The forecast for the day was cloudy, and grey, like an artist brushed the sky with dirty paint water. The small town brought a homey feeling to all who looked upon it. The small bric-a-brac houses made up of bricks, wood, and various metals lined up the small streets and faded out into the green countryside. Each house looked exactly the same, from its brick and stone exterior to the steel chimneys that graced each rooftop. Except for one home. In the middle of town, there was a spherical dome that was nearly transparent, like fog trapped in a bubble. If the sun hit it at the right angle, one could make out the beautiful silhouettes that lived inside.

Almost no sound came out of this house during the day; only the shadows inside would provide a glimpse of what life was like inside this bubble. It had been there for as long as anyone could remember. The eldest person in the town, Mrs. Dobney, said she couldn’t remember a time in her life when that strange building wasn’t there. Throughout the city, hushed whispers were passed around throughout the vicinity. Stories were swapped in bars and shops like baseball cards, and each one was crazier than the last. In a pub about three blocks away, hidden behind a shoe shop and an old post office, the evening crowd comes trickling in, and the calm chatter is broken by a farmer who’s already on the road to a tipsy night.

“Once when I was passin’ through the square, ‘twas about two or three in the morn,’ I look up at the building, and I sees a monster. It was bloody horrific, hundreds, nay, thousands of legs! About seven heads all together, and ‘twas dripping in ooze or blood, I can’t say, but let me tell ya; I definitely slept with me candle on I’ll swear ya that!” Laughter and talk rose up out of the small crowd inside, and yet another spoke up. “Oh yeah? Well, I was walking home from soccer practice at around nine, and I’m pretty sure I saw a four-headed dragon with human hands for feet. It was stomping around in circles and then opened its wings, but its wings were made of feathers, like a bird’s,” said a young woman, surrounded by her group of friends. They giggled and drank their Shirley Temples as a gravelly voice piped up from a dim corner in the back. “That’s a bunch of malarkey,” spoke an old man who was clutching a large pint of amber- colored lager. Several people turned around and questioned him. “What would you know?” exclaimed a young frat boy pointing his bottle of beer at him. “Yeah, how would you know what’s really inside?” asked the bartender, who was filling up a pint for himself. The old man lifted the pint glass to his lips and gulped the lager down in seven seconds, then slammed it down on the table. He looked over to the crowd and a smug grin formed on his face. “Well, that’s me home, you see. I would know what’s in me own home now, wouldn’t I?” The pub’s atmosphere fell silent, conversations halted and waiters carrying food stood still in their tracks. Even the kitchen became quiet. The old man stood up and slowly shuffled to the bar. He pulled out a rickety stool, brushed his coat back, and sat down. “Now let me tell you all something, all the stories that you tell and trade, do you ever think that all those stories are true? That everything that you see”— he pointed to the people surrounding him—“is actually there?” No one knew whether or not to say anything. But, before anyone could, the old man slammed his fist on the table and made a bowl of peanuts fly off the bar. “Well it is!” he shouted. “All of it. All the stories, every single last one is damn true.” People were in shock. They didn’t know whether or not to believe him. He was slightly drunk, with a coat that was two sizes too big for him, boots covered in the dust of old mud, and a scruffy white beard with a newsman cap resting on his head. The patrons of the bar started to speak up and berate the man, calling him crazy, a liar, and an old drunk. The overwhelming amount of energy coming from the people scared the bartender, and he rushed to kick everyone out.

About an hour passed, and the old man was slowly walking along a street void of all life. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a near-empty pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He placed one between his lips and was about to light it when he heard a small noise in the nearby alleyway. The old man looked down the damp, trash-littered alleyway, trying to make out the strange shapes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of cake in a crumpled napkin. He bent down and extended his arm. “Hey there, come on out now, there’s nothing to fear. I’m not going to hurt you.” His voice was quiet and soothing. He stayed kneeling down for a minute when he sensed something walk towards him. The man felt instant joy and excitement at what he saw. It was about a foot long, covered in patches of white that reflected the moon’s light, which contrasted with the pitch-black fur that was offset by two bright yellow eyes. As it walked closer to the man, he could see that it had one distinctive feature. The creature had five tails, all from different creatures. A lion, a rattlesnake, a rat, a cat, and a monkey. The beast sniffed the cake from the man’s hand and took a bite, then several more until there were only crumbs left, which the creature licked up with its snake-like tongue. The man carefully picked up the beast and began to walk back to his home. He placed the creature inside of his coat in a large pocket and petted the top of its head.
“I think I’ll call you Smitty, you look like a Smitty to me.”  The old man chuckled to himself, and he quickly shuffled down the sidewalk. He came to his front door and placed his hand on the dome; a blue, bright light was emitted, and he walked right through the glass. Inside, was a wonderful menagerie of mythical creatures as far as the eye could see, all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors living inside this oasis. The man took Smitty out of his pocket and held him in his arms. He sighed and smiled. “Well, Smitty, you’ll be safe here and have everything that you’ll ever need.” He placed Smitty down, and the creature looked up at him, and the old man chuckled. “Welcome home, little one.”

Chloe Dixon is a sophomore majoring in Computer Arts at the School of Visual Arts. “This story encompasses the whimsy that I wish was a part of everyday life within small, close-minded communities, “Chloe writes. “For me, the dome is a diamond in the rough, waiting to be discovered. Readers are the only ones who are privy to that discovery.”