The Worth of Finley
Warmth emitted from the glowing golden gem. He smiled, studying it under the dim light that his broken flashlight managed to shine. Covers wrapped themselves around him as he stayed quiet.
Footsteps approached and after a barely audible knock the door to his room began to creak open. In response, he shoved the gem beneath his pillow and clicked the light off. There was a moment of silence as he laid as still as possible. His mother cleared her throat. “Ion,” she stated in a tone of disappointment. “I know you’re awake. You really should be sleeping.”
He waited a few moments, but he could tell that his cover was blown. Ion pulled the blankets off his face, peering out at her. “I’m not tired yet,” he complained.
With a sigh, she leaned against the door frame. “I swear, you kids never run out of energy. You realize you have school tomorrow. Your grades might actually improve if you start getting proper sleep,” she stated.
“I’ll be fine,” Ion rebutted, giving a hint of a smile. “I’ll be eighteen soon enough; it’ll be better if I figure out this whole responsibility thing.” He was teasing her. She had been struggling with early empty nest depression, but she always seemed to brighten up when he poked fun at it.
It was undeniable that he saw a hint of a smile, but she bowed her face to hide it to the best of her ability. “Fine, just get to sleep soon,” she requested, slowly closing the door in an attempt to escape.
“I will,” he promised. Ion waited until he heard the door click shut before taking the gem out again. He gave a kid-like giggle once he felt the smoothness of it once again. It was interesting how addictive this little gem was becoming. Its warmth never seemed to fade, and was becoming a comfort to him.
There were no regrets with taking it out of the garbage behind the local diner anymore. It was worth it. He held the gem close, finding that he was quick to fall asleep when he closed his eyes.
School seemed quite slow that day. He just wanted it to end, so he could return home to the gem that he had decided to leave behind that morning. At the very least, he got to spend time with his childhood friend; Emily.
Yet when all the classes were over, he found himself rushing home. Ion longed to touch the gem’s surface, to feel its aura of comfort once again.
Rushing into his home, he gave his mother a brisk greeting before stomping up the stairs to his room.
Ion swung his door open, stopping in surprise at what waited on the other side.
The gem had been broken. Its shards were scattered across the ground. Sitting in the middle of the fragments was a certain creature. Small golden scales. Little wings. Spikes down the back. There was no mistake about it. Staring back at him, tense and uncertain, was a baby dragon.
Eyes full of disbelief, his jaw dropped a bit. Ion had only read fairytales of these giant, magnificent beasts. He had never expected that he held a dragon egg in his hands before. The broken gem was nothing like the egg in the stories. How was he to know? Now he was terrified, just waiting for his room to light on fire.
Instead, her forked tongue slithered out, flickering like a snake’s before returning into her mouth. They seemed to be having a stare-down.
That was when her eyes lit up. This only sent a chill of fear down Ion. The fact that she was cute rather than terrifying only made the situation more strange in his mind. With a happy wiggle of her body, she started to move towards him.
Ion made the executive decision of closing his door behind him. There was no way that he could explain this to his mother. Yet that meant he was stuck in the room as well with her. He backed himself against his door, watching her with bated breath.
This did not delay her. She continued to move forward, yet it was obvious she didn’t yet know how to use her legs to their full extent.
With a stumble, she fell flat on her face. Ion had to stifle a nervous giggle, watching as she stayed right where she had fallen. She closed her eyes, giving a soft snore.
“Are you… asleep?” he asked, crouching down to her level. He didn’t dare get any closer.
Her eyes opened, and she got up to her feet to run to him.
In surprise he gave a small gasp, getting up to slam himself against his door.
The sound made the little dragon stop in confusion.
“Ion? Are you okay?” his mother called from downstairs. Moments after her question, he could hear her footsteps coming up his stairs.
Grinding his teeth together, he knew he had to react fast. “I’m fine,” he called out, closing his eyes to reach down and pick the dragon up.
He clenched his teeth harder, shaking his head once he felt that her scales were soft with youth. It nearly brought a gagging reflex out of him. Ion held the dragon out at arms length. He moved quickly towards his bed. Shoving her under the covers, he laid partially on top of her to keep the little one from moving.
