“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. It’s the dragon’s in the details.”
The little girl in front of me crosses her arms and glares at me.
“Um, no dear, I’m quite sure it’s ‘the devil’s in the details,’” I say as she continues to throw the stink eye my direction. “Where did you say you were from again?”
“Mylandia, I’ve told you four times already.”
She uncrosses her arms long enough to throw them up in the air, like I’m the one repeating nonsense.
“Right,” I say as I scribble down notes in her file.
Her eyes peek over the edge of the manila folder and I wonder if she can read before I shake my head. She can’t be more than four or five — even if she could read, she wouldn’t be able to read upside down.
“And how did you get lost in the city?”
This time she actually groans, throwing her head back and slapping her forehead. “I told you. I flew in on my dragon, and he flew up north to hunt. He’ll be back soon. I’m just sightseeing.”
My pen hesitates on the page while I listen. I’m staring at her outlandish clothes which, now that she mentions it — again — do actually look like they could be made for riding something large and unpleasant. Her pants and jacket are a thick slate grey leather — something I’ve never seen before — with padded ridges on the inside of the pant leg, looking kind of like a masochistic pair of horse riding pants, and her jacket’s back and shoulders are padded like a motorcycle jacket, with a high, stiff neck that looks like it was made to prevent whiplash. The whole outfit is covered with ornate, intricate stitching woven into patterns I can’t make sense of.
Every once in a while a shape jumps out at me, like I was daydreaming into clouds instead of conducting a baseline interview with a new client.
“Uh, right, I’m sorry,” I say. “And how will your dragon know where to pick you up now that you’re here?”
I stare at her, trying to capture every micro-expression as she tries to dream up an answer.
She doesn’t hesitate. She rolls her eyes and says, in a tone that clearly calls me an idiot, “He’ll just ping me and I’ll ping him back.”
“Right, that makes sense.” I close her file and stand. “Thank you, Alissa. The nurse will be in soon to check on you and take some vitals.”
It’s days like today I wish I’d stuck it out and made it through med school. I’ve never seen such a convincingly delusional child — not in any of my classes or case studies — but no glory goes to the social worker, no matter how groundbreaking my analysis might be.
I’m still kicking myself when the nurse runs into my broom closet of an office.
“She’s gone,” she manages to get out in between huge gulps of air. I blink twice, trying to remember if this nurse has a sense of humor or not, if this might be a prank. “The window’s been broken and there’s no sign of her.”
I sprint down the hall as if I could still save her, even though I know the nurse is telling the truth. When I get to the interview room I lean out the broken window, looking for the body below, but there’s nothing. No crowd of curious onlookers, no crumpled little girl, nothing. I look up instead, on instinct, and see a tiny black shape against the horizon. It looks almost, but not quite, like a bird, and I smile as it shrinks to a speck and then disappears.