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The Amalgamation Game

Chapter One: Dragon Nights

By Donna ReneePublished 17 days ago 4 min read
Image created with DALL-E

Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. Tonight was a special occasion though. Sometimes the clouds took on the shapes of enormous animals as they danced across the heavens. And tonight, they were Emily's favorites... dragons!

The cloud dragons gracefully flapped their iridescent violet wings and moved in waves of shimmering vapor undulations through the salmon hued sky. Up, up, up they danced, eventually beyond sight and into the stratosphere where they shattered into bits of sparkling diamonds and continued their ballet beyond all boundaries of human observation.

But back down below...far, far below, Emily was still watching.

She should have been asleep but whenever the dragon clouds appeared she climbed out of her little bedroom window and perched against the side of the cracked brick chimney in the night. She had forgotten to bring her blanket this time, so she conjured a tiny flame to warm her fingers as she watched the skies. She wondered where the dancing purple clouds went on the Dragon Nights, as she called them. The last night like this had been months ago, right before Madeline went away.

Eventually, she admitted that the dragons were gone and that the show was over for the night. She had school tomorrow and her mother was not going to accept "Dragon Nights" as an excuse (again) for not waking up on time. Her mother saw the purple clouds, of course, they came every night...but somehow she had never seen the dragons.

Too few hours later, Emily awoke to the incessant BEEP BEEP BEEP of her mother's ancient wooden radio alarm clock. She groaned and rolled over to end the torture. She hated that thing but the wretched clock was probably going to outlive them all. Sitting up groggily, she yawned and stretched. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror on her dresser, she shuddered. This situation was going to take more than her typical 15 minute "get ready" transformation ritual.

Emily flicked her pinky finger, whispered a few words, and her hair began to untangle while she dug through her closet for something "cool" to wear. Settling on her most expensive jeans and a shirt that she hadn't worn in the last few days (that was not a mistake she would repeat), she returned to sit on her bed in front of the mirror. She sat like a statue while her makeup was applied because she hadn't quite gotten that trick nailed down yet.

You couldn't just "go to school" these days. Her mother always chided her for even spending 15 minutes on trying to look beautiful for school because "School is for learning! Not impressing boys!" but her mother just didn't understand.

It had nothing to do with impressing boys (not boys, specifically, anyway) and these days, school wasn't for learning at all. It was for fitting in and making friends with the popular kids so that you were eligible for Amalgamation at the end of the term. But no one else seemed to know that.

Only Emily...and the principal.

Ever since that afternoon a few months ago, Emily had been trying to figure out the steps in the process of becoming a popular kid, and thereby a candidate for Amalgamation at the end of the year. It was proving to be quite a puzzle. Fortunately, Emily had always been good at those.

Looking good was step 1. If you didn't look beautiful then there was no chance you'd ever have the right friends. And having the right friends was the most important thing. At least, that's what Madeline had told Emily at the end of the last term...when she had excitedly told Emily that she'd finally been asked to sit at their table.

Step 2 was acting like you didn't care about anyone or anything except for being one of the popular kids. This one was harder for Emily...she couldn't transform her mind like she could her appearance. Because she did care. She cared about a lot of things. She cared about her family and she cared about learning and she cared about developing her talents and she cared about her longtime best friend Madeline. Even though Madeline didn't care about her anymore. Because, Madeline didn't exist anymore.

Step 3 was, best as Emily could figure, not actually being that good at school? Emily was smart and a very diligent student...which had been a good thing up until 7th grade when suddenly that wasn't desirable anymore. Suddenly no one seemed impressed when she received excellent reviews for her creations and perfect grades on her math tests. She didn't understand that part. Whatever the goal was with the process, why wouldn't they want smart and talented kids, too? Didn't the Amalgamation also need children with intelligence and natural ability? Maybe it really was all about popularity... She hoped not.

No one ever talked about Amalgamation openly, obviously. Emily had overheard the principal use that word when talking to someone (Emily didn't know who) in the staff lounge a few months ago though. Yes, she'd eavesdropped...but she needed to know where the popular kids had gone at the end of term. No one had even acknowledged that they had happily walked into that storage room as a group of over a dozen and returned as a set of three. Three nearly identical children. Children who everyone else, even Emily, remembered and knew well.

Sometimes Emily thought she had imagined it...imagined them...the ones who had gone into the room. Will, Catherine, Jasmine, Elly, Claire....and the rest...but she couldn't have imagined Madeline.

Just like she knew she hadn't imagined the Dragon Nights.

