Mad science 101 was the only class where you had to worry about your homework eating the dog.
Poor Barnaby. The only thing left of the cocker spaniel was a chewed-up collar the angle-wolf had spit out before booking it out of the lab Jodie had built in her grandma’s basement. She could hear the beast overhead, knocking over granny’s fine china and Hummel figures.
Jodie typed up an e-mail to her Mad-Sci 101 prof.
Dear Professor Smogmire,
I know the deadline for the anglefish-wolf hybrid is tomorrow, but could I please have an extension? My grandmother has passed away.
I had enough silver to hire the turnip farmer as a guide, but did he speak the truth? “You can believe it, Gregory. It lives in the western wilderness, the most fearsome serpent I’ve ever seen.” Mud from baiting a hook stained his hands but did not reach the sleeves of his yellow shirt.
No dragon had been seen in the region during the reigns of the last four kings, and most disappeared within a generation after the settlers drained the swamps. “How many dragons have you seen?” I inquired.
He chuckled. “Um, well, I’ve seen plenty of brown rock snakes.”
“You compare rock snakes to dragons?”
“I’m telling you it stood bigger than a bear. Came upon my sister as she dug turnips.”
“She cried out?”
“No, my sister neither hears nor speaks, but you never met a kindlier girl. She ran back to find me mending the plow. Never too early to start preparing for sowing, you know. Pale as a corpse, she moved her mouth in vain and pointed.”
“What did you do?”
“As soon as I saw it, I took my father’s spear from above the fireplace. He served as a spearman, a great one, in the king’s army, and he taught me a little.”
A woman’s voice piped up from atop a small boulder that sat against the riverside. “Ralph, you’ve never seen a dragon, and I’ve never known you to miss a chance to back down from a fight.” The voice belonged to a woman he called his twin cousin, maybe younger than Ralph and with a nose like the blade of my battle axe. Her brown hair hung down in three braids.
“What do you think is in it?”
There had been a solid five minutes of silence between the two boys before Alex finally asked the question. Another minute passed before Andrew gave him an answer.
“My first guess would be a dead body,” he replied as they continued to stare at the coffin sitting in front of them.
Several cycles ago my wife Carpathia went to the market to gather supplies for the long, incumbent winter, but by nightfall she had not returned. By daybreak her side of the bed was still cold, and I feared the worst.
For many moons thereafter I searched the plains until my feet bled, and called her name until my throat hurt, but I neither saw her nor heard from her again.
The villagers were quick to blame the Beast for my misfortune as they did for every other disappearance in the land, but I did not share their conviction. My wife was gone, but I could not seriously lay her fate at the door of a ghost. I would rather admit she had abandoned me than accept I had lost her to a myth.
Even so, sometimes, despite my better judgement, I too cursed the Creature.
The worst had come to pass—