1. Unexpected guest

The local police continued investigating an accident that happened two days ago on the roadway near Wyntara. An unidentified individual was run over by a truck, going to Adverton with a plastic load. After the collision, the person was pushed into oncoming traffic and got hit by a car again. According to the witnesses, the person stood up by themselves and walked into the nearby forest, where they fled the scene. The driver of the truck pleads not guilty and blames the person for attempted suicide. The victim’s identity is still unknown. According to unaudited reports, the affected person was dressed in a carnival costume with horns and a tail. If you have any information related to this incident, please contact the authorities. And now, about the weather…

The basic layout is done, shadows are fine, highlights can wait… What else have I missed?

Ring-ring. Who the heck is calling me this late? Oh, it’s my groupmate. “Hello, Dan. What do you want?”

“Hey, Roy, how are you? What about joining our studying party? Have you done your project yet? If you have, it will be even better.”

“Crap, I totally forgot about it. Man, the studies are closer than I excepted…”

“Yeah! So, it’ll be next weekend, at my place, see you! Bye!”

Ughh, a new academic year will start soon, and I still need to earn more money before it starts. And this summer project in groups. There’re too many things on my plate. Anyway, let’s take a break, as long as I’ve got distracted from work. And I have the rest of the pizza that I’d ordered today.

It’s getting darker. It’s time to turn the lights on…

Wait. The pizza box is empty. Why?!

“What the heck? Where’s my pizza?!” I yell into the blue. I’m sure I’ve left at least a half of the pizza. And I’m sure that I live alone. Am I going crazy?

Honestly, it’s not something new: I’ve already found that my food supplies have been reducing drastically for the last few days. Yesterday I checked all the windows and doors, locking them. But the food keeps reducing. And I keep hearing strange noises during the night. Of course, it all can be just noise of an old house, but what about food?

Heh, maybe it’s some kind of a ghost, why not? At least something would happen in this sleepy old town at the edge of the world! Eh, I miss my life in a big city…

Anyway, let’s eat something and get back on track. But, geez, how tired am I. Drawing art after art, which usually doesn’t have any artistic and aesthetic value, is really tiresome. This state has worn me out completely. And I’ve got more troubles here with this ‘ghost.’ Anyway, back to my room…

While I’m lazily going upstairs, something catches my attention - an old door to the basement is left. I don’t remember opening this door at all - I haven’t used the basement for a long time.

I giggle nervously. Am I trying to act with the same amount of stupidity as a typical horror movie character? But, on the other hand, what in the world can happen to me in this boring-boring life? So, against any logical reasons, I decided to check the basement.

At first glance, everything seems fine. Some items look as if they’ve been moved, though I barely remember their state last time. After a slight hesitation, I keep moving forward, looking around carefully.

A soft rustle in the corner. The heck?! Instantly, I turn to see a source of the sound, but it’s nothing here. I make a few steps back. Please, let it be just my imagination. Is something actually happening here?! At the same time, a rational part of me argues against it - what if it’s only a mouse? The house is pretty old, and I don’t really care about the basement state. Commonly, small animals can start living there on their own.

Suddenly, I hear sound of rain. Hey, the forecast promised rain way later, not now! I can say goodbye to all my ruined plans to go for groceries. Though, it’s too late anyway.

Terrific bang! Phew, it scared the hell out of me. An open window creaks and thuds a few times again. Is it just a gust of wind?! Stop making that horrible sound! I thought that I’d die from fear.

And, obviously, if I forget to close the window, any stray animal can enter it with no problem. Though it can be a larger animal, like a dog - I should be cautious… Okay, I need to check if there’s any damage and go out. It’s great that I’ve noticed it before the rain. I can’t imagine how hard and expensive it is dealing with flooding.

What a dusty floor! Wait, what?! I can’t believe my eyes - there’s a giant footstep in the dust. The footprint is twice larger than my hand! To be precise, several footsteps of an animal which I can’t recognize. I’m not sure, but for me it looks like a dinosaur’s foot. It can’t be real, can it..?

