One of the writing forums I enjoy occasionally hosts a guessing game between its members. The idea’s to write a story that incorporates three prompts, and players guess who wrote which story. The prompts this summer were: (1) A magical disaster, (2) a new method of time travel, and (3) a mad scientist.
Eighteen people signed up, and between July and September we each fit those prompts into stories. The stories ranged from 1500 words to close to 20,000 words.
Here’s mine. It has nothing to do with climate change. 🙂 It’s just a piece of silliness to give you a smile.
Roaring mightily, Pyrus swiped at Bew’h’wey and hurled the young man into a massive oak. “You dare ask me for magic?”
Bew’h’wey felt about his chest. That thump was a doozy. Thank God for chain mail. “It was a mistake, Pyrus. Forgive me.”
Pyrus tipped his knobby head to the heavens and belched out a monstrous stream of gas, an eructation for the ages. A belch to plant terror in the hearts of small children, one that would bring demons and devils forth to cavort in the babes’ sugar-plum dreams. “I hunger. Bring me meat from the maidens, hot and bloody!”
Bew’h’wey scuffed a toe at the ground. He usually fed Pyrus kibble. There were handfuls of the stuff in his pockets. But kibble had gotten him nowhere. “If I bring you meat, will you give me the magic?”
Pyrus leapt from the forest floor with a flash of glistening webbed wings. In a sulfurous cloud he winged to the top of the nearest gingko and there he sat, fearsome, an eighty-foot blue- green beak-nosed monster. “I make no promise,” he rumbled, ear-flaps twitching.
Everyone said once owned, a dragon must gift its master with comeliness, riches, and height. Bew’h’wey’s best friend from school said as much, and R’ob had certainly shot up since he’d hatched his own dragon last August. Would Bew’h’wey have gone in search of an egg otherwise? He wanted the girls to gaze upon him with sighs of maidenly longing. Would Bew’h’wey have sought out a perfect, untouched egg? Would he have trawled through gingko and banyan, tupelo and cypress, were it not for the promise of a fair lass?
But trawled he had, tracking through sulfur puddles and great red dragon-nests, climbing the ever-changing forest—one day chestnut and the next elm—until he found the clutch. Two thousand eggs ringing a prickly red nesting bed. No bigger than robins’ eggs and rough as pinecones. Whole messes of them. Bew’h’wey had taken an egg with no blemish at all and hatched it in the privacy of his bedroom closet. He’d loved and nurtured the dragonling, cuddled the youngster in his lap and sang him nursery tunes and read board books to him and, well, everything.
The only thing that could explain Pyrus’s ornery refusal to hold up his end of the deal, was if the egg had been tainted before Bew’h’wey found it.
“Bring me meat from the maidens!”
Sighing, Bew’h’wey emptied the kibble from his pockets. “Yes, Pyrus. In the meantime, here. When I come back, we are going to talk about that magic you owe me.”
Pyrus belched again, his trumpeting roar filling the sky in gaseous waves. He roared so mightily and with such fervor, that the ground buckled under Bew’h’wey’s feet. So great was the beast’s rage that trickles of darkness burbled out of his mouth.
The darkness was magic.
“Kibble??!?” Pyrus exclaimed. “I NEED GOAT.”
Bew’h’wey caught himself against a gingko that shifted with the burbling blackness. It was now a eucalyptus. “You want… a goat?” He’d planned to go to the butcher and pick up a pound of ground round. What the heck, he’d do that and call it goat. Wait. Did Pyrus mean a live goat? With horns and hooves and fur?
“NOT A GOAT,” Pyrus bellowed. “GOAT. The greatest of all tastes. The most flavorful, delicate, best seasoned and most intoxicating food in existence. I demand GOAT!”
Bew’h’wey frowned. It was a new demand, like a toddler refusing their mashed peas and squash. “Um. Isn’t the greatest taste going to be, you know, a matter of opinion?”
The dragon rippled, his skin undulating from his shoulders down to his mighty muscled haunches. So hard did his skin billow and swell that three of Pyrus’s protoscales, underneath his forearm, shuddered. Two fell to the ground. “Curry takeout will suffice!”
Bew’h’wey dared not look at the scales, but those, too, were magic. A sudden thrumming began in his head. If he could grab those scales, he might have a way to force Pyrus to give him his magic, and then the girls would like him.
“Curry take-out, got it.” Takeaway from Coco Ichibanya was usually good, and if he got there before six the lines would be short. He bowed and took a backward step, away from the dribbling dark ooze still dripping from Pyrus’s lower lip. He barely dared think of the scales, but really, he could think of nothing else.
They carried the magic of time travel. He must have them. With them, he could demand the greater magic of wealth and comeliness. “Um, Pyrus?”
