NEW DRAGON POST – TO THE END OF CHAPTER ONE!

A new instalment and time to send in thoughts, criticisms and hopes for the first, entire chapter of Dragon Post

There was another heavy thud on the wall from Mr Coombes and when Gareth rushed back into the kitchen, he was really scared. His dragon had doubled in size and was perched on the window sill, its rippling blue wings raised in a v-shape and crumbs of spittle-coated sugar falling from its beak, smoking through the little air holes on the top. It’s forelegs were now almost as large as the legs it was standing on, among bits of broken porcelain, and it was beginning to look as ferocious as some of the dogs kept on tight leads in the nearby park. Except for its eyes, when they looked back at Gareth with those huge lashes. They seemed to soften immediately.
“Er, hello,” gulped Gareth, as if he had just encountered an entirely different animal, and not knowing what to do at all. “You, er, ate the sugar, then? It says you shouldn’t.”
Any number of thoughts were rushing through Gareth’s brain now. What was this impossible creature, from a Class A Egg Box? Why had Pendelion sent it to him, and above all, how on earth was he going to hide it in his mum’s little flat? He suddenly imagined it expanding to fill the entire place, and Sally and him crushed into the cupboards, or squeezed down in between the floorboards. Whatever would that busybody Mr Coombes say, or the eagle-eyed Residents Association?
The clothes cupboard, by his pull down bed, that’s where Gareth would hide it, for the night at least, if he moved his stuff. But how to get it there? Gareth was suddenly nervous of trying to pick it up, or pick her up, because he was sure it was a girl dragon now, but he thought of food again. Perhaps he could entice her to the cupboard with a trail of delicious grub. If dragons were dangerous, it seemed safer, though he wished he had some ButterSqueak or Wordwort. He glanced at a bowl of vegetables at the side and picked up an ordinary shallot, trying to think creatively. Gareth held it out gingerly, and as the dragon opened her mouth, he noticed an array of newly grown teeth. Gareth pulled his fingers away neatly, as she took it, but as soon as she tried to bite, there was a disgusted cough and she flicked her tail and spat the thing out. It hit the fridge.
Gareth made a note in his mind – Dragons do not like Shallots and something told him to go for the radishes now. The twelve-year-old tore open the plastic packing, and this time laid a careful trail of the fiery little vegetables along the floor, back to the cupboard units in the sitting room, opening the one on the right and pulling out his clothes, in a heap.
As he turned, he saw the dragon close her wings and rather inquisitively jump from worktop, onto the kitchen floor. Her considerably bigger tongue came out, to scoop up the first radish, and suddenly she was crunching. She seemed to like it, and there was no sudden, adverse reaction either, no growth, although she turned her head and seemed to blow. Nothing came out, but a jet of reddish, sizzling steam, as she turned and hopped towards the next one.
“That’s it,” said Gareth, deciding dragons like radishes, “Don’t be scared. But try to be quiet. Mr Coombes will hear.”
Gareth had plenty of time before his mum got back from the pub, if he knew her friend Jill going on and on, in happiness or woe, and he looked towards Pendelion’s book again. He had a lot of reading to do, tonight. His dragon was padding towards him, eating the radishes as she came, looking about the little room. Gareth was feeling rather clever, when he noticed a bowl of brown sugar, sitting on the low sideboard. Perhaps it was the worried look on his face that drew her attention to it, but it was too late to stop her.
She opened her wings and went sailing towards the bowl, landing on the sideboard, dipping her beak eagerly and chomping on the sweet brown grains. “NO – DON’T,” cried Gareth, but it was too late, and with a burp, the dragon was growing again, to the size of a large dog. But worse than that, she seemed to notice Gareth’s eyeline to Pendelion’s book too and something suspicious, even angry came into her eyes. That calm brown was replaced by those fiery red orbs, as she suddenly opened her mouth and pushing forward her head, and a long jet of flame shot out. It was well-directed and Pendelion’s book was suddenly on fire.
The dragon flapped her wings approvingly, as the horrified boy saw the cover and those wonderful pages catch. He half imagined shapes rise in the flames, out of the book itself, but Gareth was rushing to the kitchen, snatching up the oven gloves and running back, carrying the burning book to the sink. In a shower of sparks he threw it into the water and suddenly his birthday present was a mulch of burnt, soggy, ruined pages, floating in the sink. How would Gareth ever explain this, let alone hide his hyperactive, growing dragon?