A slight creak from a pile of boxes. The chills run up my back immediately. But if it’s just a cat, it’ll be fine. Yeah, it can be just several tiny footsteps, and my tired mind starts seeing weird things. Heh, it’s not very bright here, the lamp has got too dirty.

The pile of boxes in the corner creaks again. It’s getting annoying. After taking a deep breath, I peep behind them. Ugh, it’s really dark there. So what do we have here: shelves with dusty boxes, a lot of bigger packages, …

…And a big shadow with red glowing eyes behind them. And it noticed me! What the heck?! I shouldn’t have gone here. Crap, crap, crap, what should I do now?!

In fear, I step back and bowl over a small box with an enormous amount of rumbles. At sight, the creature jumps on me, knocks me off. Ugh, it hurts! The red glowing eyes are staring directly at me. I close my eyes expecting anything …but nothing happens.

After a second, I slowly open my eyes and look at the creature. Wait, is it a human? A girl?! While she’s pressing me down, I can have a better look at her. Red hair is falling on my face. The red eyes with vertical slit pupils are scanning my clothes and arms. A nervous breath out reveals a row of pointy teeth. She looks …scared?

Strange girl
Strange girl

Lightning illuminates the basement. And, almost immediately, a roar of the thunder. That was too loud!

Suddenly, the girl covers her ears, jumps up from me, and dashes to the corner. But accidentally, she falls stumbled over the box that I’d dropped before. With a small sob, she’s trying to stand up, but another thunder bang causes a wail of several car alarms. Then, I hear a faint moan - the girl curls up and covers herself with a tail. A tail?!

In flashing lighting, I’m able to look at this creature full-sized. A long red reptile tail lies over the girl’s body, trying to protect her from the outer world. Arms look human but are partly covered with red scales. Oh, she has some spikes on the elbows. Her clothes are dirty and damaged, if these pieces of fabric covering her chest and crotch can be called “clothes.” Scaly digitigrade legs, which remind me of a dinosaur, are drawn up, and I can clearly see four big reptile toes with huge claws. That explains the footstep shapes…

She’s hugging herself with her arms and the tail, quaking with fear. Is she terrified of thunders? I can see several grazes on her legs and torso. In addition, is she injured?! And I can hear soft sobs. What a poor girl…

But what to do now? Help her?.. She attacked me, but she could have some reason to do it. Ughh…

It reminds me of the situation from early childhood when I was lying under the blanket, terrified of a car alarm. It was in almost the same thunderstorm. Okay, I’ve decided. Clearly, she needs help, and I’ll help her.

First, the window. Cautiously I’m moving toward the window. Reducing the outside noise will probably help. And it’ll save me from the possible flooding of the basement. Okay, now it’s closed. I still can hear thunders, but not so loudly. Does it help? I look at the girl again. She’s still lying motionlessly with slightly shivering. It’s hard to tell if she peers at me or not.

What else could I do to soothe her? I don’t want to get close, what if she keeps acting that aggressive way? But the memory about the blanket… It сame in handy in my childhood. Maybe I can try? I should have this old blanket somewhere around…

Oh, here it is! Okay, I’ll try to cover the lizard girl. Carefully, carefully… Huh, she definitely has scales. She shudders when the blanket touches her but doesn’t react more than it. Will she be okay? Will the house be okay? So many questions…

Before leaving, I look at the girl again, and, apparently, the figure seems more relaxed than before.

I’ve managed to get back from the basement, but there’s still the thunderstorm… And there’s still the dragon inside my house. So, seriously, is there anything I can do about it? Ughh, I want to take a photo, but there’s too dark. And I’m not sure if I want to go back again. Maybe I can call a friend? Or the police?

Indeed, the best thing to do is to call the police. But what can I say? “A girl that looks like a half-lizard is lying in my basement, scared of the thunderstorm, please send help?” It’s ridiculous! And honestly, I’m really interested in trying to communicate with this girl. Where is she from? Why does she look like a mix of a human and a reptile? So many questions…

After all the stress, I start feeling hungry… Hmm, that’s a good idea! I quickly call for two ultra big pizzas with a lot of meat and start waiting.

