Here There Be Dragons: Chapter 1 Rewrite

There is no such thing as dragons. There never has been. They are mythical creatures that have not now, or have ever been. They just do not exist.

Fossils have been found for dinosaurs of all different types. herbivores, omnivores, and even the dangerous carnivores have all been found and documented. You can go to the library or search online and see pictures. They have existed, it is proven to be true. You can look up a skeleton of a pterodactyl, or of a t-rex and you can see their bones. Go into a museum and there will be a skeleton of them.

You will never find a skeleton or a real photo of a dragon’s fossil. They have never existed.

Riley knew that fact because she loved dragon’s and had read many books about them. She knew they didn’t exist. Which was why she had no way of explaining as she stared up at the ginormous head of the beast, how she could be standing in front of one.

And it was looking down at her, angry. It’s large, orange eyes were like fire, red lines coursing through it that were in their own way, alive with energy. There was a large slit in the center of them of the darkest black, and behind them drew in such an anger that burned the flame inside to a heat hotter than the sun.

It was focused on her, and she was afraid of what might be coming. She could hear the building up in its chest as it was taking it deep breaths. She saw as that massive chest rose and fell rhythmically, creating its own drum beat to a deadly song.

“Run!” the boy in the dragon’s hand was saying. She glanced briefly at him, but then back to the dragon’s long snout where the nostrils were flaring in and out.

Then there was the motion. The dragon pitched back it’s head, opened it’s snout, bearings its rows of very large teeth, then launched forward, shooting out a torrent of flame that was aimed at her…

She knew it was over, and couldn’t stop herself from wondering, how had she ever gotten there to face a thing that did not exist. Just earlier that day, life had still been ordinary. How had all of this gone so…wrong.

****

Riley looked in the mirror and gave a weak smile. The mirror was full body so she see her t-shirt, her short hair, and her sneakers as well. It was everything she was used to seeing, and just like usual, she was impressed. There stood that scrawny kid with the pinched nose, and the small mouth. She was the annoying girl who everyone would look at and watch as she continued her annoying habit of snapping her fingers while she walked. She couldn’t help it, she was fidgety and being out in public made her nervous. That didn’t mean she didn’t like herself or how she looked.

There was so much to her than people saw. She knew she was more than that. Come on, she had to be more than that.  She was Riley, and you know what, she was cool.  Everyone who was anybody knew that.  That was, if you were her best friend, Suzy.

And Riley, she dressed cool.  She had her jeans on, sure she pulled them up a little too high, but it worked for her because she was that awesome.  That with the Captain Marvel t-shirt and her bright purple knee high socks, well on others it just didn’t fit but for her, she rocked it.  It’s because she was Riley.  Everyone who was anyone, loved her.

Yeah, right.

No wonder she only had one friend in school, as who would ever want someone boring like her. She sucked at sports, knew more about comics than anyone else in her class, hated doing dress up or playing the role of ‘Barbie’ and couldn’t tell anyone anything about how to farm even though their small town was surround by corn and wheat fields.  And hey, it wasn’t that farming was bad, she had just grown up in the city. It was thanks to her great ever-so-smug father who decided they needed to move from the city to smalltownsville.

Someone pounded on the door of the bathroom.

“Come on, get out of there, some of us have to go,” Suzy yelled.

“Coming out.” She called out keeping her eyes locked on her own. Her smile faltered as reality tried to peel back the layers of fiction she had crafted for herself.

“What are you doing in there?”

“Pondering the meaning of life.” She said. Her tone mocking as she pulled herself away from, well, herself.

“Yeah, well, when you get a life to ponder over, let me know. Until then hurry it up.”

She came out of the bathroom and before she could even sit on her bed, Suzy was in the bathroom.  Dang, she really did have to go.

“So, what’s the meaning?” She called back, through the door. Riley leaned back on the bed, looking up at a poster for some boy band on her friend’s ceiling.  It was nearly a match for all the other posters surrounding her.  She was being stared down and from every direction by a collection of different boys from bands she couldn’t stand.

“The meaning of life is to not be obsessed with some yucky crap music.”

“Hardy Har har.”

“Okay miss know-it-all, what is the meaning of life?”

Suzy didn’t have a chance to answer when her mother came whooshing into the room, her hands full with a clothes basket filled to the brim of folded clothes.

“Oh now what are you two on about?  Making your plans for world domination?” Ms. Rowling said as she set the load of laundry down near the dresser.  She looked up, looking at him through the mirror waiting for an answer.

“Oh, nothing much.  Just debating the meaning of life. Nothing too important.”

