Sharon’s Note: This was a piece I wrote for a challenge. It’s a fun bit of fluff. Warning: Gratuitous cuteness.
“No, thank you.” I tried not to bare teeth as I told yet another old man I didn’t want to play a game of dominoes. They weren’t even being creepy about it, so I couldn’t be rude. Apparently, if a teenage girl was alone at a picnic table at the zoo, plucking tiles out of a bag of dominoes, it was a signal that she was lonely and needed a friend.
I mean, I was a little lonely, and didn’t have many friends, but that wasn’t why I was there.
Yes, technically they had started out life as dominoes, but I’d painted runes over the dots. They were an integral part of my fortune-telling kit. They sold actual runestones, but those were expensive, and I got the whole bag for a quarter at a garage sale. Besides, I used my own symbols.
The Dragon. The Blade. The Rabbit. The Dog. I didn’t know what they meant, but it was trouble. Some kind of disaster coming, and what that could entail when there were predators around made me nervous.
I placed down two more runes. The Hammer, and that stupid Baby tile that came out horrible, and I needed to repaint. It also wasn’t necessary. The distant sound of shouting kids from a school trip had already told me what was at stake.
“Where? I need to know where,” I muttered as I fished in the bag one more time. The Frog. The reptile house? It was my best bet. I scooped all the dominoes back into their bag and took off. Brightly painted signs pointed to the cinderblock of a building where all the lizards lived.
“Damn it, I wanted to see the snakes.” A ten-ish year old boy was kicking at the glass doors. He had a couple of other boys with him, and they radiated grumpiness and boredom.
A sign on the door said in cartoonish letters: CLOSED FOR REMODELING. Spec-freaking-tacular. Someone was going to let out an alligator or something while trying to build it a new swimming pool.
“Hey, stop that. Shoo.” I waved my hands at them, and the one who had been kicking the door sneered at me.
“You don’t get to tell us what to do.” He grinned back at his friends, who laughed like he had said something hilarious.
And that was a prime example of why I didn’t want kids. “Leave now, or I’ll tell your teachers, not only did I catch you vandalizing zoo property, you were also torturing small animals. I’d bet they’d believe it.”
The last bit was just extra to get them out of the way. I wasn’t actually going to do it. Panic flashed across the kid’s face before he turned tail and ran. After exchanging confused glances, his friends followed. I must have accidentally touched a nerve. That was worrying.
Whatever. I had more important things to deal with. Like getting into the stupid lizard house. Where there was probably a rogue alligator or something . . . What was I doing with my life?
A crash inside the building made me jump. Screams. I kicked the door, with absolutely no plan what to do if I got in. More screams, and the roof exploded. Rubble showered down, and I cowered against the wall. Bits of cement rained around me, one clipping my arm with bruising force.
A resounding crack echoed through the air.The world faded away while my brain refused to understand what it saw. Something flying, spewing fire. A dragon. An actual dragon. What the hell? Since when were my runes that freaking literal?
It landed on the ground with a heart-stuttering thud. It wasn’t huge, about as tall as an Irish wolfhound. That was enough for something with claws on the tip of its wings the size of steak knives and a head like a squashed-nose crocodile. It opened its mouth, revealing teeth built for tearing. And it wailed. It cried like a lost baby.
The landing had hurt it. When it hit the pavement, one of its bat-like wings had crumpled.
It took one gaze at me and hobbled over, cooing and growling, almost like speech. I straightened up, ready to run, but it wrapped its uninjured wing around my leg and keened. What. The Actual. Hell.
“We’re going to have to shoot her. Quick! Someone contain the witnesses.” The voice came from inside the ruined reptile house. And that was my cue to leave, but there was still the matter of the dragon clinging to me like a frightened toddler.
The Baby. The Dog.
Knowing what I had to do didn’t mean I had to like it. Fine. I didn’t care for kids, but this was an innocent creature asking for my help, and I did love dogs.
“Hey, girl? You want to come home with me?” I asked in my sweetest voice. She cooed in response, staring at me with dewy, golden eyes. And just like that, I was ready to die for her. “Okay, sweetie. Follow me, and everything will be alright.”
I started to walk, and the dragon let me go. She followed after me, limping along with its broken wing curled up by her chest. Never mind what I was going to do with an injured mythological creature. I was an actual oracle. I’d figure it out.