Chapter 8

The smell of death and decay wafted, the dragon’s hot breath slamming into her as it held her up, studied her.

The beast was strong, its grip like iron. There was no give as she fought to pull away the individual claws. The beast had her, and she had no way of escaping.

She knew it was only a matter of time before she felt the flame and was toast…literally.

Riley refused to look into those large, orange, reptilian eyes. She didn’t want to see what was going to happen, whether it be by flame or those large teeth. Instead, she kept her gaze on the lava river, wondering where Bruce was.

Then she heard him, and her stomach lurched as the dragon turned away from the river.

“Come on, you stupid…dummy,” Bruce called out to the dragon. It was obvious he had tried to think of some kind of insult. Unfortunately, it seemed he was terrible with them.

Riley started to call out to him, tell him to run and get out of there. The words caught in her throat when she saw a glowing light coming toward them.

What is that? she thought as the glow raced in their direction. A flutter of hope blossomed in her chest, only to die as the beast exhaled another raunchy breath, bathing her in stench.

Face it, Riley. It seems you’re out of luck.

The closer the light got, the more she could see that it wasn’t just glowing. It pulsated, blurring everything around it. There was a shape to it, but it was hard to distinguish. Then it came into focus.

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It was a girl wearing some kind of black bodysuit intertwined with pulsating blue lights that ran along her arms, legs, and across her torso.

“Bruce, watch out!” Riley called as the dragon moved to the caped shape crouching behind the rock.

Bruce wasn’t watching them or the girl as she approached. It looked like he was working on something. He must have heard Riley because he looked up and quickly registered the approaching dragon.

Riley couldn’t escape the image of a t-rex. She’d seen those Jurassic movies, though now she felt like she was living it. As they got closer to the rock, Bruce hadn’t moved.

“Sit tight, boy wonder. I got this,” the girl called out to Bruce. She landed on the rock, then vaulted from it, using it to propel her into the air until Riley could see her face. She wore goggles, her long, wavy red hair flowing out behind her, a large smile on her face as she extended a laser wand. The wand came down onto the dragon’s claws that held Riley. A moment later, she felt freedom…as she fell.

She landed on her feet with a grunt, then rolled. It hurt. She didn’t know how she could hurt herself in a dream, but her ankles cried out in pain.

She must have blacked out for a moment, not realizing it until Bruce grasped her hand. He pulled her up and slung his arm around her waist, urging her to run. She felt her feet under her, but they didn’t seem to be helping as he did most of the work.

“Stop! I can run,” Riley gasped.

“Are you sure? You took a nasty fall and you’re not in a rig.”

“I told you, I can run.”

“Come on, princess,” the other girl said as she ran by.

Riley heard the dragon’s pained howl, then the loud thumps as it ran after them. When a gust of wind struck her back, she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, knowing the dragon had taken to the air.

They all stopped, watching it soar overhead, swirling around them, stalking. They were trapped.

Riley realized Bruce’s arm still supported her, so she pulled herself away from him.

“Um, Raz, this could be a problem.” The girl looked at him, then pointed to Riley. “And who is that?”

Riley looked between the two of them. Bruce watched the dragon soar above them, so he didn’t notice the little bit of jealousy Riley saw in the girl’s stance. The cock of her hips, her back stiffening. It felt like Riley had gotten in the middle of something. She just wasn’t sure what.

“Raz?” Riley asked to break the silence, occasionally glancing up at the large dragon overhead, ensuring it wasn’t coming for its late night meal yet.

“Yeah, Raz,” the girl said, cocking her head toward Bruce.

“You mean Bruce?”

That finally caught his attention. He looked back at them.

“What?” he asked.

“What’s going on?” The girl placed her hands on her hips.

“Well, you see, there’s this dragon…,” he said sarcastically.

“I see that, Sherlock. Who’s the princess, and why is there a dragon?”

“Well, this is…” Bruce looked at Riley. She could tell he was unsure whether he should introduce her. Which made no sense. Why wouldn’t Bruce just come out and tell this girl her name? It wasn’t like she was hiding. Though she had to wonder why Bruce was going by the name Raz…

But this was a dream, right? So why should any of that matter?

“Raz?” the girl asked again.

“I’m Riley,” she said, holding out her hand. “I guess you could say I’m hanging out with Bruce.”

The girl looked shocked, her mouth dropping open, her gaze going back and forth between the two of them. Riley was struck with a sense that this girl wasn’t lost for words much.

“How do you know his name?” she finally asked.

“How close is the dragon?” Bruce asked, glancing back up to the sky.

“I think we’re safe for now.” the girl said, not taking her eyes off Riley. “So, who are you? How do you know Raz’s real name?”

“We’re in the hospital together, and he told it to me.”

“Wait… You’re in the hospital together. As in, you are in the hospital right now?”

“Yeah. We’re sharing a room.”

“So how did you get here?”

Riley shrugged. “He was having some kind of bad dream. I just touched him to wake him up, then poof, here I am.”

“Lol’s, no way.”

“What?”

The girl shook her head. “That’s just not possible.”

“What’s not?”

“You entered his dream without gear, Lols. That’s dangerous. You need to get out of here. You need to wake up.”

“But I’m not sleeping.”

“You may not realize it, but you kinda are.”

Riley frowned. “No way. I’d know.”

“Well…” The girl gestured to their surroundings, “does any of this seem like its real. You’re in a dream, princess, and you’re gonna get hurt.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“None of us will be when that thing decides to attack again,” Bruce said, looking at both of them.

Riley shook her head. “None of this makes sense. When I got here, that dragon had Bruce-”

“Call him Raz,” the girl said.

“Raz, fine. It had Raz, but this is all just a dream.”

“Yes, it had him, but it’s not just a dream. That thing up there has been sent to kill him.”

“Wait… It can kill him in a dream?”

“If you’re in a bodysuit, like me, you can’t get hurt, but Raz is being attacked in his own dream.”

The girl looked at Bruce, who got more and more pale as they talked about him. Riley guessed he probably hadn’t thought about it before, but now, he realized the level of danger he was really in.

This was too much for Riley to take in. She couldn’t stop herself from starting to sit. Suddenly, a chair appeared under her. When she realized that it had just materialized out of nowhere, she looked down, studying it to see if it was real.

“Wha… This is all just too much.” Riley poked the chair.

“How did you do that?” the girl asked, astonished.

“Give me a minute.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think we have a minute. Here it comes!” Bruce yelled.

Riley turned and watched, stunned into silence as the dragon dove toward them.

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Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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