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...
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
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
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
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