Sorry I’ve been gone for a while! The last few months have been pretty crazy, what with preparing an art portfolio for college applications, but I’m going to try to get back to posting weekly. Anyways, here’s a short story/flash fiction piece I wrote for class.
How To Raise A Velociraptor From The Dead
“Exactly how do you tell someone that you maaaaaaay have snuck into their basement, destroyed half their fine china, and performed necromancy on their dinosaur bone collection?” I clutched my phone in my sweaty hands, biting my lip.
“You don’t.” Amina, who was crouched next to me behind the island in the kitchen, shook her head.
“But-” I started to protest.
“Trust me. You keep that to yourself or he will never hire us to housesit again.” A roar echoed through the house. I snuck to the kitchen door, making sure it was locked. Something crashed down the stairs, the noise sending a bolt of pain shooting through me. I winced.
“Don’t be so sensitive. It’s just more of the ancient magical artifacts that we’re going to have to pay for.” Nervous sarcasm dripped from Amina’s voice. I scowled at her.
“Can you be serious for five seconds, Aminatu?”
“Can you keep your magical death powers under control at least until we get our paycheck, Zaire? Oh wait! No. And no.” She laughed at her own joke. A whole volley of crashes echoed from somewhere in the parlor.
“How did we get into this mess?” I groaned.
I had needed a new job ever since I buried my manager at Tuesday’s Taco Truck in a sea of reanimated cockroaches. Accidentally, of course, but it was enough to get me fired and have me swear off magic forever. Necromancy is a dangerous talent to have, especially when you’re young, inexperienced, and have no chance of getting into wizard school without a scholarship. It’s the kind of thing you keep a secret, even if you don’t have to. I’d learned my lesson about that already.
So when Mr. Eaton asked me to housesit at his residence while he spent his 70th birthday in sunny Sierra Leone, I breathed a sigh of relief. Surely there were no dead bodies in an upscale, well cleaned residence such as his. Sure, I had to deal with Amina, Mr. Eaton’s teenage niece, but at least there was no chance of my magical powers going haywire and getting me fired yet again.
Amina and I descended the smooth, polished wooden stairs deeper into the mansion. We’d almost finished our tour of the house in a thick, awkward silence. All we had left to look at was the basement. I stepped onto the expensive carpet carefully, looking around the room. Beside me, Amina let out a gasp of surprise.
The room was filled with dusty glass display cases, each one bolted shut and housing a single skeleton. The display cases filled the entire room, towering all the way up to the ceiling.
“Wow.” Amina walked to the first display case and placed a hand on the glass, leaving a small hand-print in the dust.
“A woolly mammoth? There’s no way these are real, right?” I stood beside her, reading the scratchy handwriting on the label.
“Plaster cast of woolly mammoth (Elaphus primigenius) femur. So, not real. But still, pretty expensive.” Amina had already moved on to the next display case. I joined her. She wiped away the dirt with the hem of her long-sleeved t-shirt. I cupped my hands around my eyes and peered through the glass.
The tooth was a pale ivory color, worn smooth by time. Patches of discoloration wound their way up its surface. I marveled at how realistic it looked.
“Looks like this one belonged to a velociraptor. Like Jurassic Park.” Amina was reading the label on the outside of the case. “Pass me the keys, would you?”
“You want to open it? Why?”
“Are you really going to pass up the chance to hold a frickin dinosaur tooth?”
She had a point. I carefully unhooked the keys from the belt of my shorts and passed them to her. Amina opened the door of the case. With long, slim fingers, she picked up the tooth, cupping it in her palms. She looked at it for a while, turning it over in her hands, before she passed it to me. I held it up to the harsh fluorescent lights, admiring the pitted surface, the sharp edges.
That’s when disaster struck. A familiar buzzing sounded in my head, electricity traveling down my spine and crackling off my fingers. Oh no. I thought. “Amina, this is a plaster cast, isn’t it?”
“What?- No, that’s not plaster, it’s a juvenile velocira-” I shoved her. She let out an angry yell, falling to the ground just as the closest display case to us ruptured, sending shards of glass flying through the air.
Time slowed down. Time always slows down somewhat when I cast a spell, but this was different. I could see the long-dead sea creatures that made up the sand that made up the glass that floated around me. I could see the cow that had been slaughtered to make Amina’s boots. A shard of glass sliced my cheek, and I flinched.
No, no, no. I pleaded with myself. Don’t do this.
But magic doesn’t listen. It doesn’t care what you want. An image of a strange creature flashed before my eyes.
And bones came flying through the air, assembling themselves around a single tooth. Bones that were long and curved and wicked. Ivory and sun-bleached white. Teeth and claws for gouging and cutting. Muscle and fat, knitting around the skeleton. Pink skin, and then downy feathers. Finally, a complete velociraptor hovered in the air above us.
The world was still moving in slow-motion. Amina’s mouth formed a little “o” of surprise. I blinked, certain it was a mistake– and yet it was right there, exactly the way I had imagined it.
The most surprising thing was the feathers: multicolored, soft and downy. They covered the entirety of the dinosaurs’ body, with longer sea-blue feathers growing from its arms, and a deep azure tail. It had a streamlined body that somehow still gave off the appearance of chubbiness. Its wickedly sharp teeth were hidden inside a beaklike mouth. The most terrifying thing, however, was its three-inch claws, each one’s silver surface shiny, sharp, and sinister.
