The sky was on fire. Screams echoed around me. I ran through the streets. Left, right, up the alley, trapped! I beat my wings, trying to reach a thermal. This can't be happening.
Where am I? I was in the car; we were driving home from the police station. I don't understand.
I reach up to my head. My paw comes back bloody. Where am I?
My vision starts to fade, everything is turning black. Oh no, not the ground! Not the ground!
* * *
I coughed and struggled to open my eyes. Did I crash? Where the hell-
Forcing my eyes open, I find an airbag released onto my face, popped by one of my horns. Groaning, I look around.
Dad is hanging limp in his seatbelt, bleeding out of his nose. Oh, no no no no…
"Dad? Dad?!" My voice breaks.
I reach out for him, aching from the impact everywhere. I put a shaky paw on him. His chest is rising up and down slowly and irregularly, but at least he's breathing.
Thank god, Thor and Odin and the belt manufacturer and his wife and mother and his blessed grandmother. Thank his goddamn blessed grandmother. Fucking hell.
Struggling to get rid of the belt and out of the car, I resort to slicing it off with my claw. The door is slightly caved in, but a swift kick sends it flying open. Blinking, I staggered out of the smoking wreck and coughed. Trying to recall what had happened, I remembered seeing something on the road before everything went black. And something about a tree.
Turning around, I found the car smashed against a big fat oak. The engine was an unrecognizable heap of scrap. All windows but one had shattered.
Stumbling forward, I spat out a piece of something semi-solid. My whole mouth tasted of blood; I could feel it running down my face. Dragging myself towards the driver's seat I reached up and touched my head. I recoiled as my claws sunk into a large gash on my forehead. The adrenaline was slowly fading, and I could feel the pain starting to set on. Clenching my jaw, I reach out and claw the front door open. Dad is still breathing, thank god.
I reach into the car and claw at the belt to get it off. Arms poised, I catch him as he lurches forward when the belt snaps. He groans and moves his arm.
"Are you alrighth? Come on dad, talk tho me! Don't you dare!" Pushing off with my legs, I drag him out. His shirt catches on the seat, causing me to lose my footing. I stumble backwards and instinctively try to right myself with my tail. I cry out in agony as pain shoots up through it like razorblades. Looking back, the tip is bent at an odd angle about two decimeters in. I can feel it throbbing now.
Of all the god damn places to get dislocated…
Growling, I pull myself up and prop dad up with my arm. He opens his eyes and spits on the ground. Relief flows through me like a wave.
"You're alive. You're alive you're alive thank god, you're alive. Come on, we got tho get away from the car. I don't want to be near that thing if something happens."
Dad coughs and gives me a confused look before spitting again and nodding.
"Alrighth, here we go. Come on." I limp back towards the road and away from the oak, dragging him with me on my shoulder. Dropping him down onto the side of the road, he props himself up against a road sign and looks at the car. I carefully sit down, minding my tail. A sharp twang of pain forces me to reconsider, and I lie down instead. The adrenaline is fading quickly now, and the pain is increasing by the second. I force myself to ignore it for now and turn to dad.
"Are you alrighth?" I asked again with worry in my voice.
He reaches up and wipes his nose with the back of his hand, smearing it with blood.
"Hurts like hell all over, but yeah, I'm fine. God damn, never argue with the driver!"
"Thorry." I hung my head a bit.
"Ugh, I'm the one who should say sorry. I wasn't looking at the road and was distracted."
He shook his head and looked back to me. "You look like shit, by the way."
I giggled hysterically. "Yeah yeah, you're just thaying that tho make me happy.
He pointed at my head. "That looks bad."
Reaching up to touch my head, I poked a claw into the gash. I grimaced from the pain. "I think I dislocated part of my thail."
Dad gave me a look and crawled over to the side where my tail was. I peered at him, wanting to see his expression. Uh-oh. By the look on his face, it's bad.
"That looks downright wrong. Did you know that your tail is bent a lot more than it should be able to?"
"Yeah, thanks. It hurths."
"You're lisping. And you're bleeding from your mouth. Open up and let me see."
I opened my jaws and stuck out my tongue. It felt weird for some reason.
Dad breathed in. "Bloody hell."
"Whaf?" I spluttered out.
He looked at my mouth with disbelief. Raising an eyebrow, he nodded at my tongue. "You're missing a bit there, on the left. Looks like you've bitten yourself pretty bad."
I snapped my jaws shut. "No way."
Dad dragged himself back to the sign and looked at the car. "At least we're alive."
He shook his head. "We should call your grandpa to pick us up. I'd rather not call for an ambulance, considering your… situation. I've had enough of explaining and people staring, pissing their pants and reaching for guns to last me a lifetime."
I looked at him. "Fine by me, but you look pretty nasthy. Are you sure you shouldn't go and just send me home?"
"Bah, a little nosebleed and some bruises. You look worse for wear, if you ask me. That tail of yours may have its perks, but it's not going to be nice getting the tip back into place. I had a dislocated shoulder once – it's not fun, I'll tell you that."
"Let's cross that bridge when we get there. " I wiggled my tongue around. "I think the bleeding is thtarting to thubthide."
"Good for you."
I looked out over the road. Whatever we hit (or rather, barely missed) had to be out there somewhere. If it was an animal that we injured, we had to get word out to the local hunters that we had a suffering beast on the loose. If not, there was nothing to worry about – well, sort of. That thing had been far larger than any deer or moose that I'd ever seen, so there's a good chance it might have been a bear. Bears are rare around here, and I know of at least a few people who would love to know if there was one in the neighborhood.
