Dragon Egg


By: Dean Lappi

Brian slowed the old Mazda down as they approached a sharp turn of the narrow, gravel road they had been driving on for the past eight miles. Trees lined the right side of the road, so Brian couldn’t see around the corner, and the road was so narrow, that if another car happened to meet them, he wasn’t sure if they would both fit. Brian angled the car as close to the right edge as he dared, feeling the tires sink a few inches into soft sand where the coarse gravel hadn’t reached. He glanced briefly to his left, seeing a reedy marsh. The water was jet black and dead cedar trees rose from the surface like drowned sentinels.

Not for the first time during the four-and-a-half-hour drive north from Minneapolis, Brian wondered just what he and Alice had gotten themselves into, buying a home online without looking at it in person. For the past year, they had been talking about making a move out of the Twin Cities to a quiet place up North, so when Alice had spotted the lake home online, they had immediately contacted the realtor from the online listing.

“Of course, the property is still available,” said Clarisa, the realtor. “Although it only just came on the market so it will probably sell really quickly. Property of this caliber, and at this price, doesn’t come around often,” she finished, her northern Minnesota accent soft and pleasant sounding.

Brian thought of the way the movie Fargo had portrayed the accents of this area, and he chuckled at the exaggerated lilt of the movie characters’ speech. He and Alice had rented a cabin a few times on Lake Vermillion, the most popular lake in Northern Minnesota, and had fallen in love with the area and its people. Northern Minnesota was a place to live a good life.

He thought of the moment when he and Alice had hung up the phone after that first call with Clarisa, both of them smiling like idiots. They had quickly gotten pre-approved for a mortgage the next day and had nervously called Clarisa to make an offer on the lake home that was $15,000 under the already-low asking price. It had been immediately accepted, and the closing had occurred on a Zoom call just 15 days later. When the keys had arrived in the mail, along with the official deed and mortgage paperwork, they hugged each other tightly, tears running down both their faces.

They owned their forever lake home.

Their condo rental agreement in Minneapolis ended that month, so they hired movers, and within a week Brian and Alice had packed overnight bags and some snacks, turned in their condo keys, and found themselves on Interstate 35W, heading north out of the Twin Cities.

Brian was jolted back to the present as the steering wheel pulled sharply to the right and the tires sunk deeper into the sand, and he had to wrestle the car back to the center of the gravel road, cursing under his breath as he did so. He didn’t care if another car might be coming toward them, he wasn’t going to risk getting stuck way out here, miles from town. Fortunately, the road was clear as they made their way around the corner and they soon found themselves on a straight stretch. A deer crossed the road only a dozen feet in front of them, coming from the marsh. Brian instinctively slowed down, knowing there were likely more deer. Sure enough, two more scrambled onto the road dripping wet. He stopped to let them pass, then slowly crept past the spot.

“That was close. But where did they go? I can’t see them,” Alice said as she craned her head to study the woods.

Brian peered out her side window. “I’m not sure. They really blend in quickly, don’t they?” He looked at the GPS map on his phone. “It looks like we are getting close to the driveway. Keep a lookout for it.”

Alice turned to stare intently ahead, then pointed, “Slow down, I think that’s it, just up ahead.”

Brian looked to the right and saw the small turn off. He slowed the car, then stopped next to the driveway. It led into the trees, nothing more than two worn tracks with tall grass growing in the middle. Peering nervously into the dark woods, he said, “It doesn’t look like it’s been used in a while. What if this isn’t the right driveway?”

Alice stared intently down the narrow track; her eyes filled with similar concern. “Clarisa was here recently to get the photos of the house, and she said the house had been vacant for some time and the driveway was a bit overgrown, so I’m sure this is it. I think we should check it out.”

Brian nodded and turned the wheel, just able to turn into the driveway without having to back up. He drove slowly, hearing the tall grass drag the bottom of the car. Poplar and birch trees crowded the driveway, so he couldn’t see very far. He leaned forward to view the path better, not wanting to bottom out on a large rock. They meandered around lazy corners and then came to a small stream that ran through two old culverts under the driveway. He glanced to his left as he drove across and saw blackish-red water churning deeply, grass swaying in the flow. Turning back, he wondered just how long this driveway was. They had driven almost a quarter of a mile already and he was getting worried that it really wasn’t a driveway. What if it dead-ended and there was no way to turn around?

But just as he thought this, the property came into view.

Sighing in relief, he pulled into a gravel clearing and stopped the car, looking through the dusty windshield at the house.

