by Mike Brotzman
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It was getting close to 2 o'clock and I was just finishing up
everything I had to do before I cut out for my 2:40 class. I was
refueling my Zippo lighter from the bottle of fuel and generally
making a mess of things. I don't smoke, but I am the kind of science
nut who's into chemical reactions, explosions, bright lights and
high-speed impacts. I always try to have the right tools for the
job and to be prepared for any situation. You never know when
a little flame might be called for. I gave my lighter a test when
suddenly I felt a tingle moving up my hand.
I looked down and to my amazement I saw that my hand was on fire! I batted the flames out on my pants leg, vowing to be more careful as the smell of singed hair wafted up past my nostrils. With nothing better to do I checked my school e-mail account. There were about 9 new messages. That new TSA list I had joined was really active. I usually didn't send list mails to my "official" account, but my others were already clogged with traffic from my myriad other lists. I felt I was on a slippery slope that would soon have this address hopelessly clogged. Anywho I opened up a message and began to read. It was a very long and complex tale. I could barely seem to make out even the words. I can't remember exactly when or where I fell asleep.
When I came to I was off my chair and my big LED clock numbers were 3 inches from my eye. "3:16!" it screamed.
"Oh, shit." I mumbled as I realized I was missing my class. Normally this type of should would have sent me to my feet running around the room as I tried figure out what to do, only now I felt as if I had been stuffed in an ash can and rolled down a hill. I could barely move and my vision was blurry. About the only thing I could see was the 3:17 on the clock. I tried a little harder. Something behind me crashed to the floor. Fuck. The crash startled me and I head something else crash. Fuck! What the fuck was going on? My room was getting trashed, I had missed my class and I generally felt like shit. That's it! I'm getting my ass up, I thought to myself. I moved my arm to grasp the little printer table in order to push myself to a vertical position. It was then I noticed the 4 inch long black claws digging into the wood surface. I managed to torque my head around. My small dorm room had suddenly filled with silver scales, snaky tails and metallic wings.
Do you know that feeling when you drop a brick on your hand and the blood is just starting to flow? You lift it up and its all messed up, but it doesn't hurt at all. All you know is that you can't undo what you see and in about 5 minutes you're going to be in some serious pain. Well that's sorta the reaction I had. A combination of "woah" and "shit" came out of my mouth, if it still was a mouth. Shit. This was not the time to panic. I needed to keep calm and find out exactly what happened and what my situation was. I appeared to have suddenly turned into a silver dragon, but was it permanent or was it even real. I had to find that out.
I guess I had always wanted to be a dragon (with silver topping the list), but it wasn't on my list of top priorities. I wasn't ashamed to be a human. With our minds we had achieved more in reality than the dragons had in myth. Still, it had always been a dream of mine to join their ranks and possibly join human thinking and dragon strength. However, I never in a million years thought it would turn out like this. I had always assumed that if I was going to become a dragon it would be in some forest or some old cave. Maybe by discovering some old artifact the university had put into storage or due to foolish goofing off in the MB&B lab. Who turns into a dragon for no apparent reason in the freakin day? I so did not need this right now. I have better things to do than being wedged in between my bed and chair with a huge body that's covered in all sorts of pointy bits!!
After some more crashing and some minor spillage I got free and lay down on my back as best I could. 20-year old dragons aren't that big, but with my tail and all I was still pretty curled up. I spent some time poking at myself, wiggling things and attempting to look at myself in the mirror. I had turned into what was my ideal creature. Pure silver scales with tasteful black highlights that provided camouflage in snow country. I had deepwater green eyes and tufts of long hair that fell around the base of my horns. I ran my hand along my face and horns. I opened my jaws and felt rows of sharp teeth in my maw. I looked at my hands, noticing I had lost a finger on each, but I could still grasp and hold and each finger was tipped with a pre-sharpened claw. At least this body came with batteries included, I thought to myself. I then began to get a little distressed. My ideal dragon came with various magical abilities, notably the power to shift back to human to prevent this kind of mess, but I had no clue if I had those powers let alone how to use them. I was not looking forward to counting in base 8 for the rest of my life. Man, nobody uses octal anymore.
