As he did every time he went up the cliff toward the observatory riding the pretty good old red bike he kept on the island, Jay Lombardo wondered if the thing could make it. Sometimes it didn’t. Pretty good was about all he expected, was accustomed to, but he knew how to manage it if pretty good broke. He walked.
It was the first time he’d been back to Wind Island since Dr. Kenley Dirac’s death, a ferocious death from the evidence left behind. The loss was staggering. He hadn’t wanted to return. He’d tried to find a way to work out the equations Kenley left behind, which she believed he could do, but found he couldn’t. Like the red bike, his effort had been pretty good but not good enough. Dr. Dirac had been with him and taught him since he was a little boy. He needed to go back to the place where that had happened.
He made it to the parking lot near the dome when his the cell phone began to buzz, and after briefly considering ignoring it, he pulled it out and looked at it. It was his mother. Jay had what he considered a complicated relationship with his mother. ‘Complicated relationship’ was a phrase that meant the relationship was somewhere between good and bad. This one was pretty bad.
His mother, or Camilla as he thought of her, said, “We’re going out tonight. We’re spending the evening with Jason and Kes and Cadence out at Ocean View it’s a celebration and we’ll be very late so I want you at home to take care of Hailie and Colin Thackery and are you really back out at Wind Island again?”
Obviously he was ‘really’ out here. It was a long way back, and he would have to switch trains in The Crossing, and the station at South Beach was under construction, and he had no one ready and willing to give him a ride at night. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she didn’t know all that. “What are you celebrating?” he asked her. “Why does it have to be celebrated tonight?”
She paused and then she lied. “It’s a combination of birthdays we’re doing them together.”
They never did that. Camilla enjoyed the whole act of celebrating, the lead-up and design and family togetherness and cake and drinks and singing along with his Dad’s guitar. It wasn’t a combination birthday.
It was Gabe’s birthday. Everybody knew it. Nobody was going to say anything about it.
“Can’t do it Mom. Get a sitter. Sing Happy Birthday for me.” He hung up. He wanted to say ‘sing happy birthday to Gabe’.
No fucking way was he going to go sing happy birthday to a dead man who ruled his mother’s life. She would, if she could, make Gabe rule his too or make him over as Gabe. He wasn’t stupid enough to throw it in her face though.
Jay took a deep breath and finally looked up at the dome. Now that he was actually up here, he wasn’t sure what to do. Walk in and just sit down at his desk and start working?
They’d let him walk around as if he were demented, he told himself unhappily, and after Kenley’s murder some of them thought he was. They’d hang back, talk to him if he wanted to do that, bring him a coke, let him sit in an empty chair.
He was good enough to sit wherever he wanted. He was better than any of them and they knew it. If someone had taken his desk, they’d get up and move.
He turned to go in when a big man with a ponytail and a dirty shirt walked by, hesitated as if reluctant to say anything, then stopped and said carefully, “Hi Jay. Didn’t expect you back, good to see you.”
“Thanks,” he responded. Chris wasn’t too bad; he’d helped Jay once when he broke a microwave. If Chris was expecting casual conversation though, he wasn’t going to get it. Jay glanced in the direction he intended to go, crossed his arms, looked at the man and waited for him to leave.
Chris still paused as if he really was concerned that Jay might fall on the ground and weep or hurl himself in despair over the stone wall. It had been many months since Dr. Dirac’s death. If he were going to do any of those things, he would have done them by now.
How long was this going to take?
Chris looked past him at the horizon and up at the sky. “Birds making a lot of noise today,” Chris commented out of the blue then turned and finally left, trudging away at a quick pace for the long walk to the shore but he was probably eager to get away from him.
Relieved to be rid of the man, nevertheless Jay noticed the birds now that Chris had mentioned them. They really were loud. The rock gulls that nested on the cliffs below were screaming the way they did when the Becky Hawks came and tore their fledglings apart, but it was fall now so there were no hawks. The hawks were seasonal; they wouldn’t arrive until spring.
Jay looked way up, straight up, and then saw what the rock gulls were shrieking about.
It wasn’t hawks.
There were two of them. In the almost red glow of a light they brought with them they looked close to red themselves no matter what their natural color might have been. Green maybe? They rode the wind from the west and swung along the crosswind from the north, huge, long winged, long tailed, scaled and totally silent.
They didn’t fly away. They circled, and circled again, and Jay had the most ominous feeling that he might be their target.
One of them careened over the dome as if checking out the territory, which was empty, except for Chris. Where was Chris? Did he see this? Was he already down the cliff out of sight? The things were huge. Even halfway down the cliff Chris would see them or hear them if they landed. Landed?
Without ever having seen such things it was still possible to name them. He’d have to use a fantasy novel to do it, but he knew what they were.
They were dragons.
He thought of his little sister, and these things, and whether they would follow him or stay here, hang in the sky or land. He had to go home.
Thank you esotheria-sims for the dragons….