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Week #20: Creative Writing Challenge – Dragon Personified

May 24, 2021

Your pet dragon turns into a person

The world was a bit fuzzy at the edges of my vision and I heard screaming. Blood coated my hands and was running down my thighs as I cradled my father’s head in my lap. It was me screaming, I realized. Cooper, our pet dragon, approached us warily and nuzzled the back of my arm with his head. He retracted his dorsal spines so he didn’t scratch me as he continued to nuzzle. Absentmindedly, I ran my hand over his head to scratch behind his jaw. Cooper sniffed my hand where it was all bloody and recoiled. He really was a gentle soul.

Cooper’s touch had stopped my screaming gibberish. I wiped my hands on my shirt and reached for my cell phone to call the Imperium police.

Within thirty minutes the house was full of Imperium officers collecting all sorts of evidence and stuffing it into sterile bags. The chief detective had sequestered Cooper and I in the kitchen, far away from my father’s body in the foyer, and was asking me a variety of questions.

“What time did you arrive on the premises and did you see anything out of the ordinary on your way up to the house?” the chief asked.

“Well, I arrived at about 4:30 pm. Nothing seemed out of place. My father and I were supposed to have dinner tonight. He’s been so busy with the upcoming vote on the Tomanda Clans that I haven’t seen him in a while. I’ve been living in the dorms at the University, so we arranged to meet for dinner. I came home a bit early to get some of my art tools together. I’m taking an art class next semester.” I explained.

“Caroline, who arranged dinner? Was it you or your father?” the chief followed up.

“Well, I think Clarisse called me to set stuff up. Clarisse is my father’s secretary and she always arranges events for him. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.” I responded.

“I know it may be hard, but can you tell me everything you saw when you entered the house this afternoon?” the chief continued.

I took a deep breath. “Well, I walked up the front walkway to the door and used my key to unlock it. When I opened it, I saw the pool of blood before I saw my father. He was laying in the middle of the foyer, halfway between the front door and the door to the back deck. He was face up and had a deep cut across his neck. I ran to him and screamed for a while. I held him for a bit.” I motioned to my blood stained shorts and shirt. “Our dragon Cooper came up to nuzzle me while I was sitting there and that kinda got me out of my stupor and I called the Imperium police.”

“Did you noticed any footprints, windows or doors open, or anything out of place in the foyer while you were waiting?” He continued.

“I did notice that the door to the back deck was open a bit, but that’s not out of the ordinary. My father likes a little breeze through the house in the summer.” I thought for a moment. “I didn’t see any footprints besides a couple from when Cooper came over to nuzzle me.”

“I have some more personal and political questions for you. Do you think you’re up for them?” the chief asked cautiously. I nodded. Better to get this over with when I was still in shock than have to drudge them up again later.

“Okay, can you tell me about the relationship between your mother and father?” the chief asked.

Whew, he really didn’t pull any punches. I took a deep breath. “Sandra left a year ago. My parents realized that they had irreconcilable differences in their political goals. It wasn’t a pretty split and we haven’t seen her since. My father maintained this residence and I moved to the dorms so that he could have space to focus on his political campaigns.”

I had stopped calling her “mother” a year ago. How could I call a woman “mother” when she had completely destroyed our family and then vanished?

“You haven’t seen or heard anything from your mother in the last year?” he asked incredulously. I nodded affirmation.

“Do you have any idea of her whereabouts?” he continued.

“Do you?” I challenged, getting frustrated thinking about Sandra.

“She dropped off the grid about 5 months ago, but before that she had been working with some anti-Tomanda loyalist groups near the Crenshaw peaks areas,” he replied. I didn’t expect an actual answer and was a bit stunned.

“Wait, do you think she did this?” I asked. She ran away from her problems. She didn’t confront them; certainly not in bloody and very final ways.

“We don’t know, but your parents’ divorce and public disavowal was very heated and we want to make sure we think of everything. Your father’s murder was likely related to the upcoming vote on the Tomanda Clans.” he answered.

I was stuck on the word murder. My father was murdered. In his house. Somehow.

