Windchaser

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 25, 2017

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Submitted: October 25, 2017

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Simon arrived home from school, kicked off his shoes without untying the laces and ran upstairs to the bathroom so that he could take off his wet uniform and dry off. It was pouring with rain outside and looked like night time, even though it was only four o'clock.

 

His mum was working long hours as a receptionist at the local doctor's surgery and his dad, who had not had a job for ages, was decorating the kitchen downstairs. At least it meant there was someone home when he finished school, which was better than letting himself into a cold, dark, empty house as he used to. He still had a front door key, from the time when both his mum and dad had jobs, which seemed quite grown up at the age of eleven.

 

Simon was always glad to be home and away from St. George's school. Other children made fun of him a lot. Sometimes they would laugh at his thick mop of black hair, which he never brushed. At other times they would call him names because of his uniform. The trousers were much too big and dragged on the floor so that they became very dirty, especially in winter. His jumper had holes at the elbows and old food stains down the front, dried egg and tomato sauce mainly. Even his tie was different. It was plain black, while everybody else wore a blue and green striped tie. His mum had said they couldn't afford anything else.

 

The only thing people didn't laugh at were his trainers. Partly because they were hidden by his massive trousers but also because they were Nike. His dad had got them for him a few months ago. They hadn't come in a box, but that didn't bother Simon. He loved them. When they were new he loved to smell the leather when he was alone in his room and regularly wore them with his pyjamas when he went to bed. They were dirty now and well used as he had worn them every single day, but they were even more comfortable and still Simon's pride and joy.

 

When he had finished drying his hair in the bathroom, he picked up his wet uniform and ran, wearing just underpants and trainers, across the landing into his own room. Dumping the clothes at the foot of his bed ready for morning, he took his red pyjamas from under the duvet and put them on. His room was cold and he left his pyjamas there every morning so that they wouldn't feel damp when he got home from school.

 

He sat by the window and turned on his small radio. It was set to a station which told a part of a story every day at half past four. Today was the final episode of 'Alien Friend', the story of an RAF fighter pilot who saw a u.f.o. and had made friends with the aliens inside.

 

There were still a few minutes to go before the final episode started and Simon stared up at the rain and the dark sky while a woman read out a recipe for pancakes on the radio. The wind was getting stronger outside and the rain shifted in lines this way and that. It looked like a storm was brewing. In the distance the sky flashed with lightning, followed a few seconds later by a loud rumble of thunder.

 

High up in the air Simon saw a large bird flying in circles above the house. As he stared at it, he began to think that maybe it was in trouble because of the strong wind and heavy rain. At times it appeared to be trying to fly away, only to be blown back again to the same position. Simon was gripped by the struggle as he watched. He wanted to reach up and bring it inside but it was much too high.

 

Suddenly, the sky overhead flashed with blinding fork lightning. Simon jumped out of his skin and for a moment he could not see properly. Almost immediately a roll of thunder boomed overhead so that the bedroom window shook violently. As his vision returned to normal, Simon looked up to the bird again, but it had gone. He searched the sky, pressing his face against the cold window to look as far to the left and right as possible. Nothing.

 

A movement caught Simon's eye down on the ground in the small yard at the back of his house. In the corner of the yard, lying next to a rusty old bicycle, lay the bird. But it was a strange looking bird, the like of which Simon had not seen before. As it lay on the ground, on its back, Simon noticed a wisp of smoke rising from one of its outstretched wings. It was clearly in trouble and Simon guessed that it must have been struck by the lightning. He had to go and help.

 

Not wanting his father to see the bird, Simon crept downstairs, quietly opened the front door and ran round the side of the house to the back yard. It was still pouring with rain and his pyjamas almost immediately became soaked. With the wind blowing so hard, it felt absolutely freezing, as Simon stepped over the old bicycle to see if the bird was alive.

 

He was not prepared for what he saw lying on the ground.

