This short story was written for Sonia as part of Pay It Forward 2015. I hope you all enjoy it!
It was the noise that awoke her first.
To Sonia, it sounded as if an animal was sharpening its nails on the windows. That noise was followed by another, clearly a sound of pain, a long an pitiful howling sound. This was followed by the third sound: something clicking, as if a car was having trouble restarting itself.
She got up and went to her window and saw no animal there, nothing huddled on the ground. Curious, she went against her better judgement, which was fighting to keep her indoors, and walked to the front door of her house. The noises were growing louder, more urgent. Whatever it was that was making the sounds, it was clearly in trouble.
Checking to see both children and her mother were asleep, she put on a pair of slippers, opened her front door and looked out into the darkness. There were a few lights that dotted her street, but they left parts of the street in shadows. Across the street from her house, there was an open stretch of grass where the children in the neighborhood played soccer or other sports. The noises were coming from there.
They were even louder now that she was standing outside. Running towards the sounds, again fighting her better judgement, Sonia ran towards them. She saw two tom cats attacking something smaller than them. It was covering its head with its arms and was just waiting for the attack. The feral sounds were coming from it.
It was darkest in this section of the field, with no lights at all, but she could make out its shape. Was it a bird? She wasn’t sure, but when it let loose another of those cries, beginning with that sound like nails on glass, she knew it was in trouble.
The animal howled even louder, almost as if it knew that the end was close. Sonia stood rooted to the spot but knew, with utmost certainty, that she had to do something. She had been trodden on all of her life. Her ex-husband was much like one of those tom cats, strutting around and showing how big it was when it was really just full of hot air. So she did the only thing she could do.
Bending down, Sonia grabbed a handful of little rocks that littered the field around her. She didn’t want to hurt them, more frighten them away. Throwing them with all her might, she was rewarded with a shocked meow from one of the toms as a rock flew by its head. When she lobbed another rock close to the other one, he hissed at her. She threw another a small handful of stones at them and they let out frightened meows. “Serves you right!” She said loudly. “Picking on something that can’t defend itself! Get going! Both of you!”
She made do charge them, but both cats turned and ran into the darkness. When they had scampered off, she was left in silence, broken only by the animals occasional sounds. It was now letting out soft mewing sounds, its breath coming quick and fast. It was still too dark to see the creature, but she could see it had wings of a sort. They looked like leather in the shadows. Reaching down with a gentle hand, Sonia stroked one of the wings.
“There now, it’s going to be all right. I’ll take care of you.”
It let its wings down and looked at her. It stood weakly on its legs and let out another little soft mew sound, almost as if it were saying yes. “Do you want to come home with me little one?”
It let out another sound, closer to a purr this time. She took that as a sound of agreement. Reaching down, she carefully lifted the animal into her arms. “It’s okay, no one will hurt you now.”
Walking back across the field, she held the animal almost as if it were a baby. Not knowing what the animal was, but knowing that it needed some love, she brought it into her home. When she crossed the threshold, the sound of a gong rang out and the air seemed to pulsate around her.
Startled, Sonia turned on a light switch. There was no gong in her house, she knew that, but she wondered if her mother had brought home a new toy for the children. She calmed herself as her heart was racing. Taking a few deep breaths, Sonia turned on a light switch. Looking down, she realized the animal was watching her.
It was covered in what looked like blue scales and large, dark eyes looked back at her. Reaching out a finger, she traced the horns that were growing on its brow, black like the night. The creature let out a small purr as it traced the rest of its face, letting her finger go along its jaw line and pet its snout.
It sneezed and there was a puff of smoke.
“What are you, little one? Where did you come from?”
Her mother, Gwendolyn, ran into the living room. “Oh, Sonia! You’re all right! I came as fast as I could when I heard that sound, I was afraid that you had fallen and hurt yourself!”
“Don’t be silly mom. I’m all right, see?” She held the little animal up towards her mother. “I went out and rescued an animal. It seems to be all right, but there were some tom cats trying to hurt it. I saved it just in time.”
Gwendolyn took one look at the animal and her mouth dropped open. Then she crossed herself. “Saints be praised. I never thought I’d live to see a dragon.”
The word stayed in the air for a moment and the only sound was that of the little animal breathing. Finally, Sonia spoke: “Don’t talk nonsense mom. There’s no such thing as dragons.”
The little animal let out a pained yelp and Sonia looked down at it. There was a small patch of redness on the scales that covered its belly. “Poor thing, they hurt you. What do you eat? Would you like some water?”
