Short Story: The Ringing of the Dragon


Aly Nasr

Protagonist’s Bedroom

Contributing writer Aly Nasr wrote this piece as an assignment for her 11th grade English class. We’re thrilled to be able to share her work here with our readers.

Have a short story, opinion piece, guest essay, poem, piece of artwork, or class assignment you feel proud of? We want to publish you! Submit your work here on our Student Submission Form and our team will be in contact with you within 24-48 hours after submission via email or text. Any inquiries can be directed at [email protected].

His father was never able to complete the final task.

They were sitting on their open engawa outlooking the garden, one beautiful summer’s day. Jeyakumar Bartlett was drifting to sleep, listening to his grandfather’s story for what felt like the millionth time.

“Oi! Jey, I’m getting to the best part! You’ll want to hear how I-” his Gramps said.

“Slayed the bewildered beast with your thumb? I know Jiji, I know.” Jey chuckled as he stood and walked to the kitchen to refill their morning tea. His Gran was in there washing dishes, humming a cheery melody. She noticed him grinning to himself, taking the teapot from him and refilling it.

“Grin for too long, and he’ll give you harder assignments,” Gran promised. The grin faded immediately as she laughed, handing back the teapot, now filled. She added a plate of sweet treats to which his smile reappeared. She kissed his cheek and pushed him along.

“Thank you, Baba!” Jey called as he left the room.

He eyed the sweets carefully as he returned to his grandfather. He placed the items on the table before a small, intricately detailed box caught his eye. It was obvious that Gramps was trying his best to hide it, so he happily ignored its presence. It was his birthday, after all.

“Now… off to business,” Gramps mumbled scruffily after he finished the mochi he’dsneakily’ stolen from Jey. Jeypeaked a glance at the small box, his frustration faltered, now filled with excitement.

Gran slowly entered the engawa, holding a small, but beautiful, cake with lit candles. He smiled and bit back a laugh as his grandparents sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. Gramps, unknowingly being loud and off-key. They sliced into the moist, velvety cake.

Gramps stood with a deep grunt and, after a quick look in Gran’s direction, took the dirty plates and left the engawa. Jey was wiping his face with a napkin when Gran placed the box on the table between them. He looked from the box to his grandmother anxiously, then reached out his hand for it, only for it to get smacked away from his present.

“Not yet, dear. Your grandfather needs to be here before you can open your gift.” Gran explained calmly. At that moment, Jey shot up and sped to the kitchen where Gramps was washing the dishes — suspiciously slowly. Jey’s eyebrow twitched as he snatched the plates from him and washed them at an impressively fast rate. When he finished, he turned to his grandfather, whose back was facing him.

“…Jiji, you’re being slower than usual. Come on, I want to see what you guys got for me.”
Gramps looked at him with an odd look. He looked caring, but slightly uncomfortable.

“Please? It can’t be that bad,.. can it?” Jey pondered with a quick spike of fear.

Gramps chuckled, which filled Jey with relief, and fear. They re-entered the engawa, to see Gran patiently sipping some tea. Gramps sat beside her, and Jey placed himself across from them. Gramps looked as if he wanted to escape again, to which Gran nudged his arm. She took her eyes off her husband and instead looked at Jey.

“Happy Birthday, our dear Jeyakumar!” She encouraged.

Jey looked at his loving grandparents and curiously opened the small, detailed box.
A watch. A watch? It didn’t really look like a watch. The structure was very watch-like, but instead of metal and silver, it was made of old wood and heavy white, cracked stone. The weirdest part though, was the small circle of stone columns protruding out of the wood base, with some sort of sundial in the center of it all. As the new hour struck, it temporarily glowed.
He picked it up carefully, staring at it blankly.

“This was your father’s watch,” Gramps mumbled, observing Jey’s reaction closely.