It was at this point I realized just how fucked I was. How would I eat? How would I use the bathroom? If I so much as left this room events would rapidly progress beyond my control. My room was trashed, the cloths I had had on were rags, my shoes were ruined. The worst part was I was now probably going to miss the showing of Bullitt next week down at the cinema. And they had it in 35mm to boot. The world was trying to spite me. At least I wasn't hungry, I didn't have to piss and I didn't have any insane urge to go out and kill living things for their meat.
The only thing in my room that was still ok was my computer. My TSA folder had several hundred messages in it. I hope they were having a good time, I wasn't. In addition to shredding my bed sheets, my razor sharp claws were fine enough to type with, but it was slow and a major pain in the ass (if I still had an ass). It was getting close to 5pm and I felt it was time for step 3, call a friend and see if I was tripping (you can never be sure what people slip into your food at college) or if I was really a dragon.
Before I called anyone I needed to find out if I could still talk intelligibly. I have always had the hardest talking out load to myself when I don't really have anything to say. Like after a cold when I need to see if my voice had come back yet. I always got an insane feeling of self-consciousness. Well, now I was a dragon with god knows what kind of voice, and sound travels right through these walls. Aah, what the hell.
"Um... Hello... um... Yes, I see... ugh... testing... Ha ha ha, foolish mortal."
Fuck, this was so stupid. I can't believe I just said that. Well at least I now knew that I could talk intelligibly. My voice was slightly deeper and everything had a bit of a growl. No point putting it off, it was time to call someone. I got the phone off the cradle and I was able to carefully push the numbers with my claws. It was sorta like dialing with a pencil. My friend, Lee, lived 2 doors down, so it was kind of a pointless call, but I definitely could not leave my room. I had two options here. I could lie and get him over on some innocuous errand and then deal with him as he opened the door. Or I could be vague and ask him over for some sort of personal trouble. I choose approach B.
"Um, hey. It's Mike. I was wondering if you could come over here? I'm sorta in some trouble here and I could really use your help. Things are a bit messed up, so when I open the door, don't panic."
"Yeah, hey Mike, sure, I'll be right over."
I used this time to get ready to open the door. I was curled about the room in a semi-circle so I just rotated around until my arm bits were able to access the door. I heard the door down the hall slam, then footsteps, then there came a rapping upon my chamber door. I took a breath and opened it.
I watched his eyes grow as large as dinner plates and I swear if he had been wearing a hat it would have flown off his head.
"Dammit, hurry. Get your ass in here. Hurry!"
I sorta pulled him in and the door slammed shut. "Dude, what the fuck happened to you?" He said in a hushed tone.
"I turned into a silver dragon, what does it look like?!" I then went on to explain the situation. Lee wasn't well versed in sci-fi or fantasy so he probably didn't fully appreciate the situation. I left out the part about the TSA list, thinking it would only confuse him. After I was done talking I asked him to get some stuff out for me. I was getting a bit hungry and I could do with a snack. By this point the shock had worn off and Lee was talking. He was mostly going on about how cool this was and all the cool stuff I could do. The funny thing was that he made a good point.
This was pretty cool. I mean I'm a fucking dragon. I've got these wings for flying. I've got these spikes for impaling. I could probably breathe some sort of cold liquid gas and I was only going to get bigger, much bigger. Bullet proof, bomb proof and battering ram resistant. I was looking at a very long lifetime full of witty/sarcastic remarks. I popped open a 2 liter of Cherry Coke and quaffed it in 5 seconds flat. Aside from being quite funny, drinking 2 liters of soda in 5 seconds wasn't very satisfying. I made a note to take my time eating, even though I could fit a whole chicken in my gaping mouth. It was a bit harder to eat chips with my pointy teeth, but I managed. After I was done I topped it off with a dragon-sized burp.
It was now time to plan my next move. The way I saw it I had 3 options.
Option 1: Head north about 100 miles to Hampshire College. That place was full of hippy, role-playing witches who would probably go gaga for a real live dragon. If anybody could teach me to shape shift it would be them. Problem was how to get there. I didn't know how to fly and I didn't fancy getting captured by hunters or local authorities.
