Edward stood in front of the mirror to stare at himself.
He looked almost different now that all his hair had gone. The chemotherapy had taken every particle from the top of his head. He sighed and went to lie back down in his bed. Edward wasn’t up for any video games today or even his texting and chatting with his friends as usual.
Today he felt a void that he had not ever felt before. Edward had never experienced any form of depression or that anything was that different. He had been fighting bone cancer for a year and his life pretty much had remained the same with no real changes except he missed school more and felt ill a lot, but his friends didn’t treat him different and he still enjoyed the same things as before. So, what was this feeling? Was this depression? No, he didn’t think so. It was just this empty feeling that there was nothing to look forward to anymore. Was he dying? Not now he was sure of that.
Dr. Clemens pretty much diagnosed him as on the road to recovery once this last chemo treatment completed. Edward wouldn’t know of course for a few more months if he was in remission, but he wasn’t sad about that, he honestly felt okay.
Turning on the television to look for something on Netflix he sighed. There weren’t too many things had had not already seen. Edward turned it back off and groaned. Looking over at his bookshelf something glittery and in gold writing caught his eye. There was a book that he had not read in ages. He smiled suddenly and got excited. “The Book of the Dark Ages!” he exclaimed to himself excitedly. “I forgot about this one!” sighing as he got off his bed, he got down on the floor in front of his shelf grabbing it and opened it up to where he had last read it. He leaned back against his bed and opened the large, thick book.
There was a little note in the book to save the place he had left off and he looked at it trying to recall when he had last read it. It was the beginning of chapter 3 and for some reason he had stopped reading it. It was this story of Fairies, goblins, and witches. There were dragons and these weird otherworldly creatures in it that had scared him. The last time he had read it he must have been about 7 or 8. Now he was 12 going on 13 and he didn’t get quite scared of those things anymore.
The otherworldly creatures were called The Shadow Keepers. They had no physical bodies but could manipulate actual things in the waking world to all the characters in the book. This had scared him badly for some reason, however, Edward, couldn’t recall why. He smiled as he took out the note he had written then. He unfolded the little pink post-it notes that were still stuck together folded in half, sticky side in. What he read creeped him out. DON’T READ FURTHER TILL YOU UNDERSTAND.
It wasn’t in his handwriting either, but who would have written it? Edward sat up and took the book to his bed and looked it over. It was about 300 pages long and the photos and drawings had been neat. It had been given to him by his late grandpa for his 7th birthday. Inside there were these pages glittered and the paintings looked so real as though they could come to life. There were genuine ribbons tied to the characters clothing in the photos, so you could pull on them if you wanted. You could open doors to see what was behind them. There were pop up pages too and some of them were elaborate for a children’s book.
He laughed to himself at the fact he had once been so enamored with this book. It seems silly to him now and why had the Shadow Keepers scared him so badly?
The roar of his belly brought him out of his thoughts and so he decided to go to the kitchen to find something to settle the beast within. He found some chicken nuggets in the freezer and some seasoned French fries. He placed them on a pan and put the oven on 400 degrees and threw the sheet in the oven shutting the oven door quickly. He sat on his couch and waited as his stomach impatiently waited for his lunch. When it had finished, he put everything on his plate and slathered it all with ketchup and ran back to his room.
When he got back to his room he sat on the floor next to the book, but he noticed the page he had left open looked entirely different from the way Edward had left it laying. The only message he saw was “FIND THE DRAGON OF THE DARK AGES AND SET IT FREE.”
Edward was sure he had not been hallucinating, but this was all very strange. He flipped through the pages managing not to drip ketchup on to the pages. After he turned the page he noticed the pages were blank.
“Huh?” he said to himself. He slammed the book shut and put it back on the shelf. So much for entertaining himself he thought.
Edward finished his lunch and then managed to hold a mild interest in one of his zombie video games. Before long it was time to go to bed and then wake up and repeat it.
The days could be annoying like this and so he managed to occupy himself the best he could. Then he started to feel better and eventually was able to go out more.
One afternoon, his mother came into his room grinning from ear to ear. “Hey Eddie, I have an idea.” His mom was the only one that called him Eddie, while everyone else used the proper form of his name and as he looked up at her, he knew this look. His mother only got this look on her face when she was planning something. He looked at her with an annoyed expression on his face as he sat up in bed staring at her.
“The art museum gave me tickets to the history museum and exhibit today. They are making ‘The History of Dragons’ and I thought that would be cool to go and check it out!”
Eddie was what his mom called him and while she worked long hours at the city Art Museum on restoring paintings she often felt guilty about not spending more time with him. When she got in one of those moods he knew he was in for an all-day adventure that would most likely end with his mom giving him one of her “talks” about how sorry she was that his mom didn’t spend more time with him and how she wanted it to change.
