I once belonged to an international writing group. Each week we were given a phrase or topic to write about. The idea was to write without major outline or plotting. Shoot from the hip, so to speak. It was called the Elevator Exercise, but being as I am not from North America, I used the more-familiar “lift”. Here goes…
The light above the lift doors flashed ‘3’ and the bell pinged as the doors slid open. I stepped into the conveyance and felt my high heels sink into the deep pile of the richly patterned carpet. Turning to the control panel I pressed ’17’, and smiled quietly to myself.
“Watch where you put those things!” said a gravelly little voice. “I am still recovering from a nasty occupational accident and you seem intent on impaling me like a kebab!”
I froze. The voice was coming from near my feet. I held my breath and swivelled my eyes downwards. At first, I could not make out the shape against the bold patterns in the carpet – then my eyes focussed.
A small vermilion and green creature was glaring up at me. Scaly, winged, and with an impatiently flicking tail covered in nasty spikes.
“What are you staring at?” it said. “Never seen a Snap Dragon before?”
“Er… no. Can’t say I have,” I replied. I gulped and tried to think of a polite conversation that would suit the reptilian creature confronting me.
“Well, get a good look before I vanish. I am trying to make my way out of this benighted city and happened upon this vehicle. It appears as if it will take me to a high spot from whence I shall launch myself once more into the sky.” The Snap Dragon gave a lazy flick of its tail and slyly watched my face to gauge my reaction.
“How… very… ah… enterprising of you, finding a lift to get up as high as possible,” I remarked, feeling really stupid talking to the animal. Thank goodness there was no-one else in the lift. “Um… how did you get here in the first place?” I asked.
“We were doing a night flight and I lost contact with the rest of my fellow dragons. I tried to see where they had disappeared but was blinded by the lights blazing up from this city. I never saw it, I really did not! But the next moment there was this tall building right in my path and I slammed into it. I fell all the way down to the street, tumbling and howling for help. Of course, nobody listens to anything here, so there was no stampede to come to my assistance. I landed in the litter bins at the back of this ugly tower. What a stink! Humans are filthy creatures!” The Snap Dragon shuddered.
“Oh, poor thing,” I exclaimed. “Did you get hurt? Can I help in any way?”
“No, thanks. I think I sustained minimal damage. There are sure to be bruises but they never show up against the colours of my armour. Mind you, my flame could be extinguished. Stand back while I test it.” The little dragon turned, opened its mouth and emitted a splutter. “Damn! I knew it! Blasted thing is out! Do you have a light?”
I stared blankly. A light? Then I realised what it was asking. Fiddling in my shoulder bag I hauled out my ancient Zippo lighter and bent down to the dragon.
“What should I do?” I asked. The creature stared at me as if I was the most stupid person on earth.
“Well, dearie. How about I open my mouth and you flick that thing and we’ll see what happens, OK?”
I held the lighter near its nose and flicked. The Snap Dragon opened its mouth and breathed hard. A spark ignited its breath and a flame shot out. The hairs on the back of my hand fizzled and the wood panelling in the line of fire blistered from the heat.
“Ahh! Much better! I feel whole again. Thanks.” The dragon preened its webby wings and shook itself. “The pilot light inside me is a tad delicate, shall we say? I hate when it goes out. ‘Tis such a mission to find a reliable source of re-ignition. Some of our guys have been badly hurt trying to catch lightning bolts. They leave such a nasty burn!
“Ah! Your stop, I believe.” The dragon motioned to the illuminated “17” on the panel. “Well, great to meet you. Have a nice life. Oh, and thanks for the light.”
I paused, absorbing a last glimpse of the fantastical little creature. Then I stepped out the lift and turned to watch the doors close.
“Bye!” I said. “Have a good flight!”
© FIONA TIPPING. 2000