“Can you tell us anything about your father’s work with the Tomanda Clans legislation?” the chief asked softly, knowing he was shifting onto contentious ground.

I sighed. My father had been working on legislation to allow the Tomanda Clans to practice magic in all of the Imperial Lands. The Tomanda Clans were currently restricted to a small area of land near the Crenshaw Peaks and had to apply to enter and travel the Imperial lands. People of the Tomanda Clans had natural magic in their blood, which meant they didn’t need spells or special objects to help meld magic. They could do all sorts of magic just by thinking it or waving their hands. Unfortunately the rest of the people in the Imperial Lands were terrified of the Tomanda Clans using their magic to usurp the government, or some such nonsense. Hundreds of years of torment, disenfranchisement, and injustice had been the Tomanda Clans plight. But in the last 10-20 years there had been a human rights movement in support of the Tomanda Clans.

My father had been writing legislation for approval by the Imperium’s leaders to expand the rights of the Tomanda Clans; to allow them unfettered access to the Imperial Lands and to allow natural magic use in certain industries like medicine, technology, and creative enterprises. Many had opposed my father, but he used all his political clout and his genuine passion for the well-being of others to convince many leaders that more freedoms for the Tomanda Clans would benefit everyone. A more diverse world is a better world, he would always say.

The final vote on my father’s legislation was scheduled for next week.

“I don’t have any insider information, if that’s what you’re asking,” I replied.

“Are there any other legislators that would particularly want your father dead?” He asked seriously.

I actually laughed out loud at that. “Of course there are. Lots of them. I think you might want to ask Clarisse about them. She’s the one who sorts out the threatening phone calls and mail. I know she only tells my father about the ones that seem particularly serious and I know she sends those to the Imperium police too.”

“Clarisse is on our list of people to talk to next.” He paused for a moment while he looked over the notes he scribbled on his tablet. “Caroline, is there anything else you can tell us that might help us find whoever murdered your father?”

“There’s nothing else I can think of right now,” I said honestly.

“Okay, thanks for your time. We’ll contact you if we need anything.” He shook my hand and swept out of the room to check on his officers still collecting evidence.

I melted into the counter with my head on my hands. There was a whimpering from the corner. I had forgotten about Cooper. I went to the fridge and removed a chunk of ham for him and threw it in his bowl. He dove on it with his front claws and tore at the chunk with his curved dagger-like teeth. A couple of bites and Cooper was done and curled in the corner again, a satisfied look on his face.

Cooper had been a rescue dragon and I had chosen him from the rescue center as my own. He was a roan dragon. His head was a pure copper color while his feet were white, the space in between changed seamlessly from one color to the other. He had a row of dorsal spines that ran from the top of his head all the way down his back to the tip of his short stubby tail. They were retractable, but sometimes when Cooper got excited he would forget to retract them and they’d get snagged on everything. It was hilarious.

That night I curled up with Cooper in my childhood bed and just cried. Cooper licked me with his forked tongue and let me cry on his soft head scales.

The next few weeks went by in a blur. The Imperium police tracked down all the leads they had. I went to school but moved back into the house so I could take care of Cooper. The Tomanda vote was postponed because of the “horrific” events that happened to my father.

Three weeks after my father’s murder, the chief came for an afternoon visit. We sat in the sunroom eating cookies and drinking coffee. He caught me up on what they had found, which wasn’t much.

The chief leaned back in his chair and looked at Cooper, who was curled up in a sun patch getting warm. “Listen Caroline, we aren’t getting anywhere with the investigation using the usual tricks. It might be time to try something a bit unusual, but only if you want to.” He paused before continuing. “It’ll be your choice in the end. I promise.”

“Go on,” I said cautiously.

“I’ve heard that the Tomanda Clans can extract memories.” He said. I nodded because I’d heard the same thing. My father was dead, so I didn’t know where he was headed. There’s no way they could extract memories from a dead person. I was almost sure. He continued. “You said that your pet dragon Cooper was home when your father was murdered. It’s likely that he saw the murderer and maybe even saw the murder itself. If one of the Tomanda Clan elders can extract Cooper’s memories, we may be able to at least get a picture of the killer.”

