(EXCERPT FROM THE PROLOGUE OF “FIRE CANNOT KILL A DRAGON”)
Flannel sheets pressed down, almost stifling in the heat emanating from the whistling radiator in the corner of the room. Winter chill still nipped through their creaking house. Drowsy, she tugged the ends of the sheets up till they covered her nose and sighed, eager to slip back into unconsciousness and hopefully dream.
As the feeling of floating slowly spread, she waited for that last minute knee-jerk reaction hauling her back to the real world. She was surprised to feel petals and leaves brushing against her legs. She started to relax, eager to embrace a dream filled with flowers, until something sharp scratched her side and startled her into full awareness.
Yanking the sheets off her chest, she saw stiff vines wrapped around her legs and creeping across her stomach. Horror tried to claw its way up her throat as she tried to sit up and she felt fingers and hands latch onto her arms and cover her mouth, forcefully pressing her back into the mattress. Her arms pinned to her side, her fingers scrabbled uselessly over large hands. Nails bitten to the quick, she was dismayed that she couldn’t even scratch her attacker.
She began to thrash in earnest against her restraints and tried to bite the hand over her mouth, but only succeeded in rocking her bed back and forth. The headboard smacked against the wall and one of her pillows knocked into her bedside table, sending a mug of cold tea careening over the edge of the table and smashing against the floor.
She heard her stepmother shouting at her father down the hall, annoyed that her sleep had been disturbed.
“Harold! Harold wake up! I think something is wrong with that girl of yours. She’s keeping me up again with her damn racket.”
Her father grumbled half heartedly and the floorboards creaked as he rolled out of bed and stumbled out into the hallway, flicking on the hallway lights. The light shone under her door and she allowed herself a moment to hope that this was just another waking nightmare, a crazy panic attack. As soon as her father appeared in the doorway, he would intervene and save her.
The hands and vines around her tightened considerably and yanked her backwards, through her mattress. She braced herself for impact with the floor, but was swept through it as wind rushed past her ears - darkness quickly overtaking her field of vision as she descended into the unknown and her cracked white ceiling faded into the distance.
She felt an immense pressure around her head and heard something snap before she lost consciousness…