There was a dragon in the city, hiding in plain site, dressed up as a statue. It was a good disguise, effective. She looked like modern art, all angular planes and rivets. Very red, but harmless.
Edgar wasn’t fooled. He was twelve and, until recently, he’d been very good at disappearing into crowds and corners, folding down into himself until he wasn’t noticed. Then he hit a growth spurt that left him gangling and clumsy. Impossible to miss. All at once he was a tall boy holding onto baby fat, a boy with warm eyes, curved lashes and skin the color of good coffee. His parents called him Beau, because he was so beautiful. Everybody else just called him Mud because the boy was always reading, nose buried in a math book, apt to trip in puddles. It was worse out on the streets. There, he saw that strangers suddenly feared him, as if he were a hazard, a bomb that might explode.
The first time Edgar saw the dragon, he was so startled that he dropped his notebooks full of numbers and had to chase loose pages as they swished across the plaza. Then he looked around. No one else seemed bothered. No one was afraid. The dragon was inside the city’s largest courtyard, ringed with banks and mirrored windows. Cautiously, Edgar laid his palm against her crimson metal hide. He felt the rising heat, primeval breathing. He tilted back his head, caught the length and breadth of her, and wondered if the dragon liked geometry, the lullaby of shapes.
After that, he spent hours beneath the dragon, invisible again. Bankers, lawyers and brokers swirled like mites around them, but no one paid attention. And if Edgar listened closely, he could hear the dragon’s heartbeat. Once, he saw her blink.
He was happy.
Then Edgar grew again, six more inches, his legs and arms like wild scarecrow limbs. He had to crouch beneath the dragon and even then his feet stuck out, two gigantic canvas high-tops. People tripped on Edgar, and then there were complaints. The police came, hands poised on their holsters. No loitering, they said. Move along. Go home.
Edgar tried to show the men his math books. He got as far as, “But–,” before their hands were on his ankles, yanking, and Edgar’s head smacked back against the dragon, bounced against the pavement and his ears were ringing with such clamor that he almost missed the moment when the dragon shook itself and woke.
The earth quaked and stones cascaded as she pulled her body loose. Edgar’s ears were still messed up, and he couldn’t see well, but he felt the dragon nudge him. He sensed the wings above his head, the whiplash tail and talons. Before she picked him up, her metal arms a cradle, Edgar thought, Well, no more hiding, and then they were airborne, up above the city, the dragon’s cry so piercing that it shot straight through his heart.
Learn more about Wing-Feather Fables here