Option 2: Get out the blue pages and call some Government agency. They would probably love to get a real dragon working for them and they would be able to meet my needs. The only problem is that I risked getting whisked off to some underground lab, never to emerge again.
Option 3: Seek shelter with the university. Again, the biology department would love to study a real dragon. I could count on humane treatment and I would probably become well known in the academic community to help prevent a sudden 'disappearance'. They had many places where I could live in somewhat seclusion, and by staying on campus I could complete my degree. They might even go and pay my tuition bill.
After consideration I chose option 3. The easiest thing to do was just turn up in a bio lab. The hard part was getting over there without calling out the SWAT team. I had to do it late at night, so I closed the blinds, sent Lee off and popped in a DIVX movie. I had some time to kill.
It was about 1:30 AM when my Kubrick marathon ended (Shining, Eyes Wide Shut and Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Aaaaa-Hooo!)). Lee came back over, it was 'go' time. He helped me pack a few personal items that I would probably need in the next day or so. I gave him the keys to my room so he could get anything else I needed. He had been really nice through all of this and I felt I owed him something.
"Hey, can you get me those pliers I lent you."
I came back and handed them too me. I grasped them, grabbed a hold of one of the smaller scales on my arm and pulled.
Fuck, that hurt! I put a wad of napkins over the wound to stop the little bit of blood that was coming out. I looked at Lee and held out the scale.
"Here, I want to thank you for helping me. Having a real dragon scale is pretty cool. Also, if anything happens to me, this is proof that I existed. Put it in a safe place."
He reached out and took it. I guess he appreciated it about as much as he could. I then had him take out my camera and take a few pictures. I could use all the insurance I could get. We cleared the stuff away from the window and slid it open.
The plan was simple. Since I was still pretty thin I could squeeze sideways through the window and out onto the balcony. From there I would climb up two more levels of balconies and then onto the roof. From there I would make an attempt to fly, but pending non-success I would then covertly make my way to the science center. The science center was always open and there wasn't much security. I was convinced that one of these days someone is going to steal the whole building. I would go there via the observatory because it was the one place they couldn't erect security lights. Meanwhile Lee would be running around making sure the coast was clear.
I got out onto the balcony. The area was completely deserted. After all who would be out at 2 AM on a Tuesday night? I grasped the second-story railing with my claws and easily pulled myself. Because of my length I had to swing up my legs further down the balcony. The claws let me stick to the metal bars like Velcro. I repeated the process to get to the third floor and from there I clawed my way onto the roof.
Well it was time to fly. I spread out my wings for the first time. The air rushed over them and it sent an electric tingle through my body. Moving as softly as I could I ran and took a leap.
I went about 40 feet before landing hand in the snow. Mental Note: Learn to Fly. This was going to require some practice. I tucked my wings in and ducked into the shadows. The first part was easy, there were almost no light near the observatory. I was moving so low that snow was rubbing on my stomach. I didn't mind the cold however. Silver dragons were built for it. It was the most comfortable I had been all day. I went as far as I could and waited for Lee to run ahead and check things out. I had no trouble seeing him. I had the equivalent of low end night vision. Nothing special, I just didn't need as much light to see clearly. I hadn't even noticed it until my eyes had adjusted from the light of my room. Everything was lit up like there was a bright full moon. He waved me on and I moved as fast as I could across the drive, down the slope and into a field. I hit the deck and lay still. It would be pretty hard to see a silver dragon on white snow. I got another wave and ran the length of the rugby field, stopping in a clump of trees.
The next part would be the hardest. I had to cross a well-lit public road. There was even some traffic at this late hour so I had to be careful. Lee was headed into the science centre to open up the large doors to the loading dock. Several cars went by, but then there were no headlights to be seen. I went for it. I was still moving on all fours, quite a new experience for me. So new that when I hit a patch of ice I lost my rhythm and went head over tail onto the sidewalk. Before I could shake myself off I heard the sound of an engine slowing for the 4 way stop at the intersection I had just crossed. It revved and then suddenly applied the brakes on full and skidded to a halt.