Jey stared at his father’s watch with a sense of wonder. He never really knew his dad all that well. They lived together and all, but Jey never bothered him, he was just so..busy. He recalled seeing his father pace around his office with papers frantically thrown around the floor and photos taped on a board with different strings hanging from picture to picture. Jey looked at his grandparents again. No wonder Gramps was shifty; He and Jey’s dad were never fully on the same page, especially after his mother’s passing.

“Thank you. Really. This is pretty cool!” He said as he put it around his wrist. It fit perfectly.

Gran looked at Jey knowingly. “We understand it’s been a while since.. but we are so very proud of you Jey, and we figured it was about time we let you loose.”

“Loose? Am I getting fired?” Jey questioned.

“Would if we could,” Gramps complained. “We’ve caged you here with us old folks for long enough. You come from very adventurous parents, you know? We bought you some train tickets to go on your own adventure.”

Jey’s gaze switched between Gran and Gramps. “Is this your way of kicking me out?”

“In a way.” Gran agreed. Jey smiled at her brutal honesty and grew excited.
That afternoon, he took the old duffle bag he once used for his running gear and put in all of his favorite clothing and toiletries. He packed his backpack with his childhood frog plushie — Mr. Gibbles — his headphones, a water bottle, and a few comics, along with his savings money.
His grandparents hugged and kissed him goodbye as he entered the train under the brilliant night sky. He searched for an empty compartment, his bags dragging around him. Frustratingly, all of the rooms he entered were full. His arms growing tired, he opened the last compartment, feeling hopeless, to an empty room.

“YES!” He cheered as he threw his bags in and fell against the stiff, but open seat.

As he looked around at his surroundings he yelped. He was definitely not alone. Sitting in a corner on the opposite seat, lay a sleeping girl. She looked about his age, maybe older.
He quietly slapped himself for yelling without checking to see if anyone was in there. He awkwardly adjusted and organized himself. His stuff was neatly placed around him; he made sure to give her distance, in case she were to wake up. He put on his headphones, slowly dozing into sleep.

He jolted awake, and in doing so, accidentally banged his head on the window. “Ow!”

“Good Morning,” the smooth voice said as he turned to the source, rubbing his head.
She was standing now and putting her ripped, hammy-down backpack on. Her dark, voluminous hair was tied back in a sloppy ponytail, with bangs that fell to frame her brown, freckled face. She was wearing a baggy gray hoodie and leggings with a bandage wrapped around one of her kneecaps. She had bright hazel eyes that shone through the cover of her metallic glasses.

She smiled at him and commented, “That was some introduction, all right.” and left the room.
He embarrassedly got ready, coming up with comebacks and retorts he could’ve said to this stranger, and headed to the dining cart for breakfast in flustering defeat.
He entered the dining cart and found her sitting by herself with an empty plate, gazing out the window. He felt the desire to march over and give her one of the retorts he came up with but figured he’d get embarrassed again. He walked over and sat across from her, ordering himself pancakes and bacon. She looked at him curiously, encouraging him to introduce himself.

“H-hello, again. I’m really sorry for shouting last night. I was really tired.” He explained.
She chuckled to herself, which made him even more nervous.

“Don’t worry about it. It was funny. I needed that, so thank you.” His steaming food arrived, which he stuffed in his mouth so she wouldn’t notice how red he was getting. He burnt his tongue because of it.

She glanced at the scar on the right of his neck and his odd-looking watch.

“What’s your name anyway? You seem a bit young to be all alone.” She observed.

He finished chewing before responding, “I’m not too young to be on my own! My name’s Jeyakumar, and I’m 16. And besides, I should be asking you the same question.”

“That’s a very interesting name, Jeyakumar. It’s Indian, I believe. Who named you, if you don’t mind?” She looked at Jey with a new-found curiosity.

“Just because I don’t stereotypically look Indian, doesn’t mean I can’t be. My dad named me, … and you’re avoiding the question.” Jey snapped.

“Ok, ok! I’m not discriminating, just curious. I’m Brielle Singh, and if you hadn’t noticed, I too am Indian. And I’m 18, so please respect your elders, kiddo.” Brielle replied sarcastically.

