Melodies from the Fire
By: David Serra
Rain coming down in buckets is one thing but rain coming down in barrels is too much. This torrential downpour happening over the town of Maurisville, New Jersey was expected to clear up today; or that’s what Tyler Egan hoped for. It poured for the past three days straight and the miles of wilderness around the town was looking more like a swamp. Tyler prayed that this weather would break for his niece’s birthday tomorrow. She was going on 8 and he was still debating on what to get her. You can’t go wrong with the toy shop he told himself while getting his raincoat and umbrella from the closet. Sadly he was wrong, dead wrong.
Tyler ventured through the wall of rain towards town; he didn’t feel like driving since the town was only two blocks away. Besides, he wanted to make sure he could get to the toy shop before they closed without getting caught in traffic. He held the umbrella close as the wind picked up. Cars sped by, kicking up water; he jumped to one side to avoid getting splashed. There was, not to his surprise, a couple of woman jogging in this weather. They were his neighbors; Janet Garth from the hardware store and Eileen Bates from the town’s pottery studio. Even in their 50s he knew they would go out to exercise even if a tornado hit. Tyler watched them as they ran towards him.
“Stay dry,” said Eileen.
Tyler waved in response. He headed into town towards the toy shop when he noticed a moving van in front of the entrance. His first thought was that they were getting new supplies, until he saw the owner of the store, a towering black man, order his employees to move large boxes into the truck. Tyler gawked at the scene. He let his umbrella droop to one side and the rain ran down his back.
“I’m not surprised,” an aged and feminine voice said next to him.
Tyler turned to the elderly woman standing beside him. She was eyeing the commotion blankly.
“They went out of business. Children are not playing with toys that much anymore.”
“Great,” Tyler grumbled, “That’s just great.”
“I was supposed to get a gift for my niece today.”
“Well I was on my way to the florist. Is there anything you can get her there?”
Tyler looked at her inquisitively. He noticed her silver dragon earrings shining in the streetlights, with their emerald green eyes staring at him. They made him think of his niece.
“You like dragons?” he asked.
“I adore dragons, how about you?”
“They’re cool. My niece is really into them.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“Yeah… come on; let’s get out of the rain.”
The two headed towards the florist down the street. Tyler, being the gentleman, held the door open for her, “Thank you. Nice to see there’s still good people in this world. Oh by the way, my name is Carol Hawthmeyer.”
“Tyler Egan, it’s nice to meet you.”
They went farther into the store, overflowing with plants and flowers. The smell of pine, flowers, and earth filled Tyler’s nostrils; he went over to the card rack in the corner of the store. A lot of the cards were either humorous, touching, or generically pleasant. He wanted to find one that suited his niece, something that pertained to her interest. He found himself thinking about dragons, not surprisingly, so he browsed through the birthday cards in search of anything related to dragons. That’s when he heard Carol by the counter talking to the clerk.
“Alyssa, that young man is looking for a gift for his niece. Do you have anything dragon related?”
Tyler looked over at them where Alyssa, a stout and tan-skinned woman with only one eyebrow turned towards him.
“Hey there,” she began, “I think I have something you might like.”
Tyler came over with a birthday card in his hands. It wasn’t dragon related but rather a blank card with a picture of the forest on its cover. As he placed the card on the counter; Alyssa brought out a small lock box and spun in the combination.
“Found this at an antique store a year ago. I was thinking about selling it online but since you’re here.”
She took out a silvery music box, and placed it gently on the counter. She wound it up on the side and after a second or two, the top slowly opened as a mechanical yet soothing melody emanated from it. The box fully opened to reveal a small green dragon perched on a castle’s tower that spun gently. Tyler examined the dragon closely.
Its eyes were yellow with round black pupils as opposed to slits. It had faint-white green underbelly scales with darker green scales on top. Its long tail curled around the tower ending in an arrow point and its leather wings were folded neatly on its back. It also had fin-like ears and a pointed snout. Tyler thought the dragon was cute, but not too cute to be uncanny.
The music faded and the dragon stopped until it seemed to be staring at Tyler. He titled his head and asked, “How much is it?”
“This is about one-hundred and fifty dollars plus tax.”
He took out all the cash he had in his wallet and quickly counted through it. He felt his disappointment rising when he was done.
“Oh, sorry I don’t have that much. Do you have anything cheaper?”
“Hold on there,” Carol interrupted, as she viewed the cash in Tyler’s hand. “You still take credit cards right?”
Alyssa nodded and Tyler noticed Carol reach into her purse. “I’ll help pay for it.”
“Oh no, no it’ okay. You don’t have to do that.”
“Consider this a random act of kindness, something that everyone needs once in a while.”
He and Alyssa exchanged a look.
“Would you like this gift wrapped?”
“Sure, if it’s no trouble.”
“No trouble at all. Who is this for again?”
“This is for my niece, Lily.”
“Gotcha, I’ll get to it right away.”
After paying, Alyssa headed over to the wrapping paper and boxes with the music box. Tyler turned back to Carol who was gathering up her stuff.
“No problem Tyler.”
She winked at him and headed for the door. Tyler held the door open for her again as she left. She smiled at him over her shoulder before parting down to the sidewalk. The rain outside had lightened up significantly, the glimmer of the sunset glowed over the clouds. It was reddish-orange out and made the town look like it was gleaming.