According to the realty listing, the house was a two-story, aluminum-sided home built in 1982. But as Brian and Alice leaned forward, they saw the house was in rough shape, appearing 20 years older than it was. The siding, once blue, was now faded to a dull grey, and the front step leaned to one side, the wood supports obviously rotten. The photos online made it look bigger than it really was, which made him curse silently to himself, worrying they may have made a mistake in buying it. The gravel clearing was mostly covered with scrubby grass, and a small one-stall garage sat about 20 feet from the house. A garage door opener had been mailed to them, so he asked, “Hon, can you try the garage opener?”

Alice rummaged around in a manila folder and took out the blue opener, pressing its faded yellow button. Surprisingly, the garage door immediately started to rise, and as it did, two raccoons ran under the door and bolted into the woods. It was dark inside the garage, so Brian decided to just park outside for now until he could carefully check the dark building for more animals. Their moving truck wasn’t due to arrive until tomorrow afternoon, so he had time.

He turned to Alice and forced a grin. “Well, we made it. Welcome to our new home.”

Alice smiled, though her eyes showed her concern at the state of the property. But then she exclaimed loudly and pointed, “Look, I can see the lake!”

Brian turned and sure enough, he saw water glinting through the trees to the back of the house. He grinned fully this time. “Come on, let’s check it out.”

They had bought the house because it was situated on a private lake about twenty miles northwest of the small town of Cook, which was itself about 70 miles south of the Canadian border. They bought 160 acres of land with the house, and the lake sat entirely within their property.

It was their lake.

The house didn’t matter as much to them. They could always fix it up and add on to it in the future if needed.

As it happened, it was Halloween, and the air was cold, not much more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This far north, snow could arrive at any time, but Brian couldn’t stop himself from laughing as he got out of the car. He took Alice’s hand and they rushed around the side of the house. A path led down to an old dock, and they scrambled down to, and onto the old wooden structure, slightly out of breath and giggling. The lake was small, maybe 50 acres in size, but it was deep. The realtor had told them it dropped 40 feet right at the end of their dock, and there were many walleyes, northern pike and smallmouth bass ready for them to catch.

The water was grey, mirroring the low clouds, and it looked cold and unwelcoming so late in the Autumn. But it was still beautiful. Trees ringed the entire lake, many of them still showing some red and yellow autumnal leaves. Small waves hit the dock, making soft gurgling sounds as they swirled around the two old tires tied to the side. He picked up Alice and spun her around, and she kissed him hard on the lips, pulling back with merriment in her eyes.

She pointed back toward the house, “Come on, let’s check out our new home.”

Brian set her down and they made their way back up the path to the house, carefully stepping over tree roots that crisscrossed the path, which was itself covered in a thick layer of brown needles. Brian turned to his right, then craned his neck back as he gazed in awe at a massive White pine tree set just off the path. It rose straight up, growing to an almost dizzying height. He felt a sense of peace fill him for the first time in years. This is where they belonged.

Alice retrieved the house keys from the manila envelope in the car and returned to the front step where Brian waited. She sorted through the keys until she found one with a piece of red tape on it. It fit perfectly into the lock and she pushed the door open with a squeak.

Brian held his hand out, “After you.”

Alice grinned and walked through the door into a kitchen. A film of dust covered everything, and cobwebs hung in the corners. It was gloomy in the room, so Brian stepped in behind her and flicked on the light switch. A hanging fixture filled the room with warm light.

A crack of thunder boomed outside, making them both jump. It quickly darkened, almost as if night had fallen on them like a curtain. Brian swore, “What the hell? A thunderstorm, on Halloween?”

Alice closed the door as rain instantly pelted the ground outside, coming down so hard it sounded like rocks hitting the step. She looked closer and pointed, “It’s hailing.”

Brian peered through the door’s window. Lightening flashed and he turned toward the lake and sucked in his breath at what he saw.

A dark figure stood on the dock, facing the house.

“Brian, what’s wrong?”

Brian noticed an old flashlight on the counter, so he grabbed it and gestured, his voice a whisper as he motioned for Alice to come to the window. “There’s a man standing on our dock.”

Alice went stiff as she stepped forward. “What? There can’t be! We were just out there.”

Brian shined the flashlight to the dock and the figure was still there, barely illuminated by the flashlight beam weakly cutting through the darkness of the storm.

“Oh my God.” She looked up at him. “What should we do? Make a run for the car and get out of here?”