 

There was no bird lying injured on the ground. Instead, Simon found himself looking at a creature he had only ever seen in books. Not school books or reference books, but in books of adventure and legends. The type of book he loved to read. The creature lying on its back upon the ground was a dragon. Not a huge, ferocious beast, but a small, beautiful dragon, the size of a heron or a large raven. Its body was covered in tiny scales of a hundred colours ~ red, gold, amber, turquoise. All shimmering under the drops of rain which lay upon it. The wings, too, were like outstretched rainbows, but one of them had been damaged. A hole had been burned right through it by the lightning. The body of the dragon was slender and a delicate tail twisted on the floor to a sharp point, like the head of a small arrow. The tail shifted slowly, like a tiny snake. The dragon's chest rose and fell weakly.

 

Simon could tell it had been badly hurt and thought that it might be close to dying. He looked at the elegant features of the dragon's face. Tiny white teeth, and piercing golden eyes which revealed themselves as the lids slowly opened and closed in pain.

 

Gently, Simon reached down and scooped the dragon up into his hands. He had forgotten how cold it was and realised now that he was shivering. The dragon must be cold too, he thought, I must get it inside. Holding it close to his chest he made his way back to the front door, peered round to check his dad was still in the kitchen, then dashed upstairs to his room and shut the door behind him.

 

The warmest place Simon could think of was beneath the duvet. He climbed underneath and lay the dragon on its back, holding the duvet up so that the dragon could breathe more easily. The colours of the dragon's scales glowed bright in the dark so that Simon felt like he was in a magical cave. Reaching out to the floor, Simon fumbled to find one of his socks, (he could think of nothing else), and carefully wiped away the raindrops until the dragon looked dry. But Simon was not a doctor, nor was he a vet, and he could think of no way to heal the damaged wing. Instead, Simon lay beneath the duvet, still and quiet, for hours, hoping that the beautiful creature would recover.

 

****

 

Without realising it, Simon had fallen asleep. When he woke, he was still beneath the duvet, as warm as toast, but the duvet now lay flat upon him and the sudden realisation that the dragon may have suffocated made him jump up and he threw the duvet to the bottom of the bed.

 

The tiny dragon was not there.

 

It was still dark in the room. Morning had not yet come. A thought came into Simon's head that perhaps it had been a dream. Perhaps he had fallen asleep while waiting for the final episode of the radio story, when a voice whispered to him from the other side of the room.

 

'Thank you for your help,' said the quiet voice in a strange accent.

Simon looked toward the window and saw, sat upon the sill, the beautiful creature he had rescued from the storm. Its head was held high and proud, and its eyes glistened gold in the darkness. Simon could only stare in wonder.

 

'I would have surely died if you had not helped me,' the dragon went on, 'the lightning had broken my wing and I could not move.'

 

Still Simon stared. It seemed very strange to see a creature talking, albeit a dragon. At last, Simon swallowed hard and managed to speak. 'Where are you from?' he asked, making sure to whisper so that his mum and dad would not hear him talking.

'I am from the clouds. All dragons live within the clouds. My grandfather told me that we used to live in mountains but humans hunted us down until there were only a few of us left. So, we hide in the clouds now and go wherever the winds take us.'

There was a hint of sadness in the dragon's voice and a silence as the two stared at each other.

 

'Why are you so small?' Simon asked.

'I am still very young, for a dragon,' came the reply. 'I am only fifteen years old. I will not be fully grown until I reach the age of five hundred years.'

Five hundred years! Simon could not imagine what it would be like to be that old, but he guessed that the dragon would be very, very big by that time.

The dragon spoke again, 'My name is Keku Theodore Windchaser. You may call me Keku.'

'My name is Simon James Robertson,' Simon answered, 'people just call me Simon. They also call me Tramp and Baggy Pants but I don't like those names.'

'Then I shall call you Simon,' said Keku.

 

Simon asked many questions and Keku answered them all. Keku asked many questions too, mainly about why humans hunted other creatures. Simon answered as best he could but felt a little guilty when he admitted that he ate animals like sheep and pigs and cows. The two talked until the sun came up. Simon realised he had not eaten tea last night and suddenly felt very hungry. He was glad that he usually ate cereal for breakfast and not bacon and eggs.