The dinosaur dropped to the floor, snoring softly. The magic left my body, and the world went back to normal. Amina slowly staggered to her feet.
“What. Just. Happened.” She brushed off her jeans.
“We need to go. We need to get out of here.” Panic rushed through my veins. My whole body felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. Amina and I slowly backed away from the snoring velociraptor. We turned and ran up the stairs, my heart screaming in my chest. I bent over double at the top of the stairs, shaking. The whitewashed walls spun around my head.
“So.. you’re a necromancer?” Amina stared at me with narrowed eyes. “First of all, cool. Second of all, I hope you have a plan to get us out of this situation.”
A growl emanated from the basement stairs.
“Run!” I yelled. We both took off running. My feet slipped on the polished wooden boards of the parlor. Amina’s foot caught in a lamp cord, sending the large and expensive-looking lamp crashing to the floor.
“I really, really, hope that wasn’t a priceless treasure!” I yelled at her.
“Everything in this stupid house is a priceless treasure!” She yelled back at me. Amina knocked over a curved wizarding staff on display.
“Why are rich people like this?” she groaned.
Loud thumps sounded behind us. A roar echoed through the house. We dashed into the kitchen.
“Quick! Lock the door!” Amina shrieked. I grabbed for my keys, coming up with nothing.
“I-I don’t have them.” I gasped. Amina said something unrepeatable. She scrambled up onto the marble counter, sweeping her hand over the tops of the cupboards. She tossed me a rusty ring of keys. I tried each one in the lock, my hands shaking. The thumping noises sounded like they were getting closer. Finally, one of the keys clicked. I locked the door, breathing a sigh of relief. Amina jammed a chair under the doorknob.
“I’ve got to call someone.” I said, fishing my phone out of my pocket.
“Call who? The police? Who do you think they’ll arrest first?” Amina had a point. I took a deep breath.
“I’ll tell them you had nothing to do with it. That thing is dangerous. We need someone qualified to deal with it.”
“Aren’t you qualified? You are a necromancer, after all.” She said this with a kind of reverence in her voice. It took me back to when people used to actually know that I was a magician. I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of my resurrection skills. Amina pinched me, and I went back to feeling panicked.
“So how does that work, anyway? When is it going to turn back to a bunch of dead bones?” Amina was pacing around the kitchen.
“Oh. Uh, never.”
“What?!” Amina’s voice rose to a crescendo.
“Listen, I’m kinda bad at this, okay?” I crossed my arms petulantly.
“No kidding.” Amina’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Listen, if you’ve gotta call someone, call my uncle.”
“Just do it!” She hissed at me.
“Fine! I will.” I threw my hands up. And that’s how we ended up here, hiding in the biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen while a zombie velociraptor trashed the house outside.
I took a deep breath, my finger poised above the call symbol. The phone started to ring. A roar sounded just outside the door, and I dropped my phone onto the tiles. Amina shrunk back against the wall, a scared look in her eyes. The dinosaur started to scratch at the door insistently. “THIS NUMBER IS UNAVAILABLE. PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP.” The phone announced loudly. A beep sounded. The door crumpled in on itself, and the velociraptor came flying through it. I screamed, falling backward onto the tiles. Amina screamed too, our voices lifting and mingling. The phone beeped again.
The dinosaur stood in the middle of the room, swaying back and forth on its feet. Its tail lashed, and I flinched instinctively. Up close, it was easy to tell it was still a baby- it had big, dark eyes, and its primary feathers hadn’t completely grown in yet, leaving it looking like a half-plucked chicken. I pulled myself into a sitting position. Even sitting, the dinosaur only came up to my forehead. Somewhere behind me, Amina whimpered.
The velociraptor strode over to me, touching its soft beaklike nose to my forehead. I froze. It let out a soft sound, halfway between a purr and a squawk. I hesitantly lifted a hand to it’s forehead and scratched beneath its ears. The purring sound intensified. The dinosaur yawned, and placed it’s head in my lap. Soon it was snoring softly.
“Huh.” I said. My cracked phone started ringing. Amina scooped it up from the floor.
“It’s Uncle Eaton.” She picked up.
“Are you kids okay? I heard incoherent screaming on the voicemail. What’s going on?” His voice was gruff.
Amina looked at me. The velociraptor was still happily snoozing in my lap.
“We… have a lot to tell you.” I suppressed a laugh. She started giggling uncontrollably.
I kept laughing. Amina was almost rolling on the floor at this point. I took the phone from her.
“We kind of trashed your house. But.. on the bright side, we adopted a new… pet for your birthday that I think you’re really going to love.” Mr. Eaton chuckled.
“You what? That’s alright. I’ve got a couple other houses anyway. You didn’t touch my fossil collection, though, did you? I forgot to tell you, I’m the Professor of Necromancy at Wizard School and those are for my graduating class.” Oh no.
I glanced at Amina. She shrugged, a wry grin on her face. I mimed punching her and she let out a snort of laughter. I turned back to the phone.
“So, about that-”
“Zaire? Why do I hear a noise that sounds like a baby velociraptor snoring?”