Jo first saw the dragon when she was 13 years old. It appeared in her dreams, just outside the window, gently thumping on it with its large, milky white snout.
Jo and her father had just moved when the dragon first appeared to her. Most of her belongings were still in cardboard boxes, scattered randomly across the cold, bare wooden floor of her new bedroom and creating an intricate maze between the door, the bed and the window.
For hours before she heard the gentle knocking on her window, Jo had been restless. Even though she had been in her new home for a few nights, she still tossed and turn. The smallest noise outside kept her wide awake, and her mind refused to shut down for the night as thoughts of the summer- that terrible summer- flooded her head.
Understandably, she was awake when the dragon appeared. It was around two o’clock in the morning, and she was cocooned in the covers with her back to the window, so she didn’t see the soft, milky white glow that she noticed in later encounters with the creature.
Jo had ignored the first knock. She had thought she was just hearing things, and had pulled the covers even higher over her head and pulled herself into a tighter curl. She had kept her eyes squeezed shut as she desperately prayed for her mind to silent and for peaceful slumber to finally come to her.
When the second knocking came, Jo’s eyes had flown open in fear. She had turned around slowly in her bed to face the window, to get at least a glimpse of the source of the noise. She was terrified. Her mind raced through the possibilities of what could be outside the window, like how a computer searched through a database: it could be a burglar trying to break in and rob them, or a tree branch scraping across the window in the wind, or possibly something falling on the street outside. Whatever it was may not even be at her window; it could be at their neighbor’s window, or at her father’s window.
She had waited a minute, listening for the noise once more for confirmation that she wasn’t going mad, that the noise was real.
And it was. She heard it again: a soft, gentle thumping against the cold, dark glass, the person or thing behind it concealed by the curtains she had been sure to put up the day they moved into the apartment.
Jo silently slid out from beneath the covers and stood next to her bed, staring wide-eyed at the window. It was cold out of bed; it was late October, and the crisp autumn air defined the nights now. The bare wooden floor was ice-cold underneath Jo’s feet, and she could already feel the goosebumps spreading across her body as she stood there, petrified in the darkness.
The knocking came a third time. Jo got down on her knees, feeling desperately for the flashlight that she kept next to her bed since she moved in- the lamp she brought from her old bedroom was broken during the move. She hit it hard with her hand and sent it rolling loudly under the bed. She flinched at the noise, praying it didn’t alert the intruder.
Or wake her dad.
This surprised her. Why wouldn’t she want her dad to wake up and find her? She was cold and scared, laying on the floor in her dark bedroom as something lurked outside her window. Anyone else would want someone to find them and help them.
Not her. She was embarrassed. She was probably scared of nothing. And she caused her father enough trouble for several lifetimes. She was the reason that they had to move from their nice, spacious house to a small, dark apartment several towns away; at least, that’s what she believed at the time.
She retrieved the flashlight from under the bed and quickly got off the cold, dusty floor, feeling even more scared, cold and filthier than before. She clicked the button on the flashlight
The flashlight didn’t work.
Jo bit her lip and clicked it again.
Nothing. Not even the faintest flicker.
Frustrated, Jo had to stop herself from throwing the thing across the room. She laid it gently on her bed, and slowly began to creep toward the window.
Half way to the window, the knocking came for a fourth time. Jo paused, debating on whether to continue and find out what was behind the curtain or go back to bed and pretend that none of this ever happened.
Against her better judgement, she decided on the first option. Curiosity beat out fear and rationality and she hastened toward the window and flung open the curtains with all of her might.
The curtains fluttered outward and down. In Jo’s memory, they fell slowly and dramatically, painting an avant-garde image forever engraved into her mind.
In between the two fluttering curtains, through the cold, thick glass, was a dragon. A beautiful, milky white creature, with its snout gently nudging the glass pane.
Who knows how long she and the dragon stayed there that night, just staring at each other?: the dragon, with its large dark eyes, gazing upon the girl with unwavering certainty and wisdom, and the young girl, newly scarred by loss, guilt and change, staring wide-eyed upon the grand creature with both a sense of wonder and fear. They were two beings, vastly different, together in the same space, trying to understand the other.
Eventually, the scene shifted and smeared, like watercolor paints blending together on a canvas. It disappeared before Jo’s eyes.
And she found herself waking up in bed to morning light, the events of the night nothing more than a dream.