Breathing Fire & Other Storiesby Author / Courtney Wallace
Breathing Fire and Other Stories
by Courtney Wallace
Copyright 2017 Courtney Wallace
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The High Card
About the Author
Dragons are the best protectors from storms. That’s what Annie’s Dad told her when he painted the dragons on her bedroom walls. Her favorite is the green one, she named him Bobo. He took up the entire wall above her bed. His wings are spread wide and smoke curls from his nostrils like he’s ready to swoop down and take her away from any danger. During the bad storms Annie always reaches her little hand up towards the wall, pretending to stroke Bobo. The thunder became quieter and the lightening darker.
A different kind of thunder rained down over England that night, though. It was the kind that wakes the sirens and leaves soot floating through the air. It reminded her of the mean dragons from the fairy tales her Dad reads her every night. The kind that the knights are sent to slay, not like the ones on her walls.
“Annie? Annie darling, get up.”
“Now, darling. We need to go down. Your father’s downstairs.”
Sirens wailed in the distance like dragons annoyed that their slumber has been disturbed. Annie put on her house coat and brown shoes, the ones with the tough soles that can walk on gravel. She stumbled down the stairs, rubbing eyes. Her father stood in the kitchen, completely dressed as if he never even went to bed. He’d been waiting for the dragon’s wail.
“Hello, dear. Did you get any sleep?”
“You mean until mummy came in?”
Her father smiles as her mother rounds the corner.
“Alright, everyone, let’s go. Annie, ready? Dear?”
“Of course! After my darling wife and daughter.”
It was very bright for night time, a fact that went unnoticed by Annie. After all, she had grown up in the spotlights of nightly air raids. Nightly dragons breathing fire over her home. Neighbors swarmed around them in housecoats, slippers, boots, and nightwear. Annie’s parents gently pull her down the street.
“Is it the Jerries again, mummy?”
“Yes, my darling.”
“Oh.” The strange thunder wrapped around a young woman’s scream. Annie looked up at the sky as her parents tug her towards the shelters. She heard the constant buzzing of their wings as the dragons grow closer. They would be breathing fire down on London soon enough.
Her parents gently nudged her into the nearest underground shelter. Traveling underground is always a smelly experience. With another clap of strange thunder the ground shakes under her feet.
“Right here, Annie. Against the wall, please.”
“But, mummy, I don’t want to stand against the wall. It’s all dirty!”
Her mother points to the wall. Annie leans against it, crossing her arms.
“Annie! Annie! Guess what? I heard the Jerries got the school this time!”
Annie looks up at her mom. The dragon’s yowling gets closer. Across the grimy tunnel, Annie sees one of the neighbor ladies crying silently. Another man is pacing, looking at his watch. The dragon comes closer, the ground quaking under its heavy paws.
Soon the lights flicker out. Everyone screams.
“It’s alright, darling. Mummy and I are right here.”
“I don’t like the dark, Daddy.”
“I know. It will be over soon, you’ll see.”
Annie reaches out blindly, until arms wrap around her and she smells lilacs.
“Mummy, what if the Jerries get my bedroom! Where will I sleep? And my favorite books are still at home, can we go get them? They’re in English; the Jerries won’t understand them.”
Her parents chuckle.
“I’m sure the house is fine, dear.”
“But what about the birds! We left them all alone! Won’t they get hurt?”
“They’re lovebirds, dear, they have each other. Besides, I’m sure they’ll be quite alright.”
Soon, the dragon’s roars and rumbles lulled Annie to sleep. She dreamt of green grass and afternoon tea outside and of sleeping through the night and not climbing over bricks to go to school each morning.
She woke to her father’s voice.
“Perhaps we should just let her sleep. I’ll carry her home. She has school tomorrow, after all.”
Annie stretched, her muscles groaning in protest. She didn’t want to miss the dragon’s destruction. The ground had stopped shaking; the crying women wiped their eyes.
“Are we going back home, Daddy?”
“Of course, darling. Hold our hands now, their a big crowd by the entrance.”
Annie watched people migrate toward the dusty entrance of the shelter. Some were grumbling about work, others wanted to know if their homes were still standing. Soon Gladys Higgins came running up to Annie, the same dark circles under her eyes.
“Mummy, does that mean I don’t have to go to school anymore?”