As she said this, the figure turned slightly and stared directly at them. Something about it seemed off, but it was too dark to really see what it was that was bothering them.

The figure suddenly ran toward them, inhumanly fast, and stopped right outside the door before they could even react.

Brian pulled Alice back a step, then they both froze in place. Brian quickly glanced to his right and left, looking for anything he could use as a weapon, but the kitchen was empty. He gripped the flashlight harder, ready to use it as a club.

The man turned his head side-to-side, staring at them in turn.

Up close, the man’s face was bloated, the skin white and wrinkled, his right cheek split open and showing the bones of his jaw. His eyes were gone, leaving two blackened pits of bone. And his lips had rotted partially away, showing yellowed teeth through the skin. The back of his head was crushed, a mess filled with bone matter and brains. He was a visage right out of a horror movie, like a rotting zombie that wanted to tear them apart with his teeth.

Brian took a step back, but Alice held his arm, keeping him from moving further.

“Alice, what are you doing, we need to get out of here.”

She shook her head, never breaking her gaze from that of the man. “No, I don’t think he is here to harm us. Look at him.”

Brian shook his head in anger as he turned back to the man, saying, “I did look at him. He’s disgusting.”

At these words, a profound sadness filled the man’s features.

Alice cried out, “No he’s not, and you just hurt his feelings.”

Brian looked closer and couldn’t believe his eyes. Alice was right. For despite the man’s horrific appearance, he didn’t look angry or evil—rather, he seemed…sad.

For some reason, the terror Brian had initially felt turned to concern. He leaned close to the door’s window and asked, “Are you alright?”

The man shook his head from side-to-side.

Brian stepped to the door and glanced at Alice, and she nodded. He couldn’t believe he was doing this, but he pushed his fear aside and opened the door.

The dead man—for as impossible as it sounded, this was the only way Brian could think of to describe him—looked at him in surprise.

Motioning with his hand, Brian said, “Would you like to come inside?”

The man took a step back, as if in shock. He hesitated, then nodded, his partially-destroyed lips trembling as if he was about to cry. As if in slow motion, he moved toward the door.

The dead man stopped at the threshold, as if unsure of Brian’s sincerity, then he looked at Alice. Her expression made him relax slightly, and he entered the house.

Brian closed the door against the hail and sidled over to Alice.

The man looked around the kitchen, and Brian could see a grim expression on his face. As if sensing Brian staring, he turned to face them, the skin of his face looking like it would slide from his skull at any moment.

The man grimaced and pressed his lips together as if he were concentrating, then his face transformed into that of a young man in good health. The black pits of his eyes faded, turning to dark brown eyes. But this new image constantly flickered, showing brief glimpses of rotting flesh beneath. He smiled cautiously again and said, “Thank you for inviting me inside. No one has ever done that before.”

Alice stepped forward and reached a hand up toward his face, pausing just before touching him. He nodded that it was alright, so she touched his cheek, but her fingers went through it, as if nothing was there.

The young man sighed, sadness emanating from his brown eyes. “Yes, I am dead.” His voice cracked, but he pushed his shoulders back and hardened his expression. “I have been for some time.”

Alice pulled her hand back, and letting it drop to her side, she asked, “Can you tell us what happened to you?”

Upon hearing this question, the man’s expression filled with anguish and he ran through the closed door.

They rushed to the window and Brian directed the flashlight beam back and forth, searching for him. Then Alice cried out, “There he is, heading toward the dock.”

Brian swung the flashlight beam toward the lake and it faintly illuminated the man as he hovered right at the end of the dock. He then moved off the edge and floated over the water before descending until he was waist-deep in the storm-driven waves. Brian lost sight of him and frantically waved the light until he was able to find him again through the hail.

The man turned to look back at Brian and Alice. Even from this distance, Brian could see the indecision on his face. A few moments passed, then to Brian’s surprise, the figure rose from the water, floated down the dock and stopped on the path. He then moved back a few feet onto the dock, as if unsure what to do.

Alice stepped out into the storm, cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted, “Please, come back!”

As if surprised by the request, the figure moved slowly back up the path, looking like he would bolt away again at any moment. But Brian and Alice stood still and the figure finally moved the last few feet until he was floating in front of them again.

Alice stepped to the side and said, “Please, come in out of the cold.” She was shivering, her teeth chattering slightly as sleet pelted her with a hiss, the storm seeming to have changed by the moment from rain, to hail, and now to sleet. The temperature had dropped to below freezing, and seeing her discomfort, the man’s expression softened and he quickly moved into the house, beckoning Alice to get out of the cold.