The mother gave a small knock on the door before entering. “Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked, looking around the room.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he responded, giving a smile to seem convincing.
Her eyes were elsewhere though. “What’s all over the ground?” she asked, motioning to the fragments of the gem on the ground.
Ion had completely forgotten about it. “Oh, uh,” he struggled, looking in anguish across the ground. “I dropped a gift from Emily. It broke.”
A scoff escaped from his mother’s mouth. “You should really pick it up then. Do you need help?” she asked.
“No, uh, I got it,” he responded. Ion was surprised with how still the dragon was. She didn’t seem to be struggling at all.
“Fair enough. I’ll be downstairs if you need me,” she stated. He could tell that she thought he was acting strange, yet she wasn’t going into any more detailed questions. She turned and left, allowing his shoulders to slouch in relaxation after the encounter.
Ion still listened for her footsteps, waiting for them to disappear. Once they did, he pulled back the cover to reveal the little dragon underneath.
She was asleep. Her tail was curled over her mouth, and her breath was rising and falling steadily. This caused him to calm down even more. A sleeping dragon wouldn’t be destroying his room.
The rest of the night was quiet. He kept glancing over to make sure that she was still sleeping, partly covering her with the blanket in case his mother came back. Ion had to keep busy to distract his mind, settling for homework and then video games. He fell asleep on the floor, his character dying from falling asleep midst playing.
Pain shocked him only partly awake. It felt as if something had gotten to his leg. Drowsily, he looked down to find light blue eyes watching him.
This caused Ion to jump to his feet, twirling to face her. She had grown! Before she was the size of a small cat, but by now she could compete in size with a foal.
That wasn’t his only surprise though. He looked down to find a small crimson stain on his jeans. Mixed with the pain, he was quick to realize that he was wounded.
As he ran to his bathroom, she ran in surprise at his sudden movements to attempt hiding under the bed. She was too big.
Ion staggered to roll his pants up, eyes searching for a gaping hole taken out of his leg. Instead, all he could find were tiny puncture wounds. It was clearly an animal bite, but it wasn’t deep. It was as if the perpetrator didn’t mean to cause harm.
Quick to clean and wrap his wound up with a bandage, he felt a little bit better. He had to change his pants though to get rid of the bloody jeans.
Once that was done, he walked back out to find the dragon still struggling to shove herself under his bed. She was starting to panic in realization that she didn’t have anywhere to hide. He sighed. It seemed like he had a new pet.
Giving in to accepting her, he kneeled down to offer out his hand to her.
Her nostrils were flaring, eyeing him up with fear. Was she wondering if she had upset him?
“It’s alright,” he coaxed. “You’re safe. I won’t hurt you. Just like you didn’t mean to hurt me, right?”
His soothing tone seemed to calm her a bit. She was no longer struggling, instead staying in place as she watched. It was as if she was waiting to see what he would do next.
“Come here, girl. I assume you’re a girl. At least, you look like one to me. Is that right?” he asked. All the boy had to do was keep talking. She would relax eventually if he did.
“I’ll just be here, waiting for you. You’re safe here. Nothing will happen to you.”
She slid one foot forward, freezing as if expecting harm.
“There you go. The first step is always the hardest,” he continued.
Taking another step, she was slow and hesitant. Yet she wasn’t stopping, putting one foot in front of the other with momentary pauses.
In no time, she was close enough to touch. He held his breath, reaching out to touch her. Already, her scales had become much tougher. She seemed to enjoy his hand though, leaning into it as he gave her a gentle rub. “That’s a good girl,” he said, not quite sure what he was doing. There wasn’t really a guide book with how to deal with a dragon. They weren’t supposed to exist.
A glance past her towards his alarm clock caused his heart to freeze up. “I missed my alarm. I’m going to be late for school!” He exclaimed outloud.
