To all, I had the great fortune of entering a short story contest run by the wonderful Michelle Rowen (see michellerowen.com; she rocks). And I won 3rd place! Hooray!
The story will be up on her site on the 22nd. But I can post it here now. Still, go see Michelle's site, because she is amazing. So here is my story, called "Waking Up with Dragons."
Darkness was falling fast. Already, the pinks and golds of sunset were giving way to the blues and purples of the coming night, the shadows made thicker by the mountains and leaving the desert to grow cold without the warmth of the sun. As per usual, the sun must always surrender to the night.
Jenna Flores watched the coming night with a wistful heart. It had been two years, nearly three when she counted precisely, since she had moved away from her hometown with her husband. She missed her family and friends back home. More than that, she missed the companionship of her coven, especially on Yule. It was one of her favorite holidays, and celebrating as a solitary was not nearly as fulfilling.
Glancing towards her husband Robert, who leaned against a nearby boulder and was pitching rocks into the underbrush, she smiled slightly. He was a good companion, but he was far more in tune with the supernatural than she was. He was a good guardian, but she needed others to help her practice her craft, not just to advise her.
Heaving a sigh, she called, “You're going to make the animals angry.”
Robert looked at her and grinned. “No I won't. It's too cold for them to come above ground now.”
Jenna just shook her head as Robert turned to look up at the sky. “Any dragons hanging about tonight?” she asked.
Getting to his feet, Robert nodded, his eyes following a movement that she could not. “Yup. Seamus is hanging around right now. He's busy complaining that it's too cold.”
“Why is he here? He never hangs around for rituals, not even on the sabbats.”
Shrugging, Robert strode easily towards her, shoving his hands in his pockets. “He promised he'd be here tonight. Besides, he likes it when you do your rituals.”
“Because I'm so entertaining?”
Robert just grinned. “There is that.”
Glowering, Jenna said, “He's never going to let me forget about calling the wrong elements, is he.”
“Nope. He's actually laughing right now.”
A part of her was irritated. Not only was she a struggling practitioner, but the fact that Robert had conversations with invisible dragons that she could not, and had never been able to, see, drove her half-mad.
“Seamus, if I could see you right now, I would--”
“Honey? You know you don't want to taunt a dragon.”
The irritation boiled over. “It's not fair, you know! I've been practicing for four years now, and I'm nowhere near as open to all this as you are! You got stoned once, and bam! You talk to dragons and plants and can hop across different dimensions. Me? I don't hear a peep from the plants anymore, and certainly nothing from the gods.”
Robert approached his wife, and gently put his hands on her shoulders. “Jenna, it's okay,” he said comfortingly. “I know that you struggle sometimes, and whenever you don't practice constantly you have to regain the footing you had. It's okay that your mind isn't as open. It'll happen sometime. I know it will.”
Jenna watched him regretfully. “I don't know if it will, Robert. I mean, I try and try, but there are times when I think I'm just not meant for this.”
A smile touched his lips. “It's Yule, hon. I know you love this holiday. Don't you feel the energy around here? Everything's antsy for you to practice tonight. You know what you're doing. Let's celebrate here, and then we can go back home and feast. We got that great bottle of wine to look forward to.” He paused, searching her face.
“You are meant for this, Jenna. You know you are. Your mind will open up when it's ready to. I promise.”
Sighing heavily, Jenna nodded, accepting the kiss that he placed on her forehead. “All right. Let's get this going before the coyotes come out.”
“That's my girl.”
As Robert moved back to his boulder, Jenna took another deep breath and closed her eyes. Emptying her mind, she let the calm of the desert fill her. No cars going by, no helicoptors, no screaming people. Just her and the cacti and the small scurrying creatures seeking shelter from the night. A peace filled her as she paced her breathing, letting the energy of the earth creep up from her feet and slowly fill every cell of her being. At once she felt connected, in tune with Mother Earth and every living creature in the near area.
Smiling to herself, Jenna took another breath and slowly walked her circle, chanting more to herself than out loud as she drew the protective circle. With each footstep she felt the energy rise, creating a safe bubble around her from the energy of the earth. Something like static electricity rushed through her as the circle was completed, and it felt as if a door was smashed open in her mind.
Half-falling over, Jenna staggered as white light filled her mind. There was timelessness and connectedness and a rush of life. More than that, she could feel the essence of joy in everything around her. It felt like home, and made tears fill her eyes.
“Jenna? Are you all right?”
Fighting against the sob that rose in her chest, Jenna laughed. “Yeah. I think I just—I think I woke up.”
“Open your eyes.”
Slowly, Jenna looked up.
And found herself staring at a four-foot long scaled dragon's face from mere feet away.
“Merry Yule,” a booming voice echoed in her mind. “It's about damn time.”