Shaylin had been sleepwalking since she was four years old. Her parents had thought it cute until she’d fallen in the bathroom when she was six and they’d woken to her bloodcurdling screams. They didn’t think the emergency-room doctor had quite believed them when they’d explained the goose egg on her forehead.
The dragon was beautiful emerald green with a silver belly. She was happy to see him as he often visited her dreams. This was the first time he had offered her the power of flight, however, and she was excited.
When Shay was nine, she had managed to sleepwalk her way out of the apartment. Her mother rose to use the restroom and found the front door wide open. Panicked, she dashed into the corridor in naught but her underwear and a tank top. She found Shay at the end of the hall, sleeping against the door to the roof. As she carried the child back to their apartment, she had mumbled in her sleep, “Come back and play with me, dragon.” The following morning, upon being asked about the dragon, Shay had said it was just a dream and that she knew dragons weren’t real.
‘Will I be safe?’ she asked the dragon in her dream, knowing that she would go with him regardless.
Do you not trust me, child?
‘You have never even told me your name. And I have never actually seen you fly. What reason have I to trust you?’
But I have never harmed you, have I? Even as I could, and with ease.
Shay smiled, feeling mischievous. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her, he’d been visiting her dreams since she had been a little girl.
Three years after her mother found her sleeping in the hallway, Shay was stopped in the lobby by a janitor. He didn’t realize she was sleepwalking and had taken her by the arm as she headed for the front doors which led out onto the busy city street.
She was jarred from her sleep and not knowing the man, or even realizing where she was, she had gone into hysterics. The police had arrived by the time her parents realized the girl was gone. They spent several hours being questioned first by the police and then again by child services, who still had a file on them from the ER incident when she was six.
Shay participated in sleep studies; suffered CT scans, MRIs, and EEGs but no doctor was able to determine anything other than that she had vivid dreams and appeared to be acting them out, walking and talking in her sleep. She was prescribed a light sleep aid and her parents were instructed to limit her television and computer use for two hours before bedtime.
Shay squinted up at the dragon. The morning sun reflected off his metallic belly and very nearly blinded her. ‘How did you find me?’
You called me to you.
‘When I was a child?’
Indeed. You wanted a friend, then. Now that you’re older, you desire assistance.
Shay frowned. ‘Assistance for what?’
He looked at the door that led from the roof to the apartments below.
You desire freedom. Autonomy. I can help you, but you must come with me.
Shay also glanced at the door. She thought she heard her parents calling to her from the other side. She did want freedom, but she would have it soon, wouldn’t she? When she went to college? If they let her stay in the dorms, of course.
If you have changed your mind, I will take my leave.
The dragon began to turn away, and Shay’s heart pounded. ‘Wait!’
His great head swung back toward her. Choose.
‘What will I owe you for your assistance?’
‘What does that mean?’
Shay tired of tests and doctors and medications. She grew resentful of her parents never allowing her to sleep over at a friend’s house because they thought she would wander away in the night. She couldn’t wait to leave home and go to school, get a job.
Despite their statements about her staying at home as she attended the local college, Shay had other plans. She would escape her parents and their stifling attention. Their suffocating concern.
She would be free.
Stepping onto the dragon’s foreleg, Shay pushed herself onto his back just as he jumped from the building. Her stomach leapt into her throat, and she felt a moment of sheer terror as she clutched at the dragon. Then he spread his powerful wings and their fall toward the sidewalk below transformed into flight. They shot into the sky.
Shay laughed with delight as her hair snapped in the wind. The feeling was glorious.
She spread her arms wide and closed her eyes, exhilarated by the dragon’s speed as it flew toward the rising sun.
Shay woke as she was about to step from the roof of the apartment building. Blinded by the rising sun, she jerked and very nearly fell anyway. She sat down hard and gripped the cold bricks of the low wall at the edge of the roof, tears in her eyes as she recalled the dream’s offer of freedom.
That wasn’t the freedom she desired. She stumbled to her feet, shocked by what had almost happened. She had to tell her parents, though she knew that this would only strengthen their fears.
Perhaps it was time for her to grow up and accept that her dreams might very well kill her.
Paige Vest has been telling stories since she was a child who loved to listen to tales of Middle Earth and Narnia. She tells her own stories today to quiet the voices in her head. At work on the second novel of a YA trilogy, Paige is thrilled that her first story published in print will appear in Fiction War Magazine.
A resident of Southern New Mexico, Paige’s superpower is that of a single mom of a wonderful 22-year old daughter. She is confident that living in the ‘Land of Enchantment’ will one day result in finding her own magic ring and/or wardrobe.
Her cats enjoy lounging on her laptop as she writes. They also listen to baseball games with her but since they never celebrate when the Yankees win, Paige fears that they’re secretly Red Sox fans.
Flight of Freedom is a Fiction War Finalist entry.
Please do not reproduce without permission from the author.
Originally published at fictionwar.com. Image credit: