There weren't always dragons in the valley. In fact, when we moved to the sleepy little town of Bonnydale there didn't seem to be a whole lot of anything. I was sixteen and accustomed to the fast pace of city life, so when we lost my dad and had to move in with my grandparents, it was quite the blow to my teenage existence. The hustle and bustle of my former life was suddenly diminished to a place where the most exciting thing to do was go pick up groceries at the general store. I was miserable. It was all so unfair and I made sure that everyone around me knew it. Little did I know that this quiet nothing town would become the setting for the greatest adventure of my life.
The day was sunny but the air was thick with the remnants of the previous night's thunderstorm. It seemed even the weather was boring because the storm seemed to be the biggest topic of conversation over breakfast. I injected a series of "uh huhs" and "yeahs" while pretending to listen to my mom and her parents ramble, but all I could focus on were the next to nonexistent bars displayed on my phone screen. I knew it drove them nuts for me to have it on at the table, but everyone seemed to be tiptoeing around me lately so no one said anything.
"Sarah, do you not like your pancakes?" I heard my mother inquire, suddenly realizing I had just kind of been moving my food around the plate.
"You've barely touched them," she continued patiently.
"Oh. No they're great. I guess I'm just not that hungry," I said, shooting her a forced smile.
She frowned. I knew she was worried but I didn't really know what to say, so I went with asking if I could be excused from the table. She squeezed my hand from where she sat next to me and nodded, her eyes looking tired. I heard my family's whispers as I took my plate to rinse, but I ignored them. I had become used to being the topic of hushed conversation when I left a room since my dad died.
I needed some fresh air, or at least a change of scenery so I decided to go for a walk and maybe try to find a decent phone signal while I was out. Oddly enough I seemed to get better service down by the little stream that ran through the valley, so it seemed as good of a place as any to try to clear my head.
"I'll be back later," I yelled over my shoulder as I shoved my boots on and headed out the door.
The heat wasn't doing my mood any favors as I walked up the long drive and out the gate, but I idly waved at the boy working in the yard next door as I made my way down the dirt road. He seemed as if he wanted to say something but I kept my eyes down and hurried along on my way. I wasn't really feeling like making new friends. I missed my old ones. Most of all I missed Courtenay, my best friend. I really needed to hear her voice.
As I walked, I looked around bitterly at the quaint little farm houses set in the middle of big fields with trees here and there to break up the general nothingness. They seemed so small against the mountainous backdrop the town was set against. This place was so different from what I had left behind. It seemed odd to think that summer break back home was moving right along without me. I imagined all of the pool parties and beach days... the trips to the mall or the skate park. I wondered if anyone had even noticed my absence. It's funny how one's mind plays those kinds of games with itself at our lowest points in life. I was so lost in thought that I nearly jumped out of my skin when my phone started ringing. Signal, at last! It was Courtenay!
"Hello?" I breathed excitedly as I answered, my words met with blaring music on the other end.
"Sarah?" her voice said, clearly shouting. "Are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here. Can you hear me?" I said, loudly enough to have startled some birds out of a nearby tree. I jumped as they took flight.
"Sarah, I can't hear you. I'll have to try to call you back later. We just wanted to let you know we miss you! Text me!" she concluded followed by a chorus of greetings from our other friends before the line went dead.
And there it was, the verification that life had indeed moved on without me. I was stuck in this void of a valley town while everyone I had grown up with was having a proper teenage summer. At least, though, I knew I was not forgotten. That softened the blow, even if only a little. I mulled over what I could possibly text her as I walked, beginning to hear the water trickling over the banks of the stream. I mean, I didn't think she would care much about the intense lightning or the stifling heat and there really hadn't been much else going on. The clearing near the water was pretty as I approached, so I decided to snap a photo for her and attach a generic "Wish you were here!". There really wasn't much else I could send her.
I was tapping this out on the keyboard as I walked along when the toe of my boot got caught on a rock. I tripped with a startled yelp. My phone flew from my grasp as I tried to regain my footing. It was all in vain. I landed hard on my stomach, knocking the wind from my lungs and my phone landed face-down a few feet away on the rocky shore.
"No no no no no!" I muttered to myself when I got my wits about me, wishing against all odds that my phone was okay before I even bothered to check myself over. Immediately I saw this was not the case. I picked my phone up and saw the shattered screen. Thinking perhaps it might still be usable I pressed the button to turn the screen on and observed the distorted images that appeared. My phone was fried. Perfect... just perfect.