Tyler thanked Alyssa, took the bag with his gift and headed for the door.
“Oh sir,” Alyssa called out, “Would you like this too?”
She held up the birthday card he had picked out earlier. He chuckled at the realization and went back to pay for it.
After making his way home that night, Tyler found himself thinking about the toy shop and how it went out of business. How could the toy shop close? He pondered over this question while he made his way into his living room. It seemed that the toy shop was in a good area to do business, is high-tech technology really taking over today’s youth? He also wondered about the music box and who made it. Maybe he would ask Alyssa the next time he saw her about which antique shop she bought it from. There was also something about that tiny dragon staring at him, sending a shiver down his spine. Thinking over these questions, he leaned back and relaxed a little in his armchair with his book. The book he picked out from his shelf was Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers , just the thing to take his mind off of the questions. He was meaning to read sooner if it wasn’t for his job at Home Depot. So far he read The Deep by Peter Benchley, which he found at a used bookstore while visiting Vermont a year ago, and Dragons Wild by Robert Aspirin, which only made him think about the music box again. He also read countless mystery novels as recommended by his sister, but he wanted to go back to Stephen King after reading The Shining . While reading the first chapter he found himself unable to focus and keep his eyes open. It was a great book so far but he found himself thinking about the previous questions again, in addition fatigue started setting in as it got later. Stumbling up he put a bookmark in the book and set it back on the shelf while deep in thought. He headed up the stairs to his bedroom when he jumped as the tune of the music box suddenly rang out.
He grunted and made his way into the bedroom, going over to the gift sitting on his dresser. Tyler pulled out the gift wrapped box and tapped it to stop. The music didn’t stop but grew a notch louder. He groaned and smacked the side again and again. The music only grew even louder. Tyler tore open the wrapping paper feverishly, ripped apart the cardboard box and opened the music box. The dragon spun to a stop and the music became fainter. He and the dragon were once again eye to eye. The dragon blinked for a second and squinted at him, its eyes momentarily glowed yellow.
Tyler froze as if rooted to the spot.
He shut the music box and shoved it back in the bag. Backing away from the dresser in disbelief his entire body began to itch. He started itching, only for it to get worse. He fell to the floor and moaned as the uncomfortable feeling became an increasing pain that swept throughout him. He tossed and turned on the floor, feeling as if he was burning from the inside. He got on all fours and grunted; gritting his teeth he felt his limbs and body stretching, growing, reshaping, and all his clothes shredding off. His bones cracked and popped, his hairs fell out and his skin was replaced with dark-green scales on top with light-green scales underneath. His tailbone sprouted out from behind him and grew longer and longer, redeveloping into a snake-like tail that ended in an arrow point. His back arched as he grew large and leathery wings, with a spiky frill that grew out from the back of his neck to the tip of his tail. His face pulled out into a pointed muzzle, his front and back limbs becoming dog-like with clawed paws, and his teeth fell out of his mouth only to be replaced with larger and sharper fangs. His ears became pointed and fin-like. His tongue grew larger and longer to better fit his mouth, the tip forking. Finally his eyes became larger and turned yellow with his pupils becoming large and round.
Taking up almost the entire room, Tyler laid on his side, exhausted from what he went through. Regaining his strength, he strained up and wobbled on his new legs. He stumbled over to the dresser mirror. His vision was blurry at first but with a few blinks and shakes of his head his vision cleared and he saw the dragon face staring back at him. He gasped and staggered back against the wall. That’s when his gaze went to the music box on the floor. He reached out his draconic paw and took the music box in it. Opening the box carefully he examined the little dragon on the castle. His sight darted back from the small dragon to his reflection in the mirror. Gathering his courage he took himself in from all angles, trying not to knock over the mirror with his long tail. Realizing that he might get stuck in his house he decided to make his leave. Closing the music box he bent down and thrust himself out through the window. He landed elegantly in the backyard and merely shook away the pieces of dust, glass, and wood that stuck to his scaly hide.
Looking up at the starry night sky he was glad that it at least stopped raining. Wondering what to do Tyler realized he needed help, but where to start? Instinctively he spread out his wings and soared up into the sky; he flew and glided over the neighborhood and woods in search of his sister’s house. Clutching the music box in his claw he scanned the area, he felt his shock turn to awe as he felt a surge of adrenaline throughout his body. He hadn’t felt this good since his first remembered birthday. Searching the neighborhood he saw his sister’s house down below. Quietly landing in their backyard he slinked around to the front door. He extended a claw, engraved a message onto the door, and rang the doorbell.
The lights went on inside with Tyler taking cover behind the house. His sister Margery answered the door in a robe, looking groggy.
“Hello?” she asked in a hoarse voice.
Tyler could see her find the message on the door. The message read: “For Margery, I need help. Love, Tyler.”
Tyler watched as Margery run a hand over the door looking confused for a second when she called out.
“Tyler, are you out here? Do you know what time it is?”
Not wanting her to see him yet, he swiftly took off through the woods and flew back up into the sky. He would wait for tomorrow during the party to show up but first he needed to find Carol.
He hoped she wouldn’t be frightened by his visit.