I didn't need to look back. I just ran all out. I jumped over the low wall and ran into the loading area. I turned and saw lights heading towards the entrance. Why the fuck do humans have to be so curious? I jumped into the best hiding place available...the dumpster. I curled myself up and kept my head down. The engine sound got closer and then stopped. A door slammed and I heard footsteps walking cautiously around. Man, these people were stupid. Had I been a real dragon I could have killed and eaten them both in seconds. Luckily I still wasn't getting any instincts to kill, maim, destroy. Probably because I knew these hoo-mons didn't pose a threat. Tee hee, I actually said hoo-mons. I crack myself up. Oh, shit, I'd better not crack up. Don't even think about it.
"Shit dude, I saw it! Didn't you see it? Where the fuck did that thing go?"
"Bob, man. I don't like this. I think we sould get the fuck out of here. Now."
"But dude, I saw it. It must be around here."
"Get back in the car. We should get the hell out of here. This isn't right."
I heard another door slam and the engine sound moved away. After a few seconds I peered out and saw nothing but an empty parking area. This was too funny, I started to laugh. The door popped open and Lee came out spying me in the dumpster.
"Hey, did you see that car? Did they see you?"
By this time I was too busy laughing to tell him the story. The sound of my draconic laughs was even more absurd causing me to laugh all the harder. I entered the building and started to calm down. The halls on the lower lever were all quite wide and I had no real trouble moving. I maneuvered through the tunnels and into the Biology building. The rooms were locked, but Lee worked there and had a key. We figured the best place for me was one of the research labs. Odds were I'd be stumbled upon by a professor or post doc, maybe a grad student. Double doors provided easy access to the genetics lab (I love irony, don't you), but because I didn't want to make a mess I couldn't really go very far from the door, just enough to be out of sight from the hall. Lee set up a drop cloth for me to lay on. He gave me my pack of personal stuff and made sure I was ok. I said I was and he left. I had about 6 hours until someone would come poking around. I extended my arms and rested my head on my hands. YAWN! Tomorrow was going to be an exciting day. As I tried to fall asleep I wondered about my dreams, if I snored, if I would thrash about and wreck the lab. One thing was certain, I was going to scare the fuck out of someone tomorrow...
It wasn't the sound that woke me the next morning. It was the smell. The smell of pure fear percolating through my nostrils was enough to rouse me from my slumber. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at a cute girl who had just entered the lab. She was paralyzed in terror, her arms trembling slightly. Now I felt bad, I mean this might cause her some permanent damage. I said the first thing that came to me, "Don't panic."
With that she snapped out of her trance, dropped the stuff she was carrying and, completely disregarding my instructions, promptly began to panic. She let out a window-shattering scream and ran out the door. A few seconds later a head popped into the room followed by an obligatory "Holy shit" then the sound of running footsteps. This happened about 10 times and then was replaced by low conversation down the hall.
"Don't go near the lab... yes a real dragon... I'm not kidding... Public Safety is on their way... Yes I'm sure... with my own two..." You get the drift. Anyway, about 5 minutes later another head popped in the room. It was an older man, probably a professor, and he was holding a broom out in front of him to fend off, well, me. I wanted to de-escalate the situation here (brooms are just a step or two away from M-16s) so I assumed the most relaxed position I could.
"W-w-what are you?"
"I'm a student." I planted my elbows on the floor and rested my head in my hands. "I ran into some trouble yesterday and I was wondering if you could help me. You see..." He had gotten closer to me and the broom was almost in my face and it was pissing me off. I quickly grabbed the broom away from him. "Let me hold this so you don't hurt yourself. Now, where was I?" Now disarmed the man looked ready to bolt, but something made him stay. "Yesterday I was suddenly changed into the dragon you see before you, I figured the Biology department was the best place to go, so can we all take a chill pill and talk things out?"
"Um... I'll be right back," the man mumbled and he slowly left the room. By this time I saw some public safety officers out in the hall. Hope they weren't going to try to pepper spray me into submission. About 10 minutes someone else sheepishly entered the room. She was the department head. I told her who I was, what had happened to me, and people she could contact to confirm my story. She was especially thorough in asking me about if I had been in any contact with the MB&B lab or any one from the department. I then watched her send some people into a locked room to "check on something" . I began to start wondering if they were hiding another dragon somewhere in the building. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised.