She sat quietly on the dresser though, for an hour, licking her tail, now the brown sugar was finished, as Gareth set about cleaning up, opening the windows to let out the smoke, and trying to settle himself. He managed to save a few of the pages of Pendelion’s book, and set them to dry by the oven, but there was very little left. How would he ever find out about dragons now?
“Please,” said Gareth helplessly, as he came back into the room, “will you try to behave? If mum sees you, I don’t know what will happen. She’ll call the police. You could end up in Battersea Dog’s Home, or being put down. Mr Coombes and the association hate pets.”
She looked at him guiltily, but with that the phone rang and as the startled dragon jumped away, Gareth answered and tried to sound calm. “Hello”
“Gareth, mate, it’s me, Alan.”
Gareth went cold. It was his step dad, and he sounded drunk and aggressive.
“Where’s you mum? I want to talk to her, right now.”
“Dunno. Out.”
“Don’t take that blasted tone with me, or I’ll clock you one again. The army training’s been delayed, and I want to talk to her, understand? Get her to call.”
His step dad hung up and Gareth felt a burning anger in his gut. He missed his real dad more than ever, except that with a dragon in the room, he did not feel quite so lonely. Gareth blinked. A dragon in the room? It was absurd and there was only one person who could explain it. He looked down and pressed the Friend’s button on the landline, PP, and waited. It was late, almost ten, but Gareth knew his Godfather liked staying up late. He rarely ate till this time, like the Spanish, and always let him stay up late too, whenever they visited. But as he waited, Gareth grew strangely nervous.
“Hello, Pendelion Pummfrey, Curly Tale Farm.”
“Er, hello, Godfather, it’s me. Gareth.”
“Gareth!” the warm bellow down the phone almost blew him backwards. “How lovely to hear your voice, young man. Did your mum get those fresh eggs, and you the book I sent for your birthday? I think the wife mixed up the address labels.”
“Yes, but I,” Gareth looked guiltily across at the ruined pages, through the kitchen door, “thank you very much. But, I was wondering… why you sent it to me. The dangerous book.”
“Why? What an odd question. The Press hopes it’ll be a smash, and always try it on the reading public first. Besides, your birthday.”
“Yes,” said Gareth nervously, “but dragons. Have you ever seen one? For real.”
“Real?” There was a catch in his Godfather’s voice. “Don’t be daft, Gareth. It’s just a book. A bit of fun.” Pendelion Pumffrey paused, rather ominously. “Why, have you?”
As soon as he said it, Gareth knew that egg had not meant to be in the post at all, among those ordinary chicken eggs. His Class A dragon was a mistake.
“Course not. They just seem so real. In the book, I mean. It’s amazing.”
“Yes.” Pendelion’s voice was hesitant, probing. “Well, I’m glad you like it, although dragons, apart from the Komodo, of course, are pure fantasy. Good thing too, because a Komodo is a really nasty lizard, that eats flesh, and has poisoned spit. Evolution can be a horrible thing. Have some fun with it though. The Dangerous Book. That’s what it’s for.”
“Right.” There was another pause.
“Is something wrong, Gareth? Something you’re not telling me?”
“No,” said Gareth quickly, “Er, thanks again. Thanks so much.”
Gareth put down the phone quickly, and prayed he had not given too much away. His dragon was scrutinizing him, and suddenly she took to the air again, and hovered there, in the middle of the sitting room. She looked like one of those hawks he had seen hovering on the side of the motorway, though there were no updrafts. Gareth rushed to the window and pulled down the blind.
“Oh please stop it,” he said, turning helplessly, “I’ve got to hide you somehow, in that cupboard. I’ll think what to do tomorrow, but you must try to settle down now.”
Gareth was shaking his head, thinking about sugar and hyperactivity, when suddenly the dragon swooped past him and went straight for the wall cupboard, and settled inside, filling almost the whole of his now empty sweater drawer. Gareth was startled and wondered if the creature had understood him, somehow. Do dragons speak English? He walked towards her, then opened the other doors and pulled out the wall bed. Everything was as he had left it, unmade, the night before.
The dragon was still in the sweater cupboard and Gareth looked at it rather sadly.
“I wish you, er, we hadn’t burnt that book,” he sighed, “now I don’t know anything about your…kind.. What you’re called, for a start. Or what to call you.”
