When the Dragon Falls
When the Dragon Falls – Excerpt
Tam found the fossil jutting from the crumbling slope above the lake.
The day was hot, the air thick with humidity and gnats. Chasing along the trails had left Tam red faced and sweaty. So he thrust through the tangle of hawthorn and started down the slope towards the glass-flat lake.
The fossil was in full view. The slate had slipped away, and the long, fossilised bone stared up at him.
The others gathered around quickly.
“A dragon,” gasped seven-year-old Rosie, wide-eyed. She was the youngest of them, and she had tagged along all morning like a burr in a dog’s tail.
“A dinosaur,” Josh said. At thirteen, a full year older than Tam, Josh knew everything.
Tam wasn’t so sure. He didn’t know what it was, but he did know one thing. He had found it. It was his.
Lisa rolled her eyes and stepped over the fossil. “Are we going swimming or not?” Her long hair was stuck to her sweaty neck.
“Not yet,” Tam said, dropping to his knees. The fossilised bone ridged from a bed of dark grey slate. The same bed disappeared beneath the loose scree a couple of yards further up the slope. Tam brushed the fragments away with his hand. “There could be more of it.”
“God, who cares?” Lisa said. “It’s just a bone.”
There were sounds in the night, and shapes that flitted across Tam’s peripheral vision, and lights that blinked and were gone before he could focus on them. Bats chasing fireflies across the lake, he told himself. But he got up from his sweat-damp sheets and crossed the room to the window, and watched the flickering lights and flitting shapes and listened to the sounds, because they might not be. They still might not be.
“Who’s for swimming?” Tam’s dad said.
Rosie jumped up from the breakfast table, sending eggshell scattering across the wood. “Me. Me. I’m going to wear my mermaid costume and swim underwater for a mile.”
Tam’s dad laughed.
“Anyone else? How about you, Tam? Lisa? Josh?”
They all nodded.
“Good,” Tam’s dad said, rubbing his hands. “It’s going to be a scorcher. We’ll swim and play football and see who can build the biggest sandcastle.”
Tam’s mum eased herself from the table. “Not me and Dan,” she said. “We’re going for a hike.”
“Again, Maria?” Tam’s dad said.
Tam’s mum tightened her lips. “Yes, again. We like hiking. At least Dan doesn’t just sit around all day letting himself get fat.”
Rosie pushed in between them. “Can I come hiking too, Mum? Oh, please.”
“No, petal,” Tam’s mum said. “You go to the beach with your father.”
Rosie’s face fell, her round cheeks pouted out. Tam knew what would happen next. Tears and a tantrum and a day of sulks. “Why not?” Rosie said.
“You couldn’t keep up. Not where we’re going.”
“Yes, I could, I–”
Tam’s dad scooped Rosie up. “The lake’ll be more fun, rosebud.” He rubbed his greying beard against her neck until she giggled. Then he looked across at Josh and Lisa’s mum. “Just you, me, and the kids, Annie. Again.”
Continue reading this story in Bone Roads: Nine Stories of Magic and Wonder, available as an ebook.