It was now about 9:30 and I could plainly hear the mob gathered in the hallway and public safety trying to control them. Luckily it didn't sound like an angry mob. Next to arrive on the scene was the Dean of Students and the Dean of my class. I went through my story again. At this point I made it clear that I wanted to complete my education here and maybe some sort of arrangement could be worked out. Of course I have never heard a negative word so their assurances didn't assure me much. By 10:15 a Vice President had arrived in the room. Of course the old people weren't leaving. They just stood aside to let the lab slowly get stuffed with people. The VP went on and on about how this school was not going to discriminate based on species and they would see me as a valuable asset in their diversity campaign.
See, there are perks in going to a liberal, activist university. I'm sure that if anyone did try to do something to me there'd be students occupying the president's office within the hour. If the government came to haul me off there would probably be students throwing rocks and lying down in the road to block the FBI Suburbans. I was protected by an army of pot-heads.
As the saga unfolded I learned that transformations had occurred across the country and that everyone on campus was excited to have a real live transformee here at the University. In fact excited was an understatement, they were going nuts. It wasn't even time for lunch yet when I was presented with some documents to sign. From this point on my education would be free and they would provide food and shelter to meet my needs. My job, besides acting as a university 'We're better than you' trophy, would be to let various departments research me and to stimulate alumni giving. Then they let the photographers in. I was going to be in everything from the school paper to almost every admissions publication.
It was then that I realized that I was quite hungry. I mentioned that I was starving and rather uncomfortable. I noticed a bit of apprehension when they asked me what I wanted to eat, like maybe I'd say a live pig or something.
"Just get me large quantities of normal food. Meat, fruit, vegetables, I'm pretty sure I can digest anything. Just make sure it's cooked and bring enough for like 10 or 12 people. I'm not some caged lion. Oh, I also want to get out of here, but not somewhere too public. I don't need an army of gawkers watching my every move. Oh, don't forget beverages, I'm partial to cherry coke."
They took me down to the loading dock. It was partly covered and the lot was surrounded by a high retaining wall. A crowd quickly formed along the edges, but they were mostly out of sight/out of mind. A minivan pulled up and they began unloading the food. It was basically what they were serving for lunch that day at the main dining hall. As for the cherry coke, they just brought in those tanks of carbonated water and syrup and filled up about 5 pitchers. I was pleasantly surprised when the gaggle of officials who had been tending to me sat down and dished out their own lunch from the large serving tray things. They were really going out of their way to make me feel at ease and that I was still a part of the community. Given how starved I was, I regret not paying them back in better table manners.
By the end of the day they had cleared out what had been a storage room on the ground floor for me. They had physical plant guys move my stuff over (like I could use any of it) and they set up some mattresses and blankets for me to sleep on. After a few more modifications it was going to be a pretty nice setup. There was only one problem, all that cherry coke needed an outlet.
"Um, excuse me. Where is the, um, I mean where do I go to the bathroom."
The administrators had left, leaving some biology faculty to see that I got settled in. "I was wondering when you were going get around to that," the female professor said. "You see that drain over there with the funnel attachment on the long hose?"
"Surely you're not serious!"
"I am, and don't call me Shirley."
"Hey, don't make me eat you. How the heck am I supposed to use it?"
"You're a smart dragon, you'll figure it out. I'll leave you two alone."
With that she left the room and closed the door. I would have waited until it got late and I could take my business outside, but I had to go now. I didn't have to shit yet. I read that a dragon's digestive tract was 95% efficient. When I finally did need to crap, I guessed it would have the consistency of gravel. Being able to go about 24 hours without having to piss was also pretty nice, but when you have to go you really have to go and I mean now! I looked down my underside and saw nothing but smooth scales. Due to their combative nature dragons have a retractable penis. It was one of the things I checked for after I first transformed. The problem was I had no clue how to open up the hanger doors, so to speak. I figured the easiest way to do this was to try to use the hard-wired connections in my brain. Instead of trying to force things to move I simply moved the funnel up, tried to become as comfortable as possible. After a few second of just letting go I felt something move and a gush of liquid was moving down the tube. I'll bet they were watching me from somewhere and laughing their heads off.
