by Christopher Partin
“Wow,” said Charles as he put down his pencil and looked at the picture before him. It was the best drawing he had ever done. It was so detailed it was almost as if it was alive.
It had scales like glistening river rock, eyes like opals, a snout like some fierce alligator, wings like a horrible vampire bat, a tail like a stegosaurus. It had legs like tree trunks and claws like bald eagles.
It had taken Charles most of the day to draw the dragon, but now it was finished. And boy was it great! It was more than worth all that time spent making it just right.
Charles looked over at the clock and realized how late it was. He got up from his desk chair and got ready for bed. He was about to turn off the light when he realized that he’d better put his drawing somewhere where his cat, Mr. Hempleton, couldn’t walk all over it.
“Yeah, you,” said Charles, looking over at the brown and white tabby, which stared back at him with evil eyes that said, “I’m tired and you’re bothering me.”
Charles looked at the drawing one last time, still surprised at the detail he was able to create, opened his desk drawer, and carefully dropped it in. He closed the drawer and turned off the light and crawled into bed.
It had taken him awhile to finally fall into that daze between sleep and reality, so when he heard the knocking coming from somewhere inside the room he thought that he had been dreaming. He opened his eyes and looked around and listened carefully. There it was again. Knock, knock, knock, as if something was roaming around the room, something like a rat or a bogeyman. All of a sudden Charles was nervous and a little scared, but he quickly scolded himself. I’m ten years old, he thought, I shouldn’t be scared of the dark or bogeymen or little itty rats skittering around looking for cheese. I’m sure it’s nothing.
But again the sound came. He looked around for Mr. Hempleton and noticed him sleeping at the end of the bed. It couldn’t be a rat then, or maybe it was and Mr. Hempleton was being lazy, which wasn’t that unusual. Charles took a deep breath and got out of bed.
It’s nothing, he reassured himself. He flicked the light switch on and slowly opened his eyes and looked around the room.
There was nothing there.
Even weirder was that as soon as the light turned on, the sound had stopped. Was he imagining it? Or was the thing that made the noise hiding?
Eventually he turned off the light and got back under the covers. Soon he was drifting in and out of sleep before he awoke with a start because there was that noise again. He jumped out of bed and turned the light on, this time listening more carefully.
“Who’s there?” he asked. Mr. Hempleton looked up at him with a face that said, “Really? Really? I’m trying to sleep. Would you please shut up?”
“Okay, this is ridiculous,” said Charles. He knew there was something there. He walked around until he found the tennis racket his father had given him for Christmas a few years ago, which was one of those lame gifts parents sometimes get their kids. He had asked for a new art set, Mech Battle 5 for Xbox, and a couple of movies, and instead got a darn tennis racket. Now Charles was thanking his dad for the protective weapon.
He tried to place where the sound had come from. “I know you’re in here somewhere,” he said. “Come out before I start swinging wildly. I’m not afraid of you.” But even as he said it he could feel his heartbeat rising and sweat building on his forehead.
At first there was nothing but then out of nowhere came an orchestra of noises, all coming from inside his desk. Charles was happy that it seemed trapped inside the drawer, and not roaming about the room, but then he remembered his picture. His beautiful drawing could be getting ruined by whatever was invading his room.
He quickly rushed to the drawer, flung it open, and looked anxiously inside. His drawing was still there, lying upside down, and looked okay, but he wouldn’t be sure until he took it out and inspected it. And one thing he wasn’t going to do was reach his hands in a drawer where some rat or alien or goblin or something could be waiting to bite his finger off.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hello? I know you’re in there and I have a weapon and I’m not afraid to bash you with it. Come out.”
“Okay here goes,” said Charles as he raised the tennis racket above his head. He wasn’t really planning on swinging down into the drawer because doing so could ruin his picture. He only hoped to scare whatever it was.
“Okay okay,” came a muffled voice. “Okay, whatever, don’t swing you barbarian! I’ll cooperate. Just put that thing down.”
“No. What do you think I am? Dumb? If I put the racket down, you’ll jump out and attack me.”
“Why would I attack you?”
Charles raised the racket even higher. “I don’t know, but if you try it I’ll hit you right on the nose.”
