Day 120: Tooth and Flame

Joel stuck his head out the window of his half-ton and looked to the skies. A dark cloud spooked him, but it was only a cloud, and the rest of the sky was clear. The truck was drifting, so he righted it. His palms were slick on the wheel. He wiped his right hand off on his faded jeans, then absently reached for the harpoon gun in the passenger’s seat. Still there.

He wanted to listen to the radio, but listening to the radio made him nervous that he wouldn’t be able to hear the swooping wings, the screeching roar, so he kept the radio low, and if he actually heard it over the engines and the wheels scrunching on asphalt his heart would raise and he would turn the volume lower. He couldn’t hear it now, so he turned it up just a little.

“Clear skies,” crackled a voice muffled by the truck sounds. “Don’t get your hopes up, but for now it’s clear skies all round.”

Despite the reassurance by the radio host, Joel stuck his head out the window again. He wished he had a sunroof. There were blind spots. He couldn’t see the whole sky.

The radio began to play “Hey Jude.” Joel heard every word of it, and he chewed the beard hair just under his bottom lip, then turned the radio down. He thought he heard a swoop. Sometimes it came to this–hearing noises, doubting himself. Other truckers had a convoy, but since Joel stopped an attack by himself once, the brass used their personnel on “truckers less fierce,” as they said.

It was only a small one that had attacked. Joel played tough, but out there alone on the highway he would sweat buckets. He just needed to get the weapons to Edmonton. Then maybe he could try another line of–

He thought he heard a beating of wings. Just his imagination again? Another beat. Not his heart, which it sometimes was. He could hear the radio, so he turned it all the way down. He took a moment to realize what the radio was saying. “–spotted!”

The screech. The roar of the hunt. No, not now–he was so close.

Something big swept overhead, causing the truck to wobble and swerve a little, and Joel righted the truck while groping for the harpoon gun while looking up out the windshield to see the–

Lord. Oh, Lord. It wasn’t a small one this time.

Getting out of the truck was suicide. Besides, he was almost there. All he had to do was get close enough for them to see him coming, and they’d send the cavalry. The beast wouldn’t get in the perimeter of the city. He just needed to keep–

The beast whirled, its long tail whipping around, its wings reaching high. It was a Class 5 at least. It was…

It was spewing white-hot fire at the runway in a direct line to Joel’s truck.

Joel had been rolling the window down so he could fire the gun, but when he saw the flames he nearly yanked the roller off the door spinning the window back up. They said they’d flame-proofed the truck, but…

The flames washed overhead. Joel could see nothing through the windshield, which crackled madly. He felt hot, like driving out from under a cloud and into the burning sun–times ten. His truck was a microwave, and he was dinner.

Burning rubber, burning asphalt filled his nostrils. The truck was rumbling, bumping, and he was hanging on to the wheel for his life. Screeching, swooping overhead. And then he was on the clear road again. The truck steadied out. He could barely see through the crackled glass still red from heat, but he could see, and he lifted himself from his seat from pressing down on the gas pedal so hard.

He reached for the window crank again, and his hand sizzled when he grabbed it, but so much sweat kept his skin from singeing. He rolled once, twice, thrice, and his harpoon gun had made it onto his lap. It was ready to launch–it had been this whole trip.

Somewhere in the heat and the adrenaline, Joel was angry. He was tired, and he was so close to home, and he was angry. He was chewing hairs out from under his lip, and he stuck one hand with the harpoon gun out the window. Swoop, swoop. Screech. It was coming around again.

And when it cast its shadow overhead, Joel almost forgot to fire. This thing was larger than the Class 2 he killed on the last trip. It was larger than the Class 5 he originally thought. This was a 7. No one had ever come across a 7 since the Winter of Fire.

Joel only fired because his shock forced him to squeeze his hand shut–and consequently, the trigger. He heard a snap as the recoil launched his elbow down and into the window frame. The weapon was lighter without the harpoon. No. It was light because Joel had dropped the gun. But he heard the dragon yip in pain. Yip. Not scream or die. Its wings didn’t skip a beat.

Joel’s fear and hammering heart kept him from feeling the pain in his cracked elbow. He didn’t realize his left arm was out of commission until he found himself unable to roll the window back up. Panicking, he gripped the wheel as best he could with his left hand, and awkwardly reached for the window crank with his right. The dragon huffed, flapping straight down the road. It was going for a second pass. This was it.

Twist twist twist, the window now halfway up. He could hear the fire spilling onto the road, the approaching wings. Twist twist twist and–

The windshield shattered. Hot glass spilled into the truck, into Joel. He screamed, and he kept the truck straight. He drove through fire and smoke and his eyes were burning blind, and he kept driving. He had weapons. He had hope. He was almost there.

And the dragon whirled.

No more fire. Fire didn’t work. The prey kept moving, scurrying along the narrow path. The path was the problem. And the dangerous place was in site, with its flat spires and its desperate defenses. The prey would be safe soon.

To the side, then. A swift whoosh to the right, flap flap, steady–then a great cry, and a head-first horizontal plummet. Horns connecting with hot steel.

The prey rolled as the dragon rose above. A great gash was left in the shiny silver side, and on the next roll, the claws and fangs of the enemy fell spewing from its innards. The same toothy barbs as the one the prey launched into the dragon’s underbelly. One tooth was ineffective, but if enough prey had enough teeth…

Hunger was no longer important. Survival was more than just hunger.

Hunters were coming. To help the prey. Down the path, they were heading this direction, towards their lost teeth. They would be here soon.

So the beast let loose a great breath of fire, and then launched itself away into the oncoming black cloud, where it shielded itself from sight and looked down amidst the burning remains of tooth and claw spilled out along the smoldering ditch of the prey’s path.



Today’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Trucker,” “Show don’t tell,” and, “DRAGONS.”

Truckers vs. Dragons. I’d watch that Syfy special.

– H.


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