“Call me ‘kiddo’ again, and I’ll throw up on you.” Jey threatened.

There was a moment of silence which was broken by Brielle’s sudden cough, slowly turning into laughter. Jey’s previous frown turned into a grin, then a confused smile.

“What the heck are you laughing about? ..Am I that unthreatening?” He questioned.

Trying to hold herself together, with small fits of giggles, she replied, “No no no, it-it’s just you look pft- haha. You’ve got a big smack of syrup on your cheek. You tried to look menacing, b-but you look like a- hahaha.. A grumpy toddler!”

He snatched a napkin and vigorously wiped his face. Her laughing grew louder.

“Shh, Quiet!!” He frantically whispered to her.

He smacked his head on the table in defeat as she calmed herself down. People were glancing at them as though they were simply a cheery couple. He sunk deeper into his seat, now cherry red.
She smiled, took a deep breath, and tapped his unmoving head.

“Hey.” She apologized.

“What? I can’t look at you right now, or I’ll explode from humiliation.” He grumbled, his head still on the table.

She paused and ruffled his hair. “Ok. Whatever cools you down, Jeyu- Am I allowed to just say Jey?”

“Sure.” He mumbled.

She released a small smile.

“Thank you, Jey.”

They felt the train come to a stop. He lifted his head and looked out the window.
“We’re already here? I thought Idaho would take a lot longer to get to from Oregon.”
Brielle left her seat with her backpack being swung onto her back. Jey got up and gathered his things.

They exited the train and felt the cool morning breeze brush against their faces.

“…It was nice meeting you, Jey.” Brielle proclaimed as she was wandering away.

He looked after her for a while, “Wait!” He caught up to her.

She turned to him, looking confused. “Don’t you have people waiting for you or something?”
“Um… well-no. No, not really. My grandparents wanted me to explore around my dad’s hometown I guess.” He explained.

“Oh ok…Do you have anywhere in mind that you want to go, or are you going to just wander around?” She questioned.

“My grandparents mentioned something about my father’s old apartment when I was little…what was it?” He racked his brain, trying to remember.

“You know, your father’s apartment was never resold? He said they would never be able to..probably because of all of those dirty scrolls and photos he collected.” Gran huffed.

“Right! They said his apartment was still there, I want to see it for myself.”

Brielle smiled, “All right! Glad you’ve got something to do.”

They stood in silence for a few seconds, wondering where this conversation was going.“What are you here for? Do you have people waiting for you?” He wondered.

Her smile fell, “Uh… no I-I don’t. I live on my own. I’m just here to look around. Touristy things, you know? Kind of like you, I guess.”

He stared at her. she homeless? I mean, that would explain her tattered clothes and huge backpack…

“..Do, do you want to join me? I mean, it might be boring, but, you know, if you want I wouldn’t mind having someone to make fun of.”

“Hmpf. You could try— …kiddo.” Brielle’s eyes lit up slightly.

“All right, so where is this mysterious, abandoned room thing you were rambling on about?”
They walked up to the supposed “run-down” apartment, only to find a beautiful modern apartment complex. They looked at each other in confusing disbelief.

“Didn’t you sa-”

I know.” He interrupted.

They entered the fancy apartment and walked up to the nice-looking lady at the front desk.

“Hello there! How may I help you today?” The apartment receptionist asked.

Jey stood for a second, double-checking if this was the right place.
“Hello! Um, this is the uh- Floral Flourish apartment complex?” He wondered why his serious, manly-looking father lived in a place with a flower in its name. The thought made him smile.

“Indeed it is! Are you checking into your room?” She asked.

“Yes, were looking for room 692?” She typed on her computer for a few seconds.

“..And you do live here, yes?” She asked them skeptically, analyzing the bags beside them.

“Yes. We were just on a trip with our friends, and our parents are expecting us. They’re upstairs preparing our favorite food! We already know, but we don’t want to ruin the surprise for our lovely foster parents.” Brielle innocently batted her eyelashes.

