Upon returning to his home office after getting a snack, Roland finds a magical staff and a black envelope with a dire warning.

Roland’s stomach demanded a tribute. The words he wrote on his computer screen taunted him with their imperfections and lack of direction. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, trying to visualize where to go next, but he knew he was stuck. 

“Might as well eat,” Roland grumbled to himself as he pushed away from his desk, imagining himself as a rocket blasting off. “This scene isn’t going anywhere.”

Roland left his home office, thinking about what to eat and not how to write to the kidnapping scene in his latest crime thriller novel. Roland found his husband, Trevor, at the kitchen table, still sorting through Excel data-sheets. While Roland was used to working from home, Trevor was still adjusting to the new normal that they both hoped wouldn’t last forever. Roland had a personal bet that it would take three weeks before Trevor would dress more casually for work. He gently kissed Trevor on the forehead to send a moment of peace to his spouse.

From the fridge, Roland pulled one of the curry meals he made during meal prep day. After microwaving the tray of food, he returned to his office. On the desk was a wooden staff with a black envelope under it. The four-foot long staff was carved out of a white driftwood and had five pointed tips on the top.

“Trevor,” Roland shouted. “Could you come here.”

Trevor walked up to him. “What is it?”

Roland pointed at the unknown objects on the desk. “How did those get on my desk?”

“I was with you in the kitchen the whole time.”

“I know, but how did these get here?”

“Is the window open?”

Roland sat down his curry and checked. “It’s locked.”

“What’s in the envelope?”

Roland picked up the black standard No. 10 envelope, which he only knew the formal name because of Trevor. On the back was a red wax seal pressed with an image of a pair of crossed swords. Without any tools, Roland ripped open the envelope. Inside was a handwritten letter on aged yellow paper.

“When the sun sets, a dragon will emerge at Willson Park,” Roland read aloud. “Use this staff to stop the dragon from destroying your city. May the hearts be with you.”

Trevor let a light chuckle. “This is bizarre.”

Roland sat down the letter and picked up the staff for closer inspection. “Maybe this staff is magical,” he joked as he pointed it at his peace lily in the corner. “I cast magic missile.”

The staff’s tips lit up bright orange and sparked a ball that shot out at the plant. As the plant caught fire, Trevor rushed to the kitchen and brought back their fire extinguisher.

“What did you do!?” Trevor wailed as he put out the fire.

“I don’t know!” Roland defended. “I didn’t think it would do anything. I wonder what else it can do…”

Trevor pointed the fire extinguisher at the staff. “How about you take that thing outside?”

“I should get to the park instead. The sun is starting to set.”

“Are you crazy?”

“You saw what happened. What if there is a dragon?”

“What if there is a dragon? How are you going to stop it?”

“I don’t know yet, but we should go see.”

Trevor sighed. “Fine. Let’s go. I could use the walk and fresh air.”

Tucked away behind their neighborhood, Wilson Park’s most prominent feature was their disc golf course. The playground was tapped off, closed to the public for safety. The park itself was empty except for Roland and Trevor. They stood in an open field near the pond, searching the skies.

All the ducks at the pond quickly flew away, catching Roland and Trevor’s attention as a purple dragon the size of a truck emerged from the pond. Roland pointed the staff at the dragon as the beast marched toward them. Trevor stood behind Roland, armed with the fire extinguisher.

“Keeper of the Staff, my qualm is not with you,” the dragon spoke with forbearing authoritativeness. “I only seek my kidnapped child, but I will destroy those in my path.”

“I was told you would destroy the city,” Roland explained, confused.

“My only concern is for my child, so unless you are here to help me, step aside.”

An idea struck Roland. “Maybe I can help.” Roland waved the staff in a giant circle. “I cast magic portal to the dragon’s child.”

The tips of the staff sparked purple lights. A swirl of bright colors formed in the circle Roland drew in the air until a green dragon the size of a large dog playfully jumped out from the portal. The portal disappeared, collapsing on itself with a cheerful crackle.

“Little one!” the purple dragon exclaimed. “You are safe.”

The little dragon wagged their tail and happily barked at their parent. The parent picked up their child and placed them on their back. With a yawn, the child snuggled against one of the scaly spikes and fell asleep. 

“Thank you,” the dragon praised with a forward bow. “Your wisdom and kindness are unprecedented. You forever have my gratitude.”

The dragon walked back into the pond. Roland and Trevor watched in bewilderment as the waves calmed. The staff transformed into duck feathers and blew out of Roland’s grasp, leaving him with no proof.

“I have no idea what just happened here,” Trevor confessed. 

“Me neither, but you know what,” Roland said as he put an arm around Trevor. “I think I need to take a hard left with my book and put in a fantasy world.”

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “You leave your room to grab a snack from the fridge. When you get back, there’s a wooden staff on your desk. Under it, there’s a black envelope.”