“They can do that with a dragon?” I wondered aloud.

“I’m not absolutely sure, but at this point in the investigation it might be worth a try if you’re willing,” he conceded. “We have a Tomanda Clan elder in our employ for these types of cases. She would be very gentle with Cooper and there would be no lasting damage to his mental faculties.” I didn’t say anything in response and the chief slid a small white card across the table. “Just think about it. Here’s her contact information. Just call her and she can set everything up. She’ll get a hold of me so I can be there whenever you schedule a time. Remember, this is your choice. You don’t have to do anything, but Caroline, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know that we have many more leads to follow. I would hate for your father’s murderer to get away.”

I nodded. Our conversation was finished, so I walked him to the door past where my father’s body laid in a pool of blood just three weeks ago.

I thought about what the chief had said for another week, and then I fished the small white card out of my pocket where I had been carrying it, and dialed the number. The woman who answered seemed nice. She knew who I was. I guess the chief had already talked to her and we agreed to meet the next Monday afternoon at her office.

Cooper and I walked up the marble steps of the Imperium Police headquarters. Ms. Castillo, the Tomanda Clan elder, had an office on the third floor where she was an “asset” of the Imperium Police. I didn’t really know what “asset” meant when Ms. Castillo had told me on the phone, but I got the impression that she wasn’t very pleased with being one.

As Cooper and I walked into Ms. Castillo’s office we saw the chief sitting in a chair on the wall opposite the door, looking rather uncomfortable.

“Good morning Caroline. Right this way.” He motioned for me to follow him through a door leading out of the small waiting area.

“May I introduce you to Ms. Castillo,” the chief waved towards a short, but beautiful woman, with ebony skin and piercing green eyes. Her hair was pulled up into a mass of braids on the top of her head, showing off a collection of gold-hooped earrings that ran up the outside of both ears.

“Welcome Caroline.” Ms. Castillo said soothingly. “And this must be Cooper,” she said as she bent down to scratch him behind his jaw.

Maybe she saw my hesitancy, but she continued, “This won’t hurt Cooper at all. I will need to touch him right here on both sides of his jaw and will maintain eye contact, but other than that you won’t see anything happening. Does that sound okay to you? Do you have any questions?”

I thought for a moment. “So how does it actually work? Do you see what he saw? Or do the memories get transferred to you somehow and then you tell us?” I asked curiously.

“My magic allows me to see the memories of others. I won’t be taking anything from Cooper. It’s like I’m knocking on a door and he can let me in to walk through any memories I steer him towards. After I see the memories, I walk back out and close the door behind me. I’ll work with the chief to make sense of what I’ve seen and hopefully those images will help give us some new leads in you father’s case.” She paused and looked at me. “Does that make sense?”

I nodded. “Let’s get this over with then.”

I put Cooper up on the table so that his head was on the same level as Ms. Castillo’s when she was sitting down. I told him to stay and he plopped down on his haunches like a good dragon.

Ms. Castillo gently put both of her hands on either side of Cooper’s jaw and locked eyes with him. A minute had passed when Ms. Castillo took a deep breath and withdrew her hands. Then she asked to see the chief outside the room. As they exited, I ran my hand down Cooper’s back and tried to breathe deeply.

The chief came back in the room running his hand through his hair and looking disturbed. “May I speak to you out in the hall? Please leave Cooper here. He’ll be fine,” the chief said as he held the door open for me.

“What is it?” I asked immediately once I was out in the hall.

“Well, I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to be blunt.” He gathered his thoughts quickly and continued. “Ms. Castillo didn’t see what she normally sees from the memories of a pet. She said they reminded her of what she would see with a human. She also said that Cooper wouldn’t let her past the anteroom of his memory vault, which is odd for a human unless they’ve been trained to resist memory seekers, but it’s absolutely unheard of for a pet.” He paused again and I waited for the final ball to drop. “Ms. Castillo thinks that your dragon Cooper might not be a dragon at all.”

I looked at him, completely stunned. If he wasn’t a dragon, what was he?