His abrupt change of tone scared her. She backed away, pressing her ears to the back of her head. Ion wasn’t focused on her anymore though. He was rushing to get ready. In no time he was out of his room with his door shut behind him, and down the stairs. He was lucky his mother wasn’t home. She had a long day at work ahead of her today. He rushed to school, running as fast as he could to find that he had arrived just in time.
Another day, another slow pass of school. Ion had only now thought to worry about what the dragon would do without him there. It was all that occupied his thoughts that day.
The last class for the day finally arrived. He sat down, taking out his supplies to repetitively tap his pencil against his desk. By this point, he was impatient.
“What’s the bandages for?” a familiar voice asked. Finally something to distract his mind for a bit. Emily.
Her immediate question made him chuckle. Ion didn’t even have to look down to know that it was now visible. He had felt it loosening and falling all throughout the day. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he responded in a whisper.
It seemed as if she took this as a challenge. “Try me,” she said, her eyes light with interest.
With an amused grin at her giddy attitude, he leaned closer to her. “I have a baby dragon in my room, and this morning she bit me to wake me up,” he stated.
Disbelief filled her eyes, but for the sake of the challenge she had created in her mind she shook it away. “This sounds like something I have to see. Can I come over today?” she asked.
“Of course,” Ion responded.
They walked back to his house together. His mother was still working, so she wasn’t there when they arrived. Thankfully, his home still seemed to be in one piece though.
He allowed Emily to walk in first, watching her eyes light up in surprise when she found the dragon laying on his bed, sleeping. “I’m going to be honest,” Emily started. “I didn’t think you were telling the truth until now.”
This made his smile grow. “I wouldn’t lie to you,” he responded.
“What’s it’s name?” Emily asked, carefully stepping around the shards of the broken gem that still laid across the ground. She fearlessly sat at the edge of the bed to watch the dragon sleep.
“I haven’t given her one. First off, I have to figure out what to do with her. I don’t really know of and guides or professionals who specialize in dragons, do you?” he said.
“I happen to be a professional myself. My advice is that you keep her as a pet. Of course, that means she needs a name,” Emily responded, reaching out to touch one of the dragon’s scales.
“Will you help me take care of her if I give her a name and accept her as mine?” he asked.
“Okay, then what about-”
“Finley,” Emily interrupted.
He paused, staring at her. “I thought it was my job to name her,” he pouted.
“Well, do you like the name?” she asked.
A small shrug escaped him. “I mean, I guess,” he responded.
“Then Finley it is,” she responded. “What’s all over the floor, anyways?”
“Oh,” he said, looking guiltily around at the fragments. “I think it’s what Finley hatched from. I haven’t really gotten to picking any of it up.”
“So she hatched from an egg… can she blow fire? Or fly?”
“Well, I don’t know. So far she’s been pretty tame, but I haven’t really tested her.”
“Let’s take her outside then.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Ion was getting a bit nervous. He hadn’t told anyone else about the little dragon, and a part of him didn’t want others to know.
Yet Emily was beyond listening. She tapped the dragon until one blue eye opened.
At first, Finley seemed confused. Then the dragon saw Ion, lifting her head up. She was quick to get to her feet and walk towards him.
Ion took a step back, still not completely comfortable around the dragon.
“What do you have for treats for her?” Emily asked, getting to her own feet as well.
“Treats?” Ion asked, taking another step back as Finley eagerly nudged against his arm.
“Yeah. We can’t get her to do anything if she has no motivation. What have you been feeding her?” she continued.
“Uh…” Ion hadn’t really thought about food for the dragon. Yet the way Finley was eyeing him up, he realized that she must be starving. “I haven’t,” he stated with honesty.
Emily frowned. “Well, do you have any meat in the house? I assume that’s what she would eat,” she responded.
“In the freezer, but that’s frozen meat,” he answered.
“Great,” Emily said, skipping to the door to open it wide. She walked down the stairs.
Full of curiosity at what laid beyond the door, Finley was quick to follow. Ion saw no choice, closing his door behind him as he left.
By the time he made it downstairs, Emily was already in the kitchen digging through the freezer. She pulled out two packets of ground beef.
