Congratulations to Cassandra Hamm in winning The Unicorn Writer’s First Flash Fiction Contest!
Cassandra Hamm is a psychology nerd, jigsaw puzzler, and hopeless romantic who spends most of her time lost in another world. Her work appears in various anthologies, including Stories that Sing, Bingeworthy, Sensational, and Prismatic from Havok Publishing; Warriors Against the Storm; When Your Beauty is the Beast; The Depths We’ll Go To; and Faces to the Sun. She suspects she may end up as a cat lady (or the owner of a Warrior Clan).
Read Cassandra’s winning story below!
“Dragons Will Melt Your Heart”
“I dare you to stick your face in the snow.”
I scowl at my best friend, Zeke and try to fold my arms over my chest. His mom only made him wear a coat and gloves, but Mom made me wear long johns––whatever those are––plus my sweatpants, three layers of shirts, a coat, a hat, and gloves. I can barely move.
But my face isn’t covered, and it definitely doesn’t want to go in the snow. Not on my first snow day in ages.
“Why would he do that?” Courtney, my other best friend, wrinkles her nose. At least it looks like she has to wear lots of layers too. “That’s just dumb.”
“You’re dumb.” Zeke’s face is so red I can barely see the acne. “Do it or you’re a wuss, Drew.”
Well, we’re right outside my house, so I could warm up super quickly afterward. I bet Mom will be ready with hot chocolate—the weird, store brand kind, but still chocolatey goodness. And he dared me. I can’t back down.
“Drew?” Zeke says.
“You do it,” I say.
“I dared you first.”
“Did you guys hear that?” Courtney interrupts.
“Huh?” Now I notice the sizzling sound, almost like bacon crackling on the stove.
I turn around. A tiny, bright green dragon is sitting on the snow-covered steps. My mouth drops open. “Lime! What are you doing out here?”
Lime reaches a clawed foot toward the snowy yard. She yelps and yanks it back.
“You idiot. Snow is cold. See? Cold.”
She glares at me with fierce yellow eyes. She must’ve snuck outside without any of us noticing. Any adult who sees her will just think she’s a lizard. But if she starts breathing fire…
“Oh, is this her first snow?” Courtney bends over and stares at the mini dragon. She’s doing that baby talk thing again. “How is it, Lime? Don’t you just love the fragrance of fresh snow?”
Zeke snorts. “Did you just say ‘fragrance’?”
Courtney yanks her scarf up, making her glasses fog up. “Yeah, so?”
I point at Lime. “Um, is no one else concerned that my mythic snuck out of the house?”
“If you’re so worried, go grab her,” Zeke says.
“Uh, no! She’d bite my finger off!”
He shrugs. “Sucks to be you.”
Lime blows a puff of flame at my yard. The snow sizzles and shrinks with a popping sound—the sound I heard earlier.
“Hey!” I say. “Don’t melt it!”
She gives me a look like, Why not?
“If you melt it, we won’t have a snow day tomorrow!”
“We probably won’t anyway.” Courtney adjusts her hat so it covers her red-tipped ears. “Not unless it snows again tonight. The roads will be cleared by then––”
“Don’t ruin my dreams!” I step hesitantly toward Lime. She watches me warily. I almost expect her to growl. “I’ll open the door if you sneak back inside.”
Lime sniffs disdainfully.
“What? You’re super good at sneaking. I bet Mom wouldn’t even notice.”
She blows another spark, like she’s thinking about setting me on fire. Maybe it would actually warm me up. Not that I’m cold or anything…
“You can’t breathe fire while you’re outside,” I say. “Or, like, ever. ’Cause either someone’s gonna see you or you’re gonna burn stuff down.”
She huffs, like, You underestimate my self control.
“You have literally zero self control. Remember when you chewed those cords––”
“Maybe you should be nicer to her, Drew,” Courtney says. “Also, I thought you were over the cord thing.”
“Nope and nope,” I say.
“Just grab the lizard and get it back inside,” Zeke says. “Then we can actually have fun.”
Lime’s eyes glint dangerously.
“Not a lizard and not an it,” I say quickly, but it’s too late. Lime shoots a tiny river of flame at my front yard. The snow melts, forming a hole for her to dive into. I gape as she starts tunneling toward us—toward Zeke.
“You just offended a mythic!” Courtney glares at Zeke like she doesn’t care about the tiny dragon barreling toward us.
Zeke backpedals as Lime continues heating her very noticeable, very unsubtle way through the snow.
“You know you can’t do that!” Courtney continues. “Especially not a dragon! Their memories are, like, perfect—”
“Shut up and help me, Courtney!” Zeke cries as he reaches the sidewalk.
“What am I supposed to do? You’re the one who offended her!”
I start toward Lime, then hesitate. She might burn my feet if I get in her way. Maybe I should just let her chase Zeke. Serves him right.
“I’m out.” Zeke takes off down the street. His feet fly out from underneath him, and he smashes into the snowy sidewalk, groaning.
Lime emerges from my lawn, leaving a glowing snow tunnel behind her. It starts caving in. Maybe people will just think it was from Zeke and Courtney and me. I don’t want to have to explain a weird, super-heated tunnel, and I also don’t want to touch it in case it’s still hot.
Lime shakes off her scales and starts after Zeke, who’s now running again.
“Wait!” I shout. “I’ll give you coins!”
She pauses, side-eyeing me.
“Lots of coins. All the ones from my allowance. You can add them to your hoard.”
She cocks her head, considering. Then she grins at me.
I let out a breath. Zeke owes me big time for this. “Um… can you go back inside now?”
Lime looks at the snow, then at me. Her big yellow eyes make me melt.
“Fine. Don’t do the fire thing, okay?” I edge toward Lime. When she doesn’t attack, I lean down and pick her up. I grunt. When did she get so heavy?
“She has you trained,” Courtney says. I still need to sneak Lime past Mom and explain away the mess of the front yard. But Courtney’s laughter warms me all the way to my frozen feet.
Special thanks to Cassandra and all those that entered! And a very special thanks to the guest judge Hannah Carter!
Be sure to follow the blog to see when the next contest is announced in the new year!