 

'I must go to school in a couple of hours,' Simon told Keku. 'Will you be here when I get back? Or do you have to go home to the clouds so that the other dragons do not worry about you?'

 

Keku thought for a moment. 'I cannot go home yet. My wing is healing but I still cannot fly. My mother or father will have to come and get me. Perhaps I could go to school with you until they arrive?'

 

Simon thought how great it would be to take Keku to school, but remembered some of the nasty students there and what they might do to him. 'Some of the other students might try to take you or even hurt you,' Simon told him.

'Then I will make myself invisible and sit upon your shoulder,' suggested Keku. 'I am not very powerful, but there is some magic that I can do. Perhaps I will be able to thank you for your kindness by teaching some of the bullies a lesson or two.'

 

And so it was decided. Simon went downstairs and had a bowl of cereal and milk. His mum had already gone to work an early shift and dad was still in bed. He ate as quickly as possible, ran upstairs, changed into his scruffy uniform and left home for school, with Keku perched invisibly upon his shoulder.

 

****

 

Mrs. Turner took registration as normal in the form room. It had not been raining on the way to school and Simon was glad that Keku would still be dry. He could feel the dragon's claws gripping firmly onto his shoulder. It hurt just a little bit but he did not mind.

 

First lesson was silent reading with Mr. Burke, the English teacher. Simon enjoyed reading quietly but was too often disturbed by some of the other boys who would throw pieces of rubber at him or fire small pieces of wet paper at him through empty biro cases. He hoped that today would be different.

 

The class sat quietly at first as Mr. Burke paced around the room, checking that everyone had a suitable book. As usual, a piece of rubber flew across the classroom behind Mr. Burke's back and hit Simon in the face. Simon said nothing. He had given up telling the teacher as he seemed to do nothing about it. But Keku had seen the boy who threw the rubber. Simon also knew it was Alex Cross, one of the toughest boys in the year. Keku whispered into Simon's ear, 'Watch this,' and cast a silent spell.

 

Mr. Burke turned to pace to the back of the room once more, but stopped as he passed next to Alex Cross. 'Stand up Alex,' said Mr. Burke, and all the class turned to see what was going on. Alex stood slowly with an arrogant look on his face. The whole of the class burst out laughing. Alex looked perfectly normal in his trendy jumper and Kicker shoes, but he was not wearing any trousers. Instead, all the class could see Alex's boxer shorts, covered in a lovely pattern of pink rabbits and large carrots. Mr. Burke's mouth dropped in horror and Alex blushed until his face was scarlet. Even Simon joined in the laughter a little. It was very funny. But he also knew what it was like to be laughed at and stopped while the rest of the class carried on.

 

Mr. Burke sent Alex to the school's reception to put on a pair of trousers from the lost property. When he returned he was wearing a pair of trousers that looked five sizes too big at least. The whole class laughed again and it took a long time for Mr. Burke to settle them down. Only Simon knew what had happened and he smiled quietly to himself as he carried on reading his book in silence.

 

****

 

Next lesson was Science. Alex Cross entered the room much quieter than normal. Mrs. Baxter told everyone to find a partner. As usual Simon found himself on his own. Each desk had four test tubes in a rack, prepared with different coloured liquids in each. The class was going to experiment by mixing the liquids and writing down what happened. Each pair had to collect some paper from Mrs. Baxter's desk and when Simon returned to his own desk he saw that one of the test tubes had been half-emptied into his school bag. He looked inside to find his books and PE kit covered with red stains.

 

Normally he would have told Mrs. Baxter. She was a nice teacher and would at least try to help him clean it up. But this time Simon said nothing. He knew that Keku would have seen the offender and waited eagerly to see what would happen.

'Watch this,' Keku said again in a hushed voice.