Anyway, I had had a busy first night in my new life. It was 7:35, and having no clothes to put on I was up and ready to go. My stomach was already yelling "FEED ME", and I grabbed a bushel of apples to snack on before breakfast. They doubled as my primary form of dental care until I found a large toothbrush. I felt the need to walk around, maybe meet some people. The time being 7:35 AM could naturally ration my contact with gawking humans. Phys Plant had modified the door for my use. It didn't latch anymore, but could be secured by a simple metal bar that slid in and out. I opened it up and stepped outside. A public safety officer was stationed outside and he asked if I would be all right by myself or if I needed an escort. I said I was fine and informed him that if anyone needed me I'd be wandering around.
As I said before there were not many people up and about at this ungodly hour, but I did have a time dealing with the few who were. My system worked like this. I would notice a person and they would usually be staring at me. I would then say, "What, haven't you seen a dragon before?" and then follow it with a small laugh. This would break the ice, indicate I took no offence and put the human at ease. The human would then make some obvious remark like "Wow, your big/tall/shiny/cool," and I would respond affirmatively. The human would then ask something like "What's it like?" The best answer I could think of was, "It's like driving an SUV. You're bigger, more powerful, you have a better view, the ride is great and you feel safer." The human would then say, "It was nice meeting you," and go about their day. I did run into someone I definitely did not like. After about 40 minutes of meet and greet I wanted to get out of the building. As I went towards the loading dock my forward momentum stopped and a shooting pain shot up my spine. I looked back and saw my tail caught firmly by the double doors that had closed on it. I carefully opened the door and tenderly pulled my throbbing tail out. There wasn't any damage, but it needed a good rub. I was definitely going to have to keep track of that little rascal trailing behind me all the time. If I weren't careful I'd get it chopped off or run over.
I got out into the loading dock/maintenance bay/motor pool area and took a deep breath of cold, early morning air.
"There it is!"
Nothing good has ever followed that statement. News vans screeched up and reporters materialized out of nowhere. What was I going to do? I had only seconds to decide. I would have to deal with these dogs at some point, it might as well be now, but I had a little idea. Before they could reach me I ducked back in the building. I grabbed a cardboard box and a lumber crayon. A minute later I was back on the dock, the reporters buzzing around like ants. They all started talking at once. I reared back to stand on the hind legs and arched myself over the throng.
"Quiet!" I roared.
The silence that followed was palpable. "Hello everybody," I said, now in my nice voice. "I'd love to answer your questions, but I have a pressing problem. You see, I'm worrying about my favorite charity." I set the box down with the writing clearly visible.
The box read: "Save The Dragons Fund"
"Maybe if my fund got some help I'd stop worrying. Please, no checks or credit cards. Cash, jewelry or other material possessions only. Thank you." The crowd was silent, subtly was obviously lost on them. After a few seconds some guy tossed in a couple of bucks. This would not do. I prayed last night's practice had stuck, I showed a bit of teeth and let out a deep growl. That got the point across. Larger bills began to fly into the box. Reporters ran back to the vans to grab more "incentive". After a few minutes the donation rate began to slow down and I felt enough was enough. I spoke up again.
"OK, I'll be happy to answer any question you all might have, but first let me ask two of my own. First,how many of you slept in your van last night?"
About 3/4 of the hands went up. "You people need to get a life. Second do you want me to be a nice dragon or a mean dragon? I don't really know what gets ratings these days."
"Mean?" someone asked.
"Yeah, I growl and yell and maybe tip over one of your vans."
"How about a mix of the two."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll give you a nice Q&A session then I can maybe get mad at a jerk reporter."
There was a uniform murmur of agreement. The questions lasted about 20 minutes. Most were typical, but a few were very interesting. Was I going to change my name? Possibly, I'd have to think of a good one. How was I going to use my new abilities? I said no matter what I did I would also want to help the community in some way. Share my gift with others. At the end we all agreed that some intern named Ted would flash a camera in my face and I would pick him up, say, "Learn some manners," and throw him in a cardboard recycle dumpster. They turned the camera's on, we all played our parts and it all turned out well. The news shows would get their ratings, I would probably gain public opinion points being against jerk reporters, and I would show that I was able to refrain from eating people. Finally I had the reporters agree to leave me alone for a bit and contact to university for further interviews.
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