Jack woke slowly, afraid to open his eyes. He knew he wasn’t in his bed…didn’t know where he was. But then Chauncy snuffled his face with her cold nose, and with a sob, Jack flung his arm around the dog’s neck. As Chauncy’s warm body pressed against his, and her soft whimpers breathed over his face, he took a deep breath, sat up.
The early morning prairie skies shone over him like a gleaming blue bowl. Slowly uncurling, he saw he had come to rest against a hummock of flowering weeds, with the ripe wheat fields waving golden to one side and the mounded earthen dikes holding back the Red River on the other.
He was in his pajamas.
Chauncy nudged him again. Fighting back tears Jack slowly looked around, his arm still around his dog. How far had he come this time? Chauncy flopped down beside him, panting softly, her short coat grimed with dust. Experimentally, Jack rotated his shoulders. As before, they ached as though he’d spent the night chopping wood or fighting to steer the old tractor. But he knew he had done neither.
In the dream, his mom’s voice called him. It had been three years since she had disappeared and he had been sent to live with his uncle. No one would tell him what had happened to her – even his uncle just shrugged, and glowering, said his sister had the wildness in her blood.
Hearing her voice, Jack’s heart had come alive with longing; he had left his bed, sneaked down the hallway, and once out in the yard somehow his body had responded to her call and he had leapt into the air, vast wings beating, body soaring, thoughts searching…until the dream ended and he awoke.
And now he was here on the ground, a couple of miles from his uncle’s farmhouse, fighting to pretend he wasn’t going out of his mind.
“Guess we better head home,” he muttered to his dog. Chauncy’s ears flattened and she whimpered slightly, but she heaved herself to her feet.
It was then that Jack saw she was limping. And that did it. He sank back to the ground and the tears and sobs he’d been fighting, ripped from his chest.
“What’s wrong with me?” he demanded. He clenched his fists. Crazy. No question he was crazy. No matter what he did, the dreams didn’t stop and every night he walked…maybe ran in his sleep. No way he could have sprouted wings and flown…. Come dawn he woke up somewhere away from the farm, his body aching, faithful Chauncy so tired she could hardly move.
He had no one to tell, no one to trust with his secret.
“I don’t want to kill us,” he muttered. “We’ve got to get back. Uncle Jim’ll start to wonder.” If his uncle thought the wildness was in Jack’s blood too, he might…. Jack didn’t know what his uncle might do and with nowhere else to go, he was afraid to find out.
He guessed it was two miles or more this time. But he was so tired…so tired. Without meaning to, Jack sank back, head on his dog’s back. Chauncy whuffed and relaxed under him.
The warmth, flower-scented breeze, feel of solid earth beneath him, soothed Jack and his eyes fluttered closed.
The voice came first. Jack, it’s time. Come with me, Jack!
“No!” Jack cried and wide awake, jerked upright. Chauncy whimpered and crept against him.
It is time to join the family! The voice was achingly familiar.
“Mom?” Jack whispered.
The prairie dust whirled into the sky. Gusting wind tore the grass beside him. A vast golden form glinted in the air above.
Jack screamed. Chauncy growled and pushed himself in front of Jack.
The dragon dropped on the ground, lightly for so vast a creature. Frozen, Jack stared into its eyes, so deep a green that he felt he was being connected to the universe of growing things. Then the air shimmered and his mother stood before him.
He screamed again.
His mom simply stood quietly, waiting. Chauncy whimpered and belly crawled toward her, tail thumping.
“Chauncy!” His mom smiled delight and rubbed the dog’s ears. Chauncy’s tail beat harder and she uttered small yelps of joy, front paws dancing as she rubbed her nose against Jack’s mother.
“Mom?” Jack got to his feet, not caring that tears were running down his face. Joy and rage mixed. “Mom? Why? Where have you been?”
He wondered for a moment if she were a dream or a monster. But he knew that Chauncy could never be fooled.
And then he saw his mom was crying too as she held her arms out to him.
He ran to her, knowing he should fight it, wanting to shout at her, but mostly just wanting to have his mother back again. He smelled her earthy, sweet smell, felt the hot touch of her skin against his.
“What happened?” he asked at last.
“My family calls it the wildness,” she said. “But it’s not that. Or maybe it is,” she laughed shakily. “Somewhere in the family tree, a dragon got into the mix. And when I reached your age, I started changing. Kept it secret, although I think Jim guessed.”
Jack nodded, his hand clasping his mother’s tightly. He wouldn’t let her go again.
“I met your father on one of my flights – I had to be who I am…”
“The voices?” Jack demanded. He was either too crazy to think…or maybe there was dragon magic. Dragon magic…not crazy.
“I tried so hard to live human. You might have been magicless like the rest of my family…but then I couldn’t do it any more. The dragon in my heart, the call of our dragon kin is too strong, roared through me. Jim promised to raise you, watch over you. Please try to understand, Jack,” she pleaded. “My heart is dragon.”
Jack stood back. The brilliant sun pulsed above, the sounds of the prairie grew and made a song he finally understood.
And the crazy…he felt his new magic pulsing into his heart and blood. He stepped back farther, letting the song and the thrumming of life surge through him, fill him with strength. Jack now called on the change; he transformed into dragon.
His mother laughed joyously and changed too. Together they leapt high and soared into the sky, air cool on their skin, sun beating against their golden-green wings.
Below, Chauncy barked and then howled.
Jack swooped down low. Somehow, Chauncy scrambled onto his back, and careful not to dislodge his dog, Jack followed his mother.
If you enjoyed this short story, check out my other free short dragon stories: Nell and the Ice Dragon and Dragon Love. My full-length novels Dragons of Desert and Dust and Dragons of Frost and Fire are available in paperback, Kindle and other ebook platforms.