 

Keku used his silent magic once more. Graham Gordon was sat at the back of the class and he had poured the red liquid into Simon's school bag. Simon watched out of the corner of his eye. Graham Gordon was still laughing with his partner as he explained the prank he had played on Simon when, without warning, a green liquid erupted from one of the test tubes in front of him, covering his face and hair. There was a shocked silence as everyone turned to look at him. Graham Gordon sat, frozen to his seat. He looked like a Brussels sprout, green ooze all over his hair and dripping from the end of his nose. The class roared with laughter. Simon could not help but laugh with everyone else but again he was the first to stop as Mrs. Baxter sent Graham to the toilet to wash. 'Don't worry,' said Keku, 'it was only washing up liquid. I made sure it didn't go in his eyes. He'll be as clean as a whistle when he comes back.'

 

And he certainly was. His hair was fluffy like a new-born baby and his cheeks were pink, partly through embarrassment. He sat down quietly at the back of the class, looking down at the floor. The giggles from the others lasted until the end of the lesson.

 

****

 

History passed without incident, although students were still whispering about Alex Cross's boxer shorts and Graham Gordon's sprout head. It was lunchtime now, a time Simon usually dreaded. The older students, away from the eyes of the teachers, regularly made Simon's lunchtime miserable. Only yesterday, a year 11 student had tied Simon to the tennis court fence and pulled his trousers down. He had got soaked and was not released until Mrs. Belling, the headteacher, had noticed him while walking round the school in the afternoon. He had been there for over half an hour.

 

Simon had no money for the canteen and never brought sandwiches. If he got up early enough to make them he would just be in somebody's way at home. So he sat on a bench, watching a game of football in the yard and whispering to Keku about what school was like and how much he wished the others would leave him alone. 'Are you hungry?' asked Keku.

'I suppose so,' Simon answered, making sure nobody was watching, 'but I'm used to not having lunch.'

Keku whispered a word that Simon did not understand. 'Look in your bag,' the tiny dragon said.

Simon did so. The first thing he noticed was that all the red liquid had disappeared from his books and sports gear. Then he noticed something else. There was a large red apple, a lump of fresh cheese and a crusty piece of warm bread. Simon loved cheese and started to eat great chunks straight away, making sure to thank Keku just before he sunk his teeth into the first tasty bite. The apple was sweet and juicy. Delicious. Simon was not surprised that Keku had not given him a bacon sandwich. He guessed that all dragons must be vegetarians, not at all like the old stories told.

 

As he finished the last piece of apple and walked over to a bin to throw away the core, Simon found himself surrounded by four, tall year 11 boys. 'Give us a quid and we'll leave you alone,' said the leader. Simon didn't know his name, but it was obvious that the others followed him everywhere. These boys knew by now that Simon never had any money. All they really wanted was an excuse to punish him.

'I haven't got a quid,' Simon honestly and simply replied.

The leader nodded at two of the others, who grabbed Simon by the arms and dragged him all the way across the sports field to the centre of the rugby pitch, where a large, deep puddle had formed after the storm. Simon closed his eyes and held his breath in preparation for being thrown in head first.

 

However, the loud splash he heard was not himself falling into the muddy pool. As Simon opened his eyes he saw the four year 11's  face down in the mud. They were struggling to stand up but for some reason kept falling over again and again. They looked like something out of a comedy film and a good crowd gathered round to watch the spectacle. The mud was flying everywhere and the year 11 boys were covered from head to toe. They had probably bullied plenty of other students in their time, and now there were dozens of victims standing in a circle, laughing uncontrollably. Simon really didn't like these boys at all and this time laughed as long as everybody else, until Mr. Burke and Mr. Cheeseman, the PE teacher, came along and took the older boys away to explain themselves. Most of the other students agreed it had been the best lunchtime in ages.

 

****

 

Last lesson in the afternoon was PE. Simon was not the best athlete in the world but had always been willing to try when he first started school. However, Mr. Cheeseman often made him play with a girls' team and would turn a blind eye if one of the other boys called Simon a name or fouled him during rugby or football. It had reached the stage where Simon would just stand near the touchline and freeze to death. Nobody ever passed to him and, if the ball came near, even his own team mates would tackle him. Mr. Cheeseman never said anything to stop them. He seemed more concerned with impressing the girls who all thought he was gorgeous.

 

Simon told Keku all about this and that he would sometimes say he'd forgotten his kit, just to get out of it. It would mean a detention, but at least he was usually on his own during detentions.

