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By Maureen Crane Wartski
Illustrations by Greg Newbold
Rick didn’t even have time to cry out. One moment he was walking along the narrow path; the next, he was stumbling and rolling down the mountainside.
He tried to grab for a bush, for grass, for anything that could break his fall. There was nothing. Then suddenly he came to a hard, jolting stop, and the world went dark.
Rick could guess what had happened. He’d slid into some kind of cave, a hole in the rocky side of Dragon Mountain. He looked around him but couldn’t see much.
There was a small square of daylight not too far above his head, so maybe he wouldn’t have too hard a time climbing out. Rick started to get to his feet then gasped in pain.
“My ankle …”
Had he sprained it during that mad tumble? The ankle throbbed, and what he could feel of it told him it was already swelling. He hoped it wasn’t broken, but there was no way to tell here in the dark.
He tried yelling for Seth, but he knew it was no use. Seth was too far down the mountain slope to hear him. …
Rick and his older cousin, Seth, had driven out to this part of the Wasatch Mountains early that morning. Rick hadn’t been impressed by the craggy peak of light-gray limestone ahead of them, but Seth had been excited and started bounding up the narrow mountain path.
“I know it doesn’t look like much,” he called over his shoulder, “but this is a fantastic place. These mountains were once covered by shallow oceans, and there are coral reefs here that have been preserved for millions of years.”
There’s an old legend that says dragons used to live here and lay their eggs in the limestone caves.
Rick grinned. A major in geology at the University of Utah, Seth thought rocks were the coolest things on the planet and was writing a paper on Paleozoic era fossils. His enthusiasm had rubbed off on Rick, who’d asked to join his cousin on a field trip into the mountains.
“Dragon Mountain’s supposed to be one of the best places to study fossilized stromatolites,” Seth was saying. “They’re prehistoric algae —”
“Dragon Mountain?” Rick interrupted. He looked up at the peak in front of them. It didn’t look like any dragon he’d read about or seen pictured.
Seth chuckled. “That’s not its real name. There’s an old legend that says dragons used to live here and lay their eggs in the limestone caves. It’s just a folk tale, Rick. Come on — let me show you how to find those stromatolites.”
For the next two hours, Rick followed his cousin up the steep slope looking for even layers of the light-gray stone.
“Bumps on flat rock surfaces are usually fossilized algae,” Seth explained. He worked his high-def camcorder, talking about his findings, while Rick took still shots.
Legends usually were based on some fact.
The noonday sun was blazing hot when they stopped for lunch. Afterward, Seth checked his handheld GPS to map out where they would work next, but Rick felt restless. Saying that he wanted to take a few more photos, he began to walk up the steep trail.
Dragon Mountain — how had the place gotten that name? Legends usually were based on some fact. Had great beasts once roamed Dragon Mountain? Not dragons, of course. There were no such things as dragons. Rick liked reading about those fantastic creatures with fiery red eyes — great, scaled beasts that could fly and puff out smoke and fire — but he didn’t believe they’d ever existed.
Rick was jerked out of his thoughts when a loose rock crumbled under his foot. He didn’t even have time to cry out. …
Now he was trapped in this cave.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” Rick muttered.
His voice was making eerie echoes in the dark, strange noises in the enclosed space. Rick tried to get up on his knees, but then stopped as blistering pain shot through his entire leg.
“OK,” he told himself, “I’ll crawl.”
As he began to move, there came that noise again. It was just an echo. Or … was it something else? No — yes! Something was moving behind him!
Rick glanced over his shoulder and froze.
Two flaming red eyes were staring at him out of the darkness.
Write the ending to this story in no more than 500 words. The winning entry will appear in the June 2014 issue of Boys’ Life, and the winner will also receive a Kindle Fire HD plus a $100 Amazon.com gift card. Second-place winner gets a $75 Amazon card; third-place winner gets a $50 card. Remember, many will enter, but only three will win.
Submit your part of the story using the form below or mail it to Boys’ Life Fiction Contest, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079. The contest is open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are between 6 and 17 years of age and located in the U.S. at the time of entry. Your entry must be submitted online or postmarked by Dec. 31, 2013. See official rules for details.