I rolled my shoulders. Maybe just a peek…
"Hey, dad? I think I'll go check if what we hit is sthill there. Might be injured or something."
"Can you even walk? Wait, don't answer that. You did pull me out of a car wreck." He pulled out his cellphone. "Fine, but be careful and don't die in the process. I'll get someone to pick us up in the meantime. "Punching in the number to my grandpa, he turned away from me.
Pushing myself up from the ground, I wobbled a bit. Walking without a properly functioning tail was a bit of a pain (no pun intended), but I could manage. I scanned the area. Judging by the way our car hit the tree, we had veered off the road just before the bend and then ended up in the spinach after a few seconds of skidding. Whatever it was we saw probably came from the forest.
I instinctively swiveled my ears as a shot went off further up into the woods. Hunters, most likely hunting moose. It was high season, after all.
I carefully started to walk towards the bend in the road, keeping my eyes peeled on the ditches and the forest line. If it was a bear that we pissed off I'd prefer to find it before it found me – if not, at least I'd be able to get the jump on whatever it was.
Sniffing the air, I caught a strangely familiar scent. It almost smelled like… me. Confused, I smelled myself. No, not quite the same.
This smell was more foresty, but with another tint to it. Older may be a good word to put on it.
Suddenly I spotted a dark shape on the edge of the road, lying on the bare-scraped asphalt.
Right before my eyes lay another dragon with scales black as the darkest night. His (or hers, I wasn't really sure) entire body seemed to suck in the light around it, and project it out at points where the scales reflected the sunlight. The dragon lay perfectly still in the snow. A cold shiver ran down my spine. We had hit it with a car, after all…
I sprinted forward and inspected the body. I placed a paw on the chest of the other one. A faint breath heaved the chest slowly up and down – faint, but steady.
Thank god for that.
The breathing stopped.
Panicking, I grabbed the shoulders of the dragon and shook him lightly. With a wheezing cough, the eyes opened, displaying ruby red irises with slip pupils, just like mine.
"Hey! Hey, are you alright? Come on, you can't be dead – please don't be dead."
With a confused look on its face, the other dragon looked straight into my eyes and tried to move its lips. I grinned widely at it.
"There we go! Come on, hold on now, don't drift away. Are you okay? Hey, dad! Come look at this!"
Blurting out something unintelligible, the other one tried to push himself up, but failed and slumped back down. Catching him, I tried to support him and keep him awake, afraid that he might not wake again if he fell blacked out. With a last look at me, he fell back into unconsciousness.
Mustering up my strength, I yelled for my father as loud as I dared. He came around the bend with a frightened look on his face, obviously thinking I had stumbled over something dangerous. At the sight of what I was almost clinging to as if it was my own life, he skidded to a halt. With a shocked face, he shook his head in disbelief and came closer.
Looking at him, I said "I think I found what we hit." Jokingly, I added "Can we keep him?"
With a tired sigh, dad said "I honestly don't understand how you get the energy to joke right now. Who the hell is that, anyway? Is he... she, it… alright?"
"I don't know. He woke up for a few seconds and tried to say something, but he didn't make any sense and then he blacked out again. He's still breathing, and thank god for that." I raised an eye ridge. "I hope our lift is coming."
He nodded. "He should be here in a matter of minutes, and you're lucky he's bringing the military rover – if we're hauling that home as well, I don't think we'd fit in a normal car."
Snorting, I smiled faintly. "Grandpa is full of foresight as always."
Turning back to the other dragon, I scanned his body. He looked worn and torn, with a multitude of scars and ragged spots on his wing membranes. It didn't look as if he was bleeding, but with black skin and scales it's hard to see internal bleeding and bruises. None of the major bones seemed broken at a first glance, but fractures and ribs weren't so easily discovered without patient cooperation which, to be honest, was a bit lacking at the moment.
I traced a claw over a long scar on his front leg. I shook my head. It must have been painful. The body was so battered you'd think he had fought every day of his entire life.
The roar of an engine caught my attention. From a distance, the big rover came over a hill and slid to a halt next to us. The exhaust stung in my nostrils. The driver's door flung open and my grandpa jumped out. With a surprised face, he saw the other dragon. He opened his mouth to ask a question, but I stopped him.
"We need to get him back and looked over indoors – we hit him with the car. I'll answer all your questions about him later, when I know the answers."
Understanding, he nodded. "You sure know how to attract trouble. Let's get him inside." With a kick, he dislodged the lock on the back door and pulled it open. "Damn locks freeze and lock up when they're not supposed to."
With a heave, I took the injured dragon up on my shoulder, and dad jumped forward to take his other arm. Grandpa took him and pulled him into the back compartment as we pushed him up from behind. Some felt blankets were folded up in a corner that we quickly lay out on the floor to support him. Looking at my dad, I gestured at the front seat.
"You'd better take that one – I'll ride in the back with him, in case he wakes up."
He hesitated for a moment, but folded and climbed in. After he closed the door, I heaved myself up into the back seat, carefully maneuvering my wounded tail into a workable position. Dragging the door closed, I looked at the unconscious heap on the floor. Shaking my head, I stuck another blanket under his head to mitigate the bumpy ride.
With a roar, the engine went into gear and we rolled homewards. I was happy we were alive, but perhaps more excited at the fact that I wasn't alone.
That was, of course, provided he survived.