The cat’s glowing eyes followed Celestina as she flapped her green wings and circled the room. Darkness surrounded the tiny dragon except for a sliver of moonlight coming through the window. There on the ledge, Celestina spotted a safe place to catch her breath.
Then she knew the size of the cat as she felt his paws swipe through the air. The cat stretched to catch her, but he missed and she landed on the windowsill. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She was a fire-breathing dragon, yet her grandness had shrunk.
She thought back to the day it first crossed her mind to break out of the storybook. The pages filled up too slowly with words and drawings. She knew the author wrote and painted each detail with care, but the suspense of wanting to know its end bothered her.
So now, was this her end? The cat meowed below her. You can’t get me, she thought, I’ll singe you with my fire. To give him a scare, she exhaled deeply from her lungs, but only a cool mist released. She blew again and again. The cat readied to make his leap.
Scratch! His claws shredded one of her paper-thin wings. Celestina tried to fly away, but with her damaged wing she fell to the ground.
She scurried ahead in the darkness and soon found herself in the kitchen of a tea shop. Tins of tea bags lined the counter, and she climbed up to them with the help of her sticky dragon scales. She hardly dared to breathe as she hid inside the tin labeled, ENGLISH BREAKFAST, for she knew the sharpness of a cat’s ears.
Again, she thought back to the storybook, the once safer-version of her life. She had liked the part about the kingdom and how the author made her in charge of Wildwood Forest. It was her task to keep watch over the smaller, helpless animals. But Celestina had failed to protect them from the storm. The memory of lightning striking the tree and crushing the squirrels’ home made her shudder.
In the tea shop, Celestina spent the next few days peeking out at people as they clinked spoons in their cups to mix sugar and cream. Yes, her grandness was no more because she could quietly slip through the room without anyone noticing her little green form.
When the shop closed each evening, the cat roamed around, so Celestina stayed close to the tins for safety. Inside, savory smells from the tea bags brought her temporary comfort. Once, as she sat among mint tea leaves, an idea came to her. She quietly got up and made herself a cup of mint tea, and then climbed into the teacup as if it were a warm bath. Perhaps this would give her back the fire-breathing power she once knew? Its tingly peppermint tickled her nose and gave her hope. But, as the water cooled, the dragon soon realized another one of her efforts had failed.
This world felt dark and cold. She missed the kingdom and her true home. But why had the author been so slow to finish writing the story? And yet, he was the one who had drawn her delicate wings and given her a name. She began to regret her ungratefulness; it cost her everything.
The next morning, Celestina heard the bell jingle on the tea shop’s door, and in walked the author. Celestina scrambled toward the nearest glass-paned cabinet to hide where the teacups all sat.
Ashamed, Celestina determined to stay out of sight, but the cup rattled noisily on its saucer as she jumped into it. The author turned his head just in time to see Celestina’s tail, slim and green, peeking above the rim.
Then she heard him say, “Earl Gray, please, with cream and sugar.” A hand reached in for a cup, and Celestina spilled out and fell into the tea kettle. In spite of her weak wing, she flapped her strong arms to keep her head above the water.
But what was that? The water grew warm and a flame sounded as it danced under the kettle. At first, the thought of a flame—fire—made her smile. But no, as the heat increased, she realized she would soon be cooked.
And then the author’s calm voice rang out, “Celestina? Where did you go?”
Could she speak? Water gurgled into her nose. Any moment it would boil. She must call out for help. But pride kept her mouth closed.
“Celestina?” the author called again. “Where are you?”
Out came a sound. Was it the tea kettle’s whistle? No, the author knew Celestina’s voice. He leaped over the tea shop counter. Wide eyed, the lady who served him moved aside. The author flung off the lid and reached his own arm into the tea kettle. He cried out as heat scalded his skin, and then he pulled Celestina out of the water.
Later that night, as she settled back into the pages of the storybook, Celestina counted herself fortunate for her thick scales that withstood the kettle’s fire. Then she thought of the author and how he’d burnt his arm saving her at just the right moment. But it was his face she would always remember; how deeply he seemed to care for her. Then she knew his goodness, and told herself that, yes, she would trust him to write the rest of the storybook.
Writing Prompt: Invent another creature from the same storybook, and write a tale about their escape, adventure, and rescue.
(Artwork Created by S. Friesen)