“Well now, didn’t you know.  The meaning of life is to eat as much good food as you can and to pass on your knowledge to others.” Suzy’s mom had an Irish accent that always sounded funny to Riley, sometimes getting both girls to laugh at the way something was said. Suzy said her mom came from the old country, whatever that meant, but that they’d lived in Somniville for as long as Suzy could remember.

“I agree with the food part.” Suzy said as she emerged from the bathroom.

“Oh I know.  Someday that’ll catch up with ya.” Ms. Rowling said, standing as she looked at the pair now sitting on the bed. “And you won’t have that teenage metabolism.”

“Na, I’ll stay like this forever.” Riley said, giving her a sheepish smile.  She always enjoyed being over there as it felt so homey. It was so much more welcoming than when she was home with her dad.  Ms. Rowling had been good to her since they moved to town and had become to feel like her second mom, though she hadn’t seen her first mom in years. She didn’t know if it was because Suzy and her were best friends or just her nature from being a kindergarten teacher.  Either way, being there was comfortable.

It was the rest of the town that made her feel like such an outsider.

The room had grown quiet and Ms. Rowling studied them wondering just what they were up too.  She had to know they had something planned.  There was that gaze that lingered just a tad too long on each of them.  Oh yeah, she knew, she was too smart not too. She could probably read it in their faces, or just read their minds. Mom’s were crazy that way, having an uncanny sense when trouble was lurking.

Riley let out a long breath when she left the room.  Then she turned to Suzy.

“She knows.”

“What, that you’re an idiot.  Yeah, we’ve known that for the last year.”

“You know what I mean.”

“She doesn’t know, but you’re still an idiot.  You’re going to get yourself killed.  Is it really worth it just to tray and impress Chad.”

“I’m not doing it for him.”

“Uh huh. See, you’re an idiot.”

“It’ll be okay.  We’ll do it once and then quit.  Hey, what else do we have to do today?  You’ll record it and then” Riley held up her arms as in a triumphant boxer, jumping after winning a fight, “I..Will.. Be.. A..Goddess…”

“No, you’re just going to be dead.”

“Just hit the record button, okay.”

“But you can’t serious and there is no reason for you to do this.”

“Chad Johnson did it.”

“He only said that he did it.”

“That is why we are going to record it. That way, I will have proof.”

“But like I said, what good will that do if your dead. They call it deadman’s curve for a reason.”

“That’s only to scare people from trying to skate down it.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Skate down it.”

Suzy through a pillow at her smiling friend, and Riley grabbed it as she lunged off the bed as though the pillow had been a bullet and Riley had taken it to the chest. She rolled to the ground and turned to her friend laughing.

“What’s going on up there? You two aren’t wrestlin’ now are ya?” They heard Ms. Rawling call out from downstairs.

“No mom.” Suzy said, but she gave Riley a mischievous sideways glance that made Riley unsure if she was about to be tackled.

“Come one, grab your camera.” Riley said.

“I’m not taking my camera. She’d get suspicious. I’ll just use my phone.”

“That works. Come on, let’s go.”

Here There Be Dragons: Prologue

The nightmare was getting worse. Each night it was getting stronger and when he closed his eyes, could feel himself slipping farther into the cold dark depths. There were things there, and each time he slept, he feared they were going to come back with him. That when he would open his eyes upon waking, they would be waiting there waiting for him.

It was silly. He knew that. Everyone knew that nightmares weren’t real. That it was things that were trapped in your head. That if you watch a scary movie or play a game that had monsters, you would see them in your dreams. That’s how the monsters came, they worked they’re way into your nightmares.

But he hadn’t been watching any scary movies, and his mom had grounded him from his Xbox. He was stuck spending time with his younger sister when he got home and wasn’t allowed to even play with his friends. The last two weeks had been nothing but playing dolly’s with Emily, spelled with a ‘y’ as she would say so no one would accidentally misspell it with two ‘ee’s’.

Not that he cared enough to spell out her name. He didn’t want to be wasting his time with her. He should be off having fun doing boy things, not staying there with his spoiled brat of a sister.

So he was stuck with her, not watching anything that would cause these nightmares. Well, not unless the nightmares were of him being covered in dolls each crying for him to hold them. Or of him being chased by a really large one that wants to pick him up, cooing to “hold him and dress him and kiss him all over.” Now that was a disturbing thought and he hoped he never would have that dream.

