I had the children stand in a circle surrounding the teleportation spot. I didn’t know what would come through but it would be bad. The children were the last defense, the last class of mind soldiers, trained to fight foul magicks with the power of their thoughts. It was my job to keep them alive to pass their final test.The problem was, today was merely a demonstration: they were to watch me as I subdued whatever came through. From my example, they would see how quickly their skills would be called upon to save the populace when the portals were more widespread.Suddenly, the creature manifested: it had zebra stripes, small wings, and a rooster’s beak, a thing angry and most horrid.’Hold now,’ I called to the children as it advanced on me.I could say no more aloud with my concentration focused on the eyes of the creature. It hungered to destroy me as it fluttered wetly toward my position near the wall.I waited, unmoving as it came closer, closer. Triumph shone in its eyes as it bared the sharp teeth under the edges of the bright red beak. Quicker than it expected, I grasped it by the wings and pressed it against the wall. I did not break eye contact as I heard the children gasp, convinced they were about to witness my demise.I smiled and the glee in the creature’s eyes faded to fright. My gaze held it as I moved my hands from its rubbery wings to the sides of its beak. Without speaking I sent a thought into it, turning the beak to dust.I held my hands in place as if I was still gripping the beak and the creature’s eyes stretched wide in horror. My smile broadened as I wished it away. The children applauded as the dusty remains of the thing blew away and I finally took a deep breath, thankful to have survived one more time. I knew the day would come when whatever appeared from that portal would best me.
And then I woke up.