More short fiction this week, yay!
This piece is inspired by two posts from One Minute Writer: Dragons & Unicorns and Attack. I read both ideas on the same day – “What if there were dragons and unicorns wandering about?” and “Have you ever been attacked by an animal?” That crazy analysis and synthesis process that authors know too well happened and out came this piece:
Between the Cages
Sarah quickly hid the object in her hands, wiping away tears self-consciously as Brian approached. He smiled as warmly as he could manage, shaking slightly with anxiety.
“I brought you a little something.” He held his cupped hands before her. “Careful not to breathe on it.”
She turned up a skeptical eyebrow. Curiosity won her over, though, and she held out her hands. He moved to place the contents of his hands into hers, but switched tactics as her bare wrists poked through her light sweater. He carefully opened his hands, revealing the delicate thread within. He wrapped it around her left wrist, deftly tying it with a confident knot.
“I can’t take this! It’s … you’re giving me …”
“Unicorn hair,” Brian nodded, “You didn’t get to see her, so I thought I’d give you this.”
“Oh Brian I can’t – you’ll never get another. I couldn’t …”
“Hey, now, let’s not get all emotional,” Brian said, redness burning through his acne-spotted face, “It’s a trade. I want you to get me something from the other cage.”
“From the dragon?”
“Oh, it’ll be a cinch. He sheds his scales all the time – I just want one of those.”
Brian nodded up at a TV screen mounted on the wall above the large waiting room. Public service ads were running on loop, endlessly reminding patrons of the rules for visiting the cages at either exit.
A grainy CCTV recording showed the dragon’s pen, littered with discarded scales the size of hubcaps. A lanky teen crept into view, carefully picking up one of the scales, and then turning to run away. Flame scorched across the pen as a football-sized fireball slammed into the poor boy’s back. He screamed, dropping to the ground and writhing. A large lizard darted across the screen, and the scene cut to black just as the thing clamped down on the teen’s head with its toothy mouth. Large text dominated the blackness – THE DRAGON KNOWS. DON’T TEMPT FATE.
“He’d smell my purity and have me faster than I could blink. But you’re not … well, you know.”
“Thanks for the reminder.” Sarah rolled her eyes.
A gaggle of frat boys then strode through the thick curtain covering the exit to the dragon pen. The tallest and bulkiest guy was instantly recognizable – Simon, the star quarterback.
“Let’s see your scales, folks!” He proclaimed loudly. Various people sitting on the soft benches or admiring the colourful portraits of previous dragon and unicorn occupants of the zoo turned to glare at him.
The jocks proudly held up hard, dark green scales of various sizes – incontrovertible evidence that they had achieved that coveted naked contact for which every young man quested.
“Hey, I wonder who had to settle for the unicorn?” He made a show of looking around the room, shading his eyes in a pantomime of searching about. The students waiting among other park patrons laughed uncomfortablely. Sarah shifted, but before she could move away, Simon found her with a beaming glare.
“Well I know you didn’t.” He winked lecherously, getting a smattering of ooohhhs from his group.
“Yeah, it was a great time,” Sarah said, “All two minutes of it.”
Brian joined the light laughter at the quip, catching himself only after Simon turned on him.
“I bet the unicorn just loved you, Brian,” he said mockingly, “Hoping she’ll help you see the dragon?”
Brian’s face reddened as he stammered. He felt the weight of glares from all corners of the room.
“What are you talking about?” Sarah asked loudly. Brian felt a thick weight pressed into his palm as she secretly passed him the thing still hidden in her hand. “Why don’t you show them, Brian?”
Brian ran his thumb over the object’s smooth surface and rough round edge, quickly realizing what it was. Slowly, with an improvised flourish, he produced the small scale for all to see.
“When?” Simon asked in mock astonishment, “Who with? Sarah?”
“Maybe,” Sarah said with a small smile. She then held up the wrist with the unicorn hair, drawing wide-eyed stares from any close enough to see it. “Or maybe I fixed him up with someone. We’ll never tell.”
Playing off her casualness, Brian mimed a zipper across his sealed lips.
“He … he actually …” Simon stammered, his face an even deeper red than Brian’s had been.
With the eyes of his group on him, Simon quickly shook his head. Ever the showman, he snapped out of his embarrassment, leading a comical slow clap among those watching.
“Come on then, let’s go find some other unicorn-lovers,” Simon announced to his group. Laughing away the awkwardness of the previous moment, they followed him out of the center exit into the main plaza of the zoo.
“Why him?” Brian asked when they were alone and free from the eyes of the surrounding patrons.
“Ha!” Sarah snorted, “I’ve asked myself enough times. When I saw the unicorn, there were too many others in her cage – we each got a quick pet before the keeper forced us out. Simon promised to give me his unicorn hair, one night after he’d won a game and I had too much beer in me.”
“And he never paid up,” Brian concluded with a nod.
“When you just … gave me yours … I couldn’t believe it.”
Brian simply shrugged. “Couldn’t stand to see a good-looking girl cry.”
Sarah’s smile stretched wide. “You’re not trying to … you know.”
Brian shook his head. “I might like to see the unicorn a few more times.”
She reached over, clasping the hand that still held the green scale. “I might just wait.”