All Keku said was, 'I think you should go to your PE lesson, Simon. It's important to exercise. Besides, I think Mr. Cheeseman may be a little different today.'

 

The class were changed into their kits and waiting on the field when Mr. Cheeseman came running out, ready to start the lesson. He was wearing his usual brightly coloured rugby shirt, a whistle and stopwatch hung around his neck. Simon thought it was strange that his bleached blonde hair never moved, even when it was very windy. It always looked perfect. Simon also thought it strange that Mr. Cheeseman always looked orange and guessed he must have used a sunbed regularly.

 

As Mr. Cheeseman got closer, the whole class went silent and gaped in amazement at what he was wearing. For, as well as the usual rugby shirt, Mr. Cheeseman was wearing the largest pair of  frilly knickers you have ever seen. They were bright pink and reached right down to his knees. He stopped running as he noticed the students staring at him, and looked down at his legs. He saw, for the first time, the enormous pink knickers that the students were staring at. His eyes opened in horror and he looked at the class, opening his mouth as if to give some sort of explanation, but no words would come out. It was probably the first time Simon had seen a teacher stuck for words. Instead, Mr. Cheeseman turned and ran, all the way back to the staff changing rooms.

 

The class were stunned into silence. As was the headteacher, Mrs. Belling, who saw Mr. Cheeseman dash past her, his huge knickers blowing in the wind, as she made her usual afternoon inspection of the school.

 

Mr. Cheeseman appeared once more a few minutes later. He looked very serious and was no longer smiling at all the girls. Simon knew that he had lost the cool image he had always tried to maintain. When the lesson started Mr. Cheeseman was very strict with the rules and even blew the whistle when someone fouled Simon unfairly. It was the first time he had ever done that. Simon tried hard during that games lesson, in the knowledge that Mr. Cheeseman would blow his whistle if another student fouled him. When the lesson was over, Simon received a credit slip for good effort and great improvement.

 

****

 

The end of the school day came and Simon walked home without any trouble. The other students were too busy talking about the events of the day, especially Mr. Cheeseman's knickers. Two boys and a girl from Simon's class even talked to him for some of the way and the four of them laughed out loud as they made their way home.

 

At last Simon and Keku were alone. Keku had not said anything for a while and Simon asked him if he was feeling all right.

'Yes,' replied the little dragon. 'I'm just missing home and wish my mum or dad would come to get me.'

'I'm sure they'll come for you soon, Keku,' Simon reassured him.

 

The two new friends headed back to Simon's house, Keku still perched firmly on Simon's shoulder, invisible to everyone.

 

When they arrived, Simon went straight into the kitchen where his dad was stood on a rickety stepladder painting the ceiling.

'Dad,' said Simon, 'I got a credit at school today,' and he took out the slip of paper that Mr. Cheeseman had given him.

'For what?' his dad asked, sounding surprised.

'For good effort and great improvement in PE.'

Simon's dad looked down from the ladder. He had always wanted Simon to be better at sport and he smiled broadly at the news.

'Well done lad,' he said, 'we'll make a sportsman of you yet.'

Simon turned and headed upstairs. His dad carried on painting, but was whistling happily now.

 

Once upstairs, Keku reappeared. Simon hadn't seen him all day and was struck once more by how beautiful Keku looked. With the light off, the bedroom was filled with beautiful colours. Simon placed Keku carefully on the window sill so that he could look at the cloudy sky. He took off his uniform and piled it on the floor at the bottom of his bed. 'I think people will have too much to talk about for a long time to bother with me,' said Simon.

'I'm sure they will,' replied Keku quietly, still staring up at the clouds.

 

****

 

Instead of putting on his pyjamas as usual, Simon grabbed an old pair of jeans from under the bed and a red, woollen sweater from the bottom of his otherwise empty wardrobe.

'Keku,' said Simon, 'will you come somewhere with me? There's a place I go to in Riley's Wood. It's not very spectacular, but it is special to me. It's a secret place and I've never shown it to anyone before. I thought I might show it to you before you go home.'

