by Mike Brotzman
part 4
 2 3
4 5

  "Hey, how about a lift," I said, lowering my neck for him to get on.
  "What man, are you crazy? You want me to ride you?"
  "Duh. You're all cold and tired, and it would be harder for them to grab me with you riding on my back."
  "How does that benefit me?"
  "You can either ride on my neck or down the inside of my neck to my stomach."
  "That was a really lame-ass threat man."
  "Just get on, I didn't have much material to work with."
  "You're a freaking dragon, you don't have any excuse to make a lame threat."
  "Please just get on."
  Reluctantly he clambered onto my neck, ever careful of the sharp spines located towards the head end. He held on tight as I rose to my feet. Being ridden is a very odd feeling indeed. It's like wearing a backpack, only the backpack is alive, moving and not strapped down. It reminded me of trying to balance a cat or other small pet on my shoulder. I kept worrying my gait would pitch him off, and by the way I felt him trying to find bits of me to grab,I could tell he was feeling the same thing.
  "Don't think this means we're engaged," I joked up at him.
  "Ha ha, whoa," he replied, almost falling off.
  Soon my talons were clicking on the asphalt as I approached the truck. I stopped about 30 feet away from it.
  "Ok, I'll stay here while you open it up."
  'Mr.' Cutter was to tired to argue, so he had what looked like ordinary deliverymen (except he was wearing dark sunglasses) open up the back of the truck. Greeting me was not a large net or a SWAT team, but rather, stuff. Big stuff.
  Mr. Cutter spoke up again. "As I indicated before, we are aware of your current size and mobility problems. Therefore, the government has decided to try to assist you with your special needs. You can consider everything in the truck as free government aid with no strings attached, although we would like you to keep an open mind about helping your government when they need it. Anyway, we're just here to deliver this aid. Those school workers have the keys to the trailer, so you can move the stuff after the university finds you more permanent accommodations. Good bye for now, I'm sure we'll meet again."
  And with that the Suburbans and the truck tractor drove away.
  I walked up to the still open trailer to see how my tax dollars were working for me. Ian grabbed ahold of my horns, worked his way up onto my head, jumped into the trailer, and began rummaging through the unboxed goods. Most of the trailer was filled with everyday household items, only dragon sized. There was a huge industrial strength blanket, several dragon sized pencils and a 4-foot long toothbrush. Most of the items were rather rough and generic, and they had probably been specially built in some government shop. Our quick inspection also turned up a complete dinner service made of what looked like stainless steel, large canvas backpacks, belts, pouches and webbing, a dragon sized cell phone (prepaid minutes I hoped), and a dragon sized computer keyboard and mouse. Thank god, I'd finally be able to get some real typing done instead of pecking at the keys with my talons.
  The camera crew asked if I was going to do some more flying. Upon my answer of "no" they offered to take of my new toys back to the Science Centre, as they wanted to punch out and go home. When we were all done, some guy came by and closed up the trailer.
  "Hey Ian, you want another ride back to school?"
  "Wait a minute, that odd smell's back and it's stronger than ever. "
  "What odd smell?"
  "I don't know, I smelled it before when you were flying around. I didn't really give it much thought."
  I took a deep whiff. Ian was right, there was a stale rancid smell to the air. It seemed to be coming from Ian. "I think it's coming from you."
  Then Ian glanced down at his clothes. "Fuck, what is this shit!"
  His pants and jacket were covered with an odd yellow/white paste. "Aw man, this shit's all over my hands too."
  He raised a hand to his face and recoiled at the smell. "That smell's coming from the white stuff and I'm fucking covered with it."
  He then walked over to me and took a sniff where he had been riding. "No man, its you, the smell's coming from you! You stink man, you need a bath. Seriously. Man, I'm not touching you again. What is this shit."
  I looked down at my arm and sniffed it. Nothing, it smelled fine. I scraped a scale with one of my talons and then looked at the waxy white paste that had collected on it. I watched as the paste began to take on a yellow tinge and emit a pungent odor. Smearing it between my fingers just made things worse. "I think it's dried-up sweat. Dragon sweat -- gross!"
  "Ew, that stuff's your congealed sweat?" Ian was standing with his arms out and his fingers apart so he wouldn't have to touch himself. "How do I get this shit off me?"
