I never saw it coming, never even in my wildest— wait, maybe in my wildest dreams. But in retrospect, it was the best thing that had ever happened to me and left me with a lifelong friend and family member.
It was a bright, winter morning. After a quick shower and taking care of all morning necessities, I stumbled my way downstairs. I was still half-asleep in my pajamas, some fuzzy panda slippers and all snuggled up in my favorite, cozy earth-toned robe. I squinted through my glasses up at the clock in the living room. Eight-o-five. The Sunday newspaper had already been delivered by the time I opened the front door. (It took too much effort this morning for me to tear myself away from the warmth of my blankets).
But today was special.
Instead of the usual paper bundle, there was also a nice, little woven basket with an arch handle set neatly on top. A woolen, grey blanket covered its contents. It wasn’t my birthday nor was it any special occasion that warranted me getting gifts in the mail. I knew this couldn’t have been the work of Lu as he is always complaining about not having enough time to deliver all the papers. Pulling pranks would be the least priority on his list. I didn’t know of anyone else who would have the courage to mess with me before I had my morning coffee.
I’ve seen enough weird and strange things in my life that whatever in this basket was not going to ruffle my feathers. With the Sunday paper tucked under one arm, I lifted the blanket covering the basket with the other.
Boy, was I wrong about the feather ruffling.
If it wasn’t for me being aware that I was in full public view and the need to not call attention to myself thanks to social anxiety, I would have let out a mortifying yelp.
It was only a few months old as far as I could tell, sleeping peacefully while letting out small baby snores every few seconds. No matter how cute or innocent it looked, there was no denying it.
There was a dragon on my porch. A living, breathing baby dragon.
Again, I was reminded, but now rather harshly, by the cold, bitter wind that I was in full public view, at least to my immediate neighbors. I quickly threw the blanket on top and grabbing the wired handle, hurried back inside.
Spreading the Sunday paper on the table with one hand, I haphazardly placed the basket onto the breakfast table with the other, careful not to shake the little critter inside.
Dead dragons. Only-bones-left dragons. Partial remains dragons that stank horribly as their magic-infused flesh refused to rot. These were all the normal things I dealt with as a dragonologist on a daily basis. No one believed there were any dragons left roaming Gaia these days and therefore, no body bothered with the intricately detailed lives of dragons. It was a topic that fascinated two categories of people: fiction writers and the rare historian. That was it.
Lucky for me, I fell in that latter category and that’s exactly what I had specialized in. A niched specialization that was labelled as a once-upon-a-time subject with no job opportunity in sight. The specialization about the lives of dragons and what to do when you encounter one.
As I rummaged around the pantry for breakfast, I thought about how much I’ve longed to see a live dragon. At one point, I had to scratch my entire thesis that tried to prove the existence of dragons in the modern age. In my view, I had enough compelling evidence! Though, in the the end, I gave in to my guide’s wishes and wrote something or other about how to better identify dragon marks on landscapes to find their remains or whatever.
I was lost in the past when suddenly, a little chirping noise brought me back to current predicament.
I popped out of the pantry to look over at the table. A green-ish brown little head with grey horns and spikes poked out of the basket. Its eyes gleamed golden as it peered into mine.
Fiddlesticks. It was awake.
I had hoped to make breakfast before it awoke but losing my train of thought took up too much time.
“Hel-lo, my lovely. What’ll it be, then?” I looked down at what I had gleaned from the pantry. A box of corn flakes and a bread loaf. Not bad. I looked up back at my guest, “Cereal or toast?”
“Cereal it is!”
We sat across from each other around the small, square table. I look at her (dead or not, somethings are identifiable if they’re old enough) as she sloppily lapped up her share of corn flakes from her bowl. I took a spoonful, with every bite keeping my eyes on her and resisting the urge to coddle her like a puppy or kitten. But I couldn’t help but keep wondering who it could have been that left such a cute but technically extinct gift. How did they deliver it without getting caught? If it was someone’s pet or some lab experiment, headlines of the missing critter would be everywhere! How did this mysterious gifter know to leave it at my, a dragonologist’s, doorstep? I’m not anyone renowned or even gossip worthy, though I do have a reputation of being a bizarre one for believing dragons still exist and of course, my field of specialization.
