by Mike Brotzman
1 2 3 4
I had to admit that the hospital life did have its advantages.
The food was much better (amazing isn't it), as I was their honoured
guest instead of a lazy freeloader. The staff hadn't gotten used
to me like the school's grad students had, and they were a refreshing
break from the status quo. They designed the various physical
tests (strength, endurance, reflexes, etc) to be fun and enjoyable.
Instead of staying on some ramshackle rooftop, I had a whole warehouse
nearly to myself. When I asked why I was getting so much attention,
they said that I was pretty special in that I was a non-Earth
evolved life form. While most of the other list members were similar
in that they were nothing ever seen before on this planet, they
were all still basically combinations of more mundane critters.
It was from us "exotics" (dragons, Alien Queens, gargoyles, etc)
that science stood to gain the most. The government had fast-tracked
the funding and the manpower. This served to explain the massive
MRI machine that alone looked like it had cost millions. As the
week wore on I was provided with rubber forms that fit over my
various spikes and horns. They provided much better protection
from accidental poking than had the former gaffer tape method.
The nutritionists finally worked out my exact nutritional requirements
(including all the various metals like silver) and even provided
me with a drum of supplement tablets to be taken on a weekly basis.
One drug company that had been working on a fast acting patch
for skin wounds contracted with the school to use me as a guinea
pig. At first I was a little pissed off that the school (and not
myself) was getting paid to administer the test on me. I was then
reminded that not only was I getting free room, board and education,
but I would also receive a large supply of the pads for my own
personal use. To my horror the test involved cutting long slits
through my wing membrane and applying the patch. After giving
it some thought I realized that a wing wound was an extremely
likely eventuality and I had best learn how to cope with it now.
Refusing all painkillers I put up with the procedures and, 48
hours later, basked in the assorted wonder as I ripped the patches
off revealing a blemish free wing. My regenerative abilities never
cease to amaze.
As the first week faded into the second I was put through a number of tests to see exactly what human substances/medicines I may or may not be able to handle and how they would affect my new physiology. I was given everything from morphine to cough syrup while the doctors carefully took notes. Needless to say parts of me swelled up on several occasions making my scaled body look like an overripe artichoke. It was with a heavy heart that they kicked me out of the factory adjacent to the county hospital. The only thing I had to show from it was a slew of new friend type people, some mental and physical scars, a doggie bag full of meat and a large box full of wing healing pads and a dozen tubes of silicon based scale caulk. What... you're saying I didn't mention anything about scale caulk? Well, I don't want to talk about it.
I got back to school and the daily grind started all over again. One day fading into the next. However it was spring and the sun was beginning to show it's lovely face again. As the grass turned green I began to talk afternoon walks around campus. April was the big college tour month as all the accepted students walked around trying to decide where to go. Because my transformation had occurred after all the applications had been due there had not been a rise in the number of applying students, but the Admissions Office was reporting that the number of people requesting visits had gone up nearly 25%. On the one hand I had become a great asset to the university, and they were quite pleased that I was making myself much more visible. On the other hand the university was facing the possibility that they would have more acceptances than they could handle. This would lead to overcrowded classes, the housing of students in non-university housing and a generally shitty time for all. The university had begun to step off its high horse and with revenue beginning to come in from limited edition photographic prints of myself, they were starting to worry about the omnipresent student activist groups yelling exploitation on my behalf. It was April 2nd when I was made an official tour guide and put on the payroll. All I had to do was lounge someplace where the passing throngs could stare at me and take pictures.
This is one of the reasons I love it here. As I human, I had a job where I was paid to watch movies. Now as a dragon, I have a job where I get paid to read books in the afternoon sun. This did bring me to an unintended problem. When I would go and find a nice place to curl up, the bright sun warming my sliver scales, the green grass comforting my smooth metallic body, I had a tendency to lose track of time. After all, dragons live for thousands of years; what's a few hours on a quiet afternoon? I would sit down at like 1 PM, intent of doing homework or reading something, and the next thing I know the sun has gone down, it's gotten cold out and some human is poking at me in an effort to explain that dinner is ready. I had the machine shop boys rig up a little watch with an attachment that slid under one of my scales. I could set the watch to heat up the attachment after a set time, fixed interval or upon a period of inactivity, thus burning me in an unprotected place and waking me from my reverie.