Gwendolyn shook her head. “There is such a thing as dragons.”
“No there isn’t. Those are just stories. They don’t actually exist.”
“Oh and those stories came out of nowhere, did they? You think that the story tellers of old just made them up?”
Sonia let out a little laugh. “Well, yes, mom. That’s what story tellers do, you know. They make things up. There are no such things as dragons.”
The animal let out another yelp. Looking down, Sonia saw that the red patch had grown larger. “Oh! Come on little one, I’ll take care of you.”
Sonia brought it over to the kitchen sink, her mother not far behind her.
“Sonia, I tell you, that’s a dragon. That sound you heard was one that happens when the dragon bonds to its mother. It’s in all the old tales, why do you not listen?”
“Because dragons aren’t real, everyone knows that.”
The animal let out a third yelp and Sonia saw that even more of its scales had reddened in colour. “Oh, poor thing. Come here, I’ll clean you.”
She placed the animal into the water and it purred again when its scales touched the hot liquid. Sonia squirted some water onto the animal and she rinsed it as best as she could. Looking more closely at it, she thought it looked like a lizard. She wondered vaguely if lizards were native to this area.
The lizard continued to purr lightly as it was cleaned, Gwendolyn looking on with something approaching awe. “It needs a name.” She said. “Every man, woman and beast needs a name. You need to finish the bonding.”
Watching the lizard for a moment, she tried to think of a name, but none came to her. “I can’t think of one.”
“Perhaps it will tell you it’s name in time.”
Sonia took the lizard out of the water and dried its scales. It looked much cleaner, but the red patch had grown some more. “Come on little one, let’s find some place for you to sleep.”
It let out a little cough of smoke and took to the air. It flew before her for a moment before settling down on her shoulder.
Gwendolyn reached out a hand and stroked the lizard’s nose. It purred happily and then nestled into Sonia’s hair. “The old stories talk of dragons coming when the hero or heroine would need it most.” She gave Sonia a dark look. “Perhaps it’s here for a reason.”
Later, as Sonia got ready for bed, the lizard made itself comfortable on one of her pillows. It curled up into a small circle and settled down to sleep. Looking at it, Sonia was moved to tears. Why had the animal chosen her?
She had to admit that it was nice having something else to look after. With her husband gone and her children were growing up so fast-Skyler was three and her daughter Serenity was five. Sonia felt an ache pulse in her heart. Though she knew that she had many years left to care for Skyler and Serenity, she knew that time would pass by in the blink of an eye. Today they were three and five, tomorrow they would be graduating high school. Time seemed to speed up when you wanted it to stand still.
If Sonia was being honest with herself, she supposed she was lamenting the piece of her heart that her ex-husband had taken with him. Sonia found it impossible to just stop loving someone. Though they had parted, their marriage over, the words they slung between them angry and hateful, she still loved him. You couldn’t turn off love like a water facet, it wasn’t that simple.
She lay down in bed once again in darkness and was lulled to sleep by the small snoring sounds of the lizard.
In the morning, she woke when she heard purring noises close to her ear. Opening her eyes, she saw that the lizard had made itself comfortable as close to her as it could and was licking her hand with a long forked tongue.
Smiling, Sonia sat up and regarded it. It’s red patches had spread until almost the entire lizard was covered with scales. It regarded her from the bed, blinking its yellow eyes at her serenely. She reached out a hand and stroked its scales. “What shall I call you little one?”
Though she couldn’t see the animal move its lips, Sonia heard a voice answer her just the same.
*I have many names*
Cocking her head to the right, she regarded the animal. “Did you just speak?”
*Not in the way you are accustomed to. It is the way we speak to our rider.*
“Are you speaking inside my head?”
It slowly blinked its eyes at her. *How else do you think we’re conversing?*
Sonia shook her head. “I can’t believe this is happening. This isn’t real.”
*You say this though I sit before you and we’re sharing words with our minds? Why can’t you believe?*
“I promised myself I wouldn’t believe what I couldn’t see or touch. Not after him.”
*You speak of the one I’ve seen inside your mind? The one who hurt you? What does he have to do with anything?*
“He spoke of love, of loving me forever. I don’t believe in love anymore, as you can’t see it or touch it.”
The lizard reached out with a clawed foot and touched her softly on her hand. It gripped one of her fingers in its talons. *There, you can see me and touch me. Believe in me, Sonia, for I am very real.*
Reaching out with a shaking hand, Sonia stroked its scales once more. “You’re not really a lizard, are you?”
