Alex gripped his skateboard even tighter and tried not to think of how high the ramp was. So what if it was fourteen feet straight down? As dorky as his gear looked, with elbow and knee pads, a helmet and even wrist guards, at least he was protected. All Mom's idea but he didn't care what other kids thought. In 6th grade he'd almost lost her and now he'd wear an elephant costume if it meant keeping her weak heart from worrying.
Anyhow, he'd skated in rocky caverns with slime-covered monsters in hot pursuit and lived to tell the tale. This was just Santa Barbara. Okay, it was the Volcom Games with hundreds of people watching and he'd only been skating vert for nine months. But still his life wasn't in danger.
He glanced at the audience below and saw his skateboarding buds, Jose, Zach, and Gwen, give him a thumbs-up. Not easy acts to follow. They'd each wowed the crowd with backside airs, fakies, and real clean kick flips. Alex raised three fingers for a quick wave wondering if his best friend had been able to make it, but Bartholomew's white suit was nowhere to be seen.
“And next we have thirteen-year-old Alexander Devinci in his first competition. Give it up for the Southern Cal Kid.”
The crowd cheered.
Heart pounding, Alex stepped up to the ledge. He tried not to look down as he set the board's tail over the coping. When he saw the dizzying height, he took a deep breath and forced himself to anchor the wheels in place with his back foot. Closing his eyes, he imagined that he was safe at home standing in front of his easel, paintbrush about to create wonder.
And he was there. Ready.
Like a furious hand slapping paint on canvas he stomped his front foot and dropped over the vert wall. Wind whooshed past his face causing the few curls that had escaped the helmet to whip and tickle the nape of his neck. His eyes narrowed as his wheels rolled ever faster.
He hit the bottom of the ramp ready to scale the other side when the doubts began.
Were his feet in line with the bolts on deck? He'd fallen buko times over the summer because of bad foot placement, ripping five pair of jeans, scraping his knees and arms, and even dislocating his shoulder. Mom wasn't too thrilled about that but since he'd called Dad to take him to the hospital she only had to deal with it after the joint was back in place.
The glare of summer sun on the vertical blinded him for a moment. Blinking, Alex shifted his weight and tried to remember all the tips Gwen had given him about rolling up the transition. On the ascent, Alex tried to gauge his speed. Was he going fast enough for the backside ollie he planned to do over the rail?
“Go Alex, rip it!” Gwen cried from the crowd.
With a quick nod, Alex aimed his board at the sky. He'd lay it down just like Tony Hawk or Christian Hosoi.
“This Santa Barbara kid is holding his own,” the commentator announced over the loudspeaker.
Higher Alex rolled, aiming straight for the lip. Everything was perfect.
He looked up. There, amongst the wispy clouds he saw something red shimmering. No, it was a sparkle. A glistening reflection off the underbody of a creature.
The creature opened its long snout in a plaintive wail.
Dragons over Santa Barbara? What the?
And that's when he fell.