She quickly followed him inside.

Brian ran out to the car and grabbed the duffel bag that contained two warm blankets and ran back to the house, his head held down against the sleet. He immediately opened the bag and grabbed one of the thick blankets, wrapping it around Alice’s shoulders. She smiled her thanks, her teeth still chattering. He crossed to the thermostat on the wall and turned up the heat, which had been set to 55 degrees by the realtor, just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing during the winter.

The man motioned with his hands, then spoke, his voice rumbling with a slight gurgle, as if he had water in his lungs. “I am sorry. I do not know what to do.” He glanced around the room, then at Brian and Alice, his expression haunted and sad as he said, “I shouldn’t be here.”

Her eyes showing her concern, Alice said, “Please, do not fear us. We want to help you. Maybe you will feel better if you tell us your story.”

The ghastly figure considered her words, staying silent for a few moments. As if not sure where to start, he finally whispered, “My brother killed me.”

At Brian’s startled expression, he waved his hand in agitation. “No, he wasn’t a bad person. You see, Clarence suffered from…uncontrollable violent outbursts his whole life. It was like he had a short circuit in his brain. My parents had him medicated, which helped. But even then, sometimes it was as if a switch just flipped and he would explode with mindless violence.”

It was as if a dam had burst, and the words rushed out of him. “I grew to see the signs though, and I could usually control him by hugging him tightly. But that last time I didn’t see the signs soon enough.”

He stopped speaking and his eyes glazed over as if he was looking at something that only he could see. After a few moments, he continued, his voice quivering with emotion, “A bad thunderstorm blew in, even worse than this one,” he gestured at the storm blowing outside of the window. “I was in the house and called to Clarence. He didn’t answer, so I frantically searched the house. I finally ran out of the kitchen door and saw him down by the water. Our parents were out, and I was babysitting him. I think he was 10 or 11, and I was…16? Or was it 17? No, I think…” He smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand, and Brian and Alice actually heard the sound as if he was solid. “My stupid memory.” He then hit his forehead over and over as he said, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” He finally looked up at Brian and Alice, his eyes filled with sorrow. “It just…it feels like my memories are just out of reach. I can’t always see things as they were, anymore.”

He pushed his knuckles into his temples, then shook his head and grew calmer. “There they are. I can see them again.” He took a deep breath, then continued, “I rushed down to the shore and grabbed Clarence by the arm, but a flash of lightening lit up the area and I turned toward the lake, thinking I saw something out there. As I did, Clarence picked up a rock and smashed the back of my head with it. I let go of his arm and stumbled onto the dock, but he followed me, smashing the rock into my head over and over. I remember screaming as I tumbled off the end and into the cold water.”

He stopped speaking for a moment, then continued, his voice quiet. “As I sank, I could see his calm face through the water as he leaned over the dock to watch me. His image faded as I went deeper and deeper until everything turned black. I was in that watery darkness for a long time. I slept, pushing any memories away, letting the water lull me to a peaceful sleep. Then, I remember opening my eyes when I saw a flash of light above me. It was the first thing I had seen in I don’t know how long. It became dark again until another flash drew me upward. I broke the surface of the water to see lightening streak across the sky. I looked toward shore and saw the dock not far away, and in the distance, my house. But it was dark, with no lights anywhere.”

Alice put a hand to her lips, tears falling down her cheeks, and Brian found his own eyes were damp with tears at hearing these horrible events.

The young man stopped speaking again, and Alice nodded, a look of concern on her face. “Can you tell us your name?”

The young man shimmered, his features changing from young man to rotting corpse. “I am sorry, it is exhausting for me to keep this image of how I looked. Would you mind if I let it go?” He looked down, ashamed. “I know I am hideous to look at.”

Alice shook her head. “No, you are not. Please, let it go and save your strength.”

The young man nodded and his features quickly dissolved back into bloated and rotting flesh. He reached up as if to touch her face, then dropped his hand, a look of gratitude on his face visible although he didn’t have eyes. He swallowed, then said, “My name is…Joe Sanderson.”

Alice nodded kindly, “I am happy to meet you, Joe. My name is Alice, and this is my husband, Brian.”

Joe nodded, his lips moving as he said their names softly to himself, almost like he was memorizing them. He stood silently for a few seconds.

Alice softly asked, “Are you alright?”

Joe jerked his head up as if he had forgotten she was there. “I…am not sure. What was I saying before this?”