No, the nightmares he had were filled with darkness and in he dark were creatures. He could always hear them scurrying around him, but he wasn’t afraid of these things. They weren’t the ones that terrified him and had him waking up with a wet bed. They were disgusting but he was a boy, he liked disgusting things. No, there was something else in the dark. It was large, and there were times when he knew he could feel its breath upon his neck. It breathe and then snort, and when it did that he would shiver as though an ice pick was wedged at the base of his spine. No matter how hot and warm that snort was and sometimes it felt like a wave of fire washing over him, he always got the chills from it, the unseen thing.

It was always behind him. No matter how much he turned and it didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he could feel it there. It was either behind him, or hovering over him. He knew it was there.

He couldn’t stop it, and knew this shouldn’t be happening to him. Not him. He should have been able to resist it. He was a dream chaser, he knew how to control his dreams. He had to of, because to fight the nightmares in other children’s dreams, he had to know how to control his own. It was one of the first rules, one of the first things taught to new dream chasers and he wasn’t knew. He had been fighting nightmares since he was ten. He lived the decree, to fight a children’s nightmare, you had to be a child. This nightmare shouldn’t be getting into his own head, it shouldn’t be happening. He could control these things.

But still the nightmare came, and still it grew stronger.

He didn’t want to close his eyes anymore. He didn’t want to sleep, to slip into the dreamscape as he knew the nightmare was always waiting for him. Each night, feeling more real and pulling him farther down the rabbit hole. Was there a bottom, and could he reach it without losing himself?

Last night he had swore to himself that he wouldn’t sleep and had made it until the middle of the night. Then, even with all the energy drinks could no longer hold back the veil he had slipped into sleep.

It started with him falling. Most dreams do, especially when one is fighting it. It’s that slipping into the dream realm sensation and if your not ready for it, you’ll jerk awake with that sense of slipping away. It’s disorientating and is the hardest element for new dream chasers to overcome. He had taken nearly two months before it had not affected him, and hadn’t felt it since… Until last night.

There had been a few false starts. He was sitting at his desk, the desk lamp on and facing him as he had heard that intense light can cause someone sleep deprivation. In movies they used it as a way to torture, as it wouldn’t allow someone to sleep.

His desk lamp must not have been strong enough as he still dream slipped. First time he had knocked his homework to the floor which had woke up his dog sleeping at his feet. The second time, his forehead had slammed into the desk waking him. Third time he guessed his head had hit the desk again, but that time it hadn’t been enough and he was lost to the nightmare.

It had been dark around him, and wet. Not too far away he could hear dripping and he smelled something like old socks. It wasn’t though, it was more, earthy, like dirt, but damp. He thought maybe he was in a cave, a deep one and around him was large creatures that scampered. Large, but not the largest one. He could hear that one in the distance, feel the ground shake as it moved told him it was larger than what he felt around him. The large ones around him he guessed were large, man shaped rats. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he could see them in his head as they moved around him, gnawing on whatever food they had found and brought back to this cavern.

He knew what the food was and if he looked, he wouldn’t see it with his eyes but somehow would see it with his mind. He refused to look. He refused to confirm what he already knew.

The cavern shook, this time hard enough that he nearly fell to the ground. The big thing was close. It wasn’t in the cavern with him, but he knew it wasn’t far away. He could feel the air around him getting hot and hard to breathe. This time the nightmare felt like it could burn him, and knew that it was real. This time, whatever happened in the dreamscape would happen to him.

Of course it would, your not wearing your protective gear. Your in your own nightmare, not fighting in someone else’s.

Which was true, he wasn’t off on some mission protecting some child from their dreams, this was his own nightmare. So why wasn’t this one getting detected? He was as close to home base as you could get but no one was coming to help him. Why?

Did they know and think he could handle it on his own? Or had they abandoned him to his fate? He still went into the office everyday, but had seen how they looked at him lately. Maybe they had turned on him, and left him to fight, to lost his own battles to this thing.

He wished he could believe this wasn’t true, but was unsure of anything except for that hot air growing more intense. He was having to take shallow breaths as anything deep burned his lungs.

What could he do. He was a fighter. He had to do something. He couldn’t let this continue. He was a fighter, a dream chaser sworn to fighting the nightmares. How could he allow himself to be afraid by it. How could he do that and still call himself worthy.

He had told himself that and knew he had to find a way to manifest his sword. Every dream chaser had their signature weapon and it didn’t matter the shape or what it was as in dreams, it was more about what was projected and the confidence it inspired in him.

His weapon of choice was a large, monstrous sword that he has seen in one of his favorite video games. It was easily as long as him with ornate silver that stretch down around his hands. There were carvings along the center of the blade but as he could never make out the fine details in the game, his own blade blurred this part of the weapon.

