Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used a picture prompt (“time”) this week. Here's the picture:
We descended deeper and deeper under the ground. Shane kept his hand on my shoulder while I brushed my hand along the stone wall. No matter how much I strained my eyes, the darkness remained pitch-black. The stench grew in intensity.
At one point, I stopped and coughed. The cough turned into retching. I panted and swallowed convulsively, not wanting to give in. Wouldn't that just be the cherry on the cake? Me vomiting like some delicate little thing?
Shane laid his other hand on my shoulder, pushed me sideways, and said, “Come on, Gil, get it out of your system.”
I shook my head, then realized he couldn't see that, and answered, “No.”
I gritted my teeth and balled my hands into fists. How I hated when he sounded slightly bemused but still sure I'd comply anyway. I aimed for a reasonable voice, when I said, “We don't have time for this crap.”
“Time won't be an issue here. This is your insecurity talking.”
I bristled. How dare he? He just appeared out of nowhere a day ago, in a German Shepherd puppy form nonetheless, after I believed him dead for months, and now he was berating me?
I knocked my elbow into his belly. He grunted, but let go of me. I stumbled farther down the stairs, tears streaking down my cheeks from struggling against the bile pushing up into my throat and mouth.
“Gil!” Shane called. “Don't run away! Please, sweetheart, stay close to me.”
Oh, fuck him. Fuck everyone, but especially this damn, unbearable stench.
My left foot connected with something solid and I tripped, yelling in fear and surprise. I landed on something large.
“B-be careful! There's something on the stairs,” I called back.
I pulled myself onto my hands and knees, tentatively touching whatever it was I'd landed on. It was cool to the touch, but if I wasn't mistaken, the huge something was covered in scales. My breathing stuttered then accelerated. A dragon. Did I seriously fall onto a dragon?
“S-Shane?” I squeaked when Shane's footsteps came to a halt and only my breathing was audible.
“I'm here. Please stay where you are so I can find you,” Shane said.
“Is this... is this a dragon?” I whispered.
“Yes, but it's dead. Hence the stench. Maybe that one’s a family member, or an earlier mate of the black dragon outside. That would explain why he's so aggressive. Dragons protect their dead,” Shane explained.
“That's... very considerate of them,” I said.
“Considerate?” Shane snorted.
“Would you prefer compassionate?”
“I never thought of a dragon in conjunction with either of those words,” Shane said.
His hand closed around my ankle and I yelped, even though I knew it could only be him. He slid up behind me and pulled me into a tight embrace. Forgetting all about my earlier irritation, I clung to him.
“Why did you run away?” Shane asked. “It's dangerous, sweetheart.”
“I was pissed off at you. I think I still am.”
Shane sighed. “You've got every reason to be mad at me. Could you just cut down on the flouncing off until we're back home? Just so I have a chance to get you back to safety and explain?”
I nodded against his collarbone. “I think I can do that. Can we get down from... from this thing now? Please?”
Without another word, Shane grabbed my hand and guided me from the dragon's body. My knees shook when my feet touched a stone step again. I slapped a hand over my mouth, but Shane wrapped an arm around my waist, pushed me ahead and then doubled me over. I retched until my stomach was sore and my eyes swollen.