While her eyes were glued to the screen, she absent-mindedly fingered the pendent around her neck. She felt the cold silver of the necklace rub across her fingertips; a stark contrast to the strangely warm gem trapped beneath the cage of silver. The gem was about an inch around, and seemed to contain all the colors of the rainbow, and yet have no color at all. She had received it from her grandfather for her birthday; there was some story behind it about how the priceless gem had been cut from the eye of a dragon by a dragon hunter, or just simply Hunter as the story had referred to him. But her grandfather was always making up stories about fantasy creatures and mythical monsters. It was just a tale he worked up to go with the necklace he had probably found at Target or something. Dragons and magic dont really exist
thought Maddy drowsily as she lay down on the couch. She felt the necklace one last time before finally surrendering to sleep
She awoke with a violent start, but didnt know what the cause was. The clock said 2:00 am. Sure no noise had awoken her, she puzzled over what caused her to wake up with her heart thumping so quickly. She turned off the TV so she could listen. Then it hit her: the crickets werent chirping anymore. It was a perfect summer night. They should be chirping away, but total silence reigned through the house; even the occasional creaking of the old house had stopped. It was like she was the only one left in the world. Maddy shuddered, not used to the quiet. She was about to turn the TV back on, just to have some background noise, when the barking started. Normally she wouldnt have been concerned; her dog Riley was always barking at some critter at night. But this barking was different. It was louder, definitely louder, and more menacing. A frightening mix of yaps, growls, and snarls that chilled Maddy to her bones. It was like a hound had been released from the bowels of Hell. She had not known her dog could bark like that. And it sounded like it was right outside the front door.
Maybe its human instinct to be drawn towards danger, or maybe its just stupidity on the part of the person. It could even be some form of scared curiosity. Either way, Maddy got off the couch and went out the door to see what was going on. All sorts of images were running through her head at the same time, all of them grisly and increasingly horrible. A burglar sneaking towards the house; Riley and a stray locked in mortal combat; a bear pinning Riley to the ground, its teeth inches from Rileys throat
The door creaked open on its hinges as Maddy peeked outside, terrified of what shed see. She saw nothing. She could still hear the eerie barking, but her garage kept Riley and whatever he was barking at totally hidden. So, though every fiber in her body was screaming for her to go back inside, and she would have gladly obeyed, her feet began to carry her towards the garage, towards the strange barking that frightened her so much when at any other time the idea of Riley being scary would have been laughable.
As she got closer, a voice other than the insane snarls began to reach Maddys ears. Smooth and feminine, and with a definite tone of anger, like a red hot chili pepper. Maddys heart jumped up to her throat as the burglar scene she had been imagining became that much clearer in her mind. No, wait. Maddy stopped in her tracks as an idea began to form in her head. She noticed patterns in the talking and the barking. First a growl, then a response from the female voice. No, it couldnt be. But it sounded like
the voice was having a conversation with her dog? No, it was crazy
But the voice became clearer as Maddy got a little closer. She was halfway across the yard when the voice became clear and she stopped to listen for a while.
Why do you still insist to defend her, boy? What has she ever given you to deserve such loyalty?
An angry response from Riley. Is this really happening? thought Maddy.
A laugh from the voice, sharp and cutting. Love? Come now, you dont honestly believe that a creature like that would ever be capable of
The female was cut off by a long series of furious barks that made Maddy tremble where she stood. How could anyone stand to listen to that? But then, this voice was also carrying on a conversation with a dog.
ENOUGH! the voice suddenly shouted, silencing Rileys soliloquy. The word rang through the darkness, echoing. After silence reigned once more the voice spoke again, with forced calm. And unless Maddy was mistaken, there was an underlying growl to the voice this time. You are not what Im after, dog, but if you continue to stand in between me and my prey I will not hesitate to AHHGH!
Maddy did not see it happen, but she could guess. Riley had run up to the source of the voice and chomped down on the nearest thing he could reach; probably a leg.
Good boy! she thought. But the next thing she heard was far from the sound of feet running away that she expected, and made her heart leap to her throat.
Scared, high-pitched whines suddenly replaced the angry barks of just a second before. And the voice she heard was far different than the smooth, feminine alto; instead it was low, guttural. More of a growl than a voice at all. But Maddy was able to pick out the words.
My patience for you has just run out, you flea-ridden mutt. You want to defend that despicable creature? Protect her?
