Author: ReLies PM
This short story was written for an online writing contest. It was required to be under 2000 words and contain the phrase "Hi. I'm a dragon hunter. Who are you?" somewhere in it. This was my entry. It's about the discovery of a species of animal poised to destroy human life as we know it today, and an attempt to capture one. Can this new creature be contained, or will it escape?Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Sci-Fi - Words: 1,688 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 08-02-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3047211
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The caves were extensive. I was suited up and well-protected, but the stunning abyss I was soon to enter seemed so pristine and perfect. It was shocking to me that something so beautiful could be home to something so profoundly evil.
We were in the middle of the Sahara desert, at a location not even disclosed to me. It was too great a secret, too profound a mystery for anyone to know the exact location. A tented base and a circular moat had been erected around the ancient African cave system, and although the station looked hastily made, it contained equipment that would have made Madame Curie salivate.
"Are you ready?" asked my exploration partner. She was the one who had discovered this evil secret, although she refused to call it evil. It was "natural" to her. I didn't understand it. She was a self-described noctobiologist, a scientist specializing in research of nocturnal animals. Her name was Diane Richardson, and although she had made one of the most important breakthroughs in biology since the 1940's, she would never be famous. No one could ever know of her discovery; if word spread, people would panic and global pandemonium would ensue. The United States and the government of multiple African nations were working together to contain it. That's the magnitude of this "natural wonder."
I was a part of a mission to contain this "natural wonder" before it spread to the rest of the world. The "wonder" had finally recognized a way out of its underground habitat, which sparked the chain of events that led to its discovery.
Diane calls them dragons. But they don't have wings, breathe fire, or steal princesses from towers. They just kill people in their sleep.
The dragons originally evolved from some type of monitor lizard, even possibly crocodiles from the Nile – the river had a tributary over here eons ago – but somehow these reptiles evolved to survive in the underground expanse of caves. The theory Diane proposed was that after they infiltrated the caves, an earthquake or other natural disaster sealed the entrance, trapping the well-adapted dragons inside. They continued to evolve underneath us, sustaining themselves on… something… and becoming incredibly specialized. Then the cave entrance finally reappeared after ages of slow erosion, and the dragons crept out. From the blurry photographs Diane took in her first and only confrontation with them they seemed to be glossy pink, with long, white tongues and hooked claws. They scuttled flat across the ground until they came to an obstacle, when they would simply bend almost double and climb whatever was in their way. They ran fast, much faster than humans, and Diane escaped her research subjects by swimming across a small oasis pond to an island not much bigger than herself. The dragons waited for hours at the shore for her to return; it appeared they couldn't swim. Water was the one thing that could stop them, hence the giant canal erected around the entrance to the caves. Protection.
Diane, observing them from the island while she waited desperately for a rescue, noticed that some dragons had large black eyes and others had no obvious eyes at all. She guessed they were different genders, but such a difference between sexes shocked her. She said she was grasping at straws, essentially; we knew only one thing for sure about them.
How they fed.
The dragons prefer sleeping victims (we have well-documented cases of dragon predation, which led to Diane's expedition) because they don't struggle as much, but they can attack conscious ones just as easily. They will slide their stunningly long and thin tongue through the sleeping victim's nostrils or mouth and use ridges on the underside to grind away a patch of the prey's throat, exposing the jugular vein. Then the creatures insert their tongue into the vein, drinking the blood through their proboscis-like tongues. The victim then appears to die from a heart attack; the tongue eventually swells with the intake of food and blocks the vein. Upon withdrawal from the vein, the tongue leaves behind a chemical compound that "patches up" the area that the dragon cut, leaving no evidence of their presence, except for another person dead from a heart attack at night. Diane is unsure what their natural prey is, but rising numbers of African tribal members dead from heart attacks prompted her to investigate.
My goal was to find these dragons. I had a pistol and two tranquilizer guns, as well as a giant tank of pressurized water on my back. I also had a net, traps, and a collapsible cage.
I was supposed to bring one back alive.