Well as I just said, it had become April and you all know what that means. Baseball! One day when I was sunning myself on the hill, I noticed that a large group of uniformed humans had run out onto the big field in the middle of campus. The ballistic curves of the small white balls caught my eye and the next thing I knew I was stretched out along the third base line. Well one thing led to another and I soon found myself the school's unofficial mascot. Although I only really sat there on the sidelines, my intimidation/wonderment factor was definitely noticeable as the number of errors committed by visiting teams was way up. Despite my scary appearance I was a model fan. Ok, I might have been using my silver scales to direct large amounts of sunlight into the opposing team's faces, but I stopped when they 'nicely asked' me to. I have also been known to let out the occasional roar when our team scores or someone hits a home run. However, that story about me charging onto the field and 'scaring' the umpires so badly that they declared our team to forfeit, ran to the parking lot and sped off in a cloud of smoke is grossly exaggerated. It was a horrible call and I wasn't 'baring my teeth and drooling'. I was only voicing my opinion on how bad they were at their jobs, and some onlookers just might have thought that I looked like I was about to 'eat' them or something. I just think that they didn't want to face up to their horrible calls. Fortunately the game was against Amherst and we were down by 7 runs, so the team generally felt that my actions had salvaged the best from a bad situation. The coach even asked if I could come along on away games, but the administration said no for some reason. Jerks.
As April headed toward May the temperatures shot up dramatically and the days got longer. Even with my new watch I would on occasion fall asleep on the hill and wake up in pitch-blackness. It was on one of these nights I woke up and upon realizing where I was, started back to my 'room'. As I walked through campus I heard the telltale sounds of a large party emanating from one of the frats. It being on my route home, I was forced to pass by and I nearly succeeded in doing so until my path was barred by one of my friends from the Society of Physics Students. I was invited to the party and was about to give a lame excuse of why I couldn't attend -- Oh gee, I'd love to but I'm 30 feet long -- when he mentioned something about finishing the still. The SPS had a long running project to build a still and make some low quality moonshine. Apparently they had continued on with this project in my absence, and it had come to fruition. I ambled over to the front door and, despite everyone's slight intoxication, they quickly made a hole for me to poke my head in. There in the middle of the room was the still and several bottles of clear liquid. In spite of the success of the process of making homemade liquor, nobody was brave enough to try it. I can't really remember exactly who came up with the idea or why on Earth I went along with it, but the next thing I knew I was chugging quart bottles full of 150 proof corn whisky. Being the absolute center of attention was far more intoxicating than any drug, and I drank and drank as the crown roared and cheered. It had also been a life long goal to re-enact that scene from Animal House. Now normally, hard liquor gives me a pounding headache after about 5 seconds, but as a dragon I felt completely fine. It didn't even burn much going down and there didn't seem to be anything unnatural to the taste. Even after the firewater ran out the crowd still was crying out for more. People started shoving bottles in my face and at one point I even chugged half a keg of Natural Light. Eventually people felt like saving a little alcohol for human consumption and went back to getting themselves drunk. This and the requests for me to see if I could "breath fire" began to pick up, so I felt that my job there was done and turned to leave the establishment. No sooner had I turned around then I quite suddenly realized that I had completely forgotten how to walk. The whole concept of synchronizing four limbs for forward locomotion had just completely gone out of my mind and the next thing I knew I was saying hi to Mr. Sidewalk. I then noticed that my night vision was all out of kilter. Everything seemed to be glowing instead of just the living creatures. Events after that sort of ran together for me. I vaguely remember having a conversation with a tree and running around campus roaring with a naked man riding on my back.
The next thing I remember clearly it was bright light and me lying on Andrus Field.
"Oh no," I mumbled.
"Oh yes," came a voice from behind me.
"What happened," I mumbled again, not looking back.
