

“You don’t have to do this,” Erica said. 

Miss Kylie just nodded and smiled. Erica shook her head and muttered, “You’re crazy going out like that, but there’s no talking you out of it now.”

“Rape culture at its finest,” Miss Kylie said gruffly.

Erica looked Miss Kylie up and down and sighed, “How is it you look better in those clothes than I do!”

With a shrug, Miss Kylie picked up a tiny purse and started for the door. 
 
 
Erica drove Miss Kylie into the city and parked off a major street. “Good luck,” she said.

A laugh, “You’ll see. Nothing to worry about.”

Miss Kylie stepped out of the car and heard a whistle.

“Hah, yeah. You’ll be fine,” Erica said. “I’ll see ya soon.”

Miss Kylie nodded and walked down the street. The shoes proved to be the hardest to master. But after some time, they seemed to get easier. An old couple walked past and gasped. Mutters of “why would she wear that?” eddied across the sidewalk.

But Miss Kylie continued on.

A whistle here, a catcall there – all well-received. But the longer the walk went on the more was heard. 

A hoot, a holler, a slap on the rear, a dirty joke, a bad pickup line, a few sexual advances, repeat. 

For half an evening this went on until Miss Kylie had had enough. 

How do they do this all the time? 

Miss Kylie travelled back to the apartment where Erica was waiting with a bottle of scotch and a frown.

“How was it, Kyle?” Erica asked as the door slammed shut.

Kyle slumped into a chair and tossed the blonde wig onto the ground. 

“People are disgusting,” he growled.

He didn’t say another word. He grabbed the breast pads, threw them down on the ground, and proceeded to remove all reminders of Miss Kylie. 

“I tried to tell ya,” Erica sighed. “No matter how progressive the world gets, women will be objectified.”

He grumbled, “I know now.”

The social experiment was over, but the lesson was not soon forgotten.
 
 
 
 
 
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The Arcade

Rachel’s stomach churned as the acrid stench filled her lungs. She tossed what remained of her chocolate bar aside and steeled herself through the broken glass door.

It was well past midnight and well past her bedtime too. She could hear her big brother, Vinnie, laughing uproariously. Somehow, he had coerced her to tag along with temptations of wholesome fun. So far his version of excitement was breaking curfew, trespassing, and vandalism.

“This used to be the place to be,” Vinnie said. His voice rebounded off the grey walls.

“What happened?” Rachel asked nervously. Shards of glass cracked beneath her feet.

Ash and dust settled into her throat, and she tried to expel it with a cough.

“A fire. Bad wiring or something,” Vinnie said.

Rachel shuddered. 

“Doesn’t look like anyone has had our idea,” Vinnie snickered. “Throw me the bag.”

“There won’t be any money left in them,” Rachel said with a grunt.

“Don’t be such a girl!” Vinnie said as he grabbed the bag mid-air.

The temperature was dropping inside, but Rachel tried to ignore it. Her nerves were already frayed. This was not her idea of fun.

The video arcade was a shell of its former self. The pinball machines and games still stood, but not much was left of them. The marquees, sides and bezels were either blackened or destroyed.

Rachel shuffled around the arcade and rubbed her arms. She was at the next aisle of machines when movement caught her eye. With a jump, she turned to see if it had been Vinnie.

Vinnie was still pulling out screwdrivers from the bag.

She walked down the aisle, heart in throat, and attempted to investigate.

A streak ran past her and knocked the wind out of her. 

A light breath touched her ear, “You should not be here!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. With a scream, Rachel ran, and the arcade sprang to life. 8-bit sounds echoed, and the machines flashed shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.

“Vinnie!” she called as she rounded the corner. His hands were on a pinball machine, and his eyes fixed on the flashing lights. He didn’t even acknowledge her.

She pinched herself and blinked to make sure it was real. All around her the arcade games were playing themselves. The buttons were moving up and down, and the sticks moved left and right, forward and back.

Panicked, she sprinted back to Vinnie. The pinball machine buzzed with messages of “High-score! Double!” Vinnie high-fived the air as cheers and laughter rose in the room.

Rachel shook her head and rubbed her eyes. When she reopened them, she saw group of kids standing around her brother. Their heads turned toward her with toothy grins and villainous eyes.

With a shriek, she stepped back; her hand landed squarely on the closest machine, sending a jolt through her body.

“Play,” she heard.

She pulled away and called out to Vinnie. He turned to look at her.

“Play,” he said. His soulless gaze peered right through her.

She coughed and held her hand over her mouth as a haziness settled on the room.

Her mind cloudy and her chest tight, she spun towards the door. Smoke filled the room and blanketed it in a fog, but still she tried to push forward. She stumbled and struggled to regain her balance. Somehow she knew if she touched the machines, she’d be lost.

The sound of the games echoed in every chamber of her mind, and she longed to play. One game. That’s all. Just one round.

Her fingers grazed the machine. She pushed away but returned a second later, unable to resist the chilly invitation.

“Your turn,” the voices echoed.

Mesmerized, her hands clutched the joysticks, and she started the game. 

“You’re mine,” a single voice said.

Her reflection shone through from the monitor. Her own sinister eyes and venomous smile stared back, but she just smiled deeper and laughed.

Rachel ignored the cold embrace, ignored the pulling on her soul, even ignored the fire surrounding her. Her eyes stayed fixed on the little 8-bit hero on her screen, on her opponent, and on her score. She was one with the machine, and she was never leaving this arcade.

 

 

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The Dog Park

“I hate them, almost as much as the people who brings them,” he grumbled. His greying eyes half-squinted, half-glared at the scene outside. The low guttural exultation left clouds on the window behind the blinds.

