‘Why are you standing over there?’ He called back to me.
‘Are you serious?’ My feet were glued to the undergrowth, my clammy hands were stuck to my sides. ‘There’s no way I’m going in there.’
‘Come on. Don’t be a pussy!’ He hissed back.
When I didn’t move, he threw up his arms and turned on his heel. He muttered something to the sound of Such a girl as I watched him disappear into the dark cave. The dense array of trees towered all around me, their branches looming down like arms ready to snatch me up. The silence in the air was broken only by a soft rustling breeze as it made it’s way through their top-most spindly fingers. The bright moon had managed to illuminate the clearing just enough to give the shadows a blueish hue.
‘Frank?’ I called, ‘Frank, I don’t like this. I think we should go home now!’
I waited. I waited a second too long. When he didn’t answer, my heart started racing. Those finger branches picked up the breeze and threw it down towards the forest floor, kicking up little explosions of leaves and twigs. Again and again, these wind bombs hit the forest floor. They gained momentum and strength until great fountains of undergrowth cascaded all around me. A great whooshing sound rose and fell with each gust.
‘Frank!?’ I called out again, louder this time, more urgent. ‘FRANK?!’
‘Sissy!’ His voice was distant but I was sure I had heard it.
‘Frank? Are you ok?’ I called back.
Sissy… came the voice again. My heart jumped. Am I imagining things? Is that really Frank or just the wind? The noise was almost deafening now, but I took a big breath, shut my eyes tight and threw my voice out above it, ‘FRAAAAAANK! WHERE ARE YOU?!’
I wish I’d never opened my eyes because just at that moment, a thundering hum bellowed out from the depth of the cave.
Singing out over the top of it came a piercing, high pitched screech. Then, from out of the darkness charged a hideously long snout, snorting smoke and revealing sharp, mucous dripping teeth. The entirety of it’s head dominated the mouth of the cave itself, so to see it’s wings and scaly body squeeze it’s way out of there was – looking back on it now – well, practically unimaginable. But despite my eyes and any logic whatsoever, I found myself standing face to face with what I can only describe as a dragon. It towered as tall as the trees and, as it stretched it’s wings out wide, a strong, flapping wind sent me tumbling backwards. My body fell heavily to the ground and snagged the great beasts attention. It turned it’s head down, stopped way too close for comfort and glared at me. It’s nose was sniffing and snorting, dripping gloop and muck all over me. Suddenly, it drew back and sucked in an enormous breath. My heart stopped. I threw up arms up over my head and screamed at the top of my lungs.
Thinking back now, it’s kind of funny to see the body’s instincts in action, especially when they are completely ridiculous and unhelpful to our survival, don’t you agree? I mean, there’s no way covering my face with my arms would stop a dragon’s fire breath from burning me to a crisp. Of course, until that moment I would never have believed the absurdity of this story either, but there I was, curled up like a pathetic pea, screaming my head off, awaiting my imminent death when I heard the most almighty sneeze of my life. It took me a moment to realise what I was hearing, but when I did finally uncover my eyes, sure enough, there in front of me was a small fire climbing up the trunk of a tree and a large, snivelling dragon who sat wiping his nose with the back of his claw.
‘Sorry, I can’t get used to this fire breathing thing. It makes my nose really itchy.’
Oh my god… I know that voice, I thought.
He turned to look at me again. I recognise those eyes… My heart had calmed down a little by then but my mouth must have been hanging wide open. Not only did he apparently speak but Frank then went on to have a little chuckle to himself.
‘So…now do you believe me, Sissy?’