Gareth remembered something about naming and being sensitive, but the dragon just gazed back at him, looking cramped. Yet, as she did, it was as if a strong gust of wind came from the kitchen window, and, suddenly feeling immensely sleepy, Gareth thought he heard a voice on the air, whispering, calling, talking to him: A word, a name, something like Lethe, or Lerar, or Leratha. But it was lost again.
Gareth’s whole body suddenly felt immensely tired, almost empty, and he wanted to climb into bed immediately. His dragon seemed to be settling too, her eyelids drooping like his, curling round her tail, flat in front of her, as she laid her head softly on it. In five minutes Gareth had changed into his pyjamas, brushed his teeth and was standing by his dragon again.
“Good night then,” he whispered softly, pushing in his softest sweater to help nestle her strange head, wondering if dragons get cold, “and please try to keep quiet tonight. Mum probably won’t come in any way, and she’ll be off to work early.”
Gareth suddenly felt immensely sad, almost lost. Sad for her, for the dad he could hardly remember, even for his stupid stepfather, with is horrid temper. He reached out and stroked the dragon’s head, as big as his hand now, and she seemed to give a grating purr, that turned into a pleased and soothing hum.
“I hope you’ll be ok in the dark,” he whispered, and very gently Gareth closed the cupboard door on the creature, that only hours before had been tiny, and standing in some broken dragon shell, inside a Class A egg box.
Gareth thought of sifting through the bits of burnt book, reading whatever was left to educate himself on Dragon Lore, but instead he climbed into bed, lay still and closed his eyes, wondering if that sugar would make his dragon grow in the night. Even as he did so pictures and words from the book seemed to rise in his mind, but one above all seemed to score into his brain, like that little jet of flame that had opened a window in front of the kitchen window, on another world: DANGEROUS.
Gareth was too overcome by it all, to be really afraid. How often do twelve-year olds get real dragons in the post, if only by mistake? Mac would be so jealous, if he ever believed this one, but Gareth found himself drifting quickly towards sleep, and as he did so it was as if Pendelion was talking to him, firmly, gravely, reading from his own book. “Fire-Cutters, Gareth, they are exceptionally rare, and exceptionally dangerous. Be very careful.”
Fire-Cutters? What was a Fire-Cutter, wondered Gareth sleepily, because he thought he knew that all dragons breathe fire, and was the not-so-little dragon in is cupboard one? Gareth was suddenly lost, in some dark wood, called Blister or Blistag, then sinking into a sea of rice and coffee and sugar, like quick-sand, drowning alive.
He woke with a jolt, covered in sweat. The room was dark, but a shadow had fallen across him, and for a moment he thought his father had come home, to wish him a belated happy birthday. The sweat turned cold, when Gareth realised it was his step-dad, Alan. He was in army fatigues, dark green, holding his own set of keys and he looked really angry, as he swayed slightly. He hadn’t shaved and was damp from the rain.
“Go away,” said Gareth softly. “You know no one comes in here, when the bed’s down.”
“Where’s you mother,” snapped the man, “I want to talk to her, now.”
“Isn’t she home yet?” said Gareth, sitting up in surprise. It felt really late.
“No, I’ve been here nearly an hour. In her room.”
Gareth felt a sudden wave of worry, until he remembered she sometimes stayed over with Jill.
“Get up, will you,” grunted his step-dad suddenly. “I want to talk to you both. When she gets back.”
There was something horrid about the way he said she, and though Gareth obeyed, as his stepped dad turned and walked towards the sofa and sat down heavily. Gareth looked defiant, as he pushed up the bed, and turned to face him. He waited. He was furious he had come into his room, like this, even if it was the sitting room. But the evening felt strangely real, as hard as the London pavements, as if everything that had happened to him that day had been a dream.
“Look, Gareth,” said his step dad, after a while, and trying to sit up straight, eyeing the statuette Gareth’s dad had carved. He hated it and had hidden it in a cupboard, but Sally had obviously brought it out again. “I know it hasn’t been easy, all together in the flat. But I want to come back home. I mean, make it right. For all of us.”
Gareth looked back at him coldly, but said nothing. He had forgotten all about his dragon.
“I promise I won’t shout at your mum any more. No more fights, eh. Though grown ups argue, it’s natural. And I think we should move. Somewhere bigger. You’d like that? After the new training, I’ll have some more money. You can have your own room, at last.”
“We’re fine here. The two of us. We were before you came, anyhow.”
Alan shot a furious look at the boy, but he was clearly controlling himself.
