I wanted a pet dragon....
“This is great!” I said to myself, and stretched. I laid back against the sun-facing slope of the mountain-side overlooking my home-town far below in the green valley. I enjoyed escaping to the relative peace of the mountain, away from the stress and frenetic activity in the run-up to my final exams. I closed my eyes and sighed.
My tranquility was short-lived as the earth began to shake violently, causing me to sit up suddenly – earthquake! I stood up and began making my way down the vibrating hillside, stumbling and falling frequently in my haste. Boulders from higher up the mountain had been dislodged, and I looked behind me as a landslide was approaching fast. I dived under a ledge, just in time as the shower of rocks and boulders reached me and cascaded over my head as I crouched as far under the ledge as I could.
The vibrations stopped as quickly as they had started and the dust from the landslide obscured my view, making me cough. As the dust cleared, I realised that there was a cave under the ledge. Since I had explored the mountain-side many times, it must have been exposed by the earthquake or I would have seen it before.
I dug at the partly-opened entrance in the pile of stones with my bare hands, and soon made it large enough to crawl through. I reached into my pocket for my phone, and activated the torch to view inside the opening. The small beam reflected back from the dust, but gave me sufficent illumination to show a small cave, barely high enough for me to stand up. As I shone the light around, something sparkled in the corner, partly reflecting the light. I crawled nearer and shone the torch directly at the object – it looked like a large egg. I reached out a hand to gingerly touch the object and was surprised to find it was hot, which caused me to pull my hand away suddenly. I shifted position, as it was uncomfortable on my knees, and took my rucksack off my back and opened it. Sliding the rucksack over the egg, I rolled it into my rucksack and edged backwards out of the cave into the light in order to have a better look at the object.
I carefully reached inside the rucksack to pull out the egg, and stared in surprise at the strange colourings covering the egg. It was about twice the size of a standard chicken's egg, and the white shell was speckled with golden spots, almost like it was suffering from measles.
The ground started shaking again, less violently than before. “After-shock!” I thought to myself, “Okay, better get home.” I returned the egg to my rucksack, swung it carefully over my shoulders and started down the mountain-side.
Back at home, Mum was standing in the doorway waiting for me, looking worried.
“Roscoe, are you okay? I was really worried about you! The mountain is a dangerous place to be during an earthquake.”
“Sure, I'm okay. Is Dad home yet?” I gave Mum a quick hug and took off my shoes.
“Yes. He's in his study. Playing in his dragon's den, as usual.” Mum shook her head in disbelief at her husband's hobby. “As sure as eggs are eggs, there's no such thing as dragons! Still believing in dragons at his age! When will he ever grow up?”
She shut the front door behind me and headed back into the kitchen muttering to herself. I smiled at Mum's standard criticism of Dad's views on the subject, but I loved to listen to his magical stories of the past, when dragons were common and many rich people owned them as pets.
I climbed the stairs into the attic, and knocked on Dad's study door. “Come in!” I opened the door and could see Dad was sitting at his desk, staring at a large picture of a fire-breathing golden dragon on the computer screen.
Dad glanced in my direction and then back at the screen, clearly admiring the spectacular image. “Breath-taking, isn't it?”
I nodded, gazing at the stunning image in similar admiration. Dad's fascination with dragons had dominated my childhood, and I was now as intrigued by them as Dad.
“Dad, please tell me the story of the last dragons again. It's my favourite.”
Dad looked up, nodded and smiled and indicated the sofa. He got up and walked to his bookcase, selected a book and then walked over to the sofa and sat on it, and held out his arms. I enjoyed sitting on his lap while he read the story to me. The closeness and the feeling of his arms round me made me feel safe, however dangerous or scary the story was.
Dad opened the book. “Once upon a time, not so long ago, Sidion and Azina were the last dragons in Chingland, the others had left for warmer climates....” I was studying the pictures, and in the corner of one of them was an egg with gold-speckles on it.
“Dad! That egg...” Dad stopped reading to look at me but, before he could say anything...
“Dinner's ready!” Mum's voice filtered up the stairs and into our consciousness. Dad closed the book and placed it lovingly on the sofa next to him.
“Another time.” He squeezed me hard and I hugged him back, and we went downstairs to dinner.
After dinner, I went to my bedroom and sat on my bed. Opening my rucksack, I gently withdrew the egg and rolled it onto my bed. It seemed to be even hotter than I remembered from earlier. I liked sleeping with a hot-water bottle, but maybe tonight I could use the hot egg instead.
I opened the cage and took out Danny, my pet mouse, and fed him some cheese as he sat in my palm. I let him run up and down my arms, and curl up on the top of my head, which was his favourite place. I laid back on the bed and leaned towards the egg. Immediately, Danny started squeaking and acting as if he was really frightened of the egg.
“Shh, Danny. It's only an egg. Look.” I picked him up and tried to place him on the egg, but he made his body grow rigid and his squeaks became louder. He started shaking in fear. “Don't be silly, Danny. It's only an egg!” I opened the cage and put him back inside. He immediately started running round and round and hid under the heap of straw.
“Strange behaviour!” I thought to myself.
I slept through the night while cuddling the egg like a hot water bottle, and was woken before my alarm clock by the sound of cracking. I sat up suddenly and rubbed my eyes and tried to focus on where the sound was coming from. Remembering the egg, I moved the bedcovers back to expose it, and was surprised to see a little furry head poking out of the shell. The mouth was nibbling at the edge of the hole to make it bigger. I was frozen in surprise and watched, fascinated, as the mouth enlarged the opening.
The egg rolled over and the baby fell out of the broken shell and shook itself down. It was green with a yellow tummy, short stubby green arms and a green tail with a red end. It stood up and stretched – and green and yellow wings flapped gently behind it – it was a baby dragon!