Before he got sick she never had these conversations with him, but after he did there was a lot of guilty passed around his house between his parents. His dad had a business, so he was never home always in some town far away while his mom worked long hours to fill the void that she felt in her life left behind by her husband who never made time for her anymore.
“Do I have to?” Edward asked his mom.
“Oh, come on, Eddie. It could be fun! We can go to dinner after to one of your favorite Mexican Restaurants and then go get ice cream!”
“Yeah, that is what I’m afraid of.”
“Do what mom?”
“Make me feel worse than I already do.”
“Fine. Can a guy get dressed without his mom watching?”
“Yes, be ready in 15 I don’t want to be late and then deal with large crowds”
He knew she was easily bothered by large crowds, so he tried to hurry, not that it mattered because his mom was late everywhere she went. He honestly didn’t know how she did it. She could get up early in the morning shower and be ready on time, but then something would distract her and then she would be late.
Edward walked downstairs to the living room and then looked around but couldn’t find his mom. He looked out the window and for once to his surprise she was in the driver’s side of the car waiting on him.
“Okay then.” He said shutting and locking the door behind him.
The drive into the big city was the most he had seen of the outside since all the chemotherapy he had traveled back and forth to the hospital. He took a deep breath and put on his black sunglasses. His eyes were very sensitive to light since the chemotherapy. He smiled as his mom let him pick the station on the radio and he chose some obnoxious rock music.
“Really Eddie?” asked his mom looking down at him.
He smiled and then began to laugh for the first time in a long time because this was almost too much fun.
They got stuck in some traffic just around the corner from the history museum and after about 25 minutes they were pulling into the garage and parking. When they entered the history museum, he was in awe at the extent the museum employees had gone to ensure that they featured the most realistic houses, part of a castle and large drawings of dragons and knights.
He looked at a sign that read “HISTORY OF THE DARK AGES” and it took a moment but then it clicked. It reminded him of the book he had found after years of sitting on his bookshelf lonely and forgotten.
Edward thought it felt very familiar to him to be surrounded by these old English tapestries.
“Recently it was discovered that there is actual proof of King Arthur that goes beyond the legends and lore.” said a woman giving a tour of the exhibit.
“Eddie look at that!” said his mother looking at a life-sized dragon made of plaster or something. It towered above them with yellow-amber eyes and vicious teeth and for one moment he thought that maybe he would get swallowed up.
“Cool.” He said just looking at it as they walked by the large open mouth of the realistic looking dragon.
They passed other exhibits of knights in gold and silver armor and other large replicas of animals from stories he had read as a little boy. He saw a griffin and a giant replica of an alligator in a river with real running water with a castle gate being lowered up and then down. The castle walls, made of real brick, towered over them and there was even a touch of real ivy running up the walls. Toward the end of the tour there was a small petting zoo with goats and small ponies with a guy dressed up like a sheepherder. Edward just watched and admired all the scenery.
The day wore on and soon Edward grew tired of walking around. He was still not a 100 percent since the cancer treatments. His mother noticed he seemed a little tired and she patted his head. She put her arm around him and whispered into his ear “Let’s go find some tacos eh?”
Edward looked up at his mom and smiled because he was starving now and could use a giant fountain coke and about ten tacos. They made their way toward the exit of the museum and just as they were walking out the door, Edward noticed a man with a cart and some boxes and cages in it and next to it. There was a sign next to it that read ‘DESERT LIZARDS’ and he walked away from his mom to look at the lizards the man had in his cage. He ran the few yards in front of his mother as she struggled to find her car keys and was dropping items onto the sidewalk as she searched.
“Hello there, young man.” Said the old man who smelled of coffee.
“Hi.” He said looking at the cages and at first saw no lizards.
“Keep looking he’s in there. Trapped form the Arizona desert about a week ago. He is my last one.”
Edward looked at him and then back at the cages. One cage stood out at him right away and he soon realized it had a little bowl of water, some worms and a shadow moved from the tiny house that the small creature resided. Edward smiled as he got a good look at him.
The lizard came forward towards his face and just looked up at him. There was one thing about him that didn’t quite seem reasonable and that was the fact that the lizard was blue like the ocean and had green feet. He had never seen one that looked so colorful before.
“Five dollars and he is yours, cage and all.” Said the man who seemed to breathe right into his face with severe coffee breath.
“Edward, no.” said his mother finally catching up to him.
“Hi, you must be the mom.” Said the old man.
“Yes, and she says no pets.” She looked sternly at Edward.
“Mom it isn’t a big deal I can take good care of it.”
“Eddie, you remember Sam the cat?”
“Mom it wasn’t my fault he ran away! Dad left the door open.”