The hallway keeps illuminated by flashes of lightning. The rain is so heavy that the neighbor’s house is barely visible. I hope there will be no accidents with fallen trees, and the electricity won’t be cut off.

But, despite my foreboding, thunder is getting farther and farther away, and the rain is getting weaker and weaker. Oh, and the pizza is delivered! Ugh, the delivery guy looks a little upset. Of course, I’d be also upset if I was soaked to the skin. I’m sorry for ordering pizza during this miserable weather… At least, the pizza was packed well.

Despite being hungry, I should take one pizza to the basement first. It’s clear that the strange girl isn’t a wild cat that I can simply feed to gain the trust, but maybe it’ll help a bit. And I hope that girl won’t jump on me again.

Ugh, where is she? I can’t find the girl in her previous spot. A tense situation… Huh, and she took the blanket with her. At least she liked it, I’m glad about it. I slowly put pizza on one of the boxes, open it and carefully move back to the stairs. Uh, that anxious feeling of being watched, please be just my imagination… Only on the top, I allow myself to look around. And for real, the glowing eyes peer at me from the corner of the basement. “Hey, do you want to eat?” I wave to her cheerfully, inviting her to the pizza. The eyes slowly hide behind boxes. I’ll…go away, okay?

Anyway, should I eat too? I need to ease my mind for a moment - if I keep thinking about it, my head will explode, for sure.

But, ughhh… How can I stop thinking about all of this? Why did I even help her? Why was I sure she was frightened, and why was she all on her own? Eh, so many questions…

Hmm, the pizza is actually pretty good. I should order it from time to time. Oh, and I should put the kettle on.

Anyway, why was her attitude clear to me? Obviously, I don’t have any mind-reading power or anything like it. But it feels like I can. So strange… I wish we could have a talk after all. Oh, and the weather is getting better. So the thunderstorm is already over? Maybe… Maybe it was a weird dream or hallucination. A lizard girl, it can’t be possible!

After turning off the kettle, I turn back to the table and freeze to the spot. No way… A familiar red-haired head peeps from the doorframe. Ugh, she’s looking at me. Uugh, I hope you just want to get more food, don’t you? Wait, did she eat the whole pizza herself? I try to pick up all my courage… “Will you join my meal?” I mumbled, pointing at the box with the pizza.

Surprisingly, the girl doesn’t run away and carefully crosses the kitchen. Please, don’t get too close to me… Though, her tail is clamped to her legs and shivers a bit. Does it seem like she is more scared than me? The girl intently peers at me again, quickly grabs a piece of the pizza, and steps back. In a moment, she gobbles it up so fast that I didn’t even notice how. Then, she embarrassedly looks at me and grabs another piece with less shyness.

So, it’s not a hallucination. Huh, under better light, the girl looks way less scary than I imagined. She’s just barely taller than me. And, I suppose, it’s only because of her digitigrade legs. Oh, and I thought she was severely wounded, but it appears as if she just has several cuts and grazes that need treatment. But the amount of scars that she has is terrifying. And some of them are huge.

Despite all her problems, she is definitely not an average human, so why am I not afraid? All I feel now is only a …relief? Looking at her eating pizza with an obvious enjoyment is a kind of satisfaction, though. But am I actually sane? Or it’s just because I’ve been drawing really bizarre stuff recently, so that’s why I’m not shocked? I really don’t know…

By the way, it’s good that she became much less scared and angry, but, actually, that pizza is supposed to be my next breakfast. Ugh, and she has eaten the whole of it. But I simply can’t get mad at her when she’s so happy. Well, I’ll just order another one later.

Hmm, I can take an opportunity and speak with her. Maybe I’ll finally get some answers.

“Hello, can I ask you some questions now?”