Pyrus released a belch more odorous than before, straight to the ground underneath the box elder upon which he perched, and a dozen crows scattered away. “What?!”
“Well, I can pick up some really fantastic GOAT, but… um, yeah. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable waiting, you know, further from the road? All sorts of people come by this time of day, mostly soccer moms but a few guys from the base too, and they have guns and stuff. I mean, I’m not ordering you or anything, because you’re a pet and I love you—”
Pyrus belched. It really was all he could do. Leaves in the uppermost branches of the walnut tree frizzled and burst into flame.
“—I mean of course I love you, like you were my child. I see you as, erm, you know, as the son who will carry on after I’m dead and gone. It’s that kind of love, Pyrus. Eternal. But do you want to be so close to the road? Anyone might come by. Bother you. Try to steal the GOAT when I get back.”
Snaking his head back and forth with a mighty whipping motion, Pyrus screamed, “And where do you suggest I wait?”
“I don’t know.” Bew’h’wey waved his hand deeper into the poplar forest. “Over there. Behind a willow.”
Pyrus reared high, flailing his forelimbs in fury and wrath before jumping deeper into the wood, flutter-lumbering out of sight. Then Bew’h’wey crept to the two scales which had slipped down amongst the locust leaves. “Magic,” he whispered, stuffing them under his chain mail shirt with a grin.
Bew’h’wey headed home, a second-story flat. It sat over an army surplus store on the south side. Past the Maytag repairman. As he trotted along, he mused. Time travel meant options. First off, he didn’t need the GOAT anytime soon. He could go anywhere, right now. Anywhen. He could use the second scale to get back to Coco Ichibanya before the dinner crowd, and still get Pyrus his curry with plenty of time to spare.
That meant he had a scale to use however he wanted. If only he knew how they worked.
Once home, he skipped to his room and grabbed a book his bud R’ob had leant him. ‘Kenning the Art of Dragon Maintenance.’ It wasn’t really a manual, more a series of letters written by a woman who denied that dragons even existed. She was crazy. A so-called dragon denier. Dragons flitted about day and night, spewing black goo-magic wherever they went, turning entire cities into flowers and rainbows or sidewalks into tractors and bypasses; causing trees to transmogrify from one species to the next, and yet some people insisted the dragons didn’t exist.
Bew’h’wey knew better. Heck, he owned a dragon.
The woman, in her anti-dragon polemic, kept writing letters about it—but the oddest thing was that letter, after letter, after letter—whether satirical or just pissy—came true.
August 23, year 53 PCE (post common era)
I see it now, unfolding in sulfur-laced glory. I see the future! Romania will win the world cup. The national debt will be paid. Taxes will be forgiven, and dental procedures will be orgasmic!
And all of this because of the great glory, dear reader, of dragons! Yes, dragons, those magnificent beasts sitting atop our homes and hilltops.
The Labour party will lie in peace with the Tories. Peter Pan will visit London once more! Sexism, racism, every-other-ism, will vanish! Peace will rein on Earth! And you heard it here first.
Dr. Ann-Toni Fowlsea
p.s. Give me a freaking break. Wake up and drink the coffee, you idiots! There are no dragons!
The following year, Romania won the world cup. Everything else Fowlsea predicted came to pass as well. People started booking weekly appointments with their dental hygienists.
Some said the woman was mad. Others said the very existence of her letters proved dragon-magic worked at a previously-unknown level—some time-bendy thing to do with the scales. Some speculated she had some inside track on dragon magic. They called her a time witch. But even as the conspiracy theories abounded, many still agreed with her, insisting alongside the mad scientist that there were no dragons. That all of the funny goings-on, buildings popping in and out of existence, or the ground yawning wide and sucking clouds into itself, were coincidences.
Or else proof of the existence of God.
April 27, year 57 PCE (post common era)
There is no God!
Dr. Ann-Toni Fowlsea
p.s. Give me a freaking break, you idiots!
Church attendance plummeted, priests turned in their frocks, and everyone just started getting on with being decent to each other for its own sake.
But whether Fowlsea was directing future events through a cosmic attunement to dragon magic or not, her letters were snipped out of the newspapers and collected by adherent and skeptic alike. They were compiled into a workbook coveted by young dragon owners everywhere.
Kenning the Art of Dragon Maintenance.
Bew’h’wey flipped through the copy, searching for anything about dragon scales. If he could get back in time to that red, flattened dragon nest at the moment Pyrus’s egg was laid, he could make certain no one interfered with his future bond. He could undo any nasty taint keeping Pyrus from helping him.
