General Fiction posted September 10, 2019

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After dark at the exhibition. (1,320 words)

A Dragon On The Loose

by LisaMay

Bloody Hell! It was supposed to be a friendly exhibition of warm-fuzzies but it turned into a real rip-snorter! 

It has taken me a while to recover from the trauma, but now I have finished my massage and am soothed by a glass of warm milk and the dulcet tones of calming music, I shall tell you a tale you may not believe. In all honesty, I can barely believe it happened myself. 

You will note: I am drinking milk. Maybe this story happened back when I partook of the grape. My therapist said it is possible many things happened back then that I would now find ludicrous. Reality can be stranger than fiction.

*  *  *

In my role as President of the local Art Society in my city, it was up to me to suggest themes to challenge our artists – much like FanStory has prompts for writing contests.

For one of our exhibitions, I decided it would have wide public appeal if the paintings, sculptures and digital graphics submitted by our members were to feature animals. Who doesn’t love doggies, kittycats and fluffy bunnies?

So, in due course, the artists arrived with their artworks on the receiving day. These were checked in, then the ‘hanging committee’ swung into action to display them to best advantage as well as cataloguing and numbering the displayed pieces.

Part of the satisfaction of curating and presenting an exhibition is to place artworks sympathetically. Which pictures should be beside which? Does that one look better here, or there? Does that painting suit being displayed on the white wall or the blue wall? In a ‘well-hung’ exhibition, the works begin to have conversations between themselves; there is a subtle interaction between the subjects of the paintings.

Content they’d done a great job with hanging the exhibition over the course of a long night, the committee went home. They were looking forward to the opening event on the evening of the morrow, when their expertise would be appreciated by the city’s gallery-goers. Little did they know what would happen between-times!

*  *  *

When I arrived with the catering crew to prepare for the opening event, we could tell immediately that something was amiss. There was a foreboding undercurrent of sinister drama. The eerie silence was tangible and hair-raising – an atmosphere of terror lingered. We could sense the echoes of blood-curdling screams throbbing through the cloistered air. Eventually the door – which had been jammed shut – was forced open and the full catastrophe was revealed.

I shudder to describe the scene. As President of the Art Society I was one of the first to arrive – to meet and greet the guests, to make small-talk, have a glass of wine or three; you know – to play the hostess. All-in-all, a very pleasant evening was envisaged.

Oh-My-God! What on earth had occurred after midnight, when we’d left the premises? 

During our activity of hanging the exhibition, we had placed pretty pictures of lambs frolicking in grassy meadows; a complacent cat curled on its owner’s knee; perky piglets; a grinning dog running on a beach; contented cows in a field; happily binking bunnies; a mouse running enthusiastically in its treadmill; beautiful horses being groomed –  and other such-like peaceful portrayals of animals.

The selection committee had also been happy to receive an item of the winged variety – Brenda’s large, well-crafted papier mache dragon. However, we would live to regret that decision, because it became apparent that this Hell-devil was responsible for a post-midnight rampage of carnage.

The only creature left intact on the evening of the exhibition opening was Brenda’s demon dragon – Lucy Leviathan Slithery Snaggletooth. She was swinging smugly on her display cord, gore dripping from her fangs and claws, a look of sated blood-lust in her glassy eyes. A mouse’s tail hung from her snaggle-toothed lower jaw.

The exhibition gallery was awash with crimson (I paused momentarily, struck by the fact that the carpet looked better in that colour than its usual drab grey). Scattered about were ripped entrails, chewed bones and tufts of fur and wool, along with dribbles of splattered brain and the odd piece of mangled lung and kidney. The lambs, the cat, the piglets, the dog, the cows, the bunnies, the mouse, the horses, and many other unsuspecting innocent animals had all met savagely gruesome deaths.

Not a pretty sight! It couldn’t be passed off as modern abstract art, although there were many similarities – especially when Brenda threw up on the carpet when we showed her what had happened. Some wealthy ‘art-collecting connoisseur’ would probably have paid top dollar for that, but Mari had gotten the wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner to it first. Oh well – an opportunity lost.

Meanwhile, the main question to be asked was: “What had caused this mayhem?”

After Brenda recovered (and we had placed her dragon in a maximum security cage), she told us an interesting family story…

Way, way, way back in Brenda’s lineage – on her paternal side, dating back to around the 14th century – one of her distant relatives was a Wizard. It is recorded in manuscripts that he was a noted animal-whisperer and had a pet dragon. This dragon was unable to breathe fire and just wanted to play with the other animals, but she was abused by all of them for being a wimp and a softie – a disgrace to Dragondom.

The Wizard loved his dragon, and when she died of heartbreak from being bullied, she was cremated and her residue was placed in a jewelled casket. This box had been passed down through the generations, ending up in Brenda’s hands. As happens, many family stories are lost over the years and Brenda was initially unaware of the box’s history. 

As an innovative artist who enjoyed trying new techniques, when she became interested in striving for a textural finish to her papier mache work, Brenda rummaged through her art equipment and chanced upon the box containing the white granules. Perfect! A ready-made texture medium! So she poured the chalky granules into her mix and crafted the dragon, which she then named Lucy Leviathan Slithery Snaggletooth. When her mother came to visit, she saw the casket on Brenda’s desk and explained its background. At the time, it seemed to be a serendipitous discovery – a perfect use for the ancient residue. In another bizarre coincidence, the Wizard’s dragon had been called Ludmila Leviathan Slippery Snaggletooth. 

*  *  *

Who would have thought that creature would spring back to life again, to wreak a chaotic revenge for being bullied in her youth several centuries ago?

Our exhibition opening night function was utterly ruined. In addition to the heart-breaking massacre of the innocents, the Art Society’s premises caught fire while we were wondering how best to clean up the mess. It was apparent Lucy Leviathan Slithery Snaggletooth had something to do with the sudden conflagration. By great good fortune, we all managed to leap to safety (I threw myself into the arms of the most ruggedly handsome fireman), but the dragon went up in self-inflicted flames. Apparently, she still hadn’t quite managed to get the hang of how to breathe fire correctly. We did not collect her residue. Brenda promised never to make another dragon, just in case of future dramas.

The insurance pay-out was sufficient to build a new exhibition gallery, with a proper fire escape, and I arranged to have beautiful crimson carpet laid in it. That was my swan-song as President. I resigned in order to free up my time to throw myself at the fireman more often, now that my fire was awakened. Unfortunately, he preferred putting me out.

The only truly redeeming feature of that ghastly evening was that we all learned a valuable life lesson: Be nice to everyone – you never know what might come back to bite you!


What Happens After Dark writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a STORY in under 1,500 words that features a dragon, a wizard, a President, and fire, leaning towards the horror and thriller genre.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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