The reptile girl shivers and looks at me in a panic as if she’s forgotten that I’m here. Immediately she dashes to hide behind the doorframe. Crap! My best chance to a conversation has been lost. “W-wait! At least, what’s your name? Please, don’t be afraid…”

Suddenly, she peeps from the doorframe for a moment, gazes at me, and drops a word: “Red.”

…And she’s gone. What was that? A nickname? What a strange girl… Well, at least she can talk. I reckon I have no other choice than to call her Red from now.

“And my name Is Ray, nice to meet you…” I answer to the empty hallway.

But I have so many questions! I guess, if I feed her enough, she’ll eventually become more friendly. At least, last time, Red didn’t attack me. Maybe someday we will be able to talk…

Rizzzz! Hiss! Crack! I wake up from a horrible noise. Omg, what’s going on? Ugh, I’m so tired of it! How long it will be? Suddenly, all noises are gone. Anyway, I’m awake, so let’s investigate. It’s not the first night full of loud random sounds. I just can’t get used to it… It feels like living with a cat. A spoiled giant scaly cat. What a wonder how many sounds Red can produce for no reason at all. Clearly, after our first encounter, she has started to investigate my house way more confidently - many doors are being left open and peculiar noises at night are becoming louder. But there has to be a limit!

It looks like Red has been here. Hmm, it’s just a simple storage room. How has she managed to produce so much noise? Oooh, no way, the vacuum cleaner is totally crushed. It was a present from my parents! They’d given it to me after they’d left me to live here alone. Damn lizard! I guess she had accidentally turned it on and got scared. I ask loudly if she is okay, but, obviously, there’s no response.

I’m not sure if keeping the girl in secret was a good idea. Maybe I’ve just watched too many fantasy movies. But I still hope for the best.

Eh, what time is it? Omg, it’s almost eight. Well, at least the lizard might make me wake up in time. So, what to do now…

Okay, let’s go for groceries. Oh, we have lovely weather today! Wet grass looks so pretty in the sunlight. Though, I’m still concerned about leaving the house. What if Red does something dangerous while I’m out? I need to get back as soon as possible…

Surprisingly, my house is still here, standing still. Anyway, let’s follow the plan. While cooking breakfast, I feel a familiar gaze. Ugh, I don’t want to turn around. I don’t know if it is Red or just my imagination, but if it’s her, I genuinely don’t want to frighten her again… I guess Red simply got hungry again, doesn’t she?

I’m not good at cooking, but I still can make a simple breakfast like fried eggs and sausages. Now a bunch of veggies, and it’s done. I’m still nervous about turning around, but I have no choice.

Hmm, no one here. Am I slightly overthinking things? Well, one plate for me, one for the dragon. Oh, this is way more moreish than I expected. Maybe I should find more recipes - cooking is funnier than I thought before.

I try to kill some time surfing the internet on my phone, but it looks like Red won’t join me today. Maybe I was too optimistic about the idea of shared meals. Anyway, there is a piece left for her, so I hope she won’t eat me today. Heh… Honestly, what am I doing? My only hope is that she is intelligent enough so she won’t kill me, and so far, she still hasn’t tried it again. But sometimes, it still feels like living with a wild tiger.

So, it’s time to work again, and I head to my room. Though, I’ve got an idea… Before going upstairs, I quickly return and peek into the kitchen. And here she is! Eating. Obviously, she notices me immediately. Gosh, she looks so embarrassed! I smile and wave at her, and scurry away with a fit of giggling. My strategy works - what a relief. Maybe it’s not so as bad as I thought…

I wonder how long it will take to make contact. The last few days passed without visible changes, and the academic year is close enough. I’ve started worrying about the progress. How to stop yawning in the morning… No wonder why I want to sleep so much - it’s so cloudy today. Eh, breakfast, breakfast, what do I want to cook today… Honestly, I should rethink my strategy of “catching” Red if I really want to talk with her. Maybe I’ve got something wrong. Ugh, the weather is dreadful: I can barely see anything in the kitchen. Thoughtlessly, I click the switch… Wait a minute?!