  "Why are you asking me? I didn't exactly get the 'How to be a dragon' manual."
  "Dude, I just want to get back to the science centre, pick up my stuff, go home and have a bath. Can we go now?"
  "Well, I'm going to have to take the long way. I'm a traffic hazard, remember?"
  "Well, I just want to get back ASAP, so I'll guess I'll hook up with you tomorrow. After you've taken a bath."
  "Ok, fine. I'll walk by myself. I know when I'm not wanted." I tried to give him a 'sad and dejected' look, but broke out laughing. "See you tomorrow."
  "Yeah, well, despite getting slimed I guess I had fun today. Take care."
  Ian walked off like a robot, still trying to avoid touching anything. For me, the 'back way' involved walking down about 4-5 blocks until I hit an east-west road, then up another block, then back the way I came about 4-5 blocks, all because humans can't keep their eyes on the road. I was alone in the middle of a residential street on a Saturday afternoon. This might not seem very scary to you, but I was spooked. At any minute a car could drive by or someone could walk out of their house. They'd see me and probably start to scream. Worst case they would get a gun and start shooting, but they would probably just call someone to complain and hop on the anti-dragon bandwagon. After all, I was a menace. I was a deadly weapon that came into their neighborhood looking for pets or children to eat. Blah blah blah. Kill it, trap it, put it in a zoo.
  I stopped mumbling long enough to realize that I had passed the houses and was now near the little park that was south of the school. It was more of a pond surrounded by woods than any planned park thing, but all I cared about was that it was there. I turned left. As I began to think again, I realized that this was really stupid. Without a human escort I was much more likely to provoke a 'wild animal/monster' response. I was out alone and nobody knew where I was and there was nobody with me who could go for help. This was asking for trouble.
  I was almost to where I would turn left again when I spotted the Channel 8 News van down the street to the right. What were they doing parked out in the middle of nowhere, must be a slow news week. I wonder if they would pay me for an exclusive? I'll go over and ask. Maybe they'll pay me in gold. I like gold. It was then I saw vaguely familiar man heading in my direction. Maybe he wanted an autograph or something. I started to say hello.
  "Go back to Hell from whence you came, foul demon!" bellowed the man, then before I could react he threw a bucket of liquid in my face. I didn't have to see the colour, the sweet taste in my mouth told me it was blood.
  "What the fuck," I spluttered, not making any real attempt to expel the blood. It was like if I threw a fine wine on someone. They'd probably open their mouth for a taste.
  "The Lord God commands you to leave this world, Hell-spawn!"
  With that, he thrust a crucifix in my face and began to chant some bizarre incantation. At that moment, I was terrified that at any second I was going to loose control and rip the screaming fanatic to shreds right in front of the TV news crew, but even as he continued to rant and rave I felt only calm. I guess dragons live to win, and eating this loud hunk of meat would not put one in my column. A better approach would be to mock his values.
  "Don't you have an abortion clinic to protest or something?"
  "The Lord God has put me here to banish your evil from this Earth!"
  Now I love a good religious debate, but a debate requires someone who will listen. This guy was clearly beyond listening.
  "You are Satan's tool and I will not rest until your foul contamination is wiped clean!"
  He started another incantation or prayer or whatever, but I was more interested in the point he had just raised. I loved being a dragon, but I didn't want to be the unwitting tool of the devil. If I was possessed by a demon and if this nut job could cast it, out more power too him I say. Demon or not, if this guy could affect me in some way, it would help to answer all kinds of religious and philosophical questions. One of those being: Was I an evil being from Hell? I lowered my head and looked the man in the face.
  "Give me your best shot," I said in a voice that was slightly above a whisper.
  Be careful what you ask for. No sooner had the words left my mouth when two out-of-state vans pulled up and about 20-30 protesters spilled out to surround me. I tried to make a run for it, but they quickly cut off all means of escape. Sure I could have plowed through them, but with that blasted news crew there I couldn't give the slightest hint of being an aggressor. These religious fundamentalists were better organized than one would think.
