This novel excerpt was written by P.J. Kryfko in Catapult’s first 12-Month Novel Generator graduating class
“Because that’s why we’re here. And that’s how the story goes,” said E, her voice soft and even. Kai studied the sounds of the words, explored the notes of her tone, searching for… something. Sarcasm. Doubt. Something besides the confident certainty it seemed. Something he could hold on to. Something that would tell him that this was all still crazy, a joke, impossible. Something that would let him believe things would still be okay. But instead, all he heard was the sound of his own fear.
“Think about it, dude,” said Presto. “Every corner of the planet has a dragon story like this. You gotta think with everything going on that’s not just a coincidence. You gotta think that this is what dragons have always done and this is how they’ve always been dealt with.”
“You’ve been reading the Princes Charming subreddit again.”
Presto got defensive, “Look they may be a little obsessive and creepy, but those dudes do a great job of making sense of all this crazy shit. I think E’s right. I think you’re the one who’s gotta do this.”
“What if you’re wrong? What if I get up there and fall on my face? What if I go try this and oh right I’ve never even been in a fistfight before and according to my trainer can barely hold my sword right and it turns out those little details everyone seems to wave away actually do matter? No, fuck this. It’s been fun playing superhero, but it’s just make believe. There has to be someone else, someone trained and right to do this.”
Presto took another long hit on his pipe and blew smoke rings while he exhaled. “Maybe, dude. But even if there’s someone else there’s still you, too.”
Which was enough to send Kai stomping down the hall. His first thought was to retreat to his bedroom and his instrument. The music would reassure him even if the others wouldn’t. The music would untangle the confused philosophical, intellectual, mythic, emotional, and factual knots into soft ringing melody. Fighting a dragon was absurd, but if he was the only one who knew that, then there was room for doubt and Kai feared following the path where that doubt led. But first he had to pee.
Nicodemus followed after him and scratched and mewed outside the bathroom door convinced any movement from the living room should be movement toward his food bowl. Kai turned his head to yell at the cat through the door when the sound of water hitting water changed. When Kai turned back around a giant, green snake was rising out of the toilet bowl, Kai’s urine stream splashing softly between its eyes.
The green dragon head’s first blow broke the toilet seat and knocked Kai to the floor.
“Kai?” Called a voice from the other room. Kai couldn’t tell if it was E or Presto.
He tried to call back “Help!” or “I’m being attacked!” or “There is a reptilian invader in our domicile and I am in dire need of assistance to remove it forthwith!” but all that came out was a sound somewhere between a squeak and a yelp.
The noise brought E and Presto to the door, but the door was locked. They hammered and screamed and demanded Kai tell them what was happening, but the dragon head continued to rise from out of the toilet bowl and dropped its weight onto Kai’s chest knocking the wind out of him.
The nearest thing to a weapon Kai could reach was the toilet brush. Kai smacked the creature’s scales as he tried to drag himself toward the door to release the lock. The dragon head was heavy. Each inch took the effort of a mile. He stared at the maw of silver teeth each as long as daggers, and abundant. Its breath stank of spoiled garbage and the edges of its scales were jagged. But the worst thing was its eyes. Too alert. Too… real? The silver teeth were creeping closer and closer to Kai’s face as he tried to pull himself away. One of the long mustache-like tendrils coming off the end of the dragon head’s snout wrapped itself around Kai’s left wrist, the other tendril moved and searched for Kai’s right, but Kai kept dragging them to the door. His head was almost there. The sounds and desperate pleas from his friends on the other side rose in volume. Kai just needed to lift himself a little. Just reach up with his free hand and…
Kai turned the lock.
The door flew open.
Nicodemus leapt into the bathroom with his claws fully extended and began swiping at the too, too… eyes of the creature who dared to come into his home and threaten his waitstaff.
The cat’s efforts were batted away, but gave Kai time to slide out from underneath the monster and out of the bathroom. E was holding one of their training swords. Presto gripped his cane like a baseball bat.
“Dude! My cat!”
Nicodemus let out an angry screech as he swiped and scratched.
Kai was on the floor crab walking away from the serpent just to feel its weight crash down on him again. E and Presto joined Nicodemus in trying to fend off the beast, but the training swords were dull and the blows from Presto’s cane weren’t making an impact.
The dragon head focused on Kai, specifically on lining up its silver teeth over Kai’s head.
As if from nowhere, Presto produced a long kitchen knife and tossed it down to Kai. The green dragon head opened its jaws and lifted itself to strike, but as it did Kai thrust the knife and caught the creature in the roof of its mouth. The creature let out a cry of agony. Kai kept his arm extended and pressed the knife through the mouth and into the dragon head’s brain. Its screaming stopped then. When the dragon head fell to the floor, E and Presto helped lift Kai up from underneath it. The three of them stared down at the large serpent still not fully emerged from their toilet.
“Jesus, dude,” said Presto. “You just killed a dragon with your dick out.”
Kai dropped the knife to the floor and slowly raised his zipper.
P.J. Kryfko has published a dozen pieces of short fiction, written/produced two short films, and was featured in the Harvey and Eisner Award nominated comic anthology, Outlaw Territory (Image Comics, 2013). His publishers include: Image Comics, Whiskey Paper, Empyreome Magazine, Liars’ League NYC, and Weirdpunk Books, among others. AintitCoolNews.com calls his work “atypical and original.” His Mom calls him “Handsome.”