Myrtle hatched in a warm, cozy cave high in the mountains. She was the first dragon born to her clan in a long, long time. That meant that everyone was a little overprotective. When it was time for her to go and see the world, her family didn’t want her to leave.
“I don’t know,” her mom said. “When I left the cave, humans were dying from a terrible disease. Everyone seemed to be sick. It was all terribly frightening.”
“When I left the cave,” her grandfather said, “there were humans sailing around the ocean attacking people and burning down villages. It really isn’t safe.”
“Things were fine when I left the cave,” her father said. “Although everything seemed quite dirty and smelly. Maybe she can just make a short trip out and hurry home.”
“It’s tradition to let her go,” Grandfather said. “But that doesn’t mean she has to leave right now. We could wait another one or two hundred years.”
“I’ll be fine,” Myrtle said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a year.”
And so they unsealed the entrance to the cave and Myrtle left. It was summertime first. The bugs were plentiful and the days and nights were warm. Myrtle spent her time hiding and observing. Things weren’t as dirty or scary as she’d expected. In fact, there was so much to see and do that she wished she had longer than a year.
Time passed. Soon the worms were burrowing deeper at night to get away from the frosty night air. Dried leaves settled in layers over the brown, sleeping lawns. It was autumn time. The crisp, chill air was the early warning system informing everyone that winter was coming.
Myrtle was a little dragon, only a few decades old. She was small enough to not really need a cave to sleep in, so she had a little burrow instead at he base of an oak tree. The squirrels living upstairs were mostly good neighbors, and the people living in the house nearby never seemed to notice her.
Just before dusk, she hurried out and joined the other little animals trying to gather materials to ready their homes for winter. One day, Mother Squirrel was sitting on a branch, chewing the fingers off a soft, cloth gardening glove.
“What do you have there?” Myrtle asked.
“Sleeping bags for the little ones,” Mother Squirrel said. “They’ll sleep warmer at night now.”
“Well done,” Myrtle said.
Father Squirrel was burying acorns over by the pine tree. He waved as Myrtle flew past, and then went back to his work, his bushy tail twitching. He snatched up another acorn and hopped a few feet away and started digging again.
Myrtle kept an eye on where the ladybugs and caterpillars were burrowing into the piles of leaves. She’d get up early and eat a few for breakfast. Yum.
She reached the sidewalk and flew low over the gutters, looking for a bit of sparkle. Most of the time, she darted down, only to be disappointed by bits of broken glass. Tonight, she was lucky and found three pennies. It’s better than she’d done all week.
She flew home with the pennies and pushed them into the piles that lined her burrow. She settled into her hoard, and it soon warmed up as it conducted her heat. She would be warm this winter as she hibernated.
And when she woke up, it was spring. Her time outside was running out. Myrtle spent more time peeking into windows and spying from trees. The robins had returned and kept her company in the afternoon. They told her stories about strange people and scary cats and worms eaten at dawn when they tasted best.
The people mostly kept to themselves. The animals were a little friendlier. But everyone seemed so busy now that spring was here. They dashed about fixing up their shelter and checking in with all their favorite places.
And so, Myrtle watched the sky. She loved the sunsets and sunrises. She loved the clouds that so easily changed their shapes from one moment to the next. She loved the rain that fell from nowhere and washed everything clean again.
She loved the graceful trees and flowers and the brilliant green that was everywhere. She even tried eating berries, at the urging of the squirrel family. They tasted sticky and far too sweet. She didn’t love the berries.
And then it was summer again and time to go home. Her family met her at the entrance to the cave. They cheered when she stepped inside. “How was it?” they asked. “Was it dirty? Was it scary? Was it awful?”
“It was nice,” Myrtle said. “I think I may want to go out again someday.”