When the big dragons flew ashore from the deep waters they burned randomly and with impunity.
There was no discernible reason or pattern. It was as though something had riled them up on their journey overseas so much so they landed with a line in the sand entrenched and fossilized and crossed without provocation. And the only remedy for their irascible mood was wanton destruction.
For whatever reason, the dragons spared, or more likely missed, Grandma and Grandpa’s neighborhood. Gnarled trees and scrub brush–the only vegetation that still seemed to grow –thrived uncharred around the avenues and cul-de-sacs of the Morel Haven development.
The surrounding areas hadn’t been as fortunate. Residences and businesses alike morphed into blackened and twisted hunks of metal, concrete, and plastic. What hadn’t been burnt was overgrown. Sickly versions of weeds and native grasses had begun creeping out of the ashes, always dull grey and hot to the touch. The dragon grass, as people began to call them, ate up roads and sidewalks and the spaces in between, and there were stories of people getting really sick after coming into contact with the plants.
This made what I was about to do a really dumb idea.
The baby dragon I’d rescued from the crows a few months back, the one that was roughly the size of a fat cat when I found at and had stayed that size ever since, had finally started to grow. Ash was as big as a beagle, and that wasn’t counting the tail. Hiding her from Grandma and Grandpa, which had never been easy, suddenly got a lot more challenging. I knew I couldn’t keep her in the house, but the old high school gym ten blocks over was still standing. If I could get Ash to the gym, she’d have plenty of room to grow and fly.
I could have used the tunnel system to get to the high school much faster, but there’d have been too much risk of running into someone, and Ash didn’t exactly fit inside my backpack. The only other option was to make the journey above ground, which meant crossing through patches of dragon grass.
The route up the middle of the street carried the least amount of dragon grass, but also had the least amount of cover against the dragons. Despite the outside heat, I wore jeans and a hoodie, a pair of Grandma’s dish gloves–which I used to call dishes mittens–and a bandana bandit style over my mouth. I had been outside for less than ten minutes, and already soaked my t-shirt through. Ash stayed closes, at times waddling by my side, and other times taking to the air for short flights. She let out tiny screeches every time her wings caught a thermal, and then she would dip and dive, barrel roll and bank. Hedges of dragon grass towered skyward on either side of the street, its ashen tendrils somehow finding means to move and grope. I checked my feet to make sure I wouldn’t trip, and picked up the pace.
We’d covered half the distance to the high school when we hit our first snag. At the first major intersection, the dragon grass had found a way to stretch across the middle of the road using bent and leaning streetlight poles. I’d have to find a different path. Ash beat her wings and lifted herself over the impasse, and I got scared. I didn’t like the idea of her being out of sight. I wanted to hurry, but forced myself to slow down. If I went too fast, I’d more than likely pitch head first into a wall of dragon grass.
I found an opening slightly larger than me, and passed through, squeezing my arms as close to my body as possible, willing them not to even brush against the dark vegetation. The street opened up a bit after that, and I tacked to the opposite side of the street for the next opening. I’d just gone through that when Ash landed by my side, and about frightened me into the dragon grass. I scolded her, and she hung her head. My heart was thumping around in my throat, but I felt bad, so I fed her a granola bar from my pack. That seemed to cheer her up, and she spit a stream of fire at the dragon grass blocking our path. It shriveled, turning to ash, then floated away. With our route clear, I could see the high school in the distance. I praised Ash, gave her another granola bar, and we continued our journey.