There was a loud snort from the other chamber and the air grew hotter yet. He knew it was now or never. He closed his eyes, and concentrated, tuning out everything around him. He could see his sword in his mind and he put in the effort to focus on it, to pull it from inside of himself. He had to do this and he knew he could. It was there, he had found it and could see it, now he just needed to bring it forth into the dream.

He felt it’s solid mass in his hands and knew he had done it. A smile touched his lips as he opened his eyes to see it held in front of him. The tip of the blade rose up in a ready position and he knew he was prepared for whatever was coming. The blade hummed with energy and it glowed in the darkness. The creatures that had all been scurrying around him scurried away, the light too much for their dark adjusted eyes.

He was a warrior and he was ready to fight. His stance, his breathing was all that of one who has seen many karate movies. In the real world he might not be much of a problem against someone as he could never pull off what he could in the dreamscape, but in here, his muscles didn’t need to know kung fu as much as his mind did. In there, all those cheesy movies helped make him a better fighter.

The room around him shook again and everything grew bright. Then the heat surrounded him as a blast of fire cascaded down the cave coming straight towards him.

He held his sword high and put forth the energy as a shield formed around him, the sword billowing out in protection. It was something the sword from the game could never do but he had found that dream modifications were sometimes the best way to survive.

The flame surrounded him, but he was not burned. The shield held though he felt it wobble a few times against the constant roar of heat that pushed against it.

Then the fire faded, the light dimming and his sword sensing the danger had passed, reforming into its original shape. Around him, little fires had continued to burn keeping the cavern flickering with their ominous glow. The fire was green and unnatural. He looked at them, trying to determine how they stayed lit, but didn’t see a source to keep them burning. They burned from the rock beneath them, nothing else.

That was when he heard the growl. It filled the room with its presence and he felt that cold shiver again run its icy fingers down his back.

He looked up and there it was. He didn’t know how it had gotten so close to him, but now he saw it’s large extended nose hovering just a few feet over him. Those large orange reptilian eyes squinted at him and watched him. They were angry eyes, hungry eyes and he knew it was ready to devour him. It wanted him, yearned to taste him, to take him and … do what with him?

This was a dream, a nightmare. This monster wanted something from him but it wasn’t like creatures in the real world was it? Would it eat him like a bear would or a crocodile?

It wanted something else… It was teasing him because it needed him. Why? And what did it matter?

He was not going to allow it to get him. He was a dream chaser, a fighter of nightmares. He had conquered scarier beasts than this one and it was time to put this nightmare down.

He had raised his sword high and jumped, attacking, aiming for the soft spot on a dragon right under their mouth as it merged with their neck. He could see as it rose and fell with each dragon breath. It looked like a loose fabric with how it ripples with the hot air beneath it. It was so thin he could almost see the fire building up beneath it in the dragon’s throat.

His blade struck right where he aimed. The dragon didn’t even try to dodge, it stayed there probably too shocked by his bold move to counter it. It didn’t matter. This stupid dream creature would be another for his wall, like the many before he had taken down many.

But his blade didn’t pierce the creatures skin like it should. Instead it shattered. Pieces of it started falling around him. It was like glitter and he was floating again in the darkness of the dream, not on ground and not falling but just there. There was nothing but black, no dragon to see or even the little creatures that had infested the cavern. He wasn’t even sure he was still in the cavern. Everything had changed, and he no longer knew what to fight.

He tried to look around but there was nothing and he felt nothing. There was silence and there was dark, that was it. He was lost in a void, unsure where his next breath even came from.

He took short gasps unsure if he was really breathing. It didn’t feel real, none of it felt real which made it worse than the nightmare that had been. For the first time felt true terror as he didn’t know if he was stuck there in the nothingness. Time faded and stretched at the same time. How long would he be trapped there as it already felt too long.

Would he ever wake up, return to his home and see his annoying sister. He had never want to play with her so bad in his life. He actually longed to have a tea party and play with her dollys. How messed up was that?

Then in the distance he heard the growl of the beast, and his body went still, every part of him shaking.

He had woken up in a sweat. That had been last night and he knew it was only going to be worse the next time he allowed himself to sleep. He knew it had to happen soon. He knew he would be called in and sent on a dream chase, and didn’t know how to tell his friends, his family that he couldn’t because he was too afraid of his own nightmares. How would he ever be able to face them.

He sat in his room, staring at the clock and realizing for the first time that there were something’s in the dark that couldn’t be beaten like his trainers had taught him. For the first time he realized that sometimes the nightmares win…

****

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