*No, you know what I am.*
“But dragons don’t exist.”
*Yet I’m here before you. You can see me and touch me. I exist for you, Sonia. Say what I am and name me, only then will the bonding be complete.*
Sonia looked at it and found herself mesmerized by its eyes. They blinked slowly at her like a cats and Sonia found herself nodding. She spoke softly, the words tumbling from her as if they had been waiting to be spoken: “You’re name is Titus and you are a dragon.”
At those words, another gong sounded throughout the house and her room was filled with light. It took Sonia only a moment to realize that the light was coming from Titus. She watched as the redness of his scales began to fall away and the blue was revealed, only it was different than before. Now the blueness of it shone like sapphires and shone just as brightly.
When the light faded, Titus bowed his head to her. *Thank you, Sonia. The bonding is complete.*
“What does that mean?”
*Dragons have but one rider. The rider and the dragon share a bond that few things in life can match.*
*No, you honour me. You saved me though you had no idea what I was. I can’t thank you enough for that, but there is something I want to give you.*
“What? What is it?”
The answer would have to wait, for at that moment her bedroom door opened and Gwendolyn stood there with Skyler and Serenity. Skyler stared at Titus open mouthed in shock but Serenity gave words to what they were all feeling: “A dragon! Cool!”
Titus entertained the children all day and delighted Gwendolyn with his acrobatics. Sonia reflected while watching them that this was the first time that she had been happy in a long time. She had Titus to thank for that.
Later, she took him out into the garden. The fireflies were numerous this evening and helped to make the darkness look as if it were a dream. She wondered if she had walked into a book, some modern fairy tale, and had yet to walk out of the book and off the page.
“What was it you wanted to give me?” Sonia whispered.
*A vision of things to come. It’s yours if you want to see it.*
She thought for a moment. “I’d like to.”
*Then look into my eyes, Sonia. Remain calm, for you aren’t in any danger.*
Sonia brought Titus us to her face so she could do so. Instead of yellow eyes, she saw that the eyes were now filled with something like smoke. She blinked once and when she opened them, she was flying.
The air moved around her as if it were welcoming her. She looked down and realized she flew on Titus, his long body much bigger than it had been before. She felt his wings beating on either side of her, the movement calming rather than alarming.
He turned his neck and regarded her with a regal expression. *Look down there.*
She did and saw herself playing with her children. They were a little older, maybe by a year or so. She was laughing with them and had never looked so happy. They were playing in the backyard of another house and were joined by another child, a boy with dark hair and a bright smile.
“Whose child is that?”
Her question was answered when the child called out “Mom!” He ran to her and almost knocked her over with a hug, throwing himself into the act with energy that only the young have.
There was another question on her lips when a man came out of the house. He had the same dark hair and bright smile that the boy did. He approached the Sonia down below and wrapped his arms around her. The boy, wigging out from between them, ran away laughing and joined Serenity and Skyler.
The man with the dark hair kissed Sonia and in the sky above them, the real Sonia watched as light bloomed inside them and shone out for all to see. She felt Titus’ eyes on her once more. “Why are you showing me this?”
*You will have great love in your life, Sonia. More than you do now. You only have to do one thing.*
“What’s that? What do I have to do? My heart is breaking, I don’t know if it will ever heal.”
*It will in time. Time heals almost every wound. You have to remain open to love, only then will you give the light the portal it needs to come into you.*
“So is this the future? Is this what will happen?”
*It is, if you have an open heart. It is if you want it to be. Choose love Sonia, or the possibility of it. The rest will take care of itself.*
She blinked and opened her eyes once more and found herself back in the garden, looking into Titus’ eyes which had returned to yellow orbs that glowed in the darkness. She took a deep breath and felt something inside of herself mend.
A hole that she had been carrying with her began to repair itself. There were still a few stitches left to make the hole disappear completely, but that would come with time. She looked in Titus’s eyes and they blinked slowly. She held him up and kissed his nose softly.
*There is no thanks needed. There is only love.*
Sonia nodded, feeling lighter than she had in a long time. She had no idea what would happen, if she would be able to keep Titus, when she would find the man she saw in the vision, what would happen with her ex-husband.
None of that mattered, though. She chose love. The rest would take care of itself.
She would make her first choice for love by going inside and making dinner for her boys and her mother for the first time in months. She would fill her home with so much light that anyone who passed by could not fail to see it.
There is only love.
The rest is merely happenstance.