“No need to get violent.”
“Come out so I can see you.”
“What do you mean you can’t?”
There was a pause. “I mean… I can’t. I’m stuck.”
“Stuck? Stuck where?”
“Inside this blasted prison you put me in.”
“I didn’t put you in any prison.”
“Yes you did. And I demand out at once.”
Charles wondered what he was talking to. Certainly a person couldn’t fit in there. Maybe it was a walkie talkie and someone was playing a trick on him, but he doubted it.
“Would you please put down the mace?” asked the muffled voice.
“Not a chance,” said Charles. He knew he’d have to deal with this himself. He very well wasn’t going to leave the creature in there all night, and his parents would think he was crazy if he went to them for help. He slowly reached one hand inside the drawer while the other held the tennis racket, ready to strike. “I’m going to pick up the picture now. Don’t move. Stay still.”
“I can’t move you pompy-headed moron. I told you I’m trapped.”
Charles took a breath and was surprised by how much his hand trembled, but he still reached until he grabbed the edge of the picture, and, just like a band aid, pulled it out. He peered inside the drawer, expecting to see some filthy creature, but there was nothing inside except for pens and old toys.
“Are… are you invisible?” he asked.
“I’m right here. Are you blind?”
Charles yelped and dropped the picture to the ground. The voice of whatever had been speaking was coming from the drawing.
The picture floated down to the ground and landed softly. Mr. Hempleton, deciding that the picture would be much more comfy than the bed and blankets, stood up, stretched, arched his back like a little mountain, jumped down, and plopped right down on top of it.
“Ahhhhhhh getterafaarr me you foul beast!”
It took a few seconds for Charles to register what was happening but finally shooed Mr. Hempleton off of the picture (which took much more shoving than Charles thought necessary), and picked the now wrinkled picture up and flatted it out on the desk. When he finally looked down at his drawing, he saw that, astonishingly, the dragon was moving!
“You look like you’re about to skewer me,” said the dragon. “Can you please put down the infernal blunt weapon and help me?”
“You… you… Get on with it. You put me here now I demand you get me out.”
Charles set the racket down, not sure what to do about the situation at all. He has, of course, never talked to a picture before, let alone have it talk back, and he’s never, ever had to help a dragon through anything, especially something as impossible as this.
“Pictures can’t talk,” he said sheepishly.
“I’m not a picture.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you a—“
“NO. I am a very respectable dragon and you have put me in this nasty jail cell, probably with hopes of stealing my treasure and jewels. Well guess what, you nasty creaton, you’ll never find them.”
“I don’t want any–“
“I have ruled the mountain pass for thousands of years, and yet some puny baby giant such as yourself comes along and plucks me out of my den while I’m sleeping and puts me right here. I demand to go back and if you help me at once I may think about sparing your life.”
“That doesn’t seem like a very good deal,” said Charles.
“What? Of course it is. It’s a wonderful deal. You maybe sort of possibly get to live and I get to be free.”
“I could just leave you in there and then I definitely get to live.”
“Bollocks. I could escape from these shackles anytime I want. It’s only a matter of maneuvering. I was just giving you a chance to redeem yourself.”
“Do it then.”
The graphite dragon, moving along the paper like an animation, smoke billowing out of its nostrils like silver smudges, started flapping his wings and pounding himself along the edge of the paper. Finally after a few moments of this, exhausted and defeated, he slumped down to the ground.
“I can do it, I just… I need to erm, uh, I need to just take a rest for a moment.”
“I don’t know how to help you,” said Charles. “Or else I would.”
“Well I can do it on my own, I just–”
“No you can’t.”
“Okay, fine, I can’t. I’m tired and I’m lost and I don’t know what you plan on doing to me, Mr. Baby Giant, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t eat me.”
“I’m not a baby. I’m ten years old.”
“Ten?! Why, you were just born!”
“No way. I’m plenty old.”
“I’m thirteen thousand, four hundred and thirty six. And a half.”
“That’s really old.”
“Is not! How dare you. That’s a perfectly fine age. I’m still an adolescent. You’re just a newborn. It’s a miracle you can talk at all.”
