This story is by Alison O’Neil and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
A year ago, I was enduring another loathsome morning commute. Then everything changed.
My editor had just texted me: Overtime tonight? Murder downtown. Need u to report. I sighed. My career as a journalist, forged in idealism but promptly doused in the dark realities of the world, had led me down the path of cynicism. I hated my line of work almost as much as I hated the criminals who gave it form.
I pulled up at a stoplight. Sure, I texted back, gritting my teeth.
Nobody would wait up for me, nobody would worry if I wandered the streets armed with only a voice recorder. I could stay as late as needed. But my disillusionment would only grow stronger with this case, just as it had with every horrific picture I’d had to paint for the bloodthirsty and rubbernecking public. I gazed out the window, dreading the day ahead.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a shift in a nearby trash can. Refuse tumbled to the ground. Suddenly a head emerged, blue and scaly and glistening in the sun. My mouth fell open.
The creature gazed at me, inquisitive and alert. Her tufts of tail feathers waved like anemones, and her long beak curved like a scimitar. The mandibles parted and a croak issued forth, coaxing me closer.
I glanced around, but none of the other commuters had noticed. Like robots they checked their phones or stared blankly at the traffic light as if nothing had happened.
I looked back at the creature. Her eyes, black and mysterious and deep as a frozen lake, expressed something I had never beheld in a human face. Her keen look hypnotized me. I had to protect her from the harsh world.
I clambered from my car, shoving open the metal shell that had confined me for so long. Scooping her up, I set her gently on my passenger seat and took the fastest route home. I suppose I sensed that we would make an excellent team. Somehow, she would help me find my true purpose. She would help me escape this life I loathed.
Before she even stretched her wings, before she coughed up her first fireball – little milestones akin to a child’s first steps and speech – I realized that this beautiful creature was a dragon. It would have been more difficult to accept had she not drawn me in with her gentle nature. She cooed and flapped, charming me with her gurgles and puffs of smoke. All along, behind those cunning eyes, she was formulating her glorious plans.
She proved astute and wise to human ways. After eavesdropping on my conversations for just a few months, she learned to speak. More importantly, she grasped the truth at the root of humanity. It was this truth that set us both free.
One night I dragged myself home, exhausted after investigating the scene of a horrific accident at a chemical plant. A massive leak had left hundreds of acres of wetland destroyed and three workers dead. I craved a sympathetic ear – she provided me with this and much, much more.
After I had poured out my heart, she looked me up and down, taking it all in. She could probably smell the traces of industrial residue. After a long and meditative pause, she finally spoke, softly but with certainty: “Your species will destroy this planet. And then they will destroy each other.” A wisp of smoke curled from her open beak. “But we know more than they do. We can hasten their destruction but preserve ourselves.”
She was confirming what I had suspected all along: humanity, capable only of evil, had to be purified. Tears streaming down my face, I asked her what I needed to do.
“Keep me growing,” she whispered. Her black eyes glinted. “We will create a beautiful world.”
“Can I trust you?”
She smiled compassionately. “I understand your suspicions. The world has left you jaded. But I promise that we will efface every scar your species has left.”
I nodded, drinking it all in.
She continued to feed me with her words. In turn, I fed her the contents of my cupboards. My meager stores proved too small, and in spite of her stoicism I knew she suffered from hunger. Cloaked in the night, she would slip from my apartment to hunt down roving cats and dogs. She craved more each day, but still we bided our time.
This morning, we both realize that she can wait no longer. The time has come.
At dawn, we travel to the top of the tallest hill overlooking the city. The street lights are still on and only a few cars crawl between the buildings, but people will pour into the streets soon enough. If all goes according to plan, they will not suffer for long. They will be snapped up in minutes, leaving my savior satisfied at last.
“Are you ready?” I ask.
She nods, gazing out over the city with longing. Neither of us feels even a trace of fear. Her size and strength make us both invincible.
Lights are flicking on in the skyscrapers: the parasites below have begun to awaken. The hour of glory is upon us. She takes one last look at me, gratitude in her eyes. Then she leaps from the hill.
She descends in a magnificent swoop, gleeful in her freedom. I watch in awe as she takes a deep breath and roars. A red jet of flame shoots forth from her bright blue beak, enveloping the city of evil in a single sheet. The light and smoke and screaming, blinding in their intensity, fill the air like confetti.
I fall to my knees and weep. The horrors of the world wiped out in one glorious blaze! Her fire will purge every murder, chemical leak, car wreck, genocide, hate crime…
At last, after so much suffering, we have both fulfilled our destinies. We have a world to win.