“Thank you. I knew I could count on you.”
“I haven’t said I’ll do it yet. I said I’ll think about it.”
George got up and went to the door. He paused with his hand on the door handle, and looked at Stanley with pleading eyes that said - please do it. Stanley smiled. “Let me think about it. I’ll let you know once I’ve made a decision.
George was a quiet man but he was also very determined. When he wanted something he knew just how to get it. He had a very persuasive nature. Stanley himself was a bit like him. That’s was why he had done so well in his business. He could convince people to share information they would otherwise not share with anyone, giving him leads for his cases.
When George left his office, Stanley wasn’t sure what to think. He leaned back on his swivel chair. With his hands clasped together in front of him, he spun around. He always did this whenever he was thinking, and needed some inspiration, and checking with his gut instinct on whether or not to take on a case. Since moving to the area, Stanley had never attended the town’s annual Dance Of The Prey festival. It could be a good opportunity to investigate George’s claims.
He decided he was going to sleep on it first and look into it the next day. He left the office a little while later. As he crossed the road to his car, in the distance he could see the sun cast its golden reflection on the shop windows. It was a picture perfect moment. At any other time, Stanley would have basked in the beauty of the moment, even taking a picture, but he didnt’t. The setting sun appeared as if it were trying to hold on to a day which had already bid the world farewell.
When Stanley got home his wife was on the phone. He kissed her on the forehead then went through to the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. He picked up the kettle. His wife always said filling it to the top was a waste of electricity. “You only need to boil enough for one cup, Stanley. You’re not going to drink the whole kettle are you?”
Well, she wasn’t watching now so he filled it up, put it on the counter, and turned on the switch. Of course a full kettle takes that much longer to boil which gave him time to go upstairs and change. When he came down again, his wife was still on the phone.
Women - Stanley thought to himself - the gossip never ended. He went into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. Whatever happened to the wife who used to welcome him home with a kiss and a hot drink? When he returned to the living room his wife was off the phone.
“That was George’s wife.”
Stanley tried to sound uninterested, but his wife clearly wanted to say something. He took his usual pose of pretending to listen, so she wouldn’t complain.
As long as he could pretend that he was listening, she was okay with that, even though he didn’t remember most of what she said. At regular intervals he would make appropriate grunts or throw in a question. She never noticed that they all came in the same order.
Who would do that?
That is so shocking!
Then he would throw his hands up in the air or pat her on the hand, or rub it. That always assured her that he was still listening. Finally, he would look into her eyes and say things like, "I know, I understand."
He was about to reel off his rehearsed script when she said something relating to the festival which made him sit up straight. He didn’t like how disturbed she looked. Something was very wrong. Stanley could sense it in his wife’s subdued delivery. Panic fluttered beneath that calm demeanor. Stanley wasn’t one to panic easily but this time everything felt different.
Peter’s dad had promised to pick him up from the festival after work. He’d been looking forward to sharing his good news. He now held the coveted title. He was “The Prey.” Local children practised all year just for the opportunity to be on the festival dance stage.
It was now dark and Peter was beginning to regret attending the festival. He wandered away from the crowd and walked towards the main road. A dark shape in the sky caught his eye. It had appeared from nowhere. He was sure of that because it hadn’t been there before.
Peter began to retrace his steps, but kept his eyes trained on the shape. When he turned his head to check the road behind him, his hood slipped over his face, blocking his vision. By the time he pulled it back the shape had moved closer. It was moving fast, closing the gap between them. He started running back to the others. When he stole a glance over his shoulder, the black shape was breathing fire.
Peter’s feet caught on something hard and he fell headlong, his arms flailing. By the time he pushed himself to his knees and got back to his feet the monster was almost upon him. Behind it was a trail of destruction.
Stanley had always thought that the legend of the sunset dragon was a myth. He was horrified to learn that ancient prophecy was being fulfilled in his lifetime.
When the ancient inhabitants of their town were attacked by an alien tribe the sunset dragon snatched them from the jaws of death. They vowed to repay its kindness by sacrificing a child every one hundred years. What seemed like a fair price for their freedom at the time was now a living nightmare for one young boy.