  When the mob ran out of blood to throw on me they started pitching rotten fruit. Where they got so much rotten fruit in the middle of winter baffled me. Those who did not have a good throwing arm simply waved crosses, prayed or tried to, I guess, 'curse' me or something. However the only time I felt rage was when I looked over at the news crew quietly filming everything that went on. Why weren't they doing anything to stop this!!? Where were the police? I couldn't even hear any sirens. Where they so inhuman that they couldn't even call the police? Fuck, they were going to let this go on until somebody got hurt, or worse. If I got out of this I was definitely going over there for a little chat.
  Without outside intervention, the mob was going from mildly annoying to downright violent. They started kicking me and jabbing at me with sticks. I couldn't fly away because as soon as I spread my wings the mob would shred them into bloody tatters. For the sake of those fucking news cameras I had been playing the meek victim, but I now felt I was truly in danger.
  "Get the fuck away from me!!" I bellowed in the loudest voice possible. The use of a four-letter word would hopefully force the media to cut my little outburst, and the volume would hopefully draw attention.
  The crowd quieted for a moment, but quickly resumed its full fury, completely unafraid. It was then I saw a flash of metal and then the man who had started it all was standing before me with a long sword pointed at my throat. It was his turn to whisper now.
  "Ok, demon, how's this for my best shot? Still, I'm going to give you a choice. Right now you can kill me and show the world what a monster you really are, or you can do nothing and let me deliver your death. It's a tough choice, either way you loose, but I am confident you'll make the right one. Time's up."
  My mind was racing. He didn't want to kill me in cold blood. He wanted to become a martyr, a martyr for the cause against all the transformed people. Either that or he wanted me to make the first move so he could kill for cause. Oh God, I don't want to die here. I don't want to kill people. Wait, why am I grinning?
  It was then I realized I wasn't in control of my body any more. I was now watching the world in slow motion, the dragon part of me had declared me unfit for duty and relieved me of command. I felt my jaw snap open and the familiar tingle at the back of my throat. But instead of a cool rush, what followed tasted foul and burned my mouth. It was almost the exact same feeling I had experienced earlier in the day, only this time it smelled like a combination of melting plastic and acid eating through paint.
  I watched the purple stream of goo hit the man square in the neck and splatter out everywhere from the point of impact. As soon as it hit the air it began to sublimate sending up a purple cloud of vapour. It had the effect of the morning's pepper spray, only on steroids. Something akin to concentrated CS gas. Those near the point of impact were forced to their knees, coughing and gagging. Those further out ran around clutching their eyes. The man with the sword was flopping around on the ground not doing much of anything. Now that catastrophe had been averted the dragon within me went back behind the scenes, content to let me deal with the fact that my ears, eyes, muzzle and throat felt like they had been plunged into boiling oil. Thanks a lot, I thought at my subconscious partner. At this rate I was well on my way to building immunity to membrane irritants. Woo hoo.
  Now that the mob had parted, I was free to flee the caustic cloud I had created. Those who weren't incapacitated were trying to regroup for another assault on my person. Then a beat-up red pickup truck came speeding up the road on which the news van was parked. It slammed on the brakes and skidded into the intersection in front of me. Four rather large male humans leaped out, one had a crowbar and another had a wooden baseball bat. These guys looked intent on doing some damage, and I began to look for a way to crash through the dense underbrush that surrounded the ice-covered lake. There I would be safe, unless the men had some sort of hovercraft.
  Three of the men ran at me. I made a move to jump through the small trees praying I wouldn't get stuck rear end out. The men kept running, past me and right into what was left of the fundamentalist mob. Using a combination of fists, kicks and weapons they persuaded the mob not to come near me and informed them that the police were on their way. With renewed energy the protesters poured back into their vans and drove off. It was over as quickly as it had started.
  It had been a fairly windy day and what was left of the purple haze was rapidly disappearing. The fourth guy from the truck ran up to me with a towel.
  "Where are you hurt?"
  "What?" I was in dazed state of shock. I couldn't believe what had just transpired.
  "There's blood all over you. Where are you hurt?"
  "Oh, the blood. It's not my blood. They threw it on me. I don't know what is."
  "Bastards," he muttered under his breath. "Here, let me clean some of that off."
