Rain pelted Malia’s jacket and stung her eyes. The building’s eave wasn’t shielding her, and her muscles screamed from being hunched in one position for so long. She held her breath and stared into the twilight. Feeling the cold steel of the dagger against her calf calmed her nerves.
Under the sound of raindrops on the cobblestones, Malia heard something else. She drew in her breath with a hiss. The unmistakable click, click, click turned her stomach. Her enemy had found her. The smell, a sweet odor mixed with animal urine, told her he was close.
She knew it was now or never, and never was not an option.
For years, Malia and the dragon had danced around each other, never fully engaging. It felt safer to cower in the shadows than to face him outright. He had left a trail of death of innocents in his wake. But when the beast had torn her best friend to pieces and grinned in pleasure as he devoured Jai’s heart, Malia vowed to kill him no matter the cost.
Malia stilled her heart and formed a plan. The beast came closer, snuffling around the arch in the wall that separated the house from the street. One bright yellow eye filled the archway, and Malia jumped. Laughter spewed from the dragon’s mouth along with remnants of the last meal he had gorged on.
For the moment, Malia found safety behind the wall. The beast attempted to push his way through the arch. This time Malia’s laugh rang out, and the dragon roared. He raised his head above the wall, and she saw understanding in his eyes. He stepped one giant, taloned foot into the yard.
Malia drew her dagger from its sheath. Dismay needled her as she realized the weapon was but a toothpick against the beast. She flattened against the hard brick and stepped to the left. Another foot plunked down, and he was in the courtyard.
She needed a better plan, and quick.
Moving further left, Malia felt an indentation and remembered the odd decorative insets that spidered up the facade. Seeing it in her mind’s eye, she remembered thinking it looked like a ladder when she first saw it. A small bird flew into the courtyard, and the beast turned to eye it. Saliva dripped from his jowl and splatted on the ground when his thin, vein covered tongue whipped out and wrapped around the bird.
Seeing her opportunity, Malia turned, pressed the handle of the dagger between her lips, and climbed the wall using the indentations as foot and hand holds. At the top, she hoisted herself onto the stone roof.
A wet drop splashed on her cheek, and Malia looked up to see the evil grin and yellow eyes of the dragon. His forehead pulled down, hooding those eyes as he swiped at Malia, barely missing her. She scuttled away from him. He watched her until she reached the other side and rose to face him.
He had almost killed her once. When he pressed her to his chest, she felt the softness and his beating heart. Jai pulled the dragon’s attention away from her, and Malia managed to get free. It was then the dragon had killed her friend.
Striking her dagger into that soft spot was her only hope, but he’d have to be on the roof for her to have any chance.
“Enough. It’s time to end this. You killed my friend, and tonight one of us will die. Come fight like the beast you are.”
The animal threw back his head, roaring laughter into the night. “Foolish girl. You want to die? I’ll be glad to kill you.”
He had spoken to her before. The gravelly voice didn’t surprise her this time as it had the last.
The dragon hopped on the roof. He rushed at her, and his sharp talons raked across her abdomen. A cry spurted from her lungs and blood seeped through her shirt. She dodged away, grabbed a loose rock and threw it. The projectile struck his eye, and he bellowed. He reached out and captured her in his meaty fist.
Panic quickened Malia’s breathing and déjà vu washed over her as she searched for a way out. A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. Disoriented, the beast dropped her.
She thumped to the rooftop and backed away to face him again. She steadied herself, raised her arm, and aimed the dagger.
Seeing her, the beast spewed laughter again. Malia whispered a prayer and released the blade. Her eyes focused on the blade as it flipped head over hilt. A soft thud sounded as it made contact with the dragon’s skin.
He sucked in the laughter and looked at her. Those evil yellow eyes rolled in tandem up into the beast’s head, leaving only white. He thrashed at the dagger, but missed. Stumbling backward, his feet hit the edge of the roof, and his arms windmilled as he attempted to keep his balance. He tumbled off the roof, crashing in the courtyard below.
Malia ran to the edge and peered over. He lay still. She had ended it, and secured justice for Jai. Relief and adrenaline galloped through her as she dropped to the stone rooftop.
The alarm clock blared, and she came awake with a start. Sunlight poured into the room. Pink walls surrounded her, and Mittens slept warm against her leg. Jai, the beast, the battle came rushing back.
“Malia, turn that thing off and get out of bed. You’re going to be late for school.” Her mother’s voice filtered up from the kitchen.
She slapped her hand onto the alarm clock and pushed herself up in bed.
“Wow, that was quite a dream.”
Throwing off the covers, she saw a red streak on her white t-shirt. Lifting the cloth, Malia stared down at her stomach. Four gaping wounds stretched across her, oozing blood.
How could that be? It was only a dream, right?