“You mentioned that you slept in the lake until you were awakened by lightening, and you saw your house. If you are up for it, we would like to hear the rest of your story.”

Joe seemed to sway slightly, as if he were feeling woozy, but Brian noticed it was only a shifting of light through his body that made it look that way.

The young man nodded, and spoke in a hushed voice, “I found that I could will myself out of the water. For the first time, I looked down to see my body and I panicked when I saw that it was rotted and bloated. I knew then that I was dead, and had been dead for quite a while. I found myself by the kitchen window, but I could see that the house was vacant.” He looked away and after a few moments, he said, “My family must have moved away after I died. Looking at my body, I know they had never found me. They just left me. Alone and cold.”

He paused, then said, “I am ashamed to say, a deep sadness overcame me and I found myself at the bottom of the lake again, as it was comforting to me. But every time there was a storm, the lightening would draw me out of my slumber and I would find myself standing on the dock, looking at the house.”

Joe floated through the doorway to the living room and asked, “Do you mind if I sit on the sofa? I feel so tired.” His rotting lips curled into something resembling a smile. “Don’t worry, I won’t leave any parts of my body on it.”

Alice smiled at his attempted humor and motioned her arm, “Of course, Joe.” She looked at Brian with a sad expression, and taking his hand in hers, they followed the floating corpse. Alice sat next to Joe on the sofa.

Brian sat in an oversized stuffed chair, dust puffing up and making him sneeze. He had had no idea furniture had been left in the house, but it fit the space perfectly. This whole experience was the strangest he had ever had; yet in some way, Brian felt comfortable with the situation.

Joe sighed as he settled onto the sofa, looking thoughtful. “I feel a sense of calm here.” He ran a gray, bloated hand along the fabric, caressing it. “I remember this sofa.” He suddenly leaned to his left, peering at the cushion, then grinned as he glanced up at them and pointed at a jagged hole. “I accidently tore this hole when I was running through the house one day with a stick in my hand. I had tripped and the stick punched right through the fabric.” He looked up with a grin. “Man, mom was so mad at me for that.”

The grin faded and his eyes lost focus. After a few moments of silence, he turned to Alice and asked, “Mom?”

Alice patted his knee, her hand going through it. “No, I am Alice.”

Joe looked down. “Of course, I am sorry.”

Alice caressed his cheek, her eyes wet with tears, “Please, don’t apologize.”

Nodding, Joe continued, “That first time that I rose from the water I found the house vacant. I went back to sleep in the lake, and rose from the water a few more times when the lightening awakened me. The house was always empty. Then, one time I saw lights on, so I moved up to the window and peered inside, hoping to see my mom and Clarence.”

His face fell and he wept as he said, “Instead, I saw a child playing with a plastic car on the kitchen floor. At first, I thought it was Clarence, but quickly realized the child was much too young. Then the little boy looked up and saw me.” Joe was quiet for another moment. “The poor kid’s face turned white and he shrieked. A woman ran into the kitchen and almost fainted at seeing me through the window. She cried out and grabbed her child and ran to the other room, screaming for her husband. I was mortified, so I hurried back to the lake. They moved out and the house has remained empty ever since.”

He turned his head and even with his bloated face, it radiated something close to awe. “Until tonight, that is. You not only didn’t scream, but you invited me into the house.”

Alice smiled and said, “We are so, so sorry for what you have gone through.” She reached up to caress his face, and even though her hand passed through his head, he smiled at her and leaned into her hand. With fresh tears streaming down her face, Alice whispered, “You are welcome to stay here, if you like, Joe. You do not have to return to the lake ever again.”

Joe pulled away. “Do you really mean that?”

Brian rose from the chair and knelt on the floor before them. “Of course. This is your home as much as it is ours.”

Tears ran down Joe’s face, leaking from the black voids where his eyes had been. He stood up, and Alice and Brian did as well. He leaned in and hugged Alice, then turned and hugged Brian, who could almost feel his arms around him, although he wasn’t sure if he was just imagining it.

The storm suddenly stopped, and sunlight streamed through the dirty windows. All three of them looked outside, then Brian said, “I am going to unload our car, then park it in the garage. Tomorrow the movers arrive.” He looked at Joe. “I know this is a lot to ask of you, but would you mind staying out of sight tomorrow until after the movers leave? Something tells me they may not want to stay and unload the truck if they see you.”

Joe nodded immediately. “They will never see me.”

Brian and Alice smiled at each other, then Brian left to get their things from the car.

