THE FIRST TIME I MEET DR. TERRIBLE,
IT HAPPENS ON PLANET EARTH
We were deep into winter and the forest was beset with famine.
I spent my nights staggering around, desperate with hunger. The snow was thick on the forest floor. The effort of flapping my wings made me dizzy and when I tried to fly I instantly fell to the ground. Then came The Night When Everything Changed.
That night, I happened upon a big buck deer hiding in some undergrowth. I remember there was a full moon in the sky, and I had walked near some brush when all of a sudden this big buck deer exploded out of there. And I looked up in surprise to see its brown hindquarters bounding off through the snow under the moonlight. Anyway, I bolted after it and even in my weakened state, I just managed to chase it down.
Well, I still remember how I was poised there over my fresh kill in the snow, and I was eating ravenously from it. Because for the last couple weeks the hunger pains had been gnawing at my insides. And that’s why I didn’t do what I would have normally done in that situation, which would be to take my fresh kill back to the shiny chamber and eat it in peace. Behind the safety of that clear door.
So I tore into my feast with my beak right there in the little snowy clearing, and I was chowing down under the moonlight like the starving beast that I was. And I figure that’s the only reason I didn’t notice the big gray wolf until it was too late.
Because normally my horns would’ve started tingling to warn me of an imminent threat. But unfortunately my horns were starving too. My little scaly green ass had been delirious with hunger for so long and now I was eating with my whole body. Plus I was only three years old at the time and nowhere near a fully grown dragon and still technically in my infancy.
But the instant I looked up and saw that big gray wolf standing there in the moonlit snow and growling and baring its fangs, well I knew I’d made a mistake. I should’ve known the scent of fresh blood would go out on the night wind like an alarm bell.
Then the wolf suddenly glided in closer and studied me with his piercing yellow eyes. He snarled and crouched low on coiled haunches. You could tell the wolf was going to pounce any second. My black heart was hammering away in my chest and my fool horns were tingling like crazy.
Thankfully, by that point the fresh meat in my belly had not only cleared my head, it also gave me a massive boost of strength. So I just looked that fool wolf in the eye and ripped a thunderous belch and a restream flashed out my beak and blasted that thieving wolf in its furry haunches. Or it would’ve anyway, if that wolf hadn’t anticipated what I was going to do and leapt and danced away right before my flame zapped the spot on the ground where he’d just been.
Then I heard a terrible sound coming from behind me, and this sound made the scales on the back of my long green neck stand straight up. For as long as I live, I will never forget that terrible sound. Or the fear I felt when I heard it.
Because this sound was the deranged bloodthirsty howls of an entire wolf pack rushing in to attack me from behind. I realized only then that the first wolf had merely been acting as a decoy, something to distract me.
I was suddenly knocked off my webbed feet from behind. And in a flash I was pinned down there in the snow under what felt like a mountain of fur, and those wolves’ hot breath was all over me. Their jaws were snapping and I could feel their fangs sinking deep into my soft belly, over and over and over. These beasts were mad with hunger. Now one of those fiendish wolves snarled and plunged its fangs into the flesh of my right wing, and this same wolf wrenched its jaws and savagely ripped my wing in half and I felt the hot cutting pain explode all over my body.
I howled. In agony, but also in terror. Because in that instant I knew with my ripped wing I couldn’t fly out of there, and now my only hope of escape would come down to a footrace in the snow.
So I fought like a bastard, buried under that pile of thirty or so giant wolves. I tapped into my rage. I clawed and bit and blasted fire. I managed to get in a couple of good licks, too. I tore fur and flesh with my fangs. I felt my claws slice to the bone. And I savored the sweet taste of wolf blood in my beak. Yes sir.
But by and large I was getting the worst of it. And I knew if I didn’t do something quick then I’d be dead. I was bleeding from all those puncture wounds in my belly, and my right wing was hanging off my wingjoint in tatters. And I was still suffocating under all that fur as they tore me to shreds and it dawned on me then that these bastards wouldn’t stop until they’d gnawed every last bit of flesh off my bones.
So after blasting countless rebolts to the point where my throat was raw and shredded, I finally managed to twist out from under and leap away from the pack and start running through the snow on my hind legs. I lit out of there in a flash.
The pack of wolves instantly set off after me. As I ran I could feel their hot raging breath closing in and could hear the terrifying clack
sound of their jaws snapping shut right on my heels. They were howling and snarling and lunging at me and yet still I kept running with no thought in my head but that of sheer terror.
My little webbed feet were flying.
This was all new to me. I was bleeding out of the dozens of puncture holes in my belly and could hear my tattered wing flapping behind me as I ran. I left a bright red blood trail right there in the snow under the moonlight, and my lungs were heaving so hard it felt like they were going to pop.
And then there it was.
The clear door.
I don’t know how I did it, but I’d somehow managed to race all the way back to the shiny
chamber with the pack of wolves hot on my heels. I could see the clear door right there in front of me, maybe twenty feet up ahead, and I was shooting toward it at full throttle. But as I raced forward I realized with a sinking heart that there was just one problem. I couldn’t afford to stop and open the door, on account of even that one split second it’d take to stop and slide open the door would mean certain death. Because the wolves would instantly be upon me and tear my scaly green ass to shreds.
Well I was scared out of my mind and didn’t know what to do. I figured for sure I was done for. As I flashed forward I decided right then and there that I’d rather die on my own terms than those of these beasts snarling at my backside.
So without much hope I lowered my head and kicked in the after- burners and launched forward, a green blur shooting right at the door. I reckoned it’d be better to die by ramming my head straight into the clear door. Because at least that way I wouldn’t be alive as the wolves gorged themselves on my flesh.
But at the last second, as I prepared to meet my maker, well that clear door suddenly slid open in a flash.
I shot across the threshold. The door flew shut. And I crashed into the far wall of the chamber. Suddenly there were thirty enraged wolves howling and repeatedly lunging at the clear door and slavering foamy drool all over it. I leapt up off the floor, still not quite believing I wasn’t dead.
Then as I crouched there gasping on the far side of the chamber and watched the wolves attack the door, a loud noise exploded inside the chamber.
I watched in shock as two gigantic green webbed feet materialized out of thin air right in front of me. And these two webbed feet had deadly-looking toe claws protruding out of them. My nostrils instantly flared. Because my snout detected a new foreign scent there in my lair.
Copyright © 2017 by Gabe Hudson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.