The Basilisk is a mythological creatures, sometimes described as a serpent, a lizard, a dragon, and occasionally as a giant snake with wings and the head of a chicken. What makes this odd combination more fearful is the reported poisonous breath and glare–both of which can kill. Such a charming creature!
“A Hiss and a Fire”
by AJ Skelly
I smelled like basilisk poop.
And Tatianna Everblaze was coming towards me with her gaggle of friends. She was the most beautiful girl at Magik Prep Academy. Her golden hair was tied back with a red ribbon that matched the occasional flames that rose in her eyes as her inner phoenix flashed. We were seniors this year, but I’d watched her from afar since I was a freshman.
I’d been entranced the first time I saw her eyes flicker with her inner fire. Her eyes were gorgeous when they kindled.
I groaned. My eyes were still covered by stupid protective goggles. One peek from basilisk eyes and you’d be seeing a whole other type of flames. As in, a poof of smoke and you left nothing but ashes behind. While the goggles protected me from any accidental basilisk glaring, they did nothing for my facial features. The strap of the unwieldy glasses went around my head and made my pointed ears stick out nearly parallel to the floor. I looked more like a devil than an elf.
I leaned my shovel against the pen where I’d been cleaning out the basilisk stalls. Scholarship students had to earn their keep. And if I wanted to graduate with the credentials to go on and study mythological biology at university, I had to pay my dues and scoop the poop.
But why did I have to do it in front of Tatianna?
“Owen?” Her voice sent shivers down my spine and mortification rushing to my face. I was the only one on duty at the stables this afternoon. I sighed. There was no hiding.
“Owen, are you back there?”
I squared my shoulders and took a breath and ignored the acrid smell of the scat on my boots.
“Hi, Tatianna, Savannah, Sloane. What can I do for you ladies?”
Savannah tittered. “Owen, your eyeballs are bigger than a cyclops’ in those goggles.”
Because I wasn’t self-conscious enough already.
Tatianna elbowed her friend and glared. A flash of flames flicked in her irises.
“Ignore her, Owen,” Tatianna said. I nodded, unsure. “I heard the baby basilisks were starting to hatch. I was hoping to take a peek.”
She was speaking to me. My tongue froze.
“I’m writing a paper on the life cycle of the basilisk, when they develop their venomous glare and stuff. Is it okay if we go back to the nesting area? I promise we’ll stay far away. I just want to observe a while.”
“I,” I cleared my throat. “That should be fine.”
Awesomely brilliant thing to say.
“Come on, I’ll take you back.” I reached under the counter by the entrance and pulled out several pairs of goggles.
“Ugh. Really?” Savannah grumbled. “The babies aren’t even dangerous.”
“Rules are rules,” Sloane chimed in. “And who knows when the mother will make an appearance.”
The girls followed me down the hay strewn aisle to the back corner where the nest of eggs was kept. There’d been a few hatchlings today and they weren’t much bigger than large earth worms.
“Wow. Why did you choose to do your report on these little squirmy things?” Savannah asked as Tatianna crouched to get a better look.
“They’re interesting! How many other creatures can destroy you with one look?” Tatianna shot back.
“Uh, anything spawned by Medusa?” Savannah shot back.
Tatianna rolled her eyes. “Owen, do you know how many hatched this morning?”
I swallowed as her red-brown eyes tracked to mine behind the hideous goggles. Even with the eyewear, she was stunning. The goggles magnified her eyes, their natural glimmer enhanced. It made my knees weak.
“I think three this morning. A few more this afternoon,” I stammered.
She nodded and we fell silent as we watched the baby basilisks.
Savannah grabbed the shovel I’d been using earlier and used the wooden end to prod a clump of hay out by itself in the nest area. “Is that a pile of…?”
“Stop!” I shouted.
Suddenly a loud hiss broke through the quiet of the barn and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
“What is…” Savannah broke off with a scream as the mother basilisk launched herself straight at Savannah.
She flailed, catching me just under the goggles.
“No!” I gasped as the momentum of her arm took the edge of the goggles off. I could smell the venom emanating from the creature. Scales appeared in front of my naked eyes as the creature catapulted towards me.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Tatianna’s voice sounded far off.
She whipped off her goggles and a stream of white-hot flame jumped from her eyes and startled the mother basilisk.
It was the hottest thing I’d ever seen in my life.
The basilisk slithered off, hissing and spitting.
Without words we legged it back to the barn entrance, quickly leaving the goggles on the desk and moving into the open air of the meadow beside the barn.
“Are you alright, Owen?” Tatianna asked, her flickering eyes full of concern that sent heat straight to my toes and had nothing to do with the inferno hiding inside her.
“I am, thanks to you,” I admitted. I attempted a smile that she returned.
“You girls go on back. I’ll catch up,” Tatianna nodded to her friends. Savannah still looked significantly shaken while Sloane looked smug as she glanced at us. She took Savannah’s arm and led her back towards the dormitories.
“That was an impressive display of flames back there,” I said. “Thank you. You probably saved my life.” The gravity of the situation was not lost on me.
Tatianna shrugged and tucked the corner of her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I feel kind of guilty. You wouldn’t have been in that position at all if I hadn’t wanted to see the baby basilisks.”
“It’s fine. They’re not off limits. Besides, didn’t you want to research them?”
“Well, yes. But that’s not the real reason I wanted to come see them.”
“It’s not?” My eyebrows hitched up my forehead. She looked up at me shyly under her long lashes.
“I actually just wanted to come hang out with you. The basilisks were an excuse.”
My mouth fell open like a drop-jaw ready to consume its prey.
“Say something, Owen.”
“You don’t need the basilisks as an excuse.”
Tentatively I reached out and brushed her fingers. Hers tightened around mine and her eyes lit with an entirely different kind of fire as her mouth tipped up.
“Although maybe I could wash off the basilisk poop before we hang out?”