He touched the little box in his pocket and smiled.
Arnold kept it close, in his right pant pocket with keys, wrappers, and crumpled blue post-it notes. He'd had it for a long time--ever since he'd wandered alone into Tam's Trinkets when he was ten.
"How do I know it's a dragon?"
"Boy, can't you feel it?"
"Yes." He could feel it jerking in his hand. "But if I open the box?"
"There are only two things you can do with a dragon in a box. Keep it close, or let it go. "
Arnold was forty. He worked in a cubicle farm with a clutch of other office workers. He pecked at a keyboard, shuffled papers and mumbled at a telephone. He was bored alot, but none of that mattered--he had a dragon in a box.
Sometimes it spoke to him, but only in his dreams. On slow days, his head would gravitate to his desk. The dragon would whisper, Free me. Let me go.
Then the box in his pocket would bump and wake him.
Sometimes, briefly, he would think, I'm a loser, but then he would touch his pocket and remember that he kept a dragon there and everything was fine again.
One day, Arnold was called into the swank corner office; he took his usual place by the window while his boss pontificated on sales figures and the need for increased productivity. As Arnold's fingers curled around his box, he could feel the dragon's heartbeat ticking away. And that decided him.
He pulled the box from his pocket and lifted the lid.
The dragon poured out in a river of flame; neither wall nor ceiling could contain it. It filled the room and then the sky outside until it grew so big and spread so thin it grew invisible in the wind. Arnold laughed until he cried; his pocket empty of dragons but the world full.
Image: from my 365 Art Card Project, terraskin paper, watercolour, graphite, ink, generously gimped (like photoshopped, but using the opensource software gimp)
Wrote this some years ago, when I was a member of the WCDR (a regional writers group). It was a response to a contest, published here: WordWeaver (PDF file)