(Note: The following short story is my entry to There Be Dragons Here writing contest at Undying Legends. My entry is Entry 5)
“Daddy, Daddy!” screamed Katie as she ran toward me.
It was not a cry of joy but of terror. I looked up from the tractor I had been working on and saw Katie running toward me from the barn.
“Daddy, you won’t believe what I just saw, I saw a dragon, a real life dragon, and it was huge and it had a big mouth and fangs and huge eyes and…..”
I grabbed her shoulders and said, “Hold on right there, young lady. Catch your breath.”
Her small chest heaved up and down a few times as she tried to slow down her breathing. Long before it was under control her small mouth opened and started to speak again.
Before she could say a word, I held my finger to her lips and in a stern voice said, “Katie, have you been playing in the barn without permission?”
Her eyes widened in realization that she had been caught doing something forbidden. “Uh, um, er, I guess so.”
“Katie, Katie, Katie, what am I to do with you? You know I’ve told you over and over to never go into the barn without me?”
She stood there with her head lowered, still trembling a bit from her excitement and running and I suppose from the dread of being punished. As I looked upon her, my heart broke just a bit.
“Katie, how old are you?”
She lifted her hands and showed me nine fingers.
“Do you want to live to be ten?” I said in a very stern voice.
Katie raised her head slowly and her eyes widened. Her lower jaw fell open as she thought about what I had just said.
“Y..Y..Y…yes, Daddy”, she stammered.
“Okay then, follow me”, as I strode off toward the distant barn. By the sounds of her little footsteps I could tell she was right behind me.
We approached the barn, the infernal damn barn. It was a typical looking barn found all over the Midwest. It was a bit weathered and was in need of yet another coat of paint. I mentally added that chore to the never ending list of chores to do around the farm.
As I reached the door of the barn, I whipped around and knelt so suddenly that Katie backed up in alarm a few steps. I grasped her arms with my rough callused hands and brought her close to me so that my eyes were just a few inches from her eyes.
“Katie, what I’m about to show you, must never ever be spoken of to anyone. Do you understand me?”
She nodded her head slowly as she stared into my eyes. I looked deep into her pale blue eyes for any hint of hesitation. Then I slowly turned her around and bade her to look at the farm. The fields of wheat which were starting to come up, the broken down tractor in the middle of the field, the pig pens where we had dozens of hogs. Then finally, our house with window boxes filled with blooming Pansies, Peony’s and Snapdragons.
“If you ever mention this to anyone, not only will you die, but all of this will be destroyed, gone forever”
She looked at me and her eyes started to tear up. Her lips trembled and she softly said, “I don’t want to die, I promise I’ll never tell.”
“Okay, I believe you. What do you know about dragons?”
Katie scrunched up her eyes a bit and said, “My teacher, Ms. Daniels says that all the dragons were killed a long time ago and that … that dragons ate little children.”
I laughed softly, “Well, Ms. Daniels is wrong on both accounts. There are still dragons around, in fact lots of them. Also dragons don’t eat children, they prefer hogs. But, most people are still scared of dragons and if they found out about our little secret, they would destroy everything here.”
I stood up still holding her hand and faced the barn door. It was still slightly ajar from when Katie had come running out earlier. Pulling the door open and stepping inside into the dark gloom I felt Katie’s hand squeeze mine with fright.
“Hey, it’s okay. There’s one other thing about dragons you need to know. I was going to wait until you were older, but I guess now is the time. Dragons are also magical. Do you know what magical is?
“Umm, Ms. Daniels says that magic is just tricks and there is no such thing as real magic.”
At that, I couldn’t help it and I roared in laughter, “Ms. Daniels doesn’t sound like she knows much, which is pretty good for us actually.”
“Dragons are magical in that they can look like normal people anytime they want. Now stay here and watch me.”
I stepped back a few paces and slowly transformed into a dragon. Katie watched me with widening eyes, but to her credit, she didn’t scream. Katie seemed to be fascinated.
“Oh wow, Daddy! That is so cool!” she exclaimed.
I transformed back to her daddy that she knew and loved. The sweat from the exertions of transforming covered my brow. I breathed heavily and deep. Katie rushed into my arms and gave me a big hug. She looked up into my face with admiration. Yes, she was ready to know the next big secret.
“Katie, there’s one more thing I need to tell you, but first let’s go up into the loft where the dragon is right now.” I said as I led her to the ladder.
We climbed up, went around the stack of hay bales and stood in front of the dragon.
“Can this dragon change into human shape too?” Katie asked.
I shook my head slowly and said, “No, not right now. When a dragon gives birth, they have to remain as a dragon for ten years.”
“Katie, meet your mother.”