The night’s mischief complete, I swoop and zoom along the air currents toward the door that will take me back to my home. Bibsha, my pet will-o’-the-wisp, bobs along over my shoulder.
My brows furrow. What was that?
I slow down. So does Bibsha. Only a few houses remain between me and my fairy door on this human street on the outskirts of downtown Ann Arbor. So many fairy doors exist here, but only one leads to the beautiful spring meadow outside my forest home.
Rrrragh. Something growls.
It comes from somewhere close to my portal.
That can’t be good.
My gossamer wings flapping, I whirl around the corner.
A horde of dinosaurs guards my red door, a miniature version of the human-sized door looming over it. In the wall of the human’s house, my door hovers a couple of feet off the front porch. Beneath my door is a clay cottage that I sometimes take naps in and a fairy-sized table and chairs. On that table, several shiny coins wait for me. They call to me.
I grit my teeth. I could fly over the dinosaurs and almost certainly make it to my door.
But then I won’t get the coins.
The coins that are mine.
Pffffffewwww! Beside a T-Rex, a purple dragon shoots orange fire into the air. The smoke singes my nostrils, but at least it doesn’t make me cough.
What’s a dragon doing hanging out with a bunch of dinos?
Can’t figure that out now.
My will-o’-the-wisp bounces up and down beside me.
“All right, Bibsha, here’s the plan. You dart and dash and duck and dodge, anything to distract the dinos. They can’t hurt you anyway. Meanwhile, I’ll zip past, grab the coins, and get to the door. Once I’m there, you join me, and bam! We’ll be off.”
Bibsha pulses her light in agreement.
Off she flies.
The eyes of all the dinosaurs follow her. They’re dazzled by her light. It’s even better than I expected.
The dragon’s yellow stare sears into me.
Here goes nothing.
I dart and dash. I dip and dive.
That hunter’s gaze is glued to me.
Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.
I surge forward, straight toward that scarlet door and the table with my coins beneath it.
Swwwoooosh. Fire explodes out of the dragon’s mouth.
It comes straight at me.
I wrench myself to the side. Through the air, I twist and twirl.
Heat blasts into my bare feet.
But I don’t get burned, not this time.
In the air, I right myself. The dinos beneath me follow Bibsha’s every move. Sometimes, they rear up and snap their jaws, but Bibsha keeps well out of their reach. She’s doing an excellent job with her task.
As for mine… Well, I’ve got to get this dragon out of the way. I’d hoped I could use some fancy flying to get by her but evidently not.
I’ll have to outsmart her.
Zipping and zooming—and dodging blasts of dragon-fire—I lure her out, farther and farther.
There we go.
With a massive burst of energy—some of it magical—I slice through the air past the dragon. Fire chases me, but it can’t catch me now. I dive-bomb that table with the coins. I scoop them up.
Rrrra-wgh! The dragon screams out her fury.
Maybe that’s why she’s here. Maybe she wants the coins to join her treasures.
That’s sad for her. The coins are mine.
I leap into the sky, toward my lovely red door.
Halfway up, my wings shake. My muscles burn. The coins weigh me down.
I plummet. My bottom slams into the table. The plastic shudders beneath me.
The coins are too heavy.
I could leave the coins here, but let’s be honest. I’m never going to do that. The human children leave them for me, not for this dragon to add to her hoard.
Usually, I deliver them one at a time to that stoop before my door, the one with the peeling white paint. Usually, there’s no one here but me and Bibsha.
The dragon’s blue-purple—a color I call blurple—lips curl.
She inhales a big breath.
Crrrrusshhhh, she exhales.
No fire comes out.
The dragon’s out of flames.
I smile. Maybe I can deliver my coins one at a time after all.
Stomppp. Stomppp. Stomppp.
My heart hammers at my ribs. On that toy table, I freeze, my coins clutched to my chest.
A sky-blue Apatosaurus clambers toward me. It extends its long neck out. Its head seeks to close the distance between us. So does its open mouth.
I jump and flutter my wings as fast as I can.
Not even halfway up, I hover in the air. I can fly no higher.
I settle back onto the table. Gotta figure out something. “Bibsha?”
Bibsha hovers in front of the T-Rex’s nose.
Snnna-ap! Those terrifying jaws close around my will-o’-the-wisp.
She doesn’t come out.
The T-Rex swallows.
There’s no Bibsha.
I was wrong.
Grief tugs at my shoulders, at my stomach, at my feet. It tries to pull me down, down, down.
I can’t give in to it now.
For all the dinosaurs’ heads have turned toward me.
