Chronicles of the Dragon Runner, lap 1: An Unusual POV

“Well, Vern – ”

“Well?” Vern returned Carl’s look of mischievous intent. Every time the old feller gave that look, he dropped a line that was so heavily baited it could snap a tree trunk. Thank heavens he only did it when the Coffee Stop was dead – usually Sunday mornings, while most of the town was attending church services. The only other people there were a young couple talking quietly over lattés in the corner.

“What do you think of Heidi’s take on getting involved in Syria?”

Vern sighed heavily. Politics. Democratic senators in a red state, that’s how it had been for years. The last two had both retired, and now Heidi Heitkamp was in, and was pushing for diplomacy in Syria. She said that Syria should be given 45 days to sign the international ban on chemical weapons – as if that would bring back any of the innocent people they’d killed. He topped off Carl’s coffee while weighing his thoughts. He was being baited, sure; but he was also young, opinionated, and he was ready to rise to the challenge.

“I don’t think -”

The ground shook.The lights flickered, the porcelain coffee cups tinkled in the dish racks; one of them fell and smashed on the linoleum. The front of the shop darkened momentarily as though the morning sun had been blown right out of the sky, and then it returned.

A shadow. If that was a shadow then it was the biggest damn shadow that Vern had ever seen fall over the corner café. His first thought was that one of the planes flying into Bismarck Airport had come down; they always flew low over the city, which was why nothing was allowed to be taller than the Capitol, but it wasn’t nearly loud enough to be a crash. Maybe a train had jumped the tracks that ran behind the Coffee Stop? Somewhere down the line, perhaps? Outside, the air echoed with a hundred car alarms going off at once, and Carl had disappeared. Verne popped over the counter, looking down.

Carl hadn’t disappeared; he’d hit the deck. “Well?” Verne said. “S’pose you’ll have to go wash your shorts.”

Carl looked up nervously, grinning. “I don’t know what the heck that was, but it scared the bejeezus outta . . . ”

The next noise scared the bejeezus out of Verne, too. It reminded him vaguely of the sound of metal ripping, like you hear it in the movies when bridges or buildings fall, sort of a low screeching that vibrated the little hairs in your ears, making them tickle. It started relatively soft, increasing in volume until it threatened to blow out the windows, which were vibrating even more than when bass-booming SUVs sat at the traffic light outside. Boom. The ground shook. Boom. It shook again. Just like Jurassic Park. Damn the movies, Verne thought. The things running through his head, he knew they were impossible.

The couple in the corner had already run out like yesterday’s news, and now Carl was at the window, pale as a ghost. Verne had heard one time that getting pale when you were scared – that was because the body drew the blood into the muscles so they could work faster: the fight or flight response. Carl looked back at Verne, mouth gaping. Verne came around the counter to the windows looking out on Main Street. What he saw . . . 

Fight or flight. Maybe a little bit of both?

“Well what the heck . . . ” Verne had no way to finish the question, no way to put into words the proper query for why there was a dragon walking down Main Street. Stalking actually, like a predatory cat – and it seemed to be following a mohawked runner who zipped past the windows in running shorts, a tight compression shirt, and earphones.

“Woohoo!!” The runner crowed as he sped down Main Street.

“What the heck. . . ” Vern was otherwise speechless as the giant creature strode past. Carl was gibbering, pointing at the ginormous scaly legs, the lithe, swishing tail – the world had gone and went ass-over-tits crazy;

and on a Sunday morning, no less.

Flickr Chinese Dragon Year Statue
(Photo credit:

Rob slapped at his ear. The buzzing from his left earbud was pissing him off, but there was nothing to be done about it; he refused to stop running in order to take care of it.

I should have bought the sweat-resistant earbuds, he thought. At the store, however, he had decided that “sweat-resistant” was a gimmicky claim they had used to price those earbuds twenty dollars higher than the ones he had decided to get, which were noise reducing earbuds – that meant more tunes in his ears and less outside noise. He turned off the music to stop the buzzing but left the buds in, focusing on his form, keeping his legs going and his feet pounding the pavement. He was in the zone.

His running app offered up an audio cue. Time: fifteen minutes. Distance: two-point-one-five miles. Average pace: six minutes, fifty-nine seconds per mile. He had just smashed the seven-minute mile for the first time in five years of serious running.

Rob whooped at the top of his lungs; he didn’t care if everyone on Main Street heard him – those who weren’t in church, which was like maybe a dozen people. There was a couple looking at him like he was crazy. He nodded a greeting and kept running. Then the earbud actually shocked his ear.

Annoyed at the spark of pain in his ear, he tore the earbud out and sound came crashing in; apparently, there was a lot more going on than he’d realized. Turning his head, he saw the dragon loping along behind him.

There was a dragon chasing him; it was frickin’ huge. He couldn’t process it. A car pulled up and paced him on the empty street. The passenger window rolled down, and a lady yelled out at him. “Don’t stop! If you stop, it will attack.”

“I’m not stopping, there’s a dragon chasing me!”

“It’s not chasing you, it’s following you!”

“What’s the difference?” There was a kid standing on the sidewalk in the distance, unmoving. Crap, Rob thought, I’ll have to try and save that . . . it wasn’t a kid, though – it was a midget. Or a little person, whatever you call them. He was crouching now, one hand on the ground and the other outstretched, his face pinched in a look of intense concentration.

“Keep going!”

Rob ran around him. There was a blast of wind, and he risked another look back. The dragon was gone, the little guy was looking back at him. He was safe – and going straight home.

The lady in the car caught up with him on the way. Rob pretended not to notice; things like this didn’t happen. They didn’t. “Let’s talk about what just happened,” the lady called out to him.

“I’ve got nothing to say.”

“You can’t hide from this. If you’re not careful it can happen again.”

Rob stopped. What was she saying? “Are you saying that I did that? How could I have done that?”

The lady pulled up. “There’s a way to find out.”

No way. “You’re crazy, and I’m going home.” Rob walked off, annoyed.

“I’ll see you around!”

“I hope not!”

A dragon, Rob thought. What the heck?

This post was just for fun and prompted by this week’s What If? Writing Challenge.

What if? Weekly writing challenge


  1. That was a lot of fun to read. I thought it was great how you left it open for more story or was that just a mysterious ending. Very nice. Thanks for linking to the challenge

  2. Interesting interpretation of the challenge …. certainly leaves room for many possibilities and further writing, if you wish 🙂

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