The Dragon Toy of the Seven: A Seven-Sentence Short Story

Here’s another seven-sentence short story! I ran the workshop again at Ganbatte, an anime convention in Saskatoon. It went well, and here’s the one I created, again with the instructions, created by noted SF short-story writer James van Pelt.

The illustration above is AI-generated by Bing.

Introduce what the main character wants and the first action he/she takes to accomplish that goal.

As the flames devoured the base of the wooden guard tower where Stanlix had been stationed when the deep roar of the horn warning of an impending dragon attack sounded, he saw at once he had only one course of action: leap from the platform onto the broad back of the dragon even then swooshing by below his feet, and so he did, without even time to pray to the Seven Lords and Ladies before the scaly form was between his legs and he was hanging on for dear life.

The results of the action the character takes in sentence #1 has to make the situation worse. The character should be further from the goal now.

That only lasted an instant: the dragon, feeling the unexpected weight on his back, shot straight up toward the thundercloud that had shadowed the guard camp even before the attack, and Stanlix, as lightning flashed and flickered, suddenly found himself sliding back toward the long, writhing tail of the beast—and then plunging from it toward the unforgiving ground now three hundred feet below, his scream of terror drowned out by a crack of thunder.

Based on the new situation, the character takes a second action to accomplish the goal.

At least the distance was enough to allow him time to say the prayer to the Seven he had been denied before, and whether it was because he had tithed at the Temple just that morning, or because he had prayed fervently for forgiveness after his last excursion into the town to sample the delights of the notorious Street of Cupidity, or just because the Seven were feeling in a playful mood, his death-plunge was arrested some fifty feet before its expected bone-shattering conclusion by a giant, glowing hand that materialized out of nowhere.

The result of the second action the character takes, from sentence #3, is to make the situation worse. The character should be even further from the goal now.

Stanlix’s momentary feeling of immense relief immediately changed back to one of mind-numbing terror as the glowing hand tossed him high into the air again, even higher than he had been when he fell from the dragon, while a booming voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once and presumably made the ground shake (although Stanlix was in no position to feel anything that was happening to the ground), thundered, even louder than the actual thunder, “Here, boy, fetch!”

Based on the new situation, the character takes a third and final action to accomplish the goal.

As the dragon wheeled and dove back toward Stanlix, claws outstretched, trailing smoke and fire while lightning bolts leaped from cloud to cloud behind him, Stanlix did the only thing he could think of: pull his sword from his belt and hold it outstretched, pointed at the hurtling monster, in the moment of calm when his upward momentum and the downward force of gravity balanced perfectly and for an instant, just for an instant, it felt as if he were floating.

The third action either accomplishes the character’s goal, fails to accomplish the goal, or there is an unusual but oddly satisfying different result of the last action.

Perhaps it was the glitter of the blade that distracted the beast for an instant, a flash of reflected lightning that blinded it long enough to throw it off course, or perhaps (and in retrospect—a thing Stanlix was very grateful to live long enough to enjoy—he thought this the most likely reason) one of the Seven took pity on him after his or her sibling’s decision to use him as a dragon-toy—the dragon missed: not by much, but just by enough—just enough for Stanlix’s blade to lay its vulnerable belly open from stem to stern, and send it tumbling, squalling and trailing steaming blood and guts and smoke and flame, to the same splattering, bone-crunching impact Stanlix had fully expected to be his fate just seconds before.

The denouement. This sentence wraps up the story. It could tell the reader how the character felt about the results, or provide a moral, or tell how the character’s life continued on.

And, in truth, he expected that to be his fate even then, but the Seven clearly had other plans for him, and the giant, glowing hand appeared again, plucked him from the air, and set him gently down beside the gory remains of the dragon he had slain, which is where the Guard Commander found him some time later, on his knees and offering very loud praise (and very silent, private curses), to the Seven whose capricious actions and inordinate love of dragons had both threatened and saved his life on what, when he’d gotten up that morning, Stanlix had fully expected to be another boring day of guard duty; and it was said, after that day, that no matter how much the other guards complained of the tedium of their jobs, Stanlix did not join in, having discovered that for a military man, boredom and survival were intimately linked, and you can’t have one without the other.

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