Keku turned his gaze away from the sky. His golden eyes seemed to widen as if the idea was exciting to him. 'I would like to see your secret place very much, Simon. Will we be dry if it starts to rain again? My wing is healing nicely and should be completely healed before the morning comes. I should not like it to get wet again.'

'We won't get wet,' replied Simon, eagerly, 'I'll take an umbrella and you can sit inside my coat. Once we get there we'll be fine, there's a roof to keep the rain out.'

Wasting no time, Simon and Keku headed off to Riley's Wood. It was a good walk, across some playing fields and along a public footpath. The rain held off, but Keku sat inside Simon's coat anyway, invisible once more, just in case a shower caught them by surprise.

Riley's Wood always seemed huge to Simon. The trees were very old and of all different sorts. Simon could recognise the Beech, Horse Chestnut and Oak trees from a book he would sometimes take with him during the long summer evenings. A narrow, winding path wound its way through the forest, heading towards the centre, where Simon's secret place was hidden.

 

Keku's head was sticking out from Simon's coat and, although the little dragon was invisible, Simon could sense that he was looking at the beautiful trees. 'Have you ever seen trees before?' Simon asked.

'Only from the clouds,' Keku replied. 'They are far more beautiful from the ground. What are the rustling noises I can hear in the bushes, Simon?'

Simon stopped to listen. There were indeed noises coming from the bushes to both sides. 'That's probably the rabbits,' said Simon. 'They're scared of people and run into their warrens underground when anybody walks by. Some of the boys from school come here with air guns and try to shoot them.'

Keku became quiet again at this and Simon felt ashamed that people could be so cruel, hurting or killing the defenceless rabbits for fun.

After walking through the wood for a few minutes, Simon turned off the path and picked his way through the undergrowth for a few paces. They came to a magnificent Beech tree whose branches stretched right out and reached down to the forest floor. Lifting one of the lowest branches, Simon bent low, holding Keku gently so that he did not slip out from his coat.

Being inside the branches was like being in a circular room, with the walls and roof made of leaves. It was very dark and took a moment for Simon's eyes to adjust. There was a broken log upon the floor and an old milk crate lying next to it. Simon dropped the umbrella and sat down carefully upon the log, which was still dry thanks to the protection from the old Beech tree. 'This is my secret place,' Simon whispered, gently lifting Keku onto the floor beside him. 'Nobody can see us from the path, but we can see them. I know it doesn't look much, but sometimes, if I sit very still and quiet, the rabbits will come very close and look at me. Or a bird will fly onto the branches and we'll stare at each other for a while before they fly off again. I usually bring a carrot or some bread to feed them and they come right up to me. I think they trust me now.'

Keku made himself appear and Simon's hideout was suddenly filled with a light, made up of beautiful colours. Again, Simon felt as though he was in a magical place. As Keku moved slowly around, looking up at the great tree, the colours shifted this way and that. It was like a private rainbow that nobody else could see.

'I like this place very much,' the little dragon said.

 

Simon and Keku talked for what seemed like hours. Simon talked about the different birds that would visit him here. In summer, it was mainly thrushes, blackbirds and finches. In winter, the inquisitive robins would come and stay for a good while, eating the bread that Simon would throw onto the floor. Once, last winter, a magnificent white owl had swooped down from the treetops and landed silently on one of the stronger branches above Simon's head. 'It was very big,' Simon explained. 'Bigger than you, Keku. And it looked at me with huge, dark eyes for about a minute. I tried to say hello and offered it some bread, but it did not take any. Then it turned its head right round and flew away, back to its home I suppose. It was the most beautiful bird I have ever seen.'

Keku had listened very carefully to this last story.

'The dragons were once great friends with the owls,' Keku said. His voice sounded sad, as if he wished they were still friends today. 'My mother told me that most of the forests on the earth have a guardian owl who looks after the other animals and warns them of danger. I think, Simon, that the owl who came to see you was the guardian owl of this forest. Perhaps he wanted to see for himself who you were and if you were dangerous.'

Simon smiled. He felt honoured that he had received a visit from such a bird.