The emotions suddenly came bubbling up within me in a way I was unable to make sense of. Frustration took over my body and I began to shake. There was nothing I could do but cry my anguish out into the quiet that was interrupted only by the occasional birdsong and the babbling water. Hot tears of rage streamed down my face uncontrollably as I began to think about my dad, my friends, and everything I had been forced to walk away from all because some jerk decided it was cool to get loaded and drive home. None of it was fair. None of it made sense. As I sobbed, I reached for the rock I had tripped over to chuck it into the water but when my fingertips met the stone I couldn't help but notice the warmth it seemed to radiate. I drew my hand back, somewhat startled and began to wipe my tears so I could see. In doing so I noticed for the first time that my cheek was bleeding from the fall but I didn't particularly care. I was too interested in this curious orb-like object.
Wonder set in and my outburst of emotion began to subside. I cautiously reached out my hand again to graze the surface once more. It was surprisingly smooth and appeared to pulse a bit, somewhat like a heartbeat. How strange. Perhaps it was simply the absorbed heat from being in direct sunlight. As I picked it up, I was surprised by the weight of it. About the size of a lime, it was dark grey in color and seemed to glint in the beams from the sun as I flipped it over in my hands. It certainly wasn't an ordinary rock if it was even a rock at all. Whatever it was, I had no idea but certainly intended to find out. Without thinking it through, I pocketed my busted cell phone and started walking back toward the house with my curious little treasure.
As I neared the house I noticed the neighbor boy was still outside. I wasn't able to avoid eye contact as successfully this time. His eyes widened as the distance between us diminished enough for him to clearly see my face. I touched my cheek self-consciously immediately realizing what had caught his attention.
"Hey, are you okay?" he asked. His voice was kind with a slow drawl and he very was handsome. I hadn't noticed this before.
"Yeah. I'm alright. I just took a spill by the water." I replied. I was blushing and suddenly very shy.
His deep brown eyes studied my face and the injury, making my knees feel a little weak being under the scrutiny of his intense gaze. He looked to be about my age, though tall. His tan skin and broad shoulders gave me the assumption that he was no stranger to this yard labor he appeared to be in the middle of.
"Name's Jack," he said simply, after he finished giving me the once over.
"Sarah," came the response, my voice cracking much to my dismay. I blushed deeper this time, likely making my freckles blend in with the flushed tone.
"Why don't you come in and let me clean that up for you?" he asked, grinning.
"No, it's okay. I'm almost home," I asserted, suddenly remembering the strange rock I was clutching close to me and nodding my head in the direction of my grandparent's house.
"Alright. I'll see ya around. Make sure you take care of the cut," he said, returning to his work. With that I awkwardly began walking the rest of the way to the house at a quickened pace. "Smooth, Sarah... Real smooth," I thought, but glancing over my shoulder as I reached the front porch I noticed he had paused his work and was smiling over at me. I blushed once more and walked inside.
My mom was diligently working in the makeshift office she had set up in the living room, not even looking up as she distractedly reminded me to wipe my feet and take off my boots. I did before rushing up to my bedroom with the mysterious object that had foiled my plans of connecting with the world beyond this quaint little prison I now called home. Closing the door behind me, I once again began inspecting the rock, or whatever it was. I noticed that inside, away from the sunlight the color was much darker... not quite black but very close. It still felt quite warm to the touch ruling out my theory that it was just from the heat outside. I have no idea how long I was standing there studying it when a knock on the door startled me. I quickly shoved the thing under my pillow and said, "Come in!" as casually as I could manage.
It was my grandmother, coming to ask me to help her with some chores around the house. She was audibly alarmed when she saw my face, the deep lines between her knitted brows growing more pronounced with worry. "What happened?!" she gasped.
"It's nothing, Gramma." I said, nervously averting my eyes to my broken phone that I had laid on the chest of drawers at some point. She followed my gaze, frowning. She was clearly unsatisfied with my dismissive response. "I slipped on a rock and fell." I answered truthfully but vaguely.
"Your mom is not going to be happy about this. Let's go get that cut cleaned up before it gets infected." she sighed, and off we went to mend my face and get on with whatever tedious tasks she had in mind for me that day.