"We made a list," said the dean of whatever.
And what a list it was. I had tried to eat several trashcans. I had thrown up in the administrative parking lot, burning a hole straight through the asphalt. The grass was torn up everywhere with dragon tracks. There were claw marks climbing up the wall of the Alumni gym, and worst of all they accused me of 'mating' with a public safety SUV. That last was an unfounded charge which I have completely denied. Because I was too valuable an asset they couldn't really punish me in any of the standard ways, so until the end of the year I was to spend every morning working with the grounds crew from 6 to 9 am. As long as I did this they would continue to feed me. Well, what else was I supposed to do? I dug in and got my claws dirty. On the plus side, after my little binge-drinking episode wore off I found myself completely energized. Flew a 10-mile loop around the city without even breaking a pant. I'll need to ask the lab guys if they think I could possibly consume other high-energy hydrocarbons for the same effect. Fill me up with premium please. Regular gives me indigestion.
As April ended I began to worry about just what was I doing to do over the summer. I had a whole bunch of options all with their pluses and minuses, but as it is getting early and I need to go hunt before the sun comes up I will leave that tale for another day.
<( | )> <( | )> <( | )> <( | )>
Well I was on my way out of the lab today, all hot on having
a nice fly around followed by a long dip in the river. After all
it's over 90 degrees out and it's like an oven in this stupid
metal hide (at least thank god I'm silver). Anyway, I was on my
way out when something grabbed my tail and I fall flat on my snout.
I whip my head around to see the school appointed councilor standing
there with a doorstop in her hand. It turns out I've been neglecting
my journal responsibilities and there was to be no flying until
I wrote some more. So here I am, trapped in a sweltering body
on a rooftop that's just about to bake me to death. I've just
about squeezed my ice gland to its limit and the pain has gotten
so bad I can barely swallow. Anyway, I left off talking about
my plans for this summer, but her royal majesty insisted I talk
more about my human interactions since the change. It came across
that when I wasn't alone in my lair reading I was getting yelled
at by the school staff. She felt that was promoting an unhealthy
mental picture of my life and I should try to focus on the whole
thing. Well, here it goes.
It was right after my parents came up for the first time that my dad, who is pretty smart regarding these things, hired a lawyer and set him loose to look after my interests. This entailed going through every document the school had gotten me to sign, finding what parts were obviously not in my best interest and then forcing the school to draw up new ones citing that my post-transformation mental state was in no condition to sign binding contracts. This guy was like shark on PCP. He covered everything from patenting and copyrighting my various bodily fluids, secretions, structures and DNA to how the school could use my image and exactly what control they had over me. He hashed out just what my responsibilities were and what the school had to provide for me. There was a set number of research hours per week and I was guaranteed at least one full day off. During my free time I could do what I wanted and didn't have to inform anybody about anything. Of course I wasn't there to be a jerk and it was made clear that if the school wanted anything special they should just ask and I was free to agree.
Once the lawyer was done with the school he was running around town, a civil rights law in each fist, confronting any and every authority regarding my condition. The school had said they had handled things, but from what my lawyer told me they had barely done more than make a few phone calls. Eventually an agreement was worked out with the school regarding my body's special substances. Because you can't patent a compound or substance (only a method, process or use) I became a research partner w/ the school. They would find uses for my compounds and patent them in my name. However, if I ever sold the rights to the patent or collected royalties they would get half after expenses. If I used my patent to start my own business they would get 10% of the profits up to $10,000 per year, per patented use. Furthermore, the first $500,000 I made through university research related ventures would go to the school. It was a pretty fair deal, the school didn't free ride off of my body and I didn't free ride off of their lab space. Still, the patent process was long and it would be a while until I started to see the fruits of my sweat (and poop, and urine, and breath, and saliva, etc).
