Inspired by the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Terribleminds
Warning: a bit sweary.
I saw the dragons first.
I was trying to write a report but couldn’t concentrate for the drone of Alex’s voice as he made yet another attempt to chat up Polly. Of course, Polly wasn’t having any. She wasn’t into real estate agents. Or men. You’d think he’d get the hint from her stony glare, but Alex was persistent. He was also a bit of an arse.
Unable to zone him out enough to focus, I let my mind wander. My gaze drifted to our sixteenth-floor window and out over the city. Sunset had painted the horizon with vibrant reds, oranges and pinks, and the roads were ribbons of white and red light. What was I still doing in the office at sunset? Long story, and everything to do with Alex being an arse. He was also my boss.
First came the clouds. Like gouts of black ink dropped into water, they flowed together, forming one huge roiling mass that obliterated the sunset.
Then came the dragons.
Once the clouds had smothered the horizon, the sky above our window tore open with a thunderous crack. Beyond the tear, billions of stars glimmered for a single glorious moment before a great shadow obliterated them. The dragon emerged from the riven sky on wings of pure night, its golden reptile eyes burning with the fire of a sun.
“What the actual fuck?” I jumped up.
Alex finally stopped bothering Polly. “Jan, we’ve discussed you not using foul language in the office.”
“Fuck off, Alex, there’s a dragon outside the window.”
A high-pitched shriek rang out, followed by a thud.
“He fainted, didn’t he?” I said, watching the dragon, who roared and belched fire.
“Yes.” Polly’s voice trembled as she came to stand beside me. Not surprising, I felt rather trembly myself. The dragon spied us at the window and flapped its vast wings to bring its bulk closer.
At the same moment, several more emerged from the torn sky. The floor shook with a deep rumbling that vibrated through my spine, and something rose from the ground in front of our building.
“What the hell is that?” Polly grabbed for my hand.
I gave her fingers a reassuring squeeze. “It looks like a tower.” Tall, slender and horribly phallic, it was the exact same tower I’d seen in countless illustrations of stories like Rapunzel, or Sleeping Beauty. The tower rose until it was taller than any other building on the skyline.
“The council’s not going to like that,” I said.
“I don’t think anyone is, Jan, there are dragons everywhere.” Polly pointed at the one hovering outside our window, its molten gaze sizing us up like we were some kind of tasty morsel. I hoped dragons didn’t eat humans. Then I wondered if we could offer Alex in return for it leaving us alone. Look, I said he was an arse.
“I’m talking about the tower,” I said. “It destroyed the town hall on its way up. And I doubt they had planning permission.” I pointed to the rubble around the tower’s base.
Talk of planning permission had Alex struggling to his feet to peer through the window. “That’s going to bring real estate prices down. What are we going to do?”
It always came back to money. I suppose it went with the job. You saw a disaster unfold and you thought about how much it would affect house prices. Well, you did if you were Alex.
“What’s all this we business?” I said, still watching the dragon, who appeared to be more curious than hungry at this point. Or at least I hoped that’s what the gleam in its eyes meant.
Alex paled and turned his back to the window. “Well, I mean all of us. We can’t ignore them and hope they go away.
“That’s exactly what I plan to do, Alex,” I said. “I’m going to find somewhere a bit less vulnerable to hide until they realise we don’t taste that great and go back to whatever hellish universe spawned them. Coming, Pol?”
Polly held onto my hand and I led her towards the door to the stairwell. Sixteen stories meant a lot of stairs, but the windows were too narrow to let a dragon through, and the stairwell was the only way to access the concrete sub-basement.
“So that’s why you didn’t want to know me, Polly?” Alex muttered. “You like girls? Well just so you know, Jan used to be a man. His name was Dave.”
I spun round, fists clenched. I had planned to tell her everything once we were alone in the basement, but now she knew. Alex had spoiled everything by using my deadname. I told you he was an arse. I was about to tell him that, too, when the window shattered and the dragon who’d been watching us reached in and plucked him right out of the office.
I know I said I hoped the dragon would eat him rather than us, but I was joking. Sort of. I cringed as it wrapped its massive claws around his torso and lifted him level with its huge head. Instead of eating him, it sniffed and dropped him back into the office, its reptile face twisted in what I could only assume was a grimace of distaste. I sympathised. Alex had that effect on everyone.
I yanked open the door and pulled Polly into the stairwell before the dragon could decide to check whether we smelled any more appetising.
“I meant to tell you,” I said. “I mean—”
Polly put her index finger to my lips. “I don’t care. You’re a woman now, that’s what counts. Let’s go find ourselves some fireproof real estate far away from here.”
She leaned towards me and pressed her lips against mine for the briefest of kisses. Then she tugged my hand and started down the stairs.
I touched my fingers to my lips, which still tingled, and – grinning like a fool – followed.