Billy decided he did not want to go to school anymore.
On the morning of the Bank Holiday Monday, arranging his toy soldiers on the window, he knew this for certain. A thick coat of fog hid most of the town from sight, and the rain drummed on the glass. The only other noise was the sound of the clock ticking.
To Billy, this was perfection. It was as if the rest of the world had been swallowed up. He had reached a brilliant point in the game, one where all the different universes of his imagination stitched together. Reality could not compete.
The soldiers worked for the dragon. The dragon was Billy’s absolute favourite. It hung from the ceiling, wooden lips breathing wooden fire, wooden red wings swooping over him since he was six months old.
At that point in the afternoon, it was a brilliant plan. They could not force him to. After a long enough time they would let him stay here. With his soldiers. With his dragon.
His Mum cooked him a delicious tea of fish fingers, chips, and peas, and every taste was that of freedom.
The night was harder. Billy wanted to stay awake all night, but he kept dropping in and out of sleep. He focused on the dragon, and let it guide him through the darkness. His dreams were filled with flying through the stars.
Six thirty arrived. It was time to get up in an hour. Six forty-five. Seven. Seven twenty. Each minute filled him with panic. Then his mum was knocking on the door. All his plans evaporated. He had to go to school.
His mother said something when she opened the door, but the dragon’s voice drowned it out.
‘Jump onto me Billy. Jump onto me and trust me, and I promise you will never have to go to school again. We’ll go the stars.’
His Mum opened the door, already dressed, already ready for the car. And in his pyjamas, right out of the bed, Billy leapt for the dragon.
His did not touch fragile balsa, but warm, dry scales. He did not flop to the floor, but rose towards the ceiling on a gleaming red back. He did not hear his mother’s voice, but the crunch of plaster and brickwork as the house ripped away like paper.
Before Billy realised what was happening, what he had done, they were up in the sky, heading towards the stars.
Only then did Billy remember he had wanted to stay in his bedroom. But the city was already a distant glow on the surface of the Earth, already far away as a dream.