|“You should see it,” I said, knowing she couldn’t hear me, ” Daniel dragged this scrubby old cedar into the steel shop, and the guys have hung everything they could find on it. It looks pretty good for a cedar. Of course, there’s no lights, but they found some tinsel, and it sparkles some in the candlelight. Toni says we should have lights next week.” I watched her for a second, but even her breathing didn’t change, so I went on talking.
“I don’t want you to worry about anything but getting better. We’re working on getting electric back in this place, and then we’ll be able to get proper monitors on you.”
It was the weirdest thing. I felt emotions from everyone, but she was completely quiet. After months of having to wade through everyone else’s emotional baggage, it was nice to find a spot of quiet. The door latch clunked. I didn’t have to look back to know that it was Daniel. His suppressed emotions gave him away. Nobody even tried but him.
“You about ready to go?”
“Ahem, yeah. I guess.”
“Who is she, Max? What makes her so important?”
“She’s just a kid. Nobody really.”
“I know that’s what you think, but I don’t even have to be a telepath to sense the connection between you.”
“Yeah. There’s something. It’s not—you know… I just feel like there’s something about her. Like she’s important somehow. It’s like I already know her.”
“Trust me, man, you don’t.”
“Have you heard or felt something psychically?”
“No, well, just bits. I get flashes of images sometimes, and she seems to be stuck on that awful night. After—ugh… I don’t know how to say it. Max, dude, she might be just a little wacked out.”
“I don’t sense anything from her. There are no emotions coming off her at all, and it still feels like—like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Daniel looked at me for a long moment before nodding and turning toward the door. He took three steps and paused, saying, “I’m out in five. I’ll wait for you in the lobby.”
He shut the door quietly behind him, and I heard him shuffle away. I turned back to the comatose girl and was just about to say goodbye when there was a fluttery-ticking sound from the window. The first was followed soon by more of the same in various spots across the big window. Small shadows flitted outside the closed blinds. Curious, I went over and drew the blinds open.
There were six of them, joined directly by three more. Lizards. Winged freaking lizards. With scales. And feathers. The brightly-colored reptiles swooped and scrabbled at the window, trying to get in. They wanted in. I picked up vestigial emotions, they weren’t as colorful as human emotions, but they were there, and recognizable. They were worried. They wanted in to check on something. The girl. They were worried about the girl.
Minding the strength of the energy I sent out, I sent the protective concern I felt to the creatures. They sent back only worry and then laced it with a little bit of something resembling caring. Hoping I wasn’t signing our death certificates, I opened the window and pried off the half-screen. One by one the little lizards darted into the room, zipping around too fast for me to keep track of them all. Then the (I presumed) leader darted over to hover just above Ellen’s sleeping form.
The critter appeared to look her over and then darted toward her face. I moved to intercept but was halted by a sudden convergence of the other eight of them. They whipped their little tails up from beneath themselves with such speed that there was an actual snapping sound. That’s when I realized their tails were barbed. I swatted at the group, barely clipping one of the little dragons— and got a blast of anger back.
Realizing that the anger hadn’t been there until I’d struck one of them, I stood still, and the feeling faded.
I watched the leader carefully then, and it was so worth it. The little coppery fella had bright red and buff feathers, and a red crest on his head. The red crest expanded like a cockatoo’s as it looked intently into her face. Then, the tiny, agile tongue flitted out and fluttered over the spot on her forehead, right between her eyes. When it did, her eyes fluttered. They fluttered for the first time since the wave, back in October. She inhaled deeply but did not stir awake. Then, just as suddenly as they’d appeared, the little dragons darted out the window again and were gone.
I went straight over and shut the window. I turned back to look at Ellen. There was an emotion coming from her now, but the only way I can get close to identifying it is maybe to say gratitude. She was thankful. She was also still sleeping peacefully, and I didn’t want to wake her. I guess I was afraid I’d mess it up, so I went to the door before I remembered why I’d made Daniel stop off here at the hospital.
I walked as quietly as possible back over and pulled the little box with the bow out of my pocket and placed it on her table. If she didn’t wake soon, I’d tuck it in a side drawer or something. It just felt like she ought to have it. Maybe, if magic really was returning to the world, she would wake up and know what to do with it. I gave the room one last look-over before I closed the door behind me, and couldn’t help a grin.
Snap-dragons, I thought.