Dinner was awkward. Mom only lectured a little about my phone being broken, reminding me of the long list of things we didn't have money for anymore. Apparently replacing my phone was pretty high on that list, not that it mattered. The wifi and data signals both seemed to be complete crap around here. I'm not even sure they bothered to get internet at all before we moved in and Mom needed it to work, but I digress. I think Grandpa was just secretly happy not to have the phone at the table. He didn't say a whole lot in general, but his eyes sure did. Mom tried to make conversation with me when her lecture was over, but I only gave short answers so she eventually gave up and started chattering with Grandma. As usual, I pushed my food around the plate taking an occasional bite. This time it went unmentioned.
When we were done eating, I rushed through helping with the kitchen clean up and hurried to my room, eager to escape the tension. Not really sure why I wanted to keep my find a secret, I made sure my bedroom door was closed and locked behind me before I went to fish the stone out from under my pillow. Unbelievably it seemed to be even warmer than I recalled earlier in the day, and I noticed a few small cracks forming along the surface. When I prodded at one of these cracks with my fingertip I felt a sort of small zap. I yelped and dropped the orb like object.
"You okay up there?" I heard my mom yell up the stairs, obviously hearing the thud along with my exclamation.
"I'm fine, just dropped something!" I called, still not lying but not exactly offering the whole truth.
I hesitated before stooping to pick it up again. Had I really been shocked? Surely it must have been just static or maybe a pinch from one of the cracks. I decided that must have been it. Even still, I didn't think any further prodding was a good idea so I placed it carefully on my nightstand where it glinted and glittered again in the lamp light. I sat for a moment, dazzled and lost in thought of what it might be. Fancies of wizards and magical gems danced through my head as I pondered, no closer to an answer than I had been when I first found it. Eventually I reasoned that it was my imagination playing tricks on me. My feelings had been erratic as of late, especially at the moment of discovery. It stood to reason that my senses might not be at peak performance levels. I must have imagined the seemingly organic attributes of the stone in my flurry of emotion.
I pondered the events of the day as I got myself ready for bed. Grabbing my phone for one more inspection as I climbed under the covers, I noted with a deep sigh that there was no hope for it. If my dad were here, he would have been able to fix it. He could fix everything when he was still around. I thought about him always tinkering with gadgets around the house for fun. I had made fun of him and called him a nerd, never really admitting how cool I thought it was. Then it came, that feeling of deep despair that came to greet me as it did in the lonely hours of every night, but this time it felt different. Usually I would seek solace in scrolling through pictures to remember the happier times, or maybe distract myself with a silly mobile game. Tonight, though, there was no escaping it. My lifeline was in shambles in my hand. I began to cry for what may have been the first time since we got the news. I had gone numb when they told us, forcing myself not to give in to the ache, but now it all hit me with a force that took my breath away. He was gone. My life was changed forever. My heart was broken and the man who could fix everything was gone. The tears began to fall, this time not from rage or anger, but for the little girl inside that lost her daddy and everything she held dear to her heart. The summer that was supposed to be the highlight of her young life had become a nightmare. Placing my broken phone on the night stand and turning off the lamp I let the darkness wash over me as salty tears stung my cheek and I drifted off to sleep on the ocean of sadness.
I'm not sure what exactly woke me up, the light streaming in through my window or she strange mechanical whirring sound that seemed to be coming from somewhere nearby. I had never heard anything quite like it. Though faint it seemed to ebb and flow, almost as if the sound were breathing. As strange as it was, it was the next sound I heard that grabbed my full attention... the pinging of message alerts from my phone. Was it still working despite the screen being shattered? Could I still get calls? I grabbed the device with anticipation to inspect it and nearly dropped it in complete shock. The spiderweb pattern that had been across the glass was now gone and the display was in perfect working order. In fact, there didn't appear to be a single scratch.
I blinked for a moment in disbelief trying to figure out if I were actually awake or stuck in the most boring dream ever. I mean, I could at least have enough excitement in my subconscious to escape the little farmhouse in the boonies, right? About that time I noticed the rock that was on my nightstand, only it didn't look like it had when I went to bed. It appeared now to be completely cracked in half. I reached for the halves and nearly screamed when what appeared to be a tiny lizard of some kind poked its head up from within one of them. The little creature gleamed silver in the morning light. It looked at me, cocking its head slightly and gave a little chirp that sent a tiny blue bolt of what looked like electricity racing down the glittering scales that lined its back. I thought at that moment that it HAD to be a dream. Nothing else made sense.
