A friend of mine started a blog where she is challenging herself to write a short story from a prompt each week. I LOVE this idea and have decided to play along. This will give me some deadlines and flex my writing muscles with different types of stories.
You can find her blog here: https://reecewriting.wordpress.com
Here’s my attempt at the first prompt.
It’s taken Piper five days to reach the meadow, much longer than if she’d flown. She stretches away the stiffness of sleep and waves hello to a yellow dragonfly waking from his perch above her. He is flicking his two sets of wings, drying off the moisture of the night. The sunlight makes them shimmer with tiny rainbows, like Clea’s wings. Her nose burns and she rubs her eyes.
“No,” she says to herself. “You will not be weak.”
She puts her hands on her hips and squares her shoulders. The sun, round and golden, peaks through the clustered needles of the towering pines, spreading spotlights across the ground, promising to bring warmth with it soon. The forest is quiet and still. She can make out the shapes of the predatory birds of night, full and resting, in the highest branches.
Pulling her mossy cloak tight around her shoulders, she is grateful for its warmth. She smooths her green pants and shirt best she can, but they remain damp and dirty from the nights of sleeping in gnarled masses of tree roots. Her braid has loosened under her acorn cap, and she tucks the wisps of auburn curls back into place. Her boots, the ones she spent weeks crafting from a young white birch tree, are starting to wear thin, sores forming on her pinky toes.
She would have arrived yesterday, if not for a grumpy, and quite angry, little chipmunk. His hole was covered with dried leaves and she fell right through it, landing on his soft back and waking him from his hibernation. She tried to apologize, but he chased her around the forest screeching insults at her for several hours. He was certain she was after his stockpile of hazelnuts. Piper doesn’t even like hazelnuts.
A pair of goldfinch sing above her and she takes a small bite of an almond cake from her bag, it tastes bland and stale. One last climb over an ancient rotting log and she will be among sweet smelling lavender, delicious clover, five different shades of poppies, goldenrods, and daises. She will drink from the creek, the water sweet and ice cold, and feast on wild carrots and miner’s lettuce. Her stomach rumbles, sick of the almond cakes of Fall and Winter, ready for the bounty and joy of her Spring and Summer home.
“You are right tummy, let’s go.”
Securing her pack onto her back, she adjusts her cobweb hand wraps. She used to race Clea here, weaving back and forth, bursting with eagerness to return to the bounty of the meadow. The winner got the first drink of Spring. She smiles at the memory. Clea’s eyes were the color of the sky at dusk, purple with a hint of pink. Were.
Piper shakes her head. She has to concentrate on the climb. The bark is loose in spots, dropping off in sheets without warning, so she must test each handhold and foothold. It’s slow going. She cuts her knee, tearing a large hole in her pants, but she presses on. Hours pass, the rhythm of climb replacing all other thoughts until she reaches the top. With a final burst of strength, she pulls herself over the crumbling ledge.
Gasping, she rolls onto her side, expecting the familiar buzzing of bees to greet her. Instead, she hears nothing and finds the smell is wrong. Scanning the sky, she pulls herself into a sitting position and opens her mouth in a silent scream. The meadow is dead. She rubs her eyes and cries, tears turning into uncontrollable sobs until she faints from exhaustion.
“Hi, yes, yes. Hallo. Good morning. Greetings and such. Yes, yes.”
Piper darts to her feet, sweating and panting, her hands balled into tight fists in front of her. A brown furry creature, with translucent veiny ears, watery black eyes, pointy pink nose and a mass of long whiskers, squeaks, and darts a few inches away from her. It curls a worm-like tail around its plump body and trembles.
“Eich sorry,” it squeaks and hiccups. “Eich is friend. Buddy. Pal. Mate. Yes, yes?”
Piper lowers her fists and sits. It’s a field mouse, one of the many who live here. These are her friends, and she is angry at herself for being so rude. She is about to say so when it inches back toward her holding a small crumbled clover in its pink hand.
“Eich sorry,” it squeaks and hiccups again. “Eich happy to see you. Glad. Pleased. Cheered. Yes, yes.”
“Your name is Eich?”
“Yes, yes. Eich, son of Misha and Titus, brother and sister to many and now friend of you.”
He hands her the clover.
“For you, yes, yes.”
He bows low, his nose touching the ground. When he stands, his whiskers twitching, he smiles at Piper, exposing his two yellow front teeth for a brief moment, before lowering his head into another bow.
“Well, Eich, I’m pleased to meet you. I’m Piper. I do believe we will be friends.”
Eich inches closer, grabbing both of her hands in his and blows warm breath onto her freezing fingers. He smells of fresh mint and spring, and she smiles at him.
“Thank you for your kindness, Eich.”
“Eich has been alone since they left. One. Single. Solo. Yes, yes.”
Piper looks past Eich and sees the meadow. In the center is a hole, not much bigger than the rabbits make, but the ground around it is scorched black in an eight-foot circle. The remainder of the meadow grass has been trampled flat, turning brown and dying. There are no flowers, rabbits, mice or bees.
“Do you know what happened Eich?”
“Fire-breath, yes, yes. Stinky. Filthy. Foul-breath. Yes. His fault. Gone. Departed. Left.”
He shivers and pulls his tail around his body again, glancing toward the meadow.
“You mean something did this to the meadow? A creature?”
Eich squeaks and points to the hole as a ring of smoke drifts out. A sharp acid smell follows. It makes her eyes sting and her head fuzzy. Piper feels fear ripple through her body.
“Eich,” she says. “We have to get out of here. Now.”
“Eich help. Yes, yes. Climb on quick. Rapid. Swift. We go.”
