An excerpt from FLYING BLIND
©2011 Deborah A. Cooke
There was a guy in my bedroom.
It was six in the morning and I didn’t know him.
I’m not much of a morning person, but that woke me up fast. I sat up and stared, my back pressed against the wall, sure my eyes had to be deceiving me. No matter how much I blinked, though, he was still there.
He seemed to think my reaction was funny.
He had dark hair and dark eyes, and he wasn’t wearing a shirt, just jeans—and he had one heck of a six-pack. His arms were folded across his chest and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
But he seemed insubstantial. I could see through him, right to the crowded bulletin board behind him.
Was he real?
I was going to try asking him, but he abruptly faded—faded and disappeared right before my eyes.
As if he’d just been an illusion. I jumped from the bed, then reached into that corner. My fingers passed through a chill, one cold enough to give me goose bumps. Then my hand landed on a pushpin holding a wad of drawings and everything was perfectly normal.
Except for the hair standing up on the back of my neck.
I took a deep breath and looked around. My room was the pit it usually is. There were some snuffed candles on my desk and bookshelves, a whiff of incense lingering in the air, and the usual mess of discarded sweaters and books all over the floor.
No sign of that guy. If I hadn’t seen him, if I’d woken up two minutes later, I wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong at all.
I shuddered one last time and headed for the shower. Halfway there I wondered, Had Meagan’s plan worked?
The visioning session had been my best friend’s idea. Her mom calls herself a holistic therapist, which makes my mom roll her eyes. I was skeptical, too, but didn’t have any better ideas. And Meagan, being the best friend ever, had really pulled out all the stops. She’d brought candles and mantras and incense for my room, and even though I’d felt silly, I’d followed her earnest instructions.
When the candles had burned down and she’d left—and my mom had shouted that I should open a window—I’d been pretty sure it hadn’t worked. Nothing seemed to have happened.
But now I didn’t know what to think. Who had that guy been? Where had he come from? And where had he gone?
Or had I just imagined him? I thought that if I were going to imagine a guy in my bedroom, it wouldn’t be one who thought I was funny when I wasn’t trying to be, never mind one who kind of creeped me out.
I’d have imagined Nick there.
In fact, I frequently did.
I heard my mom in the kitchen and my dad getting the newspaper and knew I had to get moving. I did my daily check in the bathroom, but nada. No boobs. No blood.
Four more zits.
At its core, then, the visioning session had failed.
I’m probably not the only fifteen-and-a-half-year-old girl who’d like to get the Puberty Show on the road. Even Meagan got her period last year, which was why she was trying to help. But my best friend didn’t know the half of it.
That was because of the Covenant. I couldn’t confide in Meagan because I’d had to swear to abide by the Covenant of our kind. I come from a long line of dragon shape shifters—Pyr, we call ourselves—and we pledge to not reveal our abilities to humans on a whim.
That would include Meagan.
The Covenant goes like this:
I, Zoë Sorensson, do solemnly pledge not to willfully reveal the truth of my shapeshifting abilities to humans. I understand that individuals may know me in dragon form, or in human form, but I swear that I shall not permit humans to know me in both forms, or to allow them to witness my shifting between forms without appropriate assessment of risk. I understand also that there will be humans who come to know me in both forms over the course of my life – I pledge not to reveal myself without due consideration, to beguile those who inadvertently witness my abilities, and to supply the names of those humans whom I have entrusted with my truth to the leader of the Pyr, Erik Sorensson.
Do humans know we exist? Sure. Humans always have – thus the dragon stories they tell. But knowing dragons exist, believing that they are actually dragon shape shifters and being convinced that your neighbor is one of them are entirely different things.
That’s probably a good thing.
The Covenant came about pretty recently. During the Dragon’s Tail Wars, some Pyr decided they wanted to be more active and visible. My dad, though, remembers when we were hunted almost to extinction. The Covenant is a compromise, between putting it all out there and living in secret. So, humans might see Sloane on the news, appearing at the scene of natural disasters to help – he’s the tourmaline dragon – or Brandt - the orange dragon – making another daring rescue, but they don’t know their names or where they live in their human lives.
We teenage Pyr had to pledge to the Covenant after Nick tried to impress the twin girls living next door, and his dad caught him.
I still thought it was funny that they hadn’t been impressed.
I, in contrast, was awed by Nick in dragon form.
The fact is that most humans don’t believe they could personally know a dragon shape shifter. Those twins thought Nick had pulled some kind of illusion to make himself look more cool than he is.
So, in a way, we might as well be a myth.
Which is funny, if you think about it.
The trick is that the dragon business is all theoretical when it comes to me. I’m the daughter of a dragon shape shifter, so I should also be a dragon shape shifter. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Except it’s not happening. Nothing special has happened to me. I can’t do it and I don’t know why—much less what I can do to hurry things along.
Dragons are by nature patient. That’s what my dad says. He should know, seeing as he is about twelve hundred years old. That’s supposed to reassure me, but it doesn’t.
Because dragons are also passionate and inclined to anger. I know that from spending my life around all those dragon shape shifters who are my extended family. And the fact that my dragon abilities were AWOL—despite my patience—was seriously pissing me off.
The Pyr are all guys—men and their sons—except for me. The story is that there’s only one female dragon at a time, that she’s the Wyvern and has special powers.
Yours truly—I’m supposed to be the Wyvern.
The issue with there only being one female dragon shape shifter at a time is that the last one died before I was born. And it’s not like anyone has her diary. Zero references for me. Zero advice.
Just an expectation from my family and friends that I’ll become the font of all dragonesque knowledge and lead the next generation to wherever the heck we’re going.
Sooner would be better.
No pressure, right?
My dad says I was a prodigy, that I was already showing special powers before I could walk. Then I started to talk and all the Wyvern goodness went away. Poof. Instead of being special and a prodigy, I was just a normal kid.
I’m still waiting for the good stuff to come back.
No sign of it yet.
Some incremental progress would be encouraging. It’s one thing to be a disappointment to everyone you care about, and quite another to just sit back and accept that inadequacy. In fact, I was starting to think that those dragons who believed I wasn’t really the Wyvern might have it right.
Thus Meagan’s session.
An act of desperation.
Because the one thing I did know was that the other dragon teenagers like Nick had come into their powers with puberty. Their voices cracked and bingo, they were shifting shape like old pros. So being a late bloomer has bigger repercussions for me. Meagan thought we were doing the ritual for my period to start. She didn’t need to know I was after a little bit more than that.
Instead I got a guy mocking me in my own bedroom at the crack of dawn.
Like I said, it wasn’t the best way to start the day.