Eddie looked down at the blue and green creature and noticed it also had green-blue eyes and even appeared to be smiling up at him.
Eddie sighed and then frowned up at his mom. “It isn’t like I probably have long anyhow.” He said referring to his illness.
“Eddie don’t you dare say that. The doctor said you are going to be fine.” She said trying to forget how Sick her son had been just a few months ago. “Fine, fine we will take it. What does it eat?”
With that the man handed the cage to his mother and she noticed the lizard gulping down more mealworms.
“Oh god. Gross.” She said as Edward grabbed the cage from his mom and started toward the parking lot.
“Wait for me Eddie!” said his mother still struggling to find cash to pay the old man. “Do you take credit by chance?” she joked as she fumbled around trying to find the last ten- dollar bill she had.
On the drive home Eddie sat in the back seat looking at his lizard. “Do we still want to stop for tacos mom?”
“Yes, but we can’t take that thing with us.”
“Why not?” he asked looking at the lizard who was now sleeping in his little cage.
“It isn’t sanitary. Reptiles carry salmonella.”
“Oh mom, live a little.” He laughed.
They turned into Viva Taco Sombrero and Edward laughed at how completely unoriginal the name was. He had always loved their food but for a long time he was unable to hold anything down from the chemotherapy. It made him sick to his stomach sometimes so getting to go to Viva Taco Sombrero was a real treat indeed.
Edward insisted on taking his new friend with him inside the restaurant and although his mother insisted on him not bringing the creature inside the restaurant, he didn’t care. They ordered the food and brought it out and the little lizard’s eyes opened and immediately started smelling the food and staring at the hot plate. Without thinking Edward took some of the food off his plate and put a tiny bit inside his cage. It was okay, but the small lizard kept licking his lips and continuing to eye the plate of food.
One thing Edward noticed was that it seemed to focus mainly on the jalapenos on the side of the plate. Edward picked up one of them and put it in front of the lizard. He lapped it up as fast as he had the worms and came close to the opening in the cage he seemed to want more, and so Edward fed the little guy more.
“Come on Eddie!”
“Sorry mom, but this little guy is so much more hungry than I thought!”
“So was I till you started feeding that thing at the dinner table.”
Edward laughed and as soon as dinner finished, they drove home and he began setting up space in his bedroom for his new pet.
He removed some of the video games he had on his top shelf and made space for the new cage. He looked up information online to find out what lizards needed and found out what sort of lamps he needed and what kind of size his lizard would get. Only, he couldn’t seem to find anything online about the lizard he had acquired. He didn’t exactly look like the other reptiles. He did resemble a blue knight anole and even in some cases he looked like a Blue Agama, but there was something about the head. It had two horns on top of its head and it resembled an iguana at times but was so small and seemed to be smiling at him. He found a reasonable price on some heating and lighting and used his Amazon gift card to purchase the items. He looked over at his new pet and decided to take it out of its cage.
Just as he was about to open the cage door his mother burst into the room. “Eddie, it is nearly bedtime and I just wanted to see how your new friend was getting along.”
“Good. I just ordered some lamps off the internet.”
His mother sat down on his bed and smiled at him. “I had fun with you today.”
“Yeah me too, mom.” He said wishing she would leave so he could take out his new pet.
“Did you wash your hands? You should always make sure you wash your hands after handling a reptile. I was reading about it online and talking it over with your father. He seems to think having a pet is a good way to teach you responsibility.”
Just then his dad came into the room. His dark-rimmed glasses were down at the tip of his nose and his brown hair was a mess on top of his head. He didn’t say much usually and the fact he was home for once was a treat. He walked over to the cage and peered into it.
“Interesting. Looks like a- well an um- I think..”
“A lizard?” asked his mom laughing.
“I was trying to see if I could tell what kind. I used to dabble in the care of reptiles myself.” Said his dad getting ready to tell one of his stories.
Edward rolled his eyes and tried not to lose his temper. He just wanted to be alone to look at his new pet and get to know him. Finally, his mom and dad left the room and he sighed in relief.
He looked at the cage and this time he opened the door of the cage and the little guy jumped out. He was fast and ran from Edward the second he was out of the cage. He seemed to crawl up the walls and then back down under his bed before he could even catch him.
Edward chased him until he finally landed on one of his books that were now open on his floor.
“That is weird.” He said to himself looking at the creature as it sat upon the book on the floor titled “Book of the Dark Ages.”
The lizard jumped up and the book opened all on its own. There seemed to be an extraordinary change in the room’s atmosphere. Something was happening and before Edward knew it a strange black smoke started to come up and out of the pages of the open book. The pages of the book flipped quickly and then the lizard jumped up one final time and then disappeared inside the book as it closed around the tiny creature.