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Card Challenge: Day 26

Card Day 26: A girl stands atop a stack of books, bent to dive off of them and into an open one below. Standing on the open book is a woman—or fairy—in a ball gown, waiting for the girl to dive.

Lose yourself in a good book, he said. Reading will transport you, he said. Myra would have rolled her eyes if she had not been more focused on evading the screeching, fire-breathing dragon charging relentlessly after her. Every flap of its wings was another wall of air slamming against her back, pushing her forward just enough to evade its jagged claws.

Her sides ached and her lungs burned with the constant pursuit, and she gasped for air with shaky breaths as her feet drove inexhaustibly towards some imagined relief. She had not known there was a sleeping dragon in the middle of the forest; in fact, she did not think a forest was a particularly suitable home for a dragon. However, none of that mattered when the behemoth stretched its wings and took flight, eyeing its next meal with murderous glee.

The gale forces against her back began to abate, and she dared hope that she might be outrunning the predator. She risked a glance behind her to see the great lizard rising slowly into the air, its wings blocking out the sun as if it were a massive thundercloud. Then, its head reared back, thin streams of smoke snaking from the upturned nostrils. Her eyes widened in panic, and she flung herself towards the small outcropping of rocks to her side.

The fire rushed past her, its heat stinging her skin, but fortunately leaving it uncharred. It seemed like innumerable waves of fire crashed around her, lashing against the rocks but ultimately unable to overwhelm them. Myra felt sweat pour from her body in response to the heat, only to have it immediately evaporate. Eventually, it abated, leaving the world feeling icy with its absence. She peeked from her hiding spot in time to see the great creature toddle off into the sunset with its leathery wings and bloated body.

She sank against the rocks, feeling them cold against her irritated skin. It might not have burnt her to a crisp, but the exposure left her nerves feeling raw and weathered. Her lungs filled with gulping breathes of the acrid air, enjoying the sweet relief of oxygen despite the lingering haze that filled each mouthful. She tried not to think about it, or about the ridiculous circumstances that had brought her here.

Once her breathing returned to mostly normal, she stood gingerly on aching legs. She must have run for miles trying to escape, or at least it certainly felt that way to her unaccustomed body. Her feet pounded, and she could see blood tinging her socks from the raw blister that had formed and burst in her haste. Myra groaned and considered dropping back to the ground, letting this world spin on without her in the hopes that it somehow left her behind. But as she saw the sun glistening on the horizon, she found the courage to seek some sort of shelter. If dragons roamed the woods during the day, there was no telling what the night might hold.

A dirt path wound through the countryside towards some rolling hills. She could not see any people or structures nearby, and so set off in a direction, hoping something would appear. “Stupid book,” she muttered as she walked, still no refuge in sight.

She had sat down, begrudgingly, to read the book her teacher had offered her. She did not want to read it, but he had been so good intentioned recommending it that she felt she had to. That, and he had a dreamy smile. Myra could not help but feel a flutter in her heart at the memory of that smile. But, one moment she had been reading, and the next she was asleep. It was the moment after that which baffled her. She had awoken outside, wandered around the woods, stumbled upon a dragon, and fled for her life. If her body did not ache so profoundly, she would have sworn it was a nightmare.

The heat burn on her skin left her chilled as night descended. The stars poked out from the sky, pinpricks of icy light in a navy curtain. She did not recognize a single one, though she also knew she would not have recognized one if it had been outside her bedroom window at home. Stars were just not that interesting to her, though she suddenly wished they had been. Instead, her tired feet dragged her protesting body along the path and through the hills.

Eventually, she spotted a small cave. It was, she was certain, unsafe, but it was the only thing resembling shelter she had found. And she was about to collapse after the long, impossible day. The inside of the cave was dark, unlit by the moon or stars. She felt along the walls, leading herself just into the mouth of it, but strictly attuned to the slightest sounds. There were, after all, probably werewolves in there. Or some other equally unbelievable creature. Finally, her legs gave out, and she fell against the sandy floor. There was silence in the cave, silence in the world.

And then, there was light.

The man holding the light was your traditional wizard; long grey hair, messy grey beard, blue cloak, and gnarled staff. The tip of the staff glowed with a silver light, pouring into the cave from his position at the entrance. Myra shielded her eyes from it and tried to edge back into the dark of the cave, but he gave a shout of recognition.

“Ah! There’s where you wandered off to!” He shuffled over to her, and Myra found a wall against her back.

“Who are you?” she queried warily. Hopefully, not a dragon.

“I have a book for you!” he crowed, holding out a faded leather book. Myra eyed it with disgust.

“I’ve had enough of books,” she grumbled.

“Come now, I think you’ll like this one.” He shoved the book under her nose, so close she could smell the old leather.

“I don’t-“

“Here!” He quickly flipped the book open so that she had to see the first page.

“Myra sat in her room,” it began. She looked up at him, only to see her teacher’s warm eyes smiling back.

“What is this? Some kind of joke?” she asked, anger rising in her voice.

“Read.”

Seeing no give in his argument, she complied.

Myra sat in her room, the book forgotten on her lap as she slumbered.” As she read, she noticed the cave walls began to grow thin around her, giving way to the pale turquoise of her bedroom. She continued reading, watching her surroundings shift slowly back into her world until she found herself seated on her bed, reading diligently about a land of wizards and dragons.

Myra leapt from the bed, slamming the book shut. She could see herself in the mirror, her skin reddened, her hair a mess of dirt, soot, and leaves. She gingerly touched her arms and legs, feeling their realness, but aghast at their condition. Without a word, she scooped the book off her bed, and promptly threw it out her window, slamming the glass shut hard enough to shake it in the frame. No smile was worth that.


Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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