  I lowered my head down and he started wiping away the blood and rotten fruit pulp from my face. Within a minute the towel was completely covered. I tried not to be rude, but I really didn't feel like talking. The three other guys came jogging back.
  "They drove off in those vans," one of them said. "We couldn't follow them, but we got the plate numbers. Don't worry, I'm sure the police will catch those creeps that did this to you."
  That didn't give me much comfort. Then I saw the news crew moving in for some close-up shots. Fucking animals. I might have horns and spikes and scales, but they were the fucking animals here. I didn't really blame the mob that had attacked me. They were just ignorant, intolerant, impressionable fools. The news crew had fucking set me up. They had set me up for a stupid story. They had sat by and done nothing, in the hopes that someone would get killed. Those animals had so little regard for life that they would trade it for higher ratings. Tears were running down my muzzle, and I could taste the hot salt on my tongue. I didn't know if I was crying because of the purple shit or the shock of what just happened, but it wasn't going to stop me from giving them a piece of my mind.
  As I started to walk toward the camera crew, they pointed the camera at me hoping to get my 'reaction'. The woman reporter stuck out the mike and started to open her mouth.
  "Why did you let them do this to me?" It came out as a forceful whisper, tears streaming down my muzzle. The crew hesitated, looking confused.
  "Why did you let them do this to me?" I stated again, much more plainly. The reporters blinked again and looked away avoiding my gaze.
  "Look at me, damnit! Look what they did to me! Why didn't you do something to stop them?"
  "We're just reporters, we can't..."
  A voice came from behind me. "Did I hear this right? You assholes did nothing to help him?"
  "We're just here to cover the story."
  "I don't care what you're here for. No matter what he looks like, he's still a living being and you fucks sat here and watched."
  "No, you listen. If you don't get the fuck out of here, I'm going to use your fancy camera there for batting practice." The man casually hefted the bat onto his shoulder.
  The woman glanced at her cameraman and they walked back to the van.
  "Batter up!" The man smashed one of the van's front headlights. This got the news crew moving, and they leaped in and the engine roared to life.
  "Going, going gone!" As the man put a large dent in their hood their vehicle leapt into reverse, squealed as it spun around, and then roared away past the police cars converging on me.
  The police came and I did my best to recount what happened and answer their questions. When I told them about the purple goo they were forced to seal off the area and call in the Hazmat team to determine if the stuff was toxic. While we all waited I talked to the four guys who had bailed me out. They worked at the cement and stone place down the road. They had heard my angry roar and had driven up to see what was the matter. They told me if there had been any doubt in their minds regarding acceptance of myself and the rest of the transformed humans, the actions of that mob had eliminated it.
  Almost all of the purple stuff had sublimated, so there was little for the Hazmat team to de-contaminate. They did some field tests, took samples and spread some foamy shit around. The police had already photo documented my condition, so the Hazmat guys offered to clean me up a bit. Their high-pressure water sprays and foam detox shit worked wonders in getting the dried blood and fruit off. I wouldn't recommend it for a human, though. It would probably take that fragile, soft, pink skin of theirs right off.
  I was very surprised that nobody from the University had shown up, but it was a Saturday afternoon. Who in their right mind would want to give up their personal time to babysit a dragon? Most of the staff had been working 20-hour shifts for the past 4 days and one would have needed a gun to force them to stay over. It was almost time for dinner when the police finished with everything. I bid adieu to my blue-collar buddies and began to walk the 5 blocks back "home".
  As I walked I once again became heavily lost in thought. I wasn't surprised by the protesters or anything they had done. I knew I would have to deal with it eventually, but I had never expected it would be like this. Well, at least there were some decent people in this world. Just the thought of my rescue by those four guys was giving me hope for the future. I came to a realization. Probably only 10% of people hated my guts, another 20% probably wanted to protect me. However, the silent majority probably just wanted to see my blood spilled all over a city street on live national television.
  Once again I had come within a hair of ending up in a pile of shit. I had done some really stupid things over the past week. I guess when one becomes a 30 foot long armoured predator with wings and talons, the little voice that screams, "No, you idiot!" just isn't as loud. I had a feeling that being a dragon had possibly affected my judgment. I'd have to definitely be more careful. Finally I prayed to God and thanked Him that I didn't have to kill anyone during the course of the day's events.