“I know I’m not your dad, Gareth, but I’ll try to be. What good has he ever been, anyway? While Sal should have given you her room long ago. And we’ll do more stuff together. A family. I can show you things. I got you a present today.”
His step dad held out his hand. “Come and see.”
Reluctantly, Gareth stepped forwards. He did not want any stupid present, but he felt the man was in a dangerous mood. Alan opened his hand, to reveal a red Swiss Army Knife, a big one, but all Gareth noticed was that his step-dad’s hand was shaking. Gareth did nothing and Alan put the knife heavily on the glass table.
“It’s yours. All yours. Look, we’ve all got to try, though. Together. I can be your real dad.”
Gareth suddenly felt a jolt of something close to hate and wanted to shout at the man, you’re not and never will be, but instead he whispered coldly, “No thanks. Mum doesn’t like you either. I know she doesn’t. Besides, she offered me her room and I said no. Leave us alone. You moved out.”
With that the man snapped and a hand shout out and grabbed Gareth’s wrist, hard. Alan’s eyes were blazing, manic, and he was shaking furiously.
“Ouch. You’re hurting. Let me go.”
“Not till I teach you some real respect.”
Alan rose, like a spectre, and his right hand was lifting now, threatening to strike, but as it did, there was a crack and the clothes cupboard door burst open. Gareth’s dragon flew straight out of it, streaking towards them, and as his step dad’s eyes filled with amazement and horror, the dragon flapped her blue wings, and lifting vertical, swung her clubbed tail, which struck the man straight in the chin.
Alan let go of Gareth’s wrist, flying backwards with a cry, onto the sofa, as the Dragon turned and sailed into the kitchen, landing right by that packet of rice.
“What the…” his step dad cried, clambering up, reeling, his chin bloody, and as he did so he grabbed hold of the stone statuette. His eyes were filled with fury, and war, and as if Gareth was his dragon, he was suddenly advancing on the trembling boy. As Gareth backed into the kitchen doorway, he realised that his dragon was eating, with a strange intention, eating the rice now strewn everywhere, around the torn packet. RICE.
His step dad had stopped too though, in utter astonishment, unable to understand what his drunken eyes were seeing. “What is it,” he snarled, “what is that THING? It’s a lizard. I’ll kill it.”
Gareth was trying to bar the way, as he had to his mum, to protect her, but his step dad caught his shoulder and thrust him aside, then raised the statuette, murderously. There was a kind of screech, and the little dragon coughed at him, a jet of orange-white flame that struck his step dad in the chest, like a water cannon, because it seemed perfectly cool, and hurled him back across the room. The statuette flew out of his hand, his head struck the closed cupboard and he collapsed, in a dazed heap, groaning.
Someone was banging now, though, hard on the front door, Mr Coombes the neighbour. Gareth looked at the dragon, and the dragon at him, plunging her beak into the rice, then, as she swallowed hard, she rose. She hovered in front of the boy, turning towards the window and the shadow of that great building called Parliament, trying to push him back, guiding him gently with her tail. Then, curling like a snake about to strike, she breathed out with all her might.
Gareth felt heat now, yet somehow different to when the book had caught light, and the fire stream was intense, furious, bright crimson, lashing and swirling like a whip, as the banging got worse, and it cut a hole, right before Gareth’s eyes, as big as a doorway, in front of the window and worktop. There it was again, that sweeping vista of fields and mountains, lit by a brilliant sun.
“A Fire-Cutter,” whispered Gareth, as the banging turned to shouts about calling the police, “that’s what it means. You are one.”
“Gareth, are you ok? I lost my keys.” His mum’s frantic voice was calling now too, as the banging went on, but the dragon, as if diving through a wave, had just shot through the burning hole. She turned, hanging there, backed by a distant forest, flapping her wings, and seemed to be beckoning to the boy, with all she was. “Come, Gareth, quickly.” Gareth heard a furious groan from his waking step dad, and only had seconds to make up his mind, seconds that changed his life forever.
He snatched up the burnt pages of Pendelion’s book, and thrusting them into the top pocket of his pyjamas, feeling a tugging guilt for his mother, stepped after the dragon, straight into the world beyond.
In the London flat, the front door burst open with a splintering jolt, and a furious Mr Coombes came flying in, followed by Gareth’s mum, as the fiery doorway closed on itself, and the flames went out. They saw nothing but Gareth’s step dad, trying to pick himself up and swearing, in the perfectly empty room.

END OF CHAPTER ONE

David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press

The rights of David Clement-Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988

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