The dreams I had when I was a child were true. Of course, when I grew up, I didn’t believe that. But maybe that means that I didn’t grow up, or I regressed, or I became a child again. A very frightened child, if that.
I’m babbling. I’m not making any sense.
Let’s start over.
When I was six years old I had a friend named Robbie. The kid was popular (among six year olds, so you can’t give him that much credit) and his hair was so white as to be translucent. I’ve no idea what made him popular, but hell, I was his friend and it benefited me and it really doesn’t matter. Okay?
Anyway. We just moved into a new house.
I woke up in our new home and there was Robby’s kid sister, Teresa. She was trapped in our ventilation duct, staring up at me through the grate with those big doe four-year-old eyes of hers, giggling.
Groggily, I looked over the side of the bed at her wondering what the heck she was doing in my heater. In fact, I asked her that question. She just giggled that four-year-old little girl giggle that nobody, not even six-year-old boys, can resist.
“Crap I gotta help her,” I remember thinking. “Robby won’t be happy if I let his kid sister get lost in our heating duct.”
Seemed logical at the time.
So I peeled back the grate, a heavy brick of hastily glued together sheet metal, and put it beside my little brother’s bed. The opening was too small for me, but I shimmied my way in there in pursuit much the way that hamsters squeeze behind furniture or Bruce Willis squeezes his way through the air ducts of an office building in his bare feet. I was in my Spider-man jammies. I was like four-year-old Bruce-freaking-Willis.
The duct was full of gravel. My fault. I had thrown it in there. I vowed never to throw pebbles into the heater ever again because the sharp little stones bit my hands and knees as I wormed my way after her. The sound they made against the sheet metal was like nails on chalkboard.
Eventually the dark maze came to an end and I saw the most frightening creature sleeping below me. The duct had ended, leaving me to stare down from the top of a stone arch at a massive slumbering red dragon. Its body was covered in thick red scales. Its long black talons clutched at the mountain of bone and treasure it lay upon. When it exhaled you could feel the power of the beast shaking your very bones.
Then I spied Teresa playing in the bones and treasure, thanks to the glistening white hair she shared with her brother. She found a green emerald the size of her tiny fist, and was prying it from below the beast’s massive paw.
How stupid could a little girl be?
Panicked, I crawled out of the ventilation system. I scurried down the great arch down to the bone and plunder. I grabbed her, chastising her for chancing waking the evil beast. It could eat the both of us, for crying out loud!
The odd little girl giggled at me. The dragon snorted and opened one large yellow reptilian eye. My grip tightened on her wrist as I ran to the arch.
The dragon was tired and slow, and missed clawing us as we ascended the stone wall back into the duct. Chunks of stone rained down from the gouging marks left behind. Teresa dropped her emerald as we squeezed our way back to safety. Our ears rang with the raging beast’s deafening roar.
An hour or so later we had managed to find the opening that led into my bedroom. I crawled out, and Teresa agreed that she would return home before her mother worried about her.
Two months later Robby moved away. I only saw his four-year-old sister one more time, and ever so briefly our eyes met and I knew that she knew. I knew that this wasn’t just a dream. And even today I am plagued by my own nightmares of this beast, and it trying to reclaim what was stolen. Maybe Teresa lost that emerald, but what else had she taken? And when will this dragon stop pursuing me in my slumber?