Lucy walked along for a while, beside the river. It looked like a pool of liquid black, dark and cold on this particular winter’s night. Ripples spread slowly across its surface, decreasing in size as they travelled along the smooth sheet. Dots of yellow light reflected from the depths, like a mirror to the stone giants above. She kicked a stone into the icy water, watching the rings spread far and wide, smiling gently. There was a very slight current. At this point, the river was moving barely at all, and there was little way of telling it was actually moving. The only indication were the long dangling weeds that skirted the banks, and the outermost reeds in some of the wider areas.
After only a little while, she came to the end of the park, a spot in the town where the river turned away and snaked off underneath bridges and around other tall buildings. Lucy took a step through the set of gates here, reaching out a hand to touch the cold metal. She took another breath of fresh air, smelling a difference this time. The freshness of the park had left, and the faint smell of car fumes replaced it. Wrinkling her nose, she continued. Lucy rubbed her hands together, blowing on them occasionally. Like always, her hands were freezing. She shoved them in her pockets after a little while, fed up of the futile task that was trying to keep them warm. She clenched her fists as she did so, blowing a strand of her pale hair out of her eyes. Long hair had become such a pain, she thought to herself. She made a mental note to get it cut soon. Her desire to have long, silky hair had been thwarted by her hair’s unruliness. She didn’t understand how so many people managed to get such beautiful hair.
A scowl replaced the smile that had been on her face, and she increased her pace a little, walking swiftly. Unlike the park, the streets were noisy and bright. Lights loomed above her, casting bright orange shadows where she walked. The occasional car drove past, blinding her for a few moments before driving on. She wondered where the drivers were going- home? Work? She scowled further at the thought of jobs and work.
Lucy rounded a corner, turning onto one of the quieter residential streets, away from the shops. She entered the grid-like layout of the suburbs not much later, glancing every now and then at the cookie-cutter houses, and the happy families within. One particular house caught her attention. Unlike the others, this house had dark windows. There wasn’t a car in the drive, and the garden looked unkempt and abandoned. She shuddered, feeling a sudden chill down her spine, before walking a little faster.
When she finally slowed down, she was a few streets over, in the same street where she had seen the man the previous night. Lucy stopped, looking around curiously. She hadn’t noticed where she had been heading. There wasn’t any sign of the man. There was, however, signs that something had happened here. A few of the slabs that paved the path she walked on were shattered, far more than had been the night before. She frowned, crouching down beside one of them. The cracks were clean, as dirt had not had a chance to work its way into them overnight. A little further away, there was a dark brown stain. As she moved closer, she realised with a mixture of horror and surprise that it was dried blood. It looked far older than a day, she thought to herself.
In the distance, the clock struck eleven.
Lucy found herself tracing the path of the blood with one finger, once again biting her cheek. Shadows shifted in the nearest alley, as something in their murky depths stirred from a gentle slumber. Lucy heard nothing, and did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Unbeknownst to her, it slunk out of the dark, its long body curling as it twisted around her slowly. The dragon knew that she could not see it- it knew that she couldn’t hear it. It surrounded her, long body forming a large ring around her as she looked at the bloodstain. After another few moments, it opened its mouth, letting out a low hiss, before it darted at her, long teeth burrowing into her left leg.
Before she could utter any more than a yelp, her feet were pulled from under her, and her head was knocked against the very pavement she had been standing on only a fraction of a second before. Almost as quickly as it had grabbed her, it let go raising a clawed fore paw and running it down her chest. Her eyes fluttered as she tried to see what was happening. She had a vague sense of warmth as something liquid soaked into her t-shirt, sliding beneath her back.
The man opened his front door, stepping out into the cool. He checked his sword was in its sheath, and pulled his coat closer around his chest, doing up the metal buttons as he walked along the path of his overgrown garden, opening the rusted gate at the bottom and stepping onto the cobbled pavement. He preferred the cobbles to the flagstones. They felt closer to home, closer to what he was used to. He lingered by the gate for a second longer, running through a quick list in his mind, before he set off at a brisk stride.
After little more than five minutes, he heard a draconian hiss, followed by a yelp, cut off by a dulled thud. His hand went to the hilt of his sword through his coat, as he changed direction, heading toward the same street he had killed a dragon in only the night before. Something was wrong here, something had happened.
He stepped out of a side street, and immediately drew his sword. He could make out the shape of a human beneath the long, twisting form of a dragon. The man narrowed his eyes, running the final few meters, as the dragon noticed him. He swung at its belly, missing as it jumped back. It hissed at him, slamming its tail into his side, turning to its prey. It grabbed her leg again, baring its teeth through its meal. The man was up again, shaking his head to clear it and already charing back into the fight. He had been sent back perhaps a meter or two, and had narrowly missed being thrown into a wall. “Put her down.” He muttered to himself, glaring at the dragon. This time, he caught the dragon’s neck, its movements slowed by the burden in its mouth. His scowl was replaced with an unnerving grin, as he pivoted the sword with such force that it slid through the gap between its plated scales, cutting deeper into its flesh.
The dragon dropped the girl, letting out a screech of pain as blood gushed from the wound, turning to dust as it left its body. It managed to free itself from the blade, staggering back a few steps, its cries losing strength.
The man turned away from the dragon, satisfied that the job was already done, and focused his attention to the girl.
She was bleeding. A lot. He felt an old sense of panic begin to well up inside him, as he realised he’d mostly forgotten what to do when somebody was bleeding this much. After a second or two of staring at the blood, he started to act. He looked at the wounds, picking out some of the deepest ones. She had long, deep claw marks on her chest. Those looked the worst of them all. He unbuttoned his coat as fast as his stiff fingers would allow, took out the sheath and lay it over the girl, pressing down hard on the wounds with one hand, as he fumbled around in her coat pockets.
The man didn’t carry any phone with him. He had no need for one, he had nobody to call. He spent a few minutes searching, before he pulled out a sleek block of what he guessed was metal. The man glanced down at the girl’s face, recognising it from the night before. Tutting to himself, he put the phone down and tapped her cheek. “Hello?” He said, leaning over her to try and get a better look at her face.
Lucy’s eyes fluttered as she tried to open them, trying to locate the source of the voice. “You’re going to be all right.” It said, soothingly. She tried to answer, but came out with nothing but a soft murmur.
He decided that would be enough of a response, and picked the phone back up, readjusting his hand on her chest, doing his best to keep pressure on the wound, and attempted to keep it as closed as possible. He realised his coat was probably not the best thing to use to cover it, but he had nothing better. He spent a few moments trying to turn the phone on, until he finally found the right button, and the screen lit up.
The man stared at it blankly for a few moments, before he noticed a small label near the bottom of the screen. It read “Emergency Call”. He tapped it with one finger, and the phone started to dial a number. Startled, he put the phone to his ear, peering back down at the woman.
The man answered the questions asked by the person on the other end, but fell silent when asked for a name or address. After a few moments, he took the phone away from his ear, pressing the “End Call” button, and putting the phone back down. As far as he could tell, they didn’t need to know who he was. He returned his attention to the girl, tapping her face again gently.
“Somebody is on their way.” He informed her, reapplying pressure on her wounds with a second hand.
She opened her eyes again, this time for longer than a moment, muttering a quiet “Thank you,” before her eyes shut, and she fell unconscious.