Now there was one really nice thing the school did for me and that was to give me a TV and then outfit my lair for free cable. It was on my first Sunday, right after I called my parents, that I was sitting around watching this new TV and there came a knock at the door. I thought that it was some other school official or research person and informed the visitor that they could enter. Boy was I surprised when two of my friends, Sarah and Adam, stepped through the door. I know a lot of people, but I have very few friends and these were the first I had run into since my change. Sarah is my primary Science Fiction/Fantasy friend and she is very into mythic creatures. You know: Werewolves, vampires, unicorns... dragons. Adam, well, he's just very clean and orderly. They had been trying to see me all week and had been put off by the university's security presence. Watching the Simpsons on Sunday night had been a long-standing tradition and they felt that would put in an effort to see me. Thanks to my directive for the school to stop isolating me they had been allowed access.
"Well you look different," said Sarah.
"Yeah, I got my hair cut."
"You know that I hate you. Well I always hate you, but now I really hate you."
"It looks like you'll just have to be friends with a dragon," I replied, sticking out my tongue.
"What, no soul-gem?" she said, tapping on my forehead.
"Just sit down, the show is starting."
"Um, I don't see any chairs."
"Oh, whoops, I guess I forgot to have any put in here, and I'm sorry it's so cold in here. They said they would try to seal it up better and bring in some space heaters."
"That's ok. I don't mind the cold, remember?" said Sarah.
"Um, I guess you can sit on my foam there."
She walked over and encountered an obvious difficulty.
"Move your damn tail," said Sarah, trying to clear up a patch on the foam padding that formed my nest."
"It moves when it wants to," I said, not being entirely non-serious.
Sarah bent over the tried to shove my tail out of the way to which it responded by swishing quickly and sweeping her feet out from under her.
"I told you, it has a mind of it's own."
"Fine, be that way."
She picked herself up and promptly sat down on my tail. Her stone cold glance dared me to move it again. Adam, not wanting to get dragon gunk on his clothes, chose to stand. My lair was quite cold that first night and the breaths of all could clearly be seen
As the days went by Physical Plant installed a better flexible entrance to my lair that allowed me to enter, but kept the cold air and wind out. They also made some modifications that would serve to keep water from leaking in and ruining my stuff. With the added creature comforts of warmth, dryness and chairs, my lair quickly became the official location of Sci-Friday. Since my TV had a built in VCR, Sarah could tape her favourite shows twice in the same night. Ever the cautious type, she always insisted on having several backup copies of each episode made and then filed away in secret vaults located two miles underground. I am confident in saying that Farscape will always exist for future generations to enjoy. The only difference that came to Sci-Friday was that I no longer opted into the usual Chinese food pool. Aside from the fact that I simply didn't have enough cash on hand to cover a dragon sized order, it probably would have taken several days to cook and several trips to deliver. On occasion Sarah would not feel motivated enough to get out of her bed and I would be stuck alone in my fortress of solitude. One cold night in February I climbed from my lair and walked across the street to the dorm complex. She had a second floor room and it was no great effort to reach me neck up to it. I tapped on the glass with one of my claws and the curtains were drawn open. My head was reluctantly invited inside, it was a close fit, but I was allowed to watch the Friday lineup with big muzzle resting on the foot of her bed. The rest of me made itself as comfortable as it could outside the building. After Outer Limits I bid Sarah farewell and moved to extract my head. There was a crunch as one horn dug itself into the cinderblock wall and a squeal as the other ground along the window.
S: Stop, you're breaking it.
M: Hold on, let me try it this way.
S: What's wrong.
M: I think I'm stuck.
M: Stop laughing and help me.
S: I told you not to come in here.
::some minor thrashing, a rack of video cassettes spills over::
S: Calm down, you're trashing my room.
M: But if I can just...
S: Don't move! Just stay where you are.
M: ::let's out a little growl::
S: Calm thyself. ::rubs M's muzzle in an effort to calm him:: Just listen to me and do exactly what I do. ::grab's a hold of M's horns and re-position's his head:: Now slowly move backward.
M: ::moves backward::
S: That's it, slowly now. Ok, good. Now rotate, a little more. Ok, now back, and... you're out. See how easy that is if you just stay calm? Not to mention a lot easier on my room.
