by Iris Carden

Karliss woke with a start.  Something was different.  It took her a moment to realise what it was. The compound was completely quiet. It was never quiet.  That was what was wrong.  It was the silence. The silence woke her. 

This compound had been her home for six months.  That was how long ago members of The Light had found Karen Lisson, half-starved and living on the streets, after her parents had thrown her out.  The Light had given her a new home, a new family and a new name. 

Karliss looked around the room.  The other three bunk beds were empty and made.  How late had she slept? Karliss pushed herself up - it was getting difficult now that her abdomen was so swollen with her father’s last gift to her.

Why was everything so quiet?  Even if they were all at the morning gathering, she should hear singing or chanting.  Voices always carried clearly here from the Meeting Hall. 

Karliss went to the kitchen.  Breakfast was not until after the meeting, but eating a little as soon as she got up helped with the morning sickness that had not gone away after the first trimester.  Everyone understood.  

That was the thing about living with The Light.  Everyone just understood her and cared for her.  No-one mistreated her in any way.  Because of her pregnancy, she was given work in the sewing room, not out in the vegetable garden.  The women in the sewing room made beautiful dresses to sell for high school formals.  It was the main source of income for The Light, and provided whatever necessities could not be grown or made in the compound.

Life in the compound was simple. Karliss liked it. There were none of the secrets and lies of her old home.  There were none of the cliques and cattiness of the girls in her old school. Everyone wore the same clothes, ate the same food, so there was no reason for anyone to look down on anyone else. There was just the simple matter of living in a community day to day, growing and eating their own healthy food, beginning the day in the meeting, and the Great Hope.

Karliss cut herself a large slice of the coarse bread, and poured a glass of creamy goat’s milk.  She didn’t really believe in the Great Hope. Even if it was a lie, it was a harmless lie, she thought, unlike the lies of her old life which were anything but harmless. No-one would be more surprised that Karliss if the Great Hope turned out to be true.

Feeling less queasy, she washed her dishes, brushed the crumbs from her smock, and began to walk across the compound to the Meeting Hall.

Passing the garden, the strangeness of the silence again struck her.  She hadn’t heard a sound since she’d woken.

What if the Great Hope had actually come to pass?  What if all the Lightspeed Ship had been and taken all of the members of The Light to their new planet?  What if all of her new family were in some distant galaxy, leaving her alone, just as she had been when they’d found her?

Karliss walked a little faster.  Would everyone be in the Meeting Hall? She passed the goat yard.  The goats were waiting near the milking stand. Hadn’t they been milked yet? She passed the chicken yard.  No-one had yet let the birds out to free range for the day.  At least there were some slight sounds from the goats and chickens.  That was a relief.  

Karliss ran the last fifty metres to the Meeting Hall.  She could still not hear any human voices.  

She flung the door open as she ran into the Hall.  

There they all were: all of the members of her new family. They were perfectly quiet, perfectly still, all in their seats as if they were in Meeting, but eyes staring, still. 

Slowly, quietly, Karliss approached.  She placed a hand on Gravan, the girl who usually slept in the bunk above hers.  Gravan was cold. She wasn’t breathing.  

Frantically, Karliss checked on all thirty-five members of The Light.  They were all cold, still, silent, dead.

Once again, she was alone.


by Iris Carden

Isabelle glanced out her kitchen window and dropped the plate she was drying. Either she was hallucinating, or there was a dragon in her back yard.

Dragons didn’t exist, so rationally, she must have been hallucinating.  Despite that obvious fact, she carefully stepped around the shards of shattered plate, and ran out to the back yard.

The dragon was huge. Well, it looked huge.  Whether it was large for a dragon, she couldn’t tell, as she’d never seen any others to compare it to.  Its sinewy body was wound around the mango tree, large front claws rested in the vegetable garden, one wing lay over the clothes line, and the other seemed squashed against the colour bond fence.

It was a sickly yellow colour, and its huge eyes looked quite jaundiced.  It might have been ill.  But then again, that colour might have been normal for dragons.

Once she was in the yard inspecting it, Isabelle realised she had no idea if dragons were the friendly beasts of The Neverending Story, or the vicious monstrosities of The Lord of the Rings. 

The dragon lifted its head weakly, made a moaning noise, and dropped the head back down on its forelegs.  Something that smelled like petrol dripped from the beast’s nose.

It was definitely ill, Isabelle decided.

What could she do?  She had no idea how to look after a sick dragon.

“Do you need a drink?” She asked, realising it was unlikely she would receive an answer.

She found a bucket, and filled it from the back yard hose.  Carefully, she approached the dragon, and placed the bucket on the ground near its head. A long tongue shot out and lapped the water just as a dog or cat would. The bucket of water went in two laps.  Isabelle refilled it.  After ten bucketfuls, the dragon put its head back down to rest.

“I suppose you need food, too.” Isabelle said, again not really expecting an answer.

What would dragons eat?

Isabelle decided she really needed an expert to take over.  She searched online and found a phone number for a wildlife rescue organisation.

She told them she had a large lizard in her yard that appeared to be unwell.

The wildlife rescuer asked her to catch the lizard in a box and bring it in.

Isabelle tried to imagine how she would do that.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “I really don’t think I can do that.  Do you have someone who could come here to get it?”

There was no-one available to do a pick up until the next day.  In the meantime, could Isabelle please keep the lizard warm and offer it a small piece of meat if it seemed to be hungry.

What would a small piece of meat be to a dragon?  Isabelle looked in the freezer and found a leg of lamb.  She defrosted it in the microwave, took it to the back yard and placed it in front of the dragon.

The dragon lifted its head, sniffed at the meat, and then dropped its head again.

Isabelle went through all the meat in her freezer, and found nothing the dragon seemed to want.

A couple of times through the day, Isabelle was able to get it to drink.  She found that filling the wheelbarrow with water proved more satisfactory than using the bucket.

At nine the next morning the wildlife carer arrived. He was a young man, who came with a cat carry box. Isabelle looked at the box doubtfully, and told the young man that the lizard was too big for that.

“It’s OK,” he said.  “I’ll just shove it in.  They tend to curl up.”

“Wouldn’t squashing it in a box hurt it?”

“Nah, lizards are tough.  They can take pretty much anything.”

“Well, you’re the expert,” Isabelle said, and lead him through the house and out the back door.

The young man screamed when he saw the dragon.  

The dragon, disturbed lifted its head, and breathed a massive blue flame over the young man, then ate him in two bites.

“Oh,” said Isabelle, “You wanted your food cooked, did you? Do you feel better after your meal? Are you still hungry?”

The dragon gently nudged her with its head.  

“Would you like to meet my ex-husband?” she asked.