Over the tumult of the crowd and firecrackers, a small voice was indistinctly heard. It sounded rather like a siren or an alarm going off. Despite all the noise, the passersby winced as it broke from the mouth of a little girl standing in the middle of the throng, hands covering her ears and eyes shut tightly. She wailed long and slowly and scrunched up her nose.
“Cho! What in the world are you doing?” the girl felt her hands being jerked away from her ears and fell silent immediately. She looked up at the face of a young woman, wearing an expression of unmistaken annoyance.
“Screaming,” she said simply.
Her cousin rolled her eyes and said, “What I actually meant was, my intelligent little possum, exactly why are you screaming?”
Cho took a deep breath and began with as much maturity as an eight year old could muster while standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by gawking people and the stupendous noise of firecrackers stinging your ears. “I was trying to drive the Nian away.”
Her cousin laughed and said, “Oh Cho! There’s no such thing as the Nian!”
“Oh, but there is!” Was the indignant reply as the elder girl took Cho by the hand and lead her to a bench on the side of the road, some distance away from the parade.
“How can you be so sure of that, huh?”
“Ye Ye said that it’s true! He also said that the Nian comes after the children who don’t make noise. And that he eats them when he sees them. And that we should make lots and lots of noise to drive him away so that he never comes back.”
He cousin gave her an astonished look at which Cho grinned.
“You’re not afraid, are you, cousin Meilin?”
“No, not afraid. But you know, even if it is true, about the Nian, we’ll always be safe from it. Wizards like our family would never let a scratch on you, let alone a man eating monster!”
Cho looked at her quizzically and said, “What do you mean wizards like our family? I don’t think anyone
would let the Nian near anyone.”
“I suppose you’re right… Look!” Meilin pointed suddenly at the sky and both girls titled their heads upwards.
The sky was like a blanket of darkness spotted with red and gold dots, converging at one point. There was an outbreak of hushed whispers among the crowd as the parade slowed to a stop and the lights went out.
All at once, the one huge red and gold point broke apart and before their eyes formed the image of a dragon.
“Amazing!” exclaimed Meilin.
“On Broomsticks! Oh wow!” said Cho, her eyes shining.
She looked at her cousin and said, “Wanna scream at the Nian?”
Both girls closed their eyes and with their hands over their ears, took a deep breath each and let out a long, slow and loud scream, into the open sky.