“Mhm..May I know the names of your beloved parents, please?”

At that moment, Brielle grabbed Jey’s arm and ran into the elevator behind the desk.

“H-Hey! Get back here!” The woman called after them as the elevator doors closed.

They stood still for a moment. Jey looked at Brielle angrily with awe.

“What the heck was that?!” He protested.

“She wasn’t going to let us in. She had already called in security when you asked if this was the right place. We “live” here, knucklehead. Besides, they won’t be able to catch up to us right away. We’ll have a few minutes to find your dad’s room. Hopefully.”

“And if I remember correctly, you came up with our tragic tale after I asked.” He grumbled.
The doors opened to a long, glistening hallway. Doors lined up everywhere with brass handles and colorful flowers in glass vases between each door. Jey ran out, his anxiety rising.

“629, right?” Brielle asked remembered as she fixed her hair and ran after him.
They rushed past each door, hurriedly looking at the door numbers.

639, 635, 632…

“629! Right here!” Brielle yelled as the security guards came into view. He stumbled towards her, the guards now running towards them.

She kicked open the white door, leaving a dirty boot mark on it. They rushed in and slammed the door behind them. They frantically gathered random objects to barricade the door.
The guards burst into the room, only to see an empty, clean room. They walked around, trying not to ruin the picture-perfect decor of the space.

“I could’ve sworn they came in here!” one guard shouted through his thick goatee.

“Ah man! Boss is gonna be so mad at us..and she finally started letting me have bathroom breaks!” The other guard complained, insecurely covering the mole laying on his cheekbone.

“For the last time, get it together Reggie!!” he barked as he left the apartment, fuming.

“..yes, sir.” he whimpered, wiping away a tear before joining him.

Reggie closed the door, leaving Jey and Brielle to confusion.
They didn’t hide, they were standing out in the open the whole time the guards were in there.They began to notice their environment.

It was not anything like the rest of the apartment complex. They looked around and saw tattered papers and scrolls laying on the floor. Dead, and poorly potted plants littered the molding floor. The dusty wallpaper was ripped and peeling off.

“Well, this is welcoming.” Brielle wrinkled her nose, picking up a dead root from the floor.

“At least now I know what Baba meant…” Jey muttered to himself.

He walked over to his father’s old desk and saw a faced-down picture frame. He lifted it to find a photo of him and his mother, the glass cracked. He placed it back down. And read a few of the papers and scrolls spread around his desk.

“What in the world…?” Jey murmured.

Brielle stood and strolled towards him, “What did you find?”She looked down at the papers he was reading and immediately understood.
There were sketches and hard-to-make-out sentences. Jey’s father never really had the best handwriting. All of the images seemed to be the same thing, and from what Jey could read, they were some sort of weird artifact. One of the sentences seemed clear to him.

“Canyon location. Gotta watch out for the Cha-cha’s, or whatever they call themselves …they’re slowly figuring everything out.”

Jey’s scar suddenly became very itchy. He put the papers down and placed his hand on the scar, almost as if he were protecting it.

“…Jey, are you feeling ok?” Brielle looked at his scar again.

“Yeah, I’m ok. Thanks, Brielle.” He forced a smile.

He never knew what his father had been so obsessed with when he was little, all he knew was that he wasn’t allowed to interrupt his research.

They heard a rustle coming from a deep rip in the dirty, torn couch. They glanced at each other, fear rising within them. Jey slowly began approaching the source of the noise, Brielle, a little behind.

Brielle sprinted to the molding couch, “Oh my gosh, Jey! That’s a cat! Oh, you poor, poor thing!” She worriedly reached her hands into the tear and picked up what definitely was not a cat.

It was..cute, well- sort of. It had a very cat-like body, but instead of a matching face, there was instead an elephant trunk and tusks. Plus an added serpent’s tail.It was small, for what it was. It was around the size of a big puppy.