Time went on. I gave Sarah both a silver and black scale for her birthday for which she was much appreciative. It was almost spring break when I was sitting in my lair on a lazy Saturday morning eating brunch. My food usually consisted of leftovers and expireds, but on occasion I would get something fresh. Sarah was addicted to these little fried potato cubes and since I had received about 20 pounds of them (among other things) I gave her a call and she came right over.
"So, how was your Physics test?"
"How do you think you did."
"You always say that."
As she finished I noticed that she was looking at my wings.
"Do you want to touch my wings?"
"If you wouldn't mind."
I was amazed she had taken this long to show interest in my new form. Since the change she had basically treated me like I was the same person I'd always been, albeit a bit larger.
"Wow, they're warm."
"Yeah, it's just like really thick skin."
"What's that stuff that's always on your scales?"
"The best analogy is dragon sweat. My scales generally grow downward from my spine and that stuff is secreted at the scale's base. The surface of the scale is somewhat porous from wear and the sweat basically works its way into the scale like car wax. Not only does it protect and waterproof, but it also acts as a lubricant that allows my scales to slide easily over each other allowing for smooth motion. I secrete it most during physical exertion and when I sleep. If you notice there are drips of it all around where I sleep."
"So you leave a sweat puddle on your bed when you sleep. To think you've been making fun of me all this time."
"Well I sweat for a reason."
I scraped some off my scales and held it in front of her nose.
"Do you smell anything?"
"Take it and rub it between your fingers and smell it again."
"Whew, yeah, that's your dragon smell."
"Is it that bad?"
"Nah, I'm used to being around horses. This is pretty tame. Why does it do that?"
"Well, normally the sweat is odorless. In fact it helps to seal in my own scent. This allows me to keep from scaring away every animal within a 10-mile radius. It starts to smell when it comes in contact with most animal flesh. The sweat covers everything where the dragon sleeps, dragons sleep on their hoards, their hoards are covered with sweat, humans try to steal the hoards, they come in contact with the sweat, the sweat starts to smell, the dragon tracks down the smell and kills the humans. See, everything evolves for a reason."
Sarah reached down and picked up her plate of potatoes.
"Might you have any ketchup?"
"Yeah I think I have an extra jug or two somewhere around here."
I turned and began to rummage through a pile of boxes, looking for where my condiments were stored. As I sent boxes flying I heard Sarah's voice from behind me.
"Hey, what's this... oh my, I know what... It looks like... I found your hoard!"
I lifted my head up.
::snicker:: "You have a hoard... and I found it."
She started to laugh. I swung my head around and found that she was standing on top of my nest, having moved the blankets and foam padding aside. I saw her start to dance up and down.
"I found your ho-oard. I found your ho-oard."
She bent over.
"Let's see what you have here. Hmm, lots of cash. Wow, even some hundreds. Some CD wallets over here. Oh, cool, dragon fantasy books. Hey, I have this one."
I felt my mind start to spin and I was absolutely overcome with a feeling of fear and paranoia. A loud "hiss" filled the room, I felt my fin stand straight up and my wings unfurled slightly and began to rustle loudly. Sarah put the book back and looked slightly scared. At that moment I became aware of my actions and pulled my neck back.
"Oh god, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to," the feeling of fear and paranoia in no way dissipated, "hiss at you. It just came out. Could you just back away from my... hoard... you're making me feel extremely anxious."
"I'll just put these back."
I felt like I was going to loose control at any minute. I knew that Sarah was my friend, I completely trusted her and I knew that she wasn't going to take anything, but the core of my being was telling me that my dearest possessions were in grave danger.
"No no, I'll do it." I said thrusting my neck forward and knocking Sarah aside.
I began to move the padding and covers back over my hoard before I became aware of what I had done again.
"Oh shit, I am so sorry. Again."
"That's ok. I understand. It's your stuff and protective of it."
"I know you wouldn't take anything, but I just can't let anybody near them. I'll try to work on it."
"I know, I know. It's just who you are. I guess it comes with being a dragon."
The feelings finally dissipated. However I did feel compelled to count my hoard a few extra times that night.