Finley licked her chops behind her. For a moment, he feared that she might go on a hungered rampage and attack Emily, but she was surprisingly calm.
Then Emily turned to head towards the door.
Ion stepped in her way. “What if she runs away? We can’t have a random dragon racing around the town,” he pointed out.
Emily pursed her lips together. “Good point. You get on Finley so that, if she runs, you’ll already be on top of her to control her,” she decided.
“What? I can’t ride a dragon. I don’t know how!” He responded, looking between both of them.
“Technically, no one does. They always do it in the movies though, so you should be fine,” she responded with a shrug, nudging him towards Finley.
“This isn’t the movies though!” he responded, trying to push his feet into the ground to slow their movement.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, champ. Who else can claim they were able to do this?” she asked.
“I can’t really claim anything if she kills me,” he argued.
She stopped pushing, giving a sigh. “Would you rather I did it?” she asked.
“No!” he exclaimed.
“Well it’s you or me. Your choice,” she responded, crossing her arms in satisfaction at her proposal.
He sighed, seeing as he had no other choice. “Fine,” he responded.
Turning towards Finley, he took a large gulp of air. He placed his hand on her back, watching her movements. She seemed very calm, staring straight ahead. In one swift movement he boarded her, kicking his leg over her until he was comfortably on her. He hadn’t noticed it until now, but she had grown a bit larger since this morning. It seemed she was just barely big enough for him to ride on. She remained still, only giving a flick of her ear in response.
Emily opened the door, and Finley walked right out. It was much like riding a small horse, of which Ion had only done on a few occasions.
Once the door was shut again, Emily walked in front of them. Finley followed behind, not straying from her path. The little dragon had either learned to be very obedient, or very trusting of them.
They walked down the road a bit until they reached the nearest open field. With luck, there were no cars. Not many came down this road anyways, as it was rather useless to try to reach anywhere on it. After a while, it was only a dead end.
At the field, when Emily stopped, so did Finley. They stared at each other for a bit as Emily opened the frozen ground beef and managed to tear a chunk off. “Finley… uh… do something,” she ordered.
The dragon licked her lips, reaching her head forward towards the food.
Emily hid it behind her, giving a short glare. “Not until you do something cool,” she ordered.
“This seems to be going well,” Ion teased.
“Shuttup,” Emily responded, clearly a bit frustrated. “Finley. Fly. Blow fire. Do something!”
Finley seemed very confused, tilting her head to the side.
That’s when the girl’s eyes lit up with an idea. “Finley, catch!” she ordered, throwing the food into the air.
Everyone watched it fly into the air, then drop to the ground. Finley tried to snatch it once it was grounded again, but Emily beat her to it.
After a few more attempts, it was clear that the attempt was useless. Finley only watched, seeming rather confused on what they wanted from her.
An unsuccessful two hours later, with multiple different attempts, and they gave up. Everyone headed home, and once Ion’s mother came home he offered to use the opened ground beef to make them a meal. He brought the leftovers upstairs to feed Finley, finished some homework and then went to bed.
A few days had passed. Each day, after school they’d take Finley out to the field in an attempt to train her.
That day, it was a bit cloudy with the threat of rain. Regardless, they both found themselves at the field. Ion took a seat on the ground, no longer needing to ride the dragon since they had figured out she would obediently follow as long as food was involved.
Emily was attempting to get Finley to sit, once again. The dragon wouldn’t even do that, no matter how long she tried. Instead, the focus was how to get the food out of Emily’s hand without touching her.
She switched the lesson over to trying to get the dragon to shake. The attempt was futile, ending with Emily grabbing Finley’s paw attempting to lift it. The paw would not budge, and once the piece of food fell out of the girl’s hand it was a race to snatch it up again. That time, Finley won.
One long glare was casted at Ion from Emily. “Aren’t you going to help?” the girl snapped.
Ion gave a gentle smile. He could tell that his friend was losing her mind in these continued attempts. He was too. “It’s useless, Emily. She can’t do anything,” he stated with a defeated try. “How long are we going to keep this up?”