Young AdultMysteryExcerpt

About the Creator

Donna Renee

Hi! Thanks for reading! My hobbies include making coffee, drinking coffee, and starting to write a story and then rage-deleting it when I get the slightest bit frustrated.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (21)

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  • Novel Allenabout 4 hours ago

    Such great story telling. I wonder what happens next.

  • Katrina Caina day ago

    Amazing woww :)

  • Ilkin Gasimli5 days ago


  • Heather Hubler10 days ago

    Oh, I was sucked right into this world! You pulled me in and dolled me up after filling my head full of cloud dragons and I was ready to be a cool kid. And then it was over, nooooo! I enjoyed that so much! Really great storytelling :)

  • Susana's World11 days ago

    Wow, are an amazing storyteller! So lovely to read you here on vocal. I agree with others, it's like a first chapter!

  • The spectacle of the nightly dance between the purple clouds and the blushing sky is a stunning manifestation of the aesthetic delights to be found in the natural world. The dragons that materialize out of the swirling vapour are a fitting symbol of the imaginative power that resides within the human mind, capable of transforming even the most ephemeral phenomena into something of beauty and wonder. Yet, as Emily observes the aerial performance, she is confronted with the reality of her own mundane existence, bound by the constraints of societal expectations and the demands of her education. Her struggles to conform to the norms of her peer group and gain the acceptance of the popular crowd stand in stark contrast to the fantastical visions that appear above her. Amidst the banality of her daily routine and the wooden clock, which i just have to mention, cause i really loved it, Emily clings to the memory of the Dragon Nights, a reminder of the capacity of the human imagination to transcend the limits of the material world and reach towards the sublime. Her quest to unravel the mystery of the Amalgamation, the elusive fate of those chosen to be absorbed into the group mind, serves as a metaphor for the larger search for meaning and purpose in a world that can often seem chaotic and unfathomable. Like the dragons that fade into the stratosphere, the answers to these questions may elude us, but the search itself is a testament to the human spirit and its unyielding desire for knowledge and understanding.

  • R. J. Rani13 days ago

    Ok, I did not see any of that coming. What an awesome first chapter. I just wanted to keep reading because I want to understand what this Amalgamation is... what's happening at the school... and how cool is it that Emily can have her own make up and hair magic in the morning. I love how you brought us back to the beginning with the nod to the dragons there. Really well done, Donna, I thoroughly enjoyed this first chapter.

  • Zack Graham14 days ago

    I loved your bit about the ancient undying alarm clock - very grounding in the set and setting of the world you're creating. Great vocabulary and exposition to open, and then character and plot building to open the chapter. Bravo!

  • Mary Haynes15 days ago

    Left me wanting more! Good job!

  • Loryne Andawey15 days ago

    Ooohh, this can easily turn into a horror piece. Then again, I am easily unsettled 😅. Well done!

  • Naomi16 days ago

    I would love to read more of this, which means it is a great first chapter. 💜

  • Ahna Lewis16 days ago

    Loved this! I most definitely want to read Chapter 2!

  • Harmony Kent16 days ago

    I really enjoyed this, Donna, and look forward to seeing what happens next! 💕🙂

  • suman mohan17 days ago

    Superb! Imaginary lines

  • Caroline Craven17 days ago

    Wow! Excellent! I hope you’re cracking on with chapter two!

  • Roy Stevens17 days ago

    "Amalgamation" is a juicy creepy word to use in this context! I know it's accidental but it's funny personally also. This was the threat raised early in my career as a teacher to suggest area boards of education would join up to reduce staffing even further. Therefore, presto right back to the unemployment line. It sure is a different world now! Anyway Donna, I would like to second Kali's "vote" (HaHa, the Democratic Republic of Donnatelo!) and hope you consider carrying the story forward. You're a natural storyteller and you clearly need to let the stuff out or you'll go crazy (ier). 🤪

  • Mark Gagnon17 days ago

    Just enough spooky to hold my attention and your descriptors are masterful. Well done!

  • Oh my word, this was such a delight. What a great first chapter.

  • Gerald Holmes17 days ago

    Excellent. This really reads like the opening of a novel. It flows perfectly. Very well done.

  • Quincy.v17 days ago

    This story is intriguing and leaves me feeling curious about what will happen next.

  • Kali Mailhot17 days ago

    Wow I really enjoyed this, from start to finish, and that ending really points to a very different and interesting take on a classic magic school story. Thank you so much for sharing! I hope if you keep writing chapters I hear more about Emily’s daydreaming with the dragon clouds, it is just so charming. But of course I enjoyed the rest too :)

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