Most importantly: How do I take care of her? I most certainly was not turning her over to the authorities! (Lord knows what they’d do to her…)
Both of us finished at around the same time. She had licked the bowl clean. A hungry chap. It was nine-thirty by the time I finished cleaning our bowls. Placing the last of the dishes where it belonged, I looked over at the critter. She was now busy staring out the window at the bird feeder as small finches fluttered in and away. Her eyes now gleamed in a bright emerald green.
As I looked at her, my dragon analysis habit kicked in. From her horns , I could tell she was about 500 years old. Quite the young one. Being of the eastern heritage, she did not seem to possess any wings. When I had lifted her out from her basket for breakfast, she was the size of a spring hare and weighed almost the same. Her slender body was like a little ferret and her scales were cool and moist to the touch. Overall, a good, healthy dragon pup. Ridiculously cute, too.
I walked back to the breakfast table. She turned her head and let a small purr.
“Well. You don’t seem too hostile. Would you like to accompany me to my study? I’m afraid I have quite the work piled up this morning that I need to get to.”
I picked her up like any small animal and she didn’t seem to mind. As soon as she settled into my arms she fell asleep. I spent a good two minutes just watching her small, scaly back rising and falling slowly. I let out a small chuckle as I walked down the hall into the study.
I sat her down on a pillow cushion on my side table and got down into the work I had brought home from the museum on Friday. Some how I had become too engrossed in my work to where I was only reminded of reality when my stomach let out a quaking growl.
“Oof. Now that’s what you call a hungry stomach,” I muttered to myself. I looked at my desktop clock. Twelve-Thirty PM sharp. Time for lunch!
“Tis’ lunchtime my little chap, have you awok—“
I turned around and found myself talking to an empty cushion. Panic struck like lightning. This is what I get for zoning into my work, especially in times like this. Baby dragons are notorious for their insatiable curiosity and this human house was filled to the brim with new and intriguing things. I looked around the room. No sign of the dragon. The door to my study was wide open. She must have gone out, then.
I ran out of the room in full speed and into the hallway and towards the living room. I was busy praying that she had not yet developed her fire powers and I was on the process of tearing the house apart looking for her when I heard a small clatter.
“The… kitchen?” I turned and crept slowly towards the area. I peeked in.
Lo and behold, right on top of the counters and staring up at the cabinets was the little fellow. She turned to see me and let out a small chirp. A wave of relief came over me, prompting the largest sigh.
“My, my, my little cherub! You are quite the sneaky ninja aren’t you?” I exclaimed at her as I walked in.
Then it dawned on me. The perfect name. I told myself I wasn’t going to name her as not to get so attached but I couldn’t help it seeing this cute little thing now in front of me.
“Shinobi!,” I clasped my hands, “I shall call you Shinobi just because of that little stunt you pulled. How’s that for a name, hm?”
She tilted her head like most dogs do when they try to understand humans. Her stomach let out a small growl.
“That makes two stomachs hungry for lunch now.”
Leaving her to sit on the counter tops for a new perspective, I started my quest for food. I sifted back through the pantry, all the cabinets and even the fridge. Nothing. Just as I was wondering what had happened to all the food, I realized what day it was: Sunday. And Sundays are grocery shopping days. Due to the havoc of this morning, I had completely forgotten my usual Sunday routine. I cussed to myself under my breath.
“Alas, my gallant Shinobi. We must wait a bit longer to satisfy ourselves with a proper meal.”
As I left to go and get changed, I heard a thud and scampering of feet behind me. Shinobi was frantically trying to fly after me.
“Oh no, my lovely,” I crouched down and pet her head, “You are staying here. Right in this house.” I proceeded to lift her and place her back in her basket where she won’t be able to easily hop out from.
“HHHRRRRRRRGGG!” She let out a small but effectively threatening growl. I nearly dropped her. I looked down at my arms to see her pouting in the way baby dragons are known to do when they get upset.