“I am not.”
“Am…” Charles quickly realized that arguing with this dragon wasn’t getting him anywhere. “Okay, look. I’m going to think of some way to get you out of here and then I can get some sleep. Okay?”
“If I don’t kill you.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever.”
Charles sat down on the bed and thought, occasionally interrupted by the dragon demanding to be let out at once. Of course, Charles ignored him.
Finally Charles sat up. “I got it. What if I just erase you? Then you’ll be free.”
Charles grabbed the pink eraser on his desk and moved towards the dragon.
“Oh dear God, no, no, please no,” screeched the dragon. “Get that thing away from me. Are you trying to kill me?”
Charles put the eraser back down on the desk. “Okay, I guess that won’t work,” he said.
That’s when he noticed something on the dragons head as it moved back and forth like a snake.
“Wait,” he said.
“Stop moving a second.”
As stubborn as the dragon was he decided to stop moving so Charles could have a closer look. At the top of dragon’s head, in the middle, was a blank area where Charles had planned to draw a small golden ball, the place where dragon’s power comes from. The reason why the dragon was trapped was because he wasn’t finished yet!
Charles quickly grabbed his pencil, sharpened it, and brought it towards the dragon.
“What are you doing?” demanded the dragon. “Get away from me. Are you trying to poke my eye out?”
“Shut up and stay still, or else I will poke your eye out.”
Charles quickly drew in the ball, concentrating heavily so he didn’t screw up. When he was finished he sat back and marveled at his work. Before he could see whether it was done right, though, the paper began shaking, and the dragon, bewildered and probably a little scared (though he’d never admit it), started coming out of the page. First one of his shiny claws, then his arm, then his head. As he came out his skin went from shiny graphite to a glistening deep blue in the light, as if he was an angry sea. His eyes were orange, his claws yellow, and along his body greenish hues erupted like diamonds.
Before Charles knew it the dragon was standing on top of the paper right in front of him.
“I’m free,” he said.
“Yes,” said Charles. “You’re pretty small for a dragon, you know.”
“You’re pretty stupid, for a giant.”
“I’m not a giant. I’m just a regular boy.”
“Whatever you say.”
They stood awkwardly with one another, not sure what to say.
“You could stay, you know,” said Charles. “We could be friends, have fun.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” said the dragon. When he saw the sad look on Charles face he changed his tone. “Hey, look. I’ll visit sometime, okay? And it’s not you, it’s just I have my home, and…”
Charles went over to the window and opened it. The chilly night air came through and he shivered. He could hear crickets singing and branches wavering in the wind.
The dragon hopped on the ledge. “Tha–thank you. For helping me. I’m sure you didn’t mean to trap me.”
“I’m still not sure how that happened. I didn’t even know dragons existed.”
“If it exists in your mind, it exists out of it,” said the dragon simply.
They stood in silence looking at one another and finally the dragon took a breath, nodded, and flew out into the world, towards his den in the sky and his brilliant treasures hidden away. Charles looked on as the dragon flapped its wings, flying along the silver lights in the sky, and smiled.
About the Author
Christopher Partin lives in a small coastal town named Astoria, Oregon. He spends most of his time going to school as an English major, devouring books of all kinds (especially children’s books, as a good children’s book will be accessible for all ages), writing like there’s no tomorrow, and, when he’s not feeling particularly reclusive, enjoying the company of friends. He is also an avid book and quote collector, space traveler, and wielder of the fabled thagomizer. He believes children are brilliant, and their creativity and curiosity should be encouraged, not obliterated. Currently, he is working on his first novel.
About the Narrator
Adam has narrated two pieces for us before, the poem Empires of the Red Dawn in Episode 93, our second Little Wonders collection. As well as Episode 88, Dragon Art. Adam is also the voice of the golem Loam in our Parsec-award nominated serialized novella Camp Myth: Phoenix Watching by Chris Lewis Carter.
Adam is a recovering neuroscience student, although he’s working hard to relapse. He enjoys reading, bicycling, and shouting into microphones, the last of which he sometimes records. He still doesn’t have a public web presence, which makes me sad.