She reached up and touched my sail.
"This feels different."
"Yeah, it's not made of skin like my wing. It's like a fingernail and it's more decorative than functional. If you look closely you'll see that it's not a continuous fin. Each quill is really two separate pieces. This makes the fin more flexible and less prone to damage as each segment can fold down. As the fins are always growing the top of the quills and the segment between break off along a pre-existing score. See the one back there? It's about to come off."
She reached out and gently pulled off the top inch of the offending fin.
"So they can bend over?"
"Yeah, try it yourself."
She bent it over and held it there.
"Does this hurt?"
"Nope, they are designed to be flexible."
"Hey, are you doing anything today?"
"Not really, what do you have in mind."
"Meet me in front of the building in 30 minutes. I'll be right back."
I was hanging out on the sidewalk trying to look inconspicuous when Sarah left her building wearing her riding pants, her SS style riding boots, her helmet in one hand and a saddle in the other.
"I don't want to ask too much of you but I would really really really appreciate it if maybe we could go riding."
I really didn't like the look of that saddle. I mean I certainly didn't want to grow up to be a pack animal. On the other hand I definitely needed to get out more and this looked like something Sarah would enjoy.
"Let's go." Then I caught myself. "Oh wait the school requires me to make you sign one of these before you can get a ride."
"I thought I already signed one of these in order to hang out with you."
"This is a special one for rides."
After she hesitantly signed the pink piece of paper (all my legal forms are colour coded, isn't that nice?) I walked with her down to the athletic fields. She slipped her heavy gear over my horns and I gladly carried it. She told me to bend down and after taping down several fin segments with gaffer tape she lifted the saddle onto my neck, right where it joins the body. She then did up the big strap that went underneath it and pulled it tight with a little "oof" sound from my end.
"Is that too tight?"
She took it down one notch. I informed her that this was not going to be an aerial ride. Aside from the fact that the school had been more than clear on that issue, I was not going to be responsible for the death of my friend after she fell 200 feet off a dragon. I bent my neck down and she hopped into the saddle, and acted a little uneasy as she had nothing to hold onto and nothing to control me by. I started to walk across the field and told Sarah that the adjacent Long Lane School (recently purchased by my University) allowed me to use their property and I suggested a route for my ride. About a minute later I felt a tapping on my neck.
"Hey, um, could you possibly move a little faster."
I walked faster. The tapping came back.
"I mean, could, you, like run or something?"
Well I had wanted to start out slow, but since she was asking for it... I took off running and I hadn't gone more than 75 feet when I felt a hard pounding on my neck accompanied by screams of "Stop!" I looked back over my neck to see Sarah flopped halfway out of the saddle, breathing heavily. She slowly let herself to the ground.
"What on earth do you call that?"
"That wasn't running, that was like a full body dry heave! Who taught you how to run?"
"Nobody, I taught myself."
"I thought as much. How much do you 'run'?"
"Not often, I prefer flying."
Well it definitely shows. Go back there and run for me."
"I need to observe you. Go now."
I went back across the field and I ran across it. When I came back to Sarah I saw she was shaking her head.
"That was simply awful. Ok, let's start with the basics. I'm going to teach you how to trot."
"I'm not a horse."
"You're a quadruped. Quadrupeds trot."
"Hey, I can walk on two legs."
"Good for you, now listen up. First of all, you need to do something with your wings. They are flopping all over the place and it's throwing your balance off. You need to make a conscious effort to pin them at your sides. Now go and practice it."
I had to run back and forth across the field a few times, but I was soon able to keep my wings from thrashing about.
"See, doesn't that feel better," Sarah remarked.
"Yeah, sort of," I said, not wanting to admit having to be taught to run by a puny human.
"Ok, now I'm going to teach you how to trot. Diagonal feet move together, i.e. front left and hind right, then front right and hind left. It's the human equivalent of a jog. We'll start out slowly."
I started out at a slow walking speed, moving my diagonal legs together as Sarah ran around me pointing and yelling.
"No no! Move those two, to-ge-ther. Yes. Like that. There you go."