July 3, year 54 PCE (post common era)
Are you kidding me? Time traveling scales? Yeah, why not, that makes sense. No doubt the scales—which totally exist because that stands to reason—are ground up and snorted by someone who wants to, you know, travel through time.
That’s how it works! Because…. Magic!
Dr. Ann-Toni Fowlsea
p.s. There’s no such thing as magic, you idiots! Read a book!
Okay, that was enough of a protocol to work with.
Bew’h’wey peered about his room. He needed something in which to grind up a scale, like a bowl, or a mortar and pestle. Mom’s blender was a possibility, but it seemed risky to grind the scale in the kitchen. What if she breathed the scale-dust by accident? Would she blink into some other time zone? No, he’d grind by hand, right here in his room.
Still, he needed something to hold the scale. He had an old football trophy, which reminded him of the jock strap in his dresser. He might use the cup… No. Just, no. No. Worst case, that’d be plan B.
In the end, Bew’h’wey grabbed one of his combat boots, half of the pair the guy downstairs had given him. The guy said he’d grow into them eventually, especially since he had a dragon. Yeah, right. Bew’h’wey slipped one of the scales out from under his chain mail shirt and dropped it into the boot. He pushed his foot in and started grinding.
Bloody mother of Pyrus, it was like knives against his heel, but he kept at it. It didn’t feel like his skin was breaking, exactly, more like dull nails were drilling into him again and again. After two or three minutes the jabbing little points of pain turned into a powdery crunch.
“That should do,” he muttered, turning the boot upside down and pouring the mix into his palm. A little dirt came along, and the whole mess was barely a teaspoon altogether. Bew’h’wey stared at it, wondering what it might feel like to snort dull little razor blades.
“Aw, what the hell.” He snorted all of it. “Take me to Pyrus’s egg laying!”
Bew’h’wey whipped around, spinning faster and faster, and his room turned a technicolor shade of pink. Unicorns danced about, mermaids flapped their tails at him, and fairies cried, “Bring us into your world!” But he batted his hands at them all. “Go away you loons. I have a dragon to fix.”
A great vortex sucked him in, a sort of funnel of wind and fury and music from the late eighties. The bedroom vanished, the magical beings around him vanished, and he went feet first into darkness. A howling, terrifying darkness.
It was endless.
Thump. Bew’h’wey landed on the forest floor. All the trees were maple, and before him a three-hundred-foot gravid dragon was straining. A small stream of golf-ball-sized eggs sprayed out from her rear end.
“Good God,” he said, forgetting that God had been destroyed in year 57. “There’re millions.”
The dragon whipped her head around and cast a baleful eye upon him. “What do you do here, human?!”
“I’m sorry miss, I wanted to, erm, see your eggs. I bond with one of your children and—”
“You what?” She squirted another thousand eggs with the exclamation.
“I… well…” The idea of explaining to this massive beast that he intended to make a pet out of her son Pyrus seemed quite suddenly unwise.
She roared, and flames licked the skies, and then she turned to him once more. “Tell me all.”
He could not resist that fiery gaze, that hideous glare. He told her how the eggs were desired by teenagers for the magic they promised. He said they must be pristine if one hoped for a proper bond. He told her that the bond placed the dragon under control of its master.
Except Pyrus is an ass.
He didn’t say that part aloud.
“Earth does not deserve magic,” she cried. “I will find a worthier home!” And she flamed the entirety of her clutch, all the millions of little pine-cone eggs in the great circle around her nest. They burst alight, even as Bew’h’wey cried, “No! No!”
She leapt up and flew to the stars. Gone. Gone forever.
Weeping, Bew’h’wey fell to the scorched ground. He touched the spot where Pyrus’s egg had lain. The spot was cooling now, the eggshell mere shards and dust. Oh Pyrus, you jerk, I barely knew you…
Bew’h’wey reached under his mail shirt for the second scale. Perhaps he could go earlier in time to fix this massive tragedy. But even as he pulled the scale out, it crumbled to gray ash. He snorted a bit of it in desperation and gagged.
In despair, he curled into the dragon nest.
Morning dawned, and Bew’h’wey woke in an unchanging maple forest. He looked about, but there was not a single gingko or sycamore in sight. It seemed wrong, somehow.
Bew’h’wey stood and walked, through the day and into the evening, eventually coming to a clearing and a milkmaid’s pen. The maid was young, and pretty.
“What year is it?” he said.
“Twelve hundred BC.”
“BC? What does that mean?”
“Hm. I guess I don’t know.”
She watched him, and it seemed that she appreciated him. The chain mail he wore perhaps, or the general lack of disease about him. She held out her hand. He took it, and she said, “Come inside. I stewed up some goat and it’s all ready to eat.”