Flash fiction is a new bit of writing practice for me and as David seems to appreciate my ferreting around for inspiration, here’s another one! I struggled with this for a while trying to get it short enough. I was aiming for 1,000 words and just tipped over. Note to self: stop blathering on …
Oh, the prompt is as the title …
Mac grabbed his coffee on the way to work. “What the …” he swore after bumping into the fifth person who’d stopped, right in the midst of walking-and-talking. Mac looked around and noticed a gaggle on the street corner pointing up at the sky. Except there was nothing in the sky. And that’s when he got it, there were no dragons and they should’ve been flying, something must be wrong. Stepping into the street, he figured he could avoid rush hour traffic easier than pedestrians. He made calls, but they all went to voicemail. After an hour without replies, he went over to Joe’s to pick up the chatter.
Joe’s was buzzing so it was quite a while before he joined Mac. “No-one seems to know why” he said quickly, putting his feet up with a sigh. “Last night we’d a big group from one of those seminar hotels keeping us busy, when I noticed a few of them talking to old Guy. Just then they got up en masse and went outside.” Mac raised his eyebrows but Joe continued: “I sent Jenna out after them. She soon raced back shouting about the dragons.” Mac started to ask: “did you …” when Joe nodded: “I went out to check for myself. The sky was clear, no clouds, just moon and stars and no dragons. Since then, we’ve done crazy business with more than half the town in here, but no-one, absolutely no-one seems to know a damn thing.”
For a moment, Joe flexed his feet and sighed whilst Mac thought. Who could know? Who had an in? Suddenly Mac remembered something: “didn’t old Guy have some connection to the dragons back in the day?” Joe nodded, “yup, way back, before the drink got him.”
Mac couldn’t raise Guy till lunchtime. He wasn’t making any sense and the coffee Mac fed him only made Guy puke. In a while Mac realised he was going about this the wrong way. Opening Guy’s fridge, he pulled out a cold beer and let Guy knock it back. After he’d drunk half the second one, Guy asked him “what the hell do you want?” “Where are the dragons? Mac asked, but was surprised when Guy laughed, so much that he could hardly catch his breath. Mac crossed to the fridge, taking out a couple more beers, he handed one to Guy asking “any thoughts you’d care to share?”
Later Mac crossed town whilst absorbing what Guy had him. It was that age-old story, one of cutting costs and out-sourcing work from the guys with training, with knowledge and experience, to the cheap newcomers. This’d happened some months back and the dragons had been getting sick. They weren’t being fed right and a new abrasive cleaning regime was causing serious damage to their scaly skin. Their old handlers knew how to care for and heal them, but the new handlers had no idea. They couldn’t even tell the difference between them, so the dragons had been protecting their own by covering for the sick ones. But last night, they’d all gone out and none had returned.
Mac spent the afternoon tracking down the old handlers, but every one of them had packed up home and family and left town. It was all over the news how the Mayor was combing the surrounding countryside for them, but kept coming back empty-handed.
Some nights later, Mac was having a nightcap in Joe’s when old Guy came over, swerving between tables like he’d had too many. But Mac spotted the look in his eye and he wasn’t drunk. Guy leant on his table and asked why he’d not repeated what he’d learned about the dragons. Mac shrugged: “why would I? They seem the injured party in all this.” Guy smiled and said: “I’m being watched. If I leave a package in the booth near the window with directions and a token, will you deliver it for me?” Mac shrugged again: “yeah, why not?”
Next morning, Mac hitched a ride with the mayor’s searchers out of town, then stopped to drink some coffee and eat a bacon sandwich. Waiting till the searchers were over the horizon, he walked up to a pass, took out the token and waited. A man appeared, introduced himself as Ben and took him into the valley which was just coming to life. Fires were on the go and there were vast tents around the edge. Ben took Mac into one of the largest, inside of which were dragons being rubbed in goose fat to ease the wounds on their skins. Further back, dragons were being spoon fed and this is where Ben hurried Mac to. Handing the package to willing hands, the contents were soon being dispensed to the weakest patients.
Ben spoke quietly telling how the dragons had become increasingly sick, some close to dying. He’d tried raising the dragons’ plight, but without success, so getting together with his old colleagues, they’d planned an escape and prepared this hideout. Finally Mac asked “how come you’ve not been found?” Ben smiled: “It’s not a fairytale you know, dragons really can do magic. They’ve put an enchantment around this valley. Unless they allow it, you’ll see nothing here.” “The token?” asked Mac and Ben inclined his head.
Ben walked Mac back over the pass, telling him it was their intention to wait until the dragons were fully recovered. They hoped, by that time, their absence would’ve have left a serious vacuum. They’d need an advocate to approach the mayor, to gain assurances about the dragons future and safety. Mac raised an enquiring eyebrow: “me?” Ben nodded. “Why not?” Mac indicated his ascent and Ben continued: “old Guy will give you the odd package to deliver, if you’d be willing, and he’ll let you know when it’s time.”
Mac strolled back along the main road back into town. He’d hitch a ride with the mayor’s searchers soon – they’d be along in a while. Fingering the token in his pocket, the idea made him smile …
© 2016 Debra Carey