Fire of the Dragon

      Her back pressed against the rough wooden stake, Jill jerked at the ropes that bound her hands, hoping she could wiggle them free. But as the tender skin of her wrists burned in protest, she conceded that escape that way was not going to be possible. Not if she wanted to keep her hands attached to her arms, that is.
      How could this be happening to her?
      "I'm not the crazy one around here!" she shouted. "This is the twenty-first century, people, not the Middle Ages. It's against the law to make human sacrifices and there are No...Such... Things...As...Dragons!"
      Jill banged her head against the stake. Why was she yelling? There was no one around to hear her. After a bone-jarring ride out of town on the platform that turned out to be a wooden cart, with the villagers following behind like some warped medieval parade, they had hog-tied her to a twelve-foot pole planted in the ground. Then they headed for the woods, leaving her alone on a wind-swept hill in the middle of nowhere.
      Those people were delusional. But at least for the moment Jill felt a little safer. Apparently, they weren't going to cut her heart out on an altar, or burn her at the stake, or do something as equally unappealing and life threatening. At least she hoped not.
      Jill breathed deeply, trying to calm herself. She'd just play along with their little game.
      It was a game, right?
      Eventually, they'd come back, let her go, and she'd be fine. After all, what harm could come from standing out in a field for a little while? A few bug bites? Maybe a little sunburn? Nothing she couldn't survive. Right?
      Or maybe not.
      Deciding it probably wouldn't be in her best interest to still be here when they returned, Jill glanced overhead at the top of the stake and wondered if she could shimmy up and flip her bound arms over the top. She squeezed the stake with her arms as best she could and jumped, bracing her feet against the pole in an awkward pliè. She shoved up with her legs and made it up the stake for all of six inches before her feet slipped. The rough wood snagged at her clothes, hair and skin as she skidded back down the pole.
      Great. Now on top of everything else, she was going to have splinters in both butt cheeks. What had she been thinking?
      Sure, Jill, climb a twelve-foot pole with your hands tied behind you. And do it backwards, no less. Like you could even do it frontwards with your hands free and booster rockets tied to your ass. It's not as if you're a prime candidate for the Cirque de Soleil.
      Okay, so scaling the pole like a monkey wasn't an option. What else could she do? One thing was certain, she was not about to sit and wait for . . . what? Those crazy villagers? Or whatever those fanatical loons thought was coming to get her.
      Think, Jill, think. What would MacGyver do in a situation like this?
      Of course, MacGyver would have a piece of gum stuck up his sleeve and a paperclip in his shoe to use. Jill was strapped to a giant fence post wearing little more than a nightgown and a wilting crown of flowers that were threatening to fall in her face at any moment. A lot of good they would do her.
      Damn. Where was Lassie when you needed her?
      Her only hope was either that someone would come along and set her free--slim chance there--or that she manage to untie herself.
      Relax, she told herself. Breathe and relax. Think of a happy place.
      If she could just concentrate, she might be able to untie the knots by feel.
      She closed her eyes, trying to visualize the rope binding her wrists, and wiggled her fingers until they just touched a knot. Her arms and shoulders burned from just that little bit of effort. How was she ever going to manage to get the knot loose?
      Calm down, Jill. Think positive. You can do this.
      She managed to wedge one fingertip under the knot, feeling her nail tear to the quick as she tried to pry it loose. So much for her recent French manicure.
      She concentrated harder, ignoring the strain the effort put on her arms and back.
      Yes! Jill was sure she felt some give in the knot. She was making progress. It was slow, but it was still progress. Of course, at this rate it would be the middle of next week before she was loose.
      Deep in concentration, at first she didn't notice the whoosh-whoosh sound in the distance.
      The wind. It had to be the wind. Wind she could deal with.
      Still, her heart rate sped up as her fingers began a frantic dance with the stubborn knot.
      Concentrate on the knot, Jill. Don't think about anything else but getting yourself untied.
      As she struggled with the ropes, she didn't want to acknowledge the fact that the whoosh-whoosh sounded as if it were coming closer. But as much as she tried to ignore it, she couldn't help imagining the unmistakable beating of wings.
      Don't look up. Whatever you do, do not look up.
      But human nature being what it was, she did, and the sight that met her eyes would have dropped her to her knees if she wasn't still firmly tied to the stake.
      Calm down, Jill. It's just a bird. Just some tremendously huge black bird making an awful lot of noise.
      But as it drew nearer, she realized it was too big to be any kind of bird she'd ever seen.
      Maybe it's a plane. Yeah, that's it. A plane . . . with flapping, bat-like wings.
      Jill's stomach plummeted as the thing kept coming, circling ever closer. Any hopes that it might be Superman coming to her rescue were dashed when she saw the long, reptilian tail trailing behind it.
      She couldn't believe what she was seeing. A giant, flying lizard was swooping down through the clouds, heading right at her.
      Her mind screamed in silent denial as reality crashed in with a gut-churning jolt.
      Holy shit! She really was being sacrificed to a dragon.

© 2005 Lori Dillon