A tiny bark was followed by a louder bark. He smashed his cane against the window frame, shaking the vertical plastic, and yelled, “Shuddem up!”

Outside, a couple turned their heads, but they just smiled and waved at the grouch. They turned back to their chatter, lattes in hand, and barely paying attention to the dogs running around them. 

He lifted his phone from the telephone table beside him and dialed a number.

“Thank you for calling Harmony City Council. Your call is very important to us. Please select the extension you require. For general enqui-”

He smashed his finger down on the keypad and waited. The hold music made him grind his teeth. 

“Good morning, Mr Alsop,” a tired voice on the other end said.

“Not a good morning, sweetheart. Not a good morning at all.”

“I understand, Mr Alsop. I’ve explained to you. Your complaint has been registered. We have to follow procedure.”

“Fuckyourprocedure!” 

“We need more than a complaint from one person. We have even issued letters to every neighbor. No one else is complaining about the dog park.”

“You politicians don’ care about me. You tell that mayor I won’ be voting for her next election.”

He slammed the phone down on the receiver and stared out the window. 

Mr Alsop watched as a Pomeranian and Wippet drank water from the same chained bowl. His scowl loosened to contemplative if only briefly. He watched as the owners put leashes back on the dogs and led them out of the park. He even watched until it seemed that no more dogs would come back and the sun set in the horizon. 

When darkness fell across the dog park, the crotchety old man left his house with a large bottle. He shuffled across his front lawn and across the street to the gate of the park. A chuckle rose from his throat. 

***

A few of days later, Mr Alsop stepped out of his home; a big smile was across his face. He glanced over at the empty dog park and stifled a laugh. 

He was barely aware when the police pulled up in front of his house. It wasn’t until the moment that the police cuffed him that his revelry was broken. 

He stared the police down and let out an uproarious laugh. “I don’ care if you lock me up. It was all worth it!”
 
 
 

The Midnight Hour

The wind howled outside Nadia’s darkened room. Her gaze focused on the red moon illuminating a tiny patch of the floor. The midnight hour was nearly upon her.

A creak on the boards echoed through the derelict house, but she remained motionless. Rickety shutters burst open sending a scream through the tight space.

She had waited for this moment for five years. She was ready.

*****

Sixteen, going on seventeen, Nadia sat in her room and hemmed a skirt. Across the room, her litter sister, Dorencia, danced in her new petticoat, her bare feet exposed like a commoner. The candlelight sent a hundred shadows of dancing figures all around her.

“Darlings,” she heard her mother say from the doorway, “remain here. We have another urgent visitor.”

Nadia didn’t miss a beat. She continued her sewing and hardly acknowledged her.

“Alright, Mother,” Dorencia said.

“And lower your skirt, Dorencia,” her mother scowled, “act like the lady you will become.”

Dorencia let out a derisive sigh and stopped her dance. “Yes, Mother.”

The door closed.

“Who do you think it is?” Dorencia asked Nadia.

“I don’t know… Mayhap someone that needs healing from Mother.”

Dorencia slumped. “Boring.”

“You are boring,” Nadia said with a straight face.

The preteen’s laugh was cancelled out by a hair-raising scream.

Nadia jumped to her feet, but before she could move any further, the door swung open and air escaped with a loud roar putting out all the candles and darkening the room.

A shadow was all she could see. The form was humanoid, but she could see neither the hands nor the feet. Her imagination went wild as she pictured hooves for feet and claws for hands. The sound of scratching echoed through the room. Dorencia clutched Nadia’s arm and let out a tiny whimper.

The shadow advanced and grabbed Nadia’s free arm. She shrieked both in fear and from the searing pain. An image filled her mind of her sister: older, eyes burning red, skin paled and hair black. She pushed the thought away and tried to kick the shadow, only it was just air and Dorencia was gone.

Fire erupted all around her. She ran out of the house, screaming for help, but none came.

*****

For years, Nadia had searched for the name of the shadow. She asked, pleaded, and demanded answers when none could be found. Who was he? Where could she find him?

The only answers given were the gift of healing and two words, “Midnight. Blood moon.”

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“Fool,” a voice whispered in her mind breaking her out of her musing.

The room lit up, and a shadow stood in the center of it.

“She’s mine,” he laughed.

Nadia stood with her hands clenched at her side.

“The years have not been kind to you,” he hissed.

Nadia’s sunken eyes and cheeks deepened into a scowl. The dark circles around her eyes made her green eyes look fierce.

“Show yourself,” she growled.

He stood at her height and didn’t look nearly as imposing as he did when they first met, but she hardly noticed.

She yelled, propelling a terrifying image into his mind. The scream forced him to take a step back, but no sound escaped his lips. He stood still in front of her, otherwise motionless.

“What have you become?” he mocked.

Nadia stepped forward.

“When did your light fade?” he laughed.

She forced another terrible thought into his mind.

“You will pay for what you did to me,” she said.

With every step forward, she sent another blast, and every time he stepped further back. Until, at last, he was cornered.

“When did you learn to use your healing power to manipulate and terrorize the minds of others?” he whispered.

“When you stole everything from me,” she sneered.

With one final blast, the shadow crumbled to the ground. Nadia smiled. This was the first life she had extinguished, and she reveled in the excitement of the moment. She laughed as victory drew near.

The illusion faded, and Dorencia laid there. Blood trickled out of her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Nadia broke out of her trance and screamed.

“You were my goal all along,” she heard in her mind.

She crossed her arms to her chest and shook. She did this to herself. All those interrogations, the bastardization of her gift.

“You’re mine,” a clawed hand settled onto her shoulder.

As Dorencia’s life faded, the lit room faded to black, and Nadia embraced the darkness.

“I am yours,” she conceded.