“I guess you'll be hungry and thirsty. I wonder what baby dragons eat?” I got up and found Danny's cheese and milk and filled a dropper with the milk. I slowly held out my hand towards the baby dragon, palm upwards, with some bits of cheese on it, trying not to scare it. The baby stopped eating the egg shell and turned to look at my hand and sniffed. He watched, very carefully, as my hand slowly got closer and, when I stopped just out of reach, he leaned forwards and sniffed the cheese. Suddenly, a long tongue shot out and grabbed one of the bits of cheese, and retracted into his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully for a while, decided he liked it, then moved closer to lick up the remaining bits of cheese. His tongue felt soft, like velvet, as it licked my hand clean.
“So, you like cheese. Good. What about milk?” I held the dropper near his mouth and he looked at it for a moment, then opened his mouth and I squirted some milk inside before he could stop me. He licked for a moment, decided he liked it, and opened his mouth, and I squirted some more milk inside. His eyes opened wider and he looked up at me and smiled – well, it looked like a dragon-like smile to me.
“Great! Now I need to give you a name... I know. I'll call you Nicky.”
“Time to get up, sleepy-head, breakfast is ready!” Mum's voice was at the door.
“Okay, Mum, coming!” I shouted back. Nicky looked shocked by the loud noise and went to hide under my pillow, making me laugh.
“Stay here, Nicky. I'll be back soon with some more food.”
I dressed rapidly and went downstairs. Breakfast was ready on the table, and I tried to eat some and save some for Nicky without making it too obvious. I knew that Mum didn't believe in dragons, so I wasn't sure how to explain about Nicky to her.
“Don't forget to give Danny a wash and get him ready – today is 'take-a-pet-to-school-day', remember?” I'd forgtten, but mumbled something and nodded, while trying to eat quickly.
Having finished, I ran back upstairs with a bag of food for Nicky. Opening the door carefully in case Nicky was on the floor, I entered my bedroom and looked around for him. I searched the bed, but he wasn't on it, or under the sheets. Hearing a funny noise above my head, I looked up and Nicky was balanced on the light-shade.
“How on earth did you get up there, Nicky?” I reached up and he jumped onto my hand without needing further encouragement, and started licking my palm – presumably some food-flavour was still there.
“I've got some breakfast for you, Nicky.” I sat on my chair and spread the food on my desk. Nicky jumped onto the desk and started eating.
“Okay, great. You eat and I'll get Danny ready.” I moved to Danny's cage, and was surprised to see the cage door was open. “Oh no, Danny must have escaped! Here, Danny, come to Roscoe!” I got down on the floor to look for Danny under the bed, while calling his name, but couldn't see him anywhere. There was a lot of white fur on the floor under the bed. “Strange – I thought I cleaned here yesterday...”
Nicky jumped down on the floor next to me and I realised that he had white fur around his mouth and over his nose. The penny dropped. “Oh no! Nicky – you didn't eat Danny, did you?”
Nicky tilted his head to one side as if trying to understand what I was saying and licked his lips. Some white fur fell out of his mouth and he bent down to lick it up. Then yawned and curled up looking very sleepy and closed his eyes .
“You're a naughty dragon, Nicky! Naughty dragon!”
“Are you ready to go, Roscoe?” Mum's voice floated up the stairs.
Now what was I going to do about a pet for school? “I know. I'll take Nicky!” I thought to myself. I gently picked up the sleeping dragon and placed him carefully in Danny's cage and covered it with the bag and ran downstairs, where Mum was waiting holding out my coat.
“Okay, let's go!”
She drove me to school and dropped me outside. Giving me a kiss, she waved goodbye and drove off. First problem solved. I peaked under the edge of the cage-bag and was relieved to see that Nicky looked like he was still sleeping.
The first school bell sounded – time to register.
After registration, we all went to the main hall to show off our pets. The animal sounds filled the air as I located the space for our class. I found my label and placed the cage carefully on the identified location. I was really nervous about the reaction, if Nicky woke up, but with luck he would sleep through the presentation.
“So, Roscoe, what pet have you brought today?” Ms Shandler's stern face came into view. She reached over to lift the cage-bag. Her demeanour changed, and she became angry. “Roscoe. How dare you bring a cuddly toy to school and pretend it's your pet! Detention for you!”
“...But, Ms Shandler, it's not a cuddly toy...”
“Double detention for talking back at me, you naughty boy!” She stormed off in disgust, leaving me fuming at the unfair treatment.
“Who's a naughty boy, then?” Ursula, the class bully, poked me in the ribs and made me double-over in pain. She grabbed the cage and opened the door and took out Nicky.
“No! Give it back, Ursula!”
“Come and get it, then.” I moved towards her and she threw Nicky over my head and her co-bully, Drusilla, caught it. As I approached Drusilla, she threw Nicky back over my head to Ursula and back again. They were laughing at me and thinking it was a huge game. Drusilla threw Nicky, but in mid-throw he woke up and suddenly stretched his wings and started flying. He dived at Ursula and started trying to bite her and she screamed and started running out of the hall, pursued by an angry flying dragon.
“Nicky! Come back!” I shouted after the disappearing baby, and he reluctantly swooped round and returned to me and landed on my hand looking disappointed.
Ms Shandler looked even more angry than before. “How dare you bring a dangerous animal to school! That's a treble detention for you, naughty boy!” She took out her notebook to write a detention note and held it out for me to take. Nicky took one look at it and took a deep breath and blew a blast of flame at the note which caught fire immediately and Ms Shandler dropped it and screamed. “Quadruple detention for you, young man!”
“Oh, Nicky, look at the trouble you're causing me!” I looked at Nicky and he looked up at me and smiled. He looked so cute. I couldn't be angry with him very long. Maybe having a baby dragon would be worth it in the end.