That Apatosaurus stomps toward me.
Any moment now, that dragon will regain her fire.
I’m stuck holding my precious coins on this toy table surrounded by an army of dinosaurs.
Gotta try again. Summoning all the strength in my thunderous thighs, I leap into the air. As hard and as fast as I can, I flap my wings. The coins tucked under one arm, I reach the other arm out over my head. If I can wrap my fingers around that stoop at the base of my door, I can be out of here. I’ve lost Bibsha, but I’ll keep my life.
And my coins.
Gravity drags me down.
I push harder. My wings burn.
I streeeettccccch my arm, my legs, my whole body. In the air, I jump and kick and push.
My nails skim the peeling paint of the stoop of my beloved door.
I fall back to the earth.
No, not to the earth. I’ve landed on something…fleshy.
The Apatosaurus’s head.
Raaaawgh! Roooooar! Raaagggh! All around me, the dinosaurs rage.
The Apatosaurus beneath me grunts.
And stands taller.
And stretches its neck out.
It lifts me toward my door.
The dinosaur mob charges me.
The dinosaur mob charges us.
Bbbb-ooooo! Bbbbb-oooo! Its crest raised, a lime-green Parasaurolophus trumpets. It looks like the adult version of Ducky from that human movie, The Land Before Time.
Two more join the first. All three scratch their claws into the wood of the human’s deck.
They run forward.
They run straight into the attacking force.
They protect me and the Apatosaurus raising me to the door, coins and all.
Grrrr-runt. With one last push, the Apatosaurus lifts me all the way to my door.
I scramble onto the stoop.
A coin falls out of my grasp.
Time stands still.
I reach for it.
But it falls.
Cllllick-ompf. It lands between the teal siding of the human’s house and my toy table.
If I leave these coins here, on the stoop, I can hop down, grab my lost coin, and make it back up before the dinos can get to me.
Or the dragon.
Two more Apatosauruses have joined my initial one. With the others, they defend me.
But the attacking force—even with the T-Rex who ate Bibsha panting over on the side, away from the battle—pushes my dinosaurs back, back, back. Between parries and dodges, my dinosaurs peek at me.
No, they send me looks of worry.
A not-so-safe distance away, an unsettling gleam gathers in the dragon’s yellow stare.
You know what else gleams?
My toes wrap around the edge of the stoop. Jump. Grab. Fly. Easy.
Bbb-bbburp! The T-Rex that ate Bibsha burps.
Bibsha shoots out of its open jaws.
Relief shoots through me. My whole body tingles with it, right down to my fingers and toes. Bibsha is alive!
But we’re not safe yet.
And I don’t have all my coins yet. They all belong to me.
Over the heads of the fighting dinosaurs, Bibsha zips to me.
I prepare to launch myself into the fray. Jump. Grab. Fly. Easy.
“Eeeeeeeeeeeee!” Bibsha shrieks in front of me.
It pierces my ears. My hands fly to cover them.
Bibsha darts up and down. Her light flares the brightest shade of yellow, almost neon.
I squint my eyes against it.
But I understand her. I just got her back, and my dino allies are fighting their friends for me.
The lost coin must stay lost. If I go to get it, Bibsha, my new dinosaur friends, and I all might die.
While some things are worth dying for, a single coin to add to my collection is not.
I back off the edge of the stoop and wind my hand around the doorknob.
The dragon twists its head.
Whoooosh! Fire explodes out of its mouth.
The flames rush toward me, orange and red and yellow death.
There’s nowhere to run. There’s nowhere to hide.
I raise my coins as if they could be a shield.
This is not going to end well.
White-yellow light flashes. It grows. It becomes a blinding, burning shade of pure white. It consumes everything it touches.
It consumes the dragon’s fire.
Bibsha consumes the dragon’s fire, my loyal, lovely, beautiful will-o’-the-wisp.
I whip the door behind me open. Bibsha and I tumble through it and into the swirling rainbow of the portal.
Moments later, the clean, green scent of my meadow wafts around me. Violets like the softest woven net break my fall. My coins roll over the ground. The blue sky shines bright above me, and I breathe in that summer woodland scent that screams home.
We made it.
Six dinosaurs tumble onto the ground.
My six friends or allies or defenders or whatever they are.
Well, this is going to be an interesting one to explain.
With Bibsha bobbing over me, I pull myself to my feet. I turn toward the forest and wave a hand over my shoulder. “C’mon, dinos. Let’s go talk this out.”
This story was inspired by one of Ann Arbor's fairy doors! It's the one with a bunch of dinosaurs, of course.