The chief continued, “Ms. Castillo thinks he might be a human that’s been trapped in a dragon form. Apparently that’s something the Tomanda Clans can do fairly easily with the right elder. Caroline, this is highly unusual and the fact that none of our leads have revealed anything…” He trailed off and I just kept staring at him. He shook his head, as if trying to wake himself up out of a dream and said with more purpose, “I’ve asked Ms. Castillo to find an elder who can reveal Cooper’s true nature. If we can get him back into his human state he could actually serve as a witness for your father’s murder. Until Ms. Castillo get’s back, she said to leave Cooper alone so that he doesn’t pick up on your agitation.”

The chief led me back into the small waiting room where I sank into a chair. Thirty minutes later Ms. Castillo swept into the room followed by a large man. He was at least a foot taller than the chief, but he had a friendly smile and looked like he could lift the chief just like he would a child.

He introduced himself as Mr. Westlake. The Tomanda Clans took on alternate names in the Imperial Lands because their natural names were hard to pronounce without practice. It was just another form of discrimination, and I longed to know what Mr. Westlake’s real name was. I reminded myself to focus on Cooper.

“This should be fairly easy. If your dragon Cooper is actually a human that’s been stuck in dragon form, it should be a quick transformation and then he’ll be able to tell us what he saw using his own mouth.” Mr. Westlake informed us.

We all went into the room to find Cooper curled up under the table napping. I grabbed him and put him up on the table like I had for Ms. Castillo, but when Mr. Westlake approached, Cooper snapped at him. I immediately yelled at Cooper and apologized to Mr. Westlake, who hadn’t moved an inch. Mr. Westlake was staring at Cooper with what I thought a primal look of dominance might look like. Cooper dropped his head an inch, but didn’t shift his gaze from Mr. Westlake.

Mr. Westlake slowly put a hand under Cooper’s belly and the other hand over Cooper’s eyes. Mr. Westlake slowly closed his eyes too.

I don’t know what the process looked like to the chief or to Ms. Castillo, but Cooper’s edges started to get fuzzy. Like I couldn’t quite get my eyes to focus on him. Then the image grew in size. To the size of a person, but it was still fuzzy. After a moment and a couple shakes of my head, Cooper’s form started to become more clear.

On the table sat a grown man with burnished copper hair, narrowed brown eyes, muscles for days. He was clothed in some kind of flexible copper armor and had a collection of knives on a belt secured at his waist. He was not smiling, but had a beautiful, perfect sneer on his face.

Before the chief, Ms. Castillo, and Mr. Westlake could move, Cooper jumped off the table and wrapped his arms around me from behind. One of his knives had made its way to my throat and Cooper was backing us both towards the door. I hadn’t even seen him draw the knife.

The chief was the first to recover. “We know you’re probably stunned and don’t know where you are, but if you put the knife down we can figure this all out together.” He said pleadingly.

“Oh chief, how quaint that sounds. I think I’ll have to pass today, although I would like to learn more about your little magical arts.” Cooper said as he titled his head toward Ms. Castillo and Mr. Westlake. “I didn’t think I’d be spending so much time as a dragon when I agreed to this little charade, but I must say I’ve learned a lot of valuable information about your people that will help the Loyalist cause. Sandra will be so pleased now that I’ve taken care of your father.” I still had a knife to my neck, but I could hear the grin in his voice as Cooper said the last part.

Cooper had the door open now. He leaned close to my ear and whispered, “Your mother says hello. You were always too trusting, too much your father’s daughter. Soon, she’ll come for you too.”

With that threat, Cooper sent the knife that bad been at my throat across the room into the chief’s leg. In almost the same moment, Cooper threw me to the floor and slammed the door closed. Ms. Castillo and Mr. Westlake were already helping the chief with the knife, but I heaved myself off the floor and out into the hallway just in time to see Cooper glance back with a wink before rounding the corner at a jog.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Yael Kisel permalink
    May 28, 2021 2:57 am

    Woah! Cool mix of elements! And I can totally see this being part of a novel as well ^_^

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