I broke my gaze from the foreboding pit beneath and turned to look at Diane, who'd be taking the plunge with me.
"Yes," I said. "I'm ready."
We'd have to parachute down until the caves leveled out, and a long metal line would winch us back up when and if we returned.
Diane counted off, and on three we jumped into the dragon's cave, wondering if we'd ever come back out.
I was drunk with adrenalin, feeling as if I was moving slowly through a nightmare. I had seen no dragons yet, but this overwhelming sense of dread, fear, and apprehension was welling up within me. We were entering a new branch of caves, and an oddly clean breath of air blew across our faces. Too pure for this far underground. It seemed out of place.
I shone my flashlight across the walls of the massive new chamber and instantly regretted it. Translucent pink bodies lined the cave, slightly moving. Diane inhaled sharply. I was terrified. In seconds I would be helpless as I was bled to death by one of these creatures; all the guns in the world weren't enough to stop this number.
Hundreds, thousands of the beasts scrabbled on the walls. I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable. But nothing happened.
Stunned to be alive, I glanced at the beasts. Some turned their heads towards us, gazed at us with an utter lack of interest and an utter lack of eyes, and returned to scrabbling on the walls. Why weren't they attacking us? Diane looked at me, I looked, shocked, at her.
"They can't see us," she whispered. "These are the females. They must rely on the males for everything. Shoot one and capture it; unless a male is near, nothing will happen." I could hear the tremor in her voice, wishing it to be true. If she was wrong, there was no escape.
I slowly drew the tranquilizer gun as she popped open the cage. I picked a dragon at random and pressed the trigger.
With hardly a whisper the dart found home, and without a sound at all the dragon dropped to the cave floor.
Diane lifted the body and placed it into the metal cage, strapping it to her back.
Without saying a word we followed the line out towards the entrance.
As we arrived at the bottom of the pit, we tugged sharply on the line and felt ourselves slowly lift. Then we heard a piercing, wailing cry. A giant dragon with large black eyes spotted us and screamed. In a manner startlingly similar to the howling of a wolf, it raised its head and shrieked and shrieked. Only about a foot off the ground, we froze in terror. The crewman manning the winch must've sped it up, but the crank still rose painfully slowly. The dragon, continuously emitting an awful racket, scuttled towards us but finally we were at least six feet above ground. The dragon couldn't reach us.
It started climbing the walls of the pit. Scaling it with us, the dragon screamed and shrieked. Ten feet, twelve feet above the floor of the cave. I noticed more pairs of black eyes. The dragon was calling for help.
Soon the walls of the cave pulsated with the bodies of the deadly dragons, and the call changed. A short bark, and as a team, the dragons leaped, snapping, off the walls towards us. Dangling helplessly in the middle of the cave, Diane and I were helpless. She screamed as the first one fell to the ground, missing us by mere inches. The crank was moving faster and faster and the light from above was getting brighter and brighter but it was too slow, too slow. We were going to die.
"Drop the dragon," I said through gritted teeth. "Maybe they'll stop."
"No," breathed Diane. "I can't do that. We're never finding that cave again. This is our only chance at developing a poison."
"Drop. The. Dragon."
We were getting near the rim of the cave, and fewer and fewer dragons were throwing themselves off the cliff. It was wide enough to afford us some measure of security from the flailing and seemingly suicidal dragons – we had to be hundreds of feet above the cave floor now; without a parachute there was no way they could survive that drop.
Far below the dragon still screamed. But we were safe, we were going to survive.
The crane eventually pulled us well above the top of the pit, and we could see no dragons attempting to climb out. We were safe.
We climbed down the maintenance stair at the back of the crane, and gave the captive dragon to the scientists. Diane wanted to help them, but I told her she had done enough. We had captured a dragon. What more could the world need from us?
I stood, gazing out over the edge of the pit from behind the safety of the moat this time. I had gone down there, and come back alive - with the scariest creature the world has ever seen.
Diane came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder.
"The world will be safe," she said with a smile. "Nice job."
Hi. I'm a dragon hunter. Who are you?