Dusk’s last light was almost gone and the evening sky’s rich blues were on the verge of black. Michaela sat on the cliff top listening to the waves crash against the rocks below- her eyes on the sky, peeled for a sign of the bats that didn’t come.
“I knew I’d find you here,” Francois said.
He was right. After everything, he still knew her better than anyone.
“Did you see them tonight?” he asked.
Bats are true creatures of love, Michaela thought. They live in vast colonies and go by feel, navigating not by sight or reason but by what feels right to the senses. Nothing more. Nothing less. The same had brought her to this town. That and her job for the rockstar. The need for a stable life for her son was why she stayed, that and the warrants waiting for her in New York along with all the drama and empty people.
When the job dried up and the rockstar moved on, it was the bats that kept her here. They felt right. Despite the daily struggles to keep Bennett in school and healthy and fed they were always there. Then along came Francois.
“No, didn’t see them,” Michaela said.
“Maybe they’re full or feel the coming storm.”
She’s met Francois at a show one of the rockstar’s protégés was putting on. They talked all night. He didn’t judge her about all the New York drama she was running from. In the days and weeks and months that followed they talked every night. He brought her groceries and helped with what bills he could. He was kind to Bennett even took him to the aquarium for his birthday to see all the fishes he was so fascinated with. Bennett was thrilled to see his first real shark.
The night they first kissed Michaela dreamed the bats from the cliffs were on fire- beautiful golden flames that did not consume them. Every night since then she had dreamed of them spiraling out of their seaside caves into the night, their wild flaming patterns streaking across the sky.
Their love was real. Genuine emotion in every word, every touch. She could not imagine a life without him and he said neither could he. Then the rockstar called. Wanted to hire her. Just like the old days, but back in New York. So why wouldn’t Francois help her. He always wanted to live in New York. Catch was she had to get there and set up on her own. Francois could hire a lawyer, pay all the bills, protect her from the drama and make her troubles go away. Why wouldn’t he? If he loved me unconditionally, he would, she thought.
What you don’t own, owns you, he had said. These things are for you to face. If I make these things disappear, something else will rear its head at you even stronger to get you to listen to get you to face what you aren’t.
Ever since then she hadn’t dreamt of the bats. Not on fire. Not at all.
He didn’t understand what love was and she didn’t think that would change tonight. She looked into the night sky hoping for a sign the bats might come after all.

(Being an account of the true events culminating in the disappearance of Ms. M—–, of Lawrence, Kansas, May 15, 1987.)
“There’s a giant squid in the pantry.”
“I thought you hated calamari.”
“No! It’s alive. Or, well, I think so. It’s making a creepy noise. Anyway, get rid of it. Please?”
Aron sighed, tossed the newspaper on the floor, and levered himself out of the armchair. He opened the pantry door, but he didn’t see anything unusual, except that awful domestic burgundy Cele’s mother had brought. Certainly not a giant squid.
“I’m sorry, Cele, there’s nothing here.” He wasn’t sorry. He didn’t like squid.

I look down from my high window, forgetting the brush in my hand, because the night is that beautiful. The rain drifts like smoke. The round paper lanterns, not yet put out by the water, gambol in the wind, and the leaves pattern and re-pattern against the light.

We had lanterns just like these at my fifteenth birthday party. (Was it that long ago?—Now the servants hurry out to take them down in the swinging dark. This storm couldn’t put out a fire, should the roofs catch.)  At my party, my father waited until the moon warned us it was rising. Then he lifted my sake cup out of my hand and said, “Now we must go, Kaida.”

We walked up the hill to our shrine. Two of our strongest bodyguards had to pry open the doors, for they had not been opened since my father was fifteen. The hinges squealed and growled.

We lit the lamps on the altar, and left incense sticks burning in the old drifts of ash. In the dim light I saw the clean, deep gashes in the wooden floor.

“You must blow out the lamps when I go,” he reminded me.

“Yes, Father,” I said.

So he left me. I blew out the lamps and waited in the dark, among the columns like trees.

By the time the moon was up I had no doubt—if I ever had—of my paternity.

I have to say, I was magnificent. My fingers and toes lengthened into perfect claws; my white skin burst into shining white scales; I coiled and uncoiled, sliding over myself, and when I roared, I brought rain to the fields: with my new dragon ears I could hear the clouds gathering in the night.

Tonight, I can hear the fields shouting greetings to the rain. After the moon rises behind the clouds I will shed my smaller form for a while, climbing up into the flying dark, coiling and uncoiling, telling our valley its name, and hearing it tell me mine.

Even though I’d spent my whole life knowing this might well be my inheritance, I still felt frightened that first night, waiting in the dark, wondering if the first telltale shimmer and strength would come. It takes time, to grow into the dragon woman one can be.

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