“As long as it takes. She’ll learn something eventually,” Emily responded, going back to training.
It had been a week in a half. The sun was shining, and everything seemed a bit too warm. At this point, Finley had grown quite large. She no longer fit in Ion’s room anymore, so he had to move her to the neighbor’s large, old abandoned shed.
Their attempts to train her still continued, and that day was no different from the rest. This time, even Ion was throwing in his best attempt to train her. They would switch off on ideas, focusing on getting her to try to come to them. She only would if they had food in their hands, but she would not stay. She still hadn’t breathed any fire, or made any attempt to fly. The pair had even chalked all their money together to buy a drone, sticking a slab of meat on it to fly into the air. All she did was watch it, waiting for the machine to come back down.
At last, both of them looked at each other and sighed. “I need a break,” Emily admitted.
“Me too,” Ion added, sitting on the ground.
She sat next to him.
“This is useless,” Ion proclaimed, watching as Finley stood over them eyeing up the meat held in both of their hands. She wouldn’t even sit when they did.
“I know,” Emily said at last, looking at the ground.
“She’s not a dragon. She’s a glorified dog. No, Finley isn’t even that since she can’t follow any commands,” Ion ranted, throwing the piece of meat he had at the ground only to have it gobbled up by the dragon.
“I know,” Emily said again.
“What’s the use of even having her? My mother is very confused on how we’re going through meat so fast, and she’s only becoming more and more of a problem,” he continued.
“Ion. You’re only telling me everything I already know,” she stated.
“I know,” he said, giving a sigh. “I guess we’ll quit. Maybe one day she’ll run off and we won’t have to deal with her anymore.”
“Don’t say that,” she responded.
“Sorry, but I don’t know what else to do with her,” he said back. “How did I get something so useless?”
Emily sighed. “We’re done for the day,” she stated, grabbing her backpack to get up and leave.
The next day, Ion was surprised to find Emily wasn’t at school. He walked home alone that day. After sharing company with his friend on the walk home for the time that they had attempted to train Finley, the journey alone felt lonesome.
Once he arrived, he threw his backpack to the side and grabbed some meat while his mother wasn’t looking. He then headed to the shed to feed Finley.
Yet, when he opened the door he found that the shed was empty.
Panic shot through him, causing him to drop the meat.
Instinctively, he ran to the field where they had been training her. He ran as fast as his legs would take him, terrified of what it would mean if Finley wasn’t there.
As he arrived, he was surprised to find that the field had a large crowd. They were all lined up, and at the front of the line was Finley.
He pushed through the crowd to the front, overhearing a few grumble about how he was cutting in the line. Once he reached the front, he saw that Finley had a small child on her back. The dragon was walking around, obediently following Emily who was holding a piece of meat.
Everyone was in awe of the real life dragon, watching and taking pictures.
Ion had to rapidly wave his hands to catch the attention of his friend. Once she noticed him, she walked over with Finley following behind. “Yes?” she asked, grinning in excitement.
“What are you doing?” Ion gasped, out of breath from his desperate run.
“I’m showing you that she isn’t useless, silly,” she responded. “Look at all these people. They all came here because they heard that there was a dragon. That’s all they knew, and it drew them all here. Everyone think she is amazing,” Emily stated.
Ion looked around, watching everyone look up at the dragon with shining, admiring eyes. “I guess you’re right,” he responded, feeling the same warmth in his heart as when he first felt that gem.
“I don’t think general care for Finley will be a problem anymore either,” Emily stated with a grin, revealing in her pockets that she had a large wad of money. “I’m pretty sure the dragon is paying for her own food, now.”
He rolled his eyes, reaching across to hug her. She took one step back though. “One more thing,” she said. “Don’t get mad, but I cleaned up the egg shards in your room that you still haven’t picked up. They looked quite pretty so-” she held out her hand, revealing a small ring. The pendent inside was a piece of the gem. “I made my own gift as repayment.”
Placing one hand out on her shoulder, he pulled her forward in a hug. “Thank you, Emily,” he said. “You made everything perfect.”
© 2017 Alexis Chantel