'If you do not mind,' Keku went on, 'I would like to try and call the guardian owl. If he still understands the dragon language I think he will come.'

Simon didn't mind at all and Keku proceeded to let out a quiet, trembling whistle, repeating it many times. At last, a reply came. The owl's hoot was clear and loud. And then there was silence. It seemed that all the other animals in the forest were listening too.

 

Out of the darkness of the wood, the magnificent white owl suddenly appeared, landing on one of the stronger branches. The only sound was of his feathered wings as they gently settled back into position alongside his body. Keku and the guardian owl stared at one another. The only movement was those large, round, dark eyes as the owl blinked from time to time. Simon felt like he was watching something very private and very special. He sat quite still on his log and said nothing. Neither Keku nor the owl made any sound. They simply stared at one another. But Simon felt like they were talking, as if they did not need sounds or words to make themselves understood.

 

It was difficult to know how longed they 'talked', for Simon was caught up in the wonder of it. After a while the owl turned its head and disappeared once more into the night. It was getting late and Simon suggested that it was time to return home. Keku agreed, thanking Simon for sharing his secret place and for the very special chance of speaking to the owl.

It had started to rain again, so Simon placed the little dragon inside his coat and put up the umbrella to make sure Keku stayed warm and dry.

From that day on, the owl visited Simon's hideout more often, particularly at night time. The owl seemed to accept him as a friend and the rabbits no longer ran away when he passed by. Simon always felt very welcome now, whenever he visited Riley's Wood.

 

****

 

Back home, Simon let Keku onto the window sill, took off his jeans and sweater, and put on his pyjamas. The wind picked up outside and Keku tilted his head slightly to one side. He seemed to be listening carefully. The wind began to whistle and Keku turned to look at Simon. 'It's my father,' said the dragon, 'he's calling me from outside. It's time for me to go.'

Simon nodded. He did not want Keku to go. Today had been one of the best days ever at school, but he knew Keku must go home. 'I'll never forget you Keku,' he said.

'And I will never forget you, Simon,' replied Keku. 'You saved my life.'

The two looked at each other, unsure of what to say or do.

'When is your birthday, Simon?' Keku asked at last.

'April 17th,' he answered, wondering why Keku had asked.

'Whenever it is your birthday, Simon, you must look to the sky. If there is a cloud, I will shape it for you so that it looks like a dragon. I will get my mother or father to help me until I am old enough to do it for myself. It will be my way of saying thank you.'

Simon smiled. He loved the idea of being wished happy birthday by the dragons in the clouds. It would be his own secret, forever.

'Could you open the window for me now, Simon? I really must go.'

Simon unfastened the latch and pushed the window open. The wind whistled into his bedroom, blowing open the pages of a book on his table. A cold drop of rain blew onto Simon's cheek.

'Goodbye Simon,' said Keku.

'Goodbye, Keku Theodore Windchaser,' said Simon.

And with that, Keku jumped from the window. His rainbow wings opened and Simon saw that the damage from the lightning had healed completely. In the dark winter night, Simon saw a great hand appear out of nowhere. It was the hand of a huge dragon and shone with a golden light, even more brightly than Keku's brilliant scales. Simon guessed that Keku's father must be many hundreds of years old for his mighty claw was as large as a car. Keku vanished into its careful grasp and the hand, too, disappeared once more.

 

Closing the window, Simon picked up his radio and moved to sit on his bed. He had missed the last episode of 'Alien Friend' but did not mind too much. He had had a real adventure and would listen to the beginning of a new story today.

 

****

 

The cold winter passed. School was more bearable now and still the students would talk about Alex Cross's boxer shorts, Graham Gordon's green sprout head and Mr. Cheeseman's pink knickers.

 

April 17th came. There was a birthday card and a small present, from Simon's mum, on the kitchen table when he went downstairs. He did not open them straight away. Instead he opened the back door and looked up. There, very clearly, was a large white cloud, set against a blue sky in the shape of a vast dragon. Simon smiled. Keku had kept his promise, and did so every year for the rest of Simon's birthdays.


© Copyright 2018 JT Roe. All rights reserved.

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