Taylor walked past the darkened living room, where the flickering lights of the television spackled the walls, and strode down the hall to her bedroom. She shut the door firmly behind her and flipped the light switch on. She grabbed her laptop from her desk and lay across the bed, pushing the book she had been reading out of the way and shoving it under her pillow for later. She switched the computer on and as she waited for the screen to load she reached under her bed for the half-opened bag of sweets she had left there the night before. She threw the bag of candies down onto the bed and checked the screen on her mobile phone. No messages. Not that she had been expecting any. She never received any messages these days, except for the ones her mother sent asking what she wanted for dinner, or could she pick up a carton of milk on the way home She shoved the phone into the pocket of her jeans and unwrapped a sweet.
Taylor looked up at the sound of a faint clicking noise coming from over by the window. Frowning, she popped the sweet into her mouth and dropped the wrapper onto the bed cover. She listened for a few seconds before she heard the sound again, small but distinctive. She pushed herself off the bed and walked across the room, towards the source of the noise. Her curtains were still open and the sky outside was now completely dark. Taylor reached up to grab the curtain fabric to draw the drapes shut and then stopped. There was something clinging tenaciously to the outside of the glass. Curious, she leaned in to take a closer look. A pair of brilliant green eyes blinked back at her, the expression in their depths a replica of Sox's earlier annoyance. As Taylor stared, a mouth full of tiny sharp teeth clicked open and shut – once, twice, three times, to repeat the sound she had heard.
It was the mountain dragon.
Moving carefully so as not to scare the creature, Taylor unlatched the window and pushed it open, not taking her eyes off the dragon for an instant. Slowly, slowly, she put her hand out the window and cupped her palm over the little creature. She watched from inside the glass as she shut her hand, trapping the dragon inside. It squirmed against her skin, a scratchy, uncomfortable, hot sensation, as she quickly pulled her hand back inside and shut the window with a bang.
Taylor's palm seared with a sudden white-hot pain. She shrieked and opened her hand to fling the dragon away from her, as far away as she could. She stared down at her hand, shocked and incredulous. A pink and white burn, the skin already raised, lay starkly across the middle of her palm. Taylor shook her hand quickly to try to shake away the sting. Her palm throbbed and burned as she looked around the room, searching for the dragon.
Taylor's gaze travelled over her dresser and stumbled through the chaos of hair ties, empty juice cartons, half-empty lip gloss tubes, balled up tissues, and discarded books which lay across its surface. She looked across the room at the old wardrobe that used to belong to her grandmother. It was an old, heavy oak piece of furniture with an oval mirror and Taylor had always adored it. She stared at the wardrobe, its floor-length mirror reflecting her own startled expression right back at her, and then she looked back towards the bed. Her bed cover was wrinkled and puckered from where she'd lain on it and her laptop screen shone a dull blue. And there, perched on top of the open laptop cover, was the mountain dragon.
As Taylor watched, the little creature lifted one leg and stretched it outwards, flexing its talons. It raised its tiny wings and flapped them once before folding them down again to lie close against its body. Unconcerned with its new surroundings, it opened its mouth and yawned. Slowly, not wishing to scare it away, Taylor moved across the room and sat down on the edge of the bed. Her hand rasped in pain as she touched the bed cover, and she quickly pulled it back to check on the burn. The wound was nasty and raw-looking. Taylor held her wounded hand in her good hand and gazed accusingly at the dragon. "You burnt me."
The mountain dragon blinked its eyes balefully and yawned again, its tiny tongue curling up to the roof of its mouth. It snapped shut its mouth and shook its whole body vigorously, much like a dog emerging from the water. It cocked its head to one side and stared at her, its eyes bright and intelligent. Its tiny talons pricked gently into the top of her laptop screen and Taylor could see the small indentations they made on the soft-hard plastic.
"You're very beautiful," Taylor said, as she admired the dragon's yellow scales and gossamer wings. For a fleeting moment, she wanted to reach out and stroke the creature, but the pain in her burnt hand reminded her that it wasn't a good idea to touch it. She laid her hand, palm side up, on her thigh and stared down at the blister. It seemed to throb visibly as she examined it, a pulsating testament to pain.
"Oh!" Taylor started as the mountain dragon suddenly launched itself from the top of the laptop lid and flew at her, missing her head by inches. She jumped up from the bed to watch the creature's erratic flight across her bedroom. Its wings were a blur as it propelled itself through the air to land on a string of plastic beads that Taylor had slung across her wardrobe mirror. It clung there, swaying gently, its claws gripped tightly around the bright pink plastic beads.
Taylor followed the dragon across the room to stand in front of the mirror. The creature's eyes were vivid and piercing as it stared back at her and as she watched, a tiny plume of smoke drifted languidly out of each nostril to hang briefly in the air before dispersing. Out of the corner of her eye, Taylor saw something move in the mirror and she turned her head quickly to meet her own blue-eyed gaze.