Love her?! There was a choking sound at the word love. Then the voice dropped to an almost inaudible whisper. Then you might as well be a human yourself.
Maddy desperately wanted to turn around, to run back inside to the safety of the house. But her feet refused to move either forward or backward.
Suddenly, a faint white glow began to appear from behind the garage, getting stronger by the second. Rileys whines began to get louder, more persistent. Maddys heart beat faster; she felt like it would pop from her chest. She shielded her eyes from the growing white glare. What was going on around here?! Rileys whimpers got louder and escalated into a howl, like he was in severe pain. The howl suddenly changed. It got lower, sounding less and less like a canine.
And within a second Rileys howl had been replaced with a very human-sounding yell that decreased into a series of deep breaths.
It was at this point that Maddys feet decided to start moving again. But it wasnt towards the house. Instead she began running at full speed the rest of the way to the garage. Something had been done to Riley, she just knew it. Something terrible, and she had only stood there when it had happened. She ran. Just ten more feet, and then she would see. Seven, five, three, one
She turned the corner of the garage and braced herself for the carnage she was sure would greet her. Instead a very different sight met her gaze and made her breath catch in her throat.
In front of her was a creature unlike any she had ever seen. It had to be at least thirty feet long. Its body was long and sinuous and covered in short, silver fur. A dog-like head perched on the top of a long neck, and a sweeping, sleek poppy-red mane ran all the way down its back to the tip of its tail, where it fanned into a furry tuft. On top of its head was a small pair of antlers. It stood on pale yellow chicken-like feet tipped with deadly-looking black claws. But its eyes
Or eye. The eye it had was deep violet, like the color of royalty. The other eye was gone; the eyelid closed over an empty chasm, and two long, pink scars ran across it like daggers. The creature in front of her could only be described as one thing: a dragon.
When Maddy had come around the corner, the dragon had turned to look at what made so much noise. The dragon slowly smiled, showing sharp, white teeth. It wasnt a friendly smile, though. It began walking towards Maddy, ever so slowly, its strange boy swirling hypnotically like a snakes.
So, this is the human thats caused so much trouble here tonight, the dragon said casually, softly.
Maddy was having trouble finding her voice. The scene in front of her was just too confusing. What she did manage to get out was, I
I heard barking and
and my dog
my dog. Wheres my dog? She finally managed to squeak a comprehensible question out.
Ah, so you heard our little conversation, did you? the dragon said. I wonder how long you were listening. But no matter, youre what I came for so no reason to prolong my visit any more. The dragon moved a little closer.
Wheres my dog? Maddy repeated, trying to keep her voice level.
The dragon sneer got wider as she feigned innocence. Dog? Dog
Hmmm. Oh, are you referring to this? She reached back underneath her and pulled a large, struggling form into Maddys view.
For a moment the girl was confused. What the dragon was dragging by the ankle was not a dog, but a human boy. Looking to be about twenty years old, he wore a simple brown zip-up hoodie and blue jeans. His hair was reddish-brown. Around his neck was a lightly jingling piece of silver, resting gently against his black under shirt. It was a choke chain collar with a slightly bronzed round tag hanging from it, exactly like
A horrible idea began to form in Maddys mind. No
she whispered, blue eyes widening. Her body started shaking slightly. The idea was too horrible, too strange to think about. She stared into the boys chocolate eyes, who returned her gaze with an equally terrified look.
he croaked, terror ringing in his voice.
The girls frame fell, all the air let out of her lungs at once and she had trouble taking her next breath.
Ah, I think shes finally getting the picture, the dragon sniggered.
What... how... who
why? Maddy stammered, motioning with her hands towards whom she knew now was Riley.
The dragon growled and moved closer, still dragging Riley by the ankle. The fool was trying to protect you. Disgusting creature. Someone who tries to protect a human is no better than a human themselves.
She suddenly tossed Riley at Maddy like a ragdoll. Hitting Maddy in the chest, both of them were sent crashing to the ground.
Maddy gasped for breath, the wind knocked out of her. Riley quickly got off of her and awkwardly helped her sit up. She coughed violently, trying to get precious breath back in her lungs.
I-Im sorry, Im sorry! Riley stammered. Are y-you ok? Maddy couldnt respond. Her brain wasnt functioning properly and all she could do was look at him in terrified disbelief.
The silver serpent cackled, clearly finding pleasure in the current situation. But, the dragon continued, now that my quarry is here, his efforts to protect you were all in vain. She leaned into Maddys ear and whispered with bared teeth, And now
All at once, a lightning-fast streak of silver shot forward and Maddy was suddenly dangling upside down in the air, her leg wrapped in the dragons tail. She heard Rileys yell of protest, and he screamed for the dragon to put her down, to let her go, but the silver creature didnt listen. She pinned him down with one front foot. She seemed to be contemplating something.
the dragon looked at her dangling prey with vague interest. What would be a fitting punishment? Death would be too easy. Something lasting, never gone, always present
Yes, something like that
Be still! She snapped at Maddy, who was trying to kick her way free to no avail. Maddy obeyed, letting herself hang limp with the blood rushing to her head and feeling as if the tears would come at any moment. What was she even being punished for?!
The dragon looked around, seemingly for inspiration. When her violet eye fell upon Riley, who was attempting to bite at the dragons leg again, she grinned evilly and looked back at Maddy. I know. I took a dog from the world when I made him human, correct? She spoke as if she were a teacher talking to a student. Well, it wouldnt be fair if there were one more human in this world than there belonged, would it? And since the dog population seems to be one short
Everything suddenly registered in Maddys mind in full force, and she at once was desperately trying to free herself, to run away back into her warm, safe house. But the dragon held her tightly, and already a faint white glow was beginning to take shape around Maddys form. She realized it was the same thing that had appeared before Riley was
No! she screamed and tried blowing the glow away, rubbing it off with her hands, anything to get it off of her. But the glow was getting brighter, and Maddy was starting to feel hot. The white light got brighter and brighter, almost blinding. She closed her eyes against the brightness. It was getting hotter, almost scalding. Too hot! Fire was going to burn her to cinders. Screaming, screaming
And then she felt the blessed cool night air again. She panted heavily , her heart still hammering. Opening her eyes, she saw the upside-down dragon smirking at her. Yes, this will do. Then the dragon set her leg free and dropped her to the ground.
Landing with a thud, Maddy rolled to her feet and shook her head, trying to set her thoughts straight. That was it? she thought. Well, as long as thats all
She brought a hand up to rub her head
And froze, because what was supposed to be her hand was not. There, attached to a white, furry leg, was an equally furry paw. Maddy stood up, frantic
And fell back down to all fours. She looked underneath her and saw four white paws and legs. If she crossed her eyes, she could see a nose extending what seemed like a mile out in front of her face. She was mostly golden, but with a white belly and legs. However, none of this really hit home until she realized that she had a tail. She had a long, poofy, gold and white tail.
She whimpered, shaking from head to toe. This wasnt happening, this wasnt happening! Surely this was just a nightmare she would wake up from any minute. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a figure crawling towards her. It was Riley, who had been freed by the dragon. He kneeled next to her, looking her over with a look of defeat. His body sagged. Suddenly, he pulled her furry head into a tight hug.
he whispered in her ear. I couldnt
Im so sorry
Maddy, still in shock, didnt know what to do. So she just sat there, letting him pull her into his lap for a tighter squeeze. Now the tears finally came, and they came in droves. She lay against Rileys shoulder, shivering and sobbing silently.
She wasnt sure how long this went on for, but she was suddenly aware that the dragon was speaking. That dragon
That damn dragon.
Yes, this should suit both of you fine, she was saying casually.
Fine?! Riley shouted, still holding Maddy in his arms. Maddy only just realized that this was her dog that was speaking perfect English. You
How could you say this is fine?! he let out through clenched teeth.
Justice was served, the dragon sniffed. My business here is done. What you do now is not up to me. She started walking away, but then stopped and turned back for a second. Oh, but Maddy. If you could give your back-stabbing grandfather a message for me, tell him that Cyphae never forgot him, and that she will find him one day. Or tell your new human to tell him for you, since I doubt youre able to speak homo sapien anymore. With one last laugh, the dragon with the scarred face took off and flew away into the night.
Maddy shuddered, staring off after the dragon until she was a little speck against the moon. If she had only stayed in the house, this wouldnt have happened. If only her stupid curiosity hadnt gotten the best of her, she would still be
human. But she had left her house, and now she was paying the consequence, along with poor Riley, who shouldnt have been involved in the first place.
The dog and human, still holding each other tight, watched as the dragon disappeared, and they wondered what would become of them now.