  I had always wanted to be the good, benevolent dragon, and how good can you be with out some sort of non-lethal deterrent? It looks like I really had gotten my wish. Whoever had given me this gift, be it God, Gods or Other, I owed them big.
  I wondered if I was praying to the same God the mob had prayed to. I wondered if the camera crew prayed to a God at all.
  Anyway, I had the perfect ironic revenge planned for my hot and spicy little grad student friend.
  As I walked my giant scaled ass back to campus, I ran into the van that was speeding to my aid. They must receive their news via fourth-class mail because they were way too late to help anybody.
  "Hey guys, I have an idea. Why don't you drive to this morning when I could have used you."
  "Could you can the attitude? Almost everybody is at home enjoying their weekend and was it not you who, even this very morning, were complaining about how you felt like such a prisoner? Maybe next time if you listen to the administrators you won't get into so much trouble. Now are you ok? Do you need any medical attention?"
  "Nah, I'd say my pride was injured, but I lost that around Thursday."
  "Glad to hear it, now hurry back, your dinner's getting cold."
  Dinner? Ah, that was the best news I had heard since brunch! I arrived to find several trays of polish sausage and sauerkraut, as well as a good sized pile of leftovers from brunch. Campus dining was obviously cutting costs by using me as a walking garbage disposal, but I really didn't care because the leftovers included about ten pounds of greasy strip bacon. The smell from the re-heated bacon was causing me to drool and I decided the best course of action was to quickly eliminate its presence. As I licked my talons clean and wondered if Dragons were susceptible to coronary artery disease, I noticed that some kind soul had brought the government-issued utensils up from the trailer and they were awaiting their first use. Just because I could turn chickens into McNuggets with my bare claws was no reason not to act civilized, so I picked them up and moved one step away from "animal."
  They were also cutting back on my beverage selection, focusing on sugary juices that were definitely non-carbonated. How did they expect me to practice burping? Anyway, up until now I have been drinking from a black rubber hose, and while it might have been ideal for siphoning gasoline, it definitely came up lacking in the style department. Taking up one of the bottle of concentrated juice syrup (as my beverages were mixed in large Igloo coolers right on the spot) I poured about half into my new government issued stainless steel cup, un-kinked the hose that supplied me with drinking water and mixed up a batch of my patented "go juice". Toasting no one in particular I took a swig.
  Woo wee! Damn, that shit was sweet! I'd be able to fly to New Haven on a gallon of that syrup stuff. As I closed my eyes and let my head twitch in reaction to the intense taste I felt something cold and dribbley running down my neck. To my horror, I found that most of my sip had simply run out of the sides of by muzzle and I was now covered in sticky redness... again. The government-designed cup was completely insufficient for my needs, and I cursed their incompetence as I mopped myself clean with a beach towel.
  "Excuse me?"
  I turned my neck to stare at the student who had approached me in my moment of inattention. My full attention now given, the vaguely familiar student began again by dropping to one knee.
  "Excuse me Great Lord, I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time," he said, maintaining eye contact with my feet.
  Finally dealing with a human who how to speak to his betters put me on an instant power trip, and I felt myself slip into my expected role. "You may feel free to speak, human."
  "Yes, Great Lord, I represent the Strategic Games Club, and they have something for me to ask of you."
  This "Strategic" Games Club was our school's small live action role-playing group. I myself had attended a few meetings, but when I found that instead of students, the group mostly populated with 30-year-old guys from the surrounding area, I took off running and didn't look back. "I am ::clears throat:: familiar with your club, what do they ask of me?"
  "We were wondering if your Lordship would accept the honour of hosting our next meeting in your lair."
  "And why would I waste my time with such petty affairs?"
  "My Lord, we would be most grateful and I'm sure we find a way to make it worth your while."
  Ha, like this human and his friends could have something that I wanted, well, unless I counted companionship. I looked down and I saw that he was still looking at my feet in a posture of complete submission and I noted how well all his years of role-playing had prepared him for the real thing. Wait a minute, this is real life and this human had sucked me into his little fantasy role-play and I got the distinct feeling that I was being used. I do not like to be used. On the other hand, I couldn't blame him, because if the roles were reversed, meeting a real live dragon would be my dream come true and I would hate to ruin that experience for someone and the best way to ruin it is to acting like well... myself. Grrrr, why should I play a role for this human's entertainment? Ok, besides the fact that I've always wanted to play the snide, sarcastic dragon and I was having a damn good time doing it. How did he get down here anyway?