A sound erupts from the hole, a sparking sound, like when lightning hits the ground during a large storm. Piper’s skin bursts into goosebumps as Eich squeaks and jumps. She climbs onto his back, gripping the soft fur around his neck with both hands, and he scampers down the log, along the edge of the meadow and into a bramble bush. It’s dark inside but smells of lavender.
Eich pushes his way through a maze of brambles until they reach a small clearing. He sets Piper into a nest of fur and milkweed pods. She can see little piles of dried flowers, berries, and nuts, and the air is warm. Eich is watching her, flashing his yellow tooth smile again in the dim light.
“Eich’s home, yes, yes.”
“It’s nice Eich. Thank you.”
“Rest now little one. Sleep. Dream. Safe. Yes, yes.”
Piper climbs out of the nest, looking toward the direction of the meadow.
“The thing out there…is it Fire-breath?” asks Piper.
Eich nods, shifting his weight.
“Did it destroy the meadow?”
Eich nods again.
“I need to see what it is. I need to see what destroyed my Spring, stole my Summer and drove away my friends. I have to see it.”
“Eich brave mouse, but Eich no go. Piper stay, too. Yes, yes.”
“You are brave Eich, but I have to see it. I’ll be careful. You rest. OK?”
She strokes the mouse’s head and he snuffles her with his nose. She can hear he is crying now, and his body is trembling.
“Come back, Piper. Yes, yes. Please.”
She wipes his eyes and hugs him around his neck.
“I will Eich. I promise.”
He helps her through the maze of brambles to the opening, and they hug one more time before he scampers back inside. Piper puts her hands on her hips and focuses on the hole about 10 feet away from her. The smell is terrible. She looks in her bag and pulls out a dried rose petal. She folds it until it fits over her mouth and nose, using her cobweb hand wrap, she secures the petal to her face.
She creeps toward the smoking hole, aware she doesn’t have much of a plan. Clea would know what to do. She’d march right over and yell at the thing to go. It would listen too, or Clea would make it. She misses her friend’s fierceness. She misses everything about her best friend.
A raspy voice calls from inside the hole and Piper stops. She can see a wide green nose poking over the ridge, sniffing from crescent-shaped nostrils.
“Who are you?” Piper calls.
The thing snorts, smoke filling the space between them, but doesn’t answer. Piper takes another step forward.
“No,” Piper says.
She is surprised by her boldness, but anger makes her heart pound and her body vibrate with energy. She takes another step forward and the thing crawls out of the hole. It’s about the same size as Eich, but nothing like him.
It’s covered in bright green scales in a tight woven pattern from head to tail. Along it’s back is a ridge of spikes, which are golden and cast rainbow patterns on the ground where the sun hits them. It has a pair of tiny wings, similar to Piper’s own, tucked along the side of its body. It blinks it’s large, round eyes at Piper. The eyes are the deep amber color of fresh honey.
It’s standing on the ridge of the hole and Piper can see it has something under it, gleaming bright in the sunlight, a single golden coin resting between its feet. Piper imagines it must have been hard to pull from the hole.
“I want to talk,” she says.
The thing shifts, trying to cover more of the coin, and blows fire in Piper’s direction. It’s a small flame and she sidesteps it without much effort. The rose mask is working to cover the smell, so she takes another step forward.
It tries to blow another flame in Piper’s direction, but only smoke comes out. It coughs, wheezing and shaking. Piper covers her ears against the sound, until the thing stops, eyes wide in fear, collapsing on the ground. Its body covers the gold coin and it snores, the sound like a swarm of angry bees. Piper laughs. This is what scared everyone away? It’s nothing but a baby dragon, barely able to blow fire, the poor thing.
She walks over to the dragon and touches one of the golden spikes on its back. It’s freezing. She takes her moss cloak off and puts it around the dragon’s neck, covering as much of him as she can. She sits. It would be amazing to tell Clea about this. Her friend would throw her head back and laugh until tears streaked her soft face. This is the second Spring without her, since the accident. She wonders if she’ll ever meet another fairy again. Her nose burns and the tears come.
“Why are you crying?”
The dragon’s voice is softer now, not as raspy. Piper finds his eyes enchanting.
“I miss my friend,” she says. “I’m the only fairy left now…”
“I’m alone too. I fell out of my mother’s bag while we were flying over this meadow. I was supposed to be home, but I snuck in the bag because of the coin. I wanted my own hoard. I’m old enough! I bet she doesn’t even know I’m missing, yet. She’ll never find me.”
He sniffs, smoke rings escaping from his nostrils.
“Why did you destroy the meadow?”
“I didn’t mean to. I was scared and there were so many creatures and they were so loud and…I panicked.”
Piper stands and faces the dragon.
“I’m Piper,” she says extending her hand. “I am pleased to meet you.”
He shifts so he can shake her hand with his scaly one, trying hard to not expose the gold coin beneath him.
Eich bursts from his bramble bush, squeaking and holding a broken twig in his mouth as he runs. He stops a few feet from them, gasping, and takes the stick into his left hand. He tries to growl, but it sounds strange and not at all scary.
“You better not hurt Eich’s friend. No, no.”
With this, he steps forward and hits the dragon on the nose with the stick. Snap bursts into tears, sneezing smoke and making a moaning sound. Eich looks from Piper to the dragon, shakes his head and lowers his stick.
Piper laughs. At first, it’s a giggle behind her hands with a small shaking of the shoulders. Growing, it bubbles and bursts until she throws her head back, howling and roaring uncontrollable, tears streaking her face.
Eich and Snap stare at her.