Just then there was a knock at the door. "Sarah," my mom's voice came chipperly through the closed door, "Time to get up for breakfast."
I wasn't dreaming.
"Okay. I'll be right there... Uh... Hey Mom?" I croaked groggily at her.
"Did you get me a new phone?"
I heard a frustrated sigh. "Honey, we talked about this."
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. I must have had a weird dream or something."
Boy was that an understatement.
"I'll be right there."
Looking over at the whirring little reptile, I wracked my brain trying to figure out what to do with it while I ate breakfast and remembered the small aquarium that was tucked in the closet. My mom had kept her hamster in it when she was a little girl and for some reason it had been kept, luckily for me. I scooped up the two halves of what I now realized had been an egg and placed it and its contents into the tank and secured the screen on top. This was met with another head tilt and electrified chirp. As I got washed up and ready for my day I couldn't help but think that this was already shaping up to be a weird one.
Rushing through my breakfast, I noticed my mom smiling over in my direction more than once as I scarfed down my eggs and toast. She was clearly pleased to see a change in my appetite, not knowing that there was an agenda afoot. Though in all fairness I was feeling particularly hungry this morning for the first time since everything happened. When I was excused from the table, I hurriedly returned to my bedroom to check on the funny little creature I had hidden there. I looked in the tank and it was empty except for the egg halves with the screen laying slightly askew. Horrified I began scanning the room. I didn't see anything but I could hear a faint mechanized noise coming from deep within the closet. Grabbing my now intact phone, I used the flashlight function to peer into the cavernous walk-in. I saw a flash of light reflected just behind an old broken lamp. I was always amazed at the things my grandparents kept around "just in case".
I noticed that the little guy was chewing on the broken part of the lamp's fixture and immediately moved to scoop him up in my hand, receiving a small zap for my trouble much like the one I had gotten from poking at the egg. This time I didn't yelp or drop him, just bit my lip to keep anyone from coming to investigate. How exactly would I explain this when I didn't even understand it myself? I looked at the tiny creature in my palm. It was oddly cute. The whirring noise began to fade and I noticed what appeared to be two little wings near the shoulder blades, like one might expect to find on the dragons from childhood fairy tales. They had been moving too fast for me to see before now. Looking back up at me inquisitively, we both seemed to study each other for a long time until it was apparently decided that I was safe enough to take a nap on. As it curled up, I placed the little critter on one of the shirts I had left haphazardly on the floor and inspected the lamp to survey the damage. I was shocked to find that it appeared to be in complete working order. Had this little thing actually been fixing it? Had it fixed my phone? I had so many questions.
I heard my family get settled into their daily routines and I knew that if I kept my little secret up in my bedroom it would certainly be discovered, but where else could I keep it? Then I remembered the old tool shed out back. Grandpa was having a hard time getting around like he used to so it had become my job to mow the yard. No one really went back there but me, so it seemed the perfect solution. I found a small box in the closet, poked a few holes, and deposited the sleeping bundle inside, shirt and all. When I got downstairs and announced that I was going to go organize the shed, no one seemed to question it or what was in the box, so I went on about my business happy to have escaped having to offer any explanation.
As I was getting my tiny new friend settled into its new home, I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I jumped and whirled around to see Jack staring at me with wide eyes, holding a basket. How long had he been there? Judging by the expression on his face it had been long enough to have seen what I was doing.
"M-my mom sent these muffins," he stammered, seeming to suddenly remember the basket in his hand. "I saw you outside and..." I took the basket and thanked him as he trailed off.
"What is that?" he finally managed to muster nodding to the box in the corner where I had made a little nest for the new addition.
"I honestly have no idea, but I think it might be a dragon," I answered truthfully. Seeing his incredulous look I explained the whole story. He listened intently with the look of wonder never leaving his face. I suppose if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes he might have thought I was delusional. Truth be told, I was questioning that myself.
"So, uh... What are you going to call it?" he asked when I had finished my tale. I hadn't really considered this.
I thought for a minute and replied simply, "Bolt."
He nodded, smiling. I smiled back. As we both turned to look at Bolt sleeping contentedly in its box I think we both realized that this was going to be a summer neither of us would soon forget, though looking back I wonder if either of us realized how much life in that sleepy little valley was about to change.
About the author
Growing up in a small town in Central Florida, Sissi Smith developed a love for writing at a young age, but like many people got bogged down with responsibilities and put down her pen. Join her on her journey as she rediscovers her passion!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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