I flinch in surprise - Red’s sitting right here, with a nervous grin. Her tail’s skipping from side to side tensely. Oh, she’s staring at me. I wanted to talk with her, but I’m not ready now! I didn’t expect her to be here.

“Why? Why are you helping me?” Her voice stumbles a bit. Oh, she really can speak, good enough. Though, her mood is concerning me now.

“Don’t act as if you don’t understand!” The lizard girl raises her voice. “It’s obvious that you’re feeding me, but I don’t get why you do this. Your kind tried to kill me so many times! Why do you act so differently?!” She seems totally confused.

“My kind? Huh, so you are not human. But, sorry, I’ve never seen anyone like you before. Or anyone who is so different from… a normal human. Actually, I’m really interested in what kind of race you are.” I’m trying to avoid direct eye contact with her.

“Wait, what?! Uhhh, it can’t be true!” Suddenly, Red stands, rushes and grabs my shoulders, staring right into my eyes. “Do you know names like Londor or Greylakeland? Answer!” She grips me so firmly that it feels like her claws are piercing my skin.

“I’ve never heard these names. Uh, stop it!” That hurts! Immediately her grips get weaker, and she releases my shoulders and makes a few steps back. Phew, that was close. She’s dangerously strong…

“You don’t know… “Red drops down on the floor, hugging her knees. “You’re not lying, you really don’t know…” What’s going on?

“Hey, I’m not mad at you. Don’t worry, I just want to talk.” Maybe now we can try to get some answers? Please? Though I’m still scared after this act of aggression. But now she looks calm again. Perhaps it’s some kind of emotional disorder..?

Red shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. This world… Ugh, I knew it but didn’t want to believe it…” Ugh, She isn’t even listening to me. That’s definitely a bad mood again. I can barely understand what she’s mumbling.

Anyway, it’s impossible to speak with her while she is in this sorrowful state of mind. Hmm, what did my mom use to do for me when I was sad?

I turn on the stove and put a pot of water on it. Then I take off cutlery and food. It looks like Red is completely ignoring me. The pain in my chest is her emotion, isn’t it? I’ve thought a lot about it, and it’s probably that I just can feel her despair as if it’s mine. Same as when I saw her for the first time.

“Re-e-ed, look at me, please.” She slowly turns her head to me. Oh, she’s crying… “I have a strange question, but may you help me with cooking? I can teach you to make breakfast. I need to boil a pot of water and cut some vegetables before boiling the rice. So, can you help me?” I reach out my hand to her.

She looks at me without any sign of understanding. But, after a bit of thinking, she wipes away her tears, stands up and takes my hand with visible confusion. “You’re a truly unusual human…”

So, we start cooking together. Surprisingly, Red catches on really fast. However, I’ve asked Red to do only simple things. The trick is about switching her focus to something completely different. And looks like it works - she doesn’t look so sad anymore, just absorbed in thought.

Now the breakfast is ready! But Red is still gloomy and probably won’t start a discussion. Maybe I can try to break the ice..?

“So, are you from another world?”

“Probably.” Red looks at me with a deep sigh. “Your home feels completely different from what I used to know. There’re so many objects whose purposes I can’t understand. I’ve never seen metal things that move at such speed. Everything seems wrong here.”

“Well, I can try to explain some stuff…” Oh man, we are finally close to the discussion that I’ve been waiting for the week.

When she looks at me again, her glance feels way warmer than usual. “It’s odd, but I feel like I can trust you. You were taking care of me while I was weak. I still don’t understand your goals, but I should be grateful for everything that you’ve done for me.”

She looks away with sorrow. “Erm, at our first meeting, I thought you were a hunter. Sorry for frightening you.” Oh, this sounded surprisingly kindly for her scary look.

“It’s okay. I just didn’t expect that …anything of it, actually. But why are you here? Who are you?” I have so many questions… After another long pause, Red smiles at me. “Obviously, I’m a dragon. Maybe you’ve already noticed it.” She rubs her temples. “I think I can tell you how I’ve got here - it could help you better understand our situation. Uhh, where should I start?..”