“Excuse you, m’lady, but that is not the proper language that should be coming from you!”
I held her up so that our eyes locked. Her eyes now glowed a deep golden red. Oh boy.
“Huh…would m’lady like to come grocery shopping with me?”
She tilted her head a little. The deep colors in her eyes softened. Ohhh boy.
Determined to not let my resurfacing childhood fancies of having my own dragon that I’d imagine myself taking to different places overtake me, as well as her face now slowly turning into puppy eyed look, I stared her down.
“Absolutely not! Majestic dragons like you aren’t allowed in grocery shops, you know?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, I placed her onto the cold wooden floors and quickly bolted for my room upstairs. I hurriedly closed the door before Shinobi could run in after me. I heard scratches and tiny roars on the other side as I slammed the wood to her face.
“Nope! Not happening, princess!”
At this point, I expected myself to have triggered her magic powers and was ready to see my door, and my house, burn down. Slowly the scratches and the roars quieted down. Quickly yet silently I changed into a comfy sweatshirt and some snow-proof pants. I pulled on some winter socks and fixed up my hair, all while keeping an ear for Shinobi. After checking myself in the mirror to make sure I looked ready for the public, I turned towards the door and listened closely.
It was now dead silent outside.
I slowly approached the door, watching my step to avoid the creaky floor bits, and got on all fours to peep through the gap at the bottom. I could see Shinobi’s tiny dragon paws sitting a few paces away. I straightened myself.
As I opened the door and popped my head outside, Shinobi looked at me with the biggest puppy eyes I had ever seen. Ohhh ohoho boy. Nope. I had no choice now. The cuteness bore deep into the very depths of my heart and soul. I couldn’t resist myself any longer. I fidgeted in place from frustration.
“Oh, alright! Alright! You can come along, I guess.” I opened my arms.
She leapt right in and rubbed her muzzle against my chest.
“Hahaha! Settle down!” I lifted her head up to look her in the eyes, “If you’re really coming, then I need you to rest in my quaint little sweatshirt pocket, alright? No one can see you for you’d dazzle them to heaven with your cuteness!”
I pointed down at my midriff double ended pockets and put one of my hands through it. She looked at it with some skepticism. Her eyes were glowing golden now. As I slid her in, she rummaged around a little, triggering my ticklish areas. When I thought I couldn’t hold my laugh any longer, she settled in.
“Thank god,” I gasped, tears half running down my cheeks.
Shinobi stayed quiet throughout the car ride to the market nearby. She felt so warm against my stomach and it felt oh-so-heavenly for this cold, winter day. I could see her poking her head out every couple of minutes to see the moving sky from the window. Once I parked, though, she obediently curled up into my pockets with nothing more than a bump showing to indicate her presence.
I walked through the vegetable racks, picking up some fresh cucumbers and peppers along with basic salad ingredients. I felt a little wiggle. The dragon in my pocket made a noise. I got a few funny looks. I boldly looked back at the few who dared to make eye contact with me. I stared them down with my infamous death stare.
“Gesundheit.” I quickly then rushed to the checkout counter.
Lunch was extremely satisfying. Shinobi wasted no time in lopping up the salad placed in front of her as I ate mine sitting in the same way we did this morning. I hadn’t heard of dragons liking vegetables in salad form before. This is an interesting find, I told myself, that I must record in my diary.
Shinobi spent the rest of the day with me, comfily hanging out in my sweatshirt hoodie or on my lap as I took care of more work related things, read some books and watched a movie. A new and fun fact: dragons love rom-coms.
Dinner came and went in a similar manner to all the previous meals, and by the time I realized it was night. Shinobi was fast asleep on my lap. I looked at this little creature of ancient lore and magic. A creature feared for her strength yet loved for her grace and archaic beauty.
“I believe we are well acquainted to where we shall be family from now on, huh? My first fur baby and tis’ a dragon,” I chuckled to myself.
It only felt right that I let Shinobi share a bed with me and as I carried her upstairs, I couldn’t help but think about how different life was going to be for me from now on. A life with a dragon that magically arrived on my doorstep, as if by fate, on a winter’s Sunday morning.