Joe looked around, then back at Alice. “Do you mind if I check out the house. I haven’t been inside since…well, you know.”

“Of course. Take as long as you like.”

Joe floated up the stairs, a smile of contentment filling his face.

That evening, Alice and Joe sat in the living room, and Brian walked up holding a faded board game box with Trouble printed across the top. “Anyone want to play this old thing?”

Joe’s face filled with joy and he nodded enthusiastically.

***

Joe became a member of their family. A year after moving into the house, Brian and Alice had their first child, a girl they named Joanna. Joe never left her side, and as she grew, they became inseparable. Even as a child, Joanna didn’t see his bloated and dead flesh as anything different from her parents. She loved him as a brother.

One day when Joanna was three years old, she and Joe were playing in the yard when she suddenly stood up and said she wanted to go down to the lake. Joe immediately said no. Alice and Brian were in the house, trusting Joe to watch over her.

Her eyes had narrowed and she had crossed her arms. “You can’t stop me, you’re just a ghost,” and she turned and ran down the path. Joe had followed along, his face etched with worry. He wanted to go and tell Brian and Alice, but he didn’t dare leave her alone for even a second.

Joanna marched to the end of the dock. She knelt and leaned over to look into the water, and as she did, her hand slipped and she fell into the deep lake.

Joe had screamed for Brian and Alice, his voice inhumanly loud. Then he went in after her. He tried but couldn’t keep her above water because his arms kept passing right through her.

Joanna slipped under and started sinking, her eyes wide with terror. He screamed in frustration and concentrated on Joanna’s arm, willing himself to a physical state. He shook from the effort and started to lose consciousness, when he suddenly felt her hand in his. He pulled with all his might and rose from the water holding her dangling below him. He gently set her onto the dock just as Brian and Alice pounded down the path, their eyes wide at what they saw.

Alice picked up Joanna, who spit out water and cried.

Joe told them later that he didn’t know how he was able to physically pull her from the water.

Even though Joanna remained scared of the lake after her experience, even as she grew into her teens, she never forgot that it was Joe who had pulled her from the water. She practically worshipped him as her older brother.

When Joanna went off to college, the tears flowed between her and Joe as they hugged before she got into her car.

Joanna said, “I promise I will come back often, Joe.”

Joe nodded, then smiled as he pushed her into the car, and although he didn’t physically touch her, she moved as if he was actually pressing her down. It was a special thing they had developed between them. Since the day when he had pulled her from the lake, Joanna, perhaps subconsciously, had reacted to him as if he were solid.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, Joanna looked up at Joe, then at her parents, tears in her eyes. She smiled her brilliant smile, shut the door, and put the car in reverse. She backed into the small gravel turn-around spot, then drove up the driveway.

When the car was out of sight, Joe turned and without a word, floated down to the dock and disappeared under the water.

Alice and Brian didn’t see him for weeks, until one day he appeared in the house. He looked at them with sad eyes and asked, “Have you heard from Joanna?”

Alice nodded, “She is doing well. She’s all settled into her dorm, and loves her classes. But she calls every night asking about you, Joe. She was ready to come back when we told her we hadn’t seen you since she had left. But we talked her into staying there, that we would let her know as soon as you returned.”

Joe sat down on the sofa. “I am sorry I disappeared like that. I didn’t know what to do. It took me a while, but I finally realized I was just feeling sorry for myself.”

Alice’s phone suddenly rang. She picked it up and pressed the button to answer it. With a smile, she put it on speaker.

Joanna’s soft voice filled the room, “Hi Mom. Joe came back, didn’t he? Joe, are you there?”

Joe smiled and said, “Hey there Dragon Egg, how are you?”

Brian smiled upon hearing the term of endearment, as it had been Joe’s special name for Joanna after the two of them had found a glassy-smooth, palm-sized rock on the beach one day when she had been six years old. She had exclaimed with delight when Joe had told her it was a dragon’s egg. He had called her that ever since.

“Oh Joe, I have missed you so much. Please don’t disappear like that again.”

Looking sheepish, Joe said, “I promise. I will always be here for you.”

After a long conversation, where Joanna told Joe about everything she had experienced so far at university, she had reluctantly said she had to get to class. They ended the call and Alice put her phone down on the table with a happy sigh.

Joe looked at the bookshelf filled with books and a few old board games. He smiled, his bloated face changing to his young visage. “Want to play a game of Trouble?”

Find out more about Dean Lappi on his Amazon Author page.