  "My Lord, are you still considering our proposal?"
  Oops, I'd caused an awkward pause. ::mental sigh:: I guess my role as one of the world's only real dragons will require me to cater to my fan base, but I really didn't want to define myself by some made up persona. Unlike some people, I enjoy being myself and playing roles that take my personality to the limit. I guess I would have to compromise. "Yes human, I would be glad to host your next meeting. Now that our official business has concluded, would you care to partake of my meal?"
  "No thank you My Lord, unless you truly wish it."
  Ok, I had to stop this. His last statement had caused my head to grow a few more sizes, and if there was one thing I did not need it was a superior attitude. Imagine if all his friends showed up and started prostrating themselves in front of me, I'd probably never be able to come off it. I figured it was enough game playing for today. "Ok, cut it out, the game's over."
  "I said, stop it. I'm just a person, not a fantasy stereotype, so feel free to call me Mike, or dragon, or even hey you. While its fun to play games sometimes, I do not feel like keeping it up 24/7. Now, to shift the topic of conversation, how did you get down here? Public safety's been filtering out my friends all week and where is Dolson (President of the SGC and SPS member)? I would have thought he'd be camped out down here."
  "Um, the Public Safety guys left sometime this afternoon, and Dolson's at the Observatory working." He had gotten himself off the ground and trying very hard not to stare at me. I was pleased that I might finally be allowed some human contact and I saw that this human was glad to be getting some dragon contact.
  "Go ahead," I said to the young man.
  "Go ahead." I shifted my head and eyes in the direction of my flank.
  A great weight seemed to lift from his shoulders, he walked over and I watched an electric thrill shoot up his arm as he ran his hand over my smooth metallic scales. I needed to get used to the fact that now, for many people, I was the fulfillment of a previously impossible dream. It actually felt good to have someone treating me with awe and wonder, instead of as a scientific oddity.
  "Wow," the student whispered as he pressed his ear flat and listened to my breathing. I lowered my head and he started to examine my horns and tufty hair.
  "Hey look. I told you he was here."
  A guy and his girlfriend were now walking toward me.
  "You're Mike, right?" asked the girl.
  I nodded and now I had three humans asking me questions, engaging me in conversation and rubbing my scales. Soon I had five and I was beginning to regret that I did not have an itch as to put their rubbing to good use. By the time there were 15 people I had heard "So, what's it like?" at least as many times half as many requests to demonstrate my 'fire' breath. When there were about 20 people, alcoholic beverages made their first appearance and the people who probably should have been there the most (i.e. geeks and role players), including my new friend, had probably been scared away by all the social interaction. I wouldn't have been there either except for the fact I was 30 feet long and hemmed in by a concrete retaining wall. I soon wasn't able to count the number of people any more, but I estimated that there were about 35 when the keg made its first appearance and someone put on some loud techno music. My wish for greater human interaction had manifested itself in a band of Christian protesters and now a loud keg party.
  From my perspective, things were rapidly getting out of hand and it was only 8pm. The same old stupid questions were now getting slurred, and people kept asking to pop open their beer cans on my pointed teeth (or some other convenient spike without asking at all). The last straw when I saw a group of drunken men trying to investigate the area between my legs.
  "Yes, it's there, and it's a lot bigger than yours," I informed then in an angry tone. Now, having set the record straight, I went about excusing myself. Moving slowly I was able to part the seas of uselessness, and with little fanfare I got the heck out of Dodge. The party, having achieved a self-sustaining critical mass, continued on perfectly fine without me.
  I camped out behind the building in the shadows watching people going to a film series movie I would be forced to miss. I was so tired from all the day's events that I was ready to go to sleep right then and there in the little nook next to the biology greenhouse. Oddly enough, I noted that for the first time I didn't really feel hungry anymore. I briefly wondered if I was finally done growing before my eyes drooped shut and I began to fall into blissful sleep.

part 4
 2 3
4 5