Brielle became very quiet and blankly placed it on the floor before standing up and backing up behind Jey. Not that it helped, it followed her, curling its scaly tail.

Jey, giving up on making sense of things, commented, “I think it likes you.”

“Please don’t,” Brielle warned.

Jey shrugged and knelt down to the cute, odd-looking fuzz-ball.

“How on earth are you here, bud?” It waddled to him making little toot sounds.

He picked it up, “I’m keeping him.. or her.”

“Don’t you know who that is?” Brielle pestered.

“…Poot?” He looked down at the little creature, “do you like that name? Poot?”

Brielle rolled her eyes. “Knucklehead, that’s Simha Yali! My aunt used to tell me about it. It’s known as The Fierce Protector of Temples.”

He looked at her for a moment, then looked at Poot, “Aw! Did you hear that? You’re a protector!”

Brielle sighed and walked over the Jey and Poot. “If we die, I’m blaming you.”

She nervously stretched out her hand to the little monster, and pet its head.
“Poot is kind of a cute name, though..” she softened.

Jey emptied his backpack, to make space for Poot. He only kept Mr. Gibbles, whom Poot liked laying on, his water, and his spare money.

Brielle managed to memorize a few of the locations written on the pages.

“Ready to go?” Jey turned to Brielle, who was already holding Poot comfortably.

“Are you sure you want to find this thing? There’s no telling how dangerous it’ll be.” Jey nodded and headed to the now unbarricaded door. Not that it stopped the security guards from entering.

Jey walked his eyes around the room one final time before turning and preparing to run.
Poot was now in Jey’s backpack, sitting comfortably. Brielle readied herself, and they exited the room. The hallway was pretty open, considering they stayed there for a few hours. Jey assumed it was around 8 pm.

They crept around, careful not to make any unnecessary noise. They took the stairs all the way to the first floor and peaked around the corner.

A different woman was working the desk this time. The security guards were wandering around the front doors, looking for any suspicious behavior.

Brielle nudged to the front doors, but Jey shook his head.

“We need a distraction, or they’ll catch us this time. We haven’t eaten since breakfast, and we’ve got Poot. We can’t risk it.” She nodded in agreement.

She took off her backpack and unzipped one of the pockets. She pulled out a small plastic bottle cap. He approved, wondering why she had that in her backpack.

She aimed at one of the cleaners’ heads. She flung it with all of her might, and it smacked against his head. The poor man yelped, which caught both of the guard’s attention. While they were questioning the cleaner, Jey and Brielle booked it for the front door. They made it to the door, rushing out of the complex as fast as their legs could carry them. They heard feet chasing after them.

Their pursuers stopped after a while, but in the distance, they heard, “DARN IT!! If it weren’t for those meddling kids, we would’ve been given a raise by now!” the goateed guard screamed.

Jey and Brielle ran behind a building not too far from Floral Flourish, catching their breath.
“I-I got a raise, sir..” Reggie uttered cheerily.

“SHUT IT, REGGIE!” the goatee guard hollered.

Only when they went back inside did Jey and Brielle relax.They headed for the train after purchasing a few things they needed for the trip.

They barely made it to the train station before it left. There was still some warm food left in the dining car. They stuffed their faces until they could barely eat anymore. They saved some biscuits for Poot, not sure what or if it even eats.

They shuffled over to the only available compartment in the train, which just so happened to be the same one Jey and Brielle first met in. They laid out their stuff, took Poot out of Jey’s backpack, and fed it. Luckily, it wasn’t picky.

They played with Poot until they fell asleep. On their way to the longest canyon in the world, The Grand Canyon. What lay ahead of Jey on the journey would uncover more of his father’s research and mysteries of a dark past.


Student Submissions
Submissions are now open !

Student Submissions are now open ! Submit your articles, poems, short stories, and opinion pieces. This month’s theme is Nostalgia although it’s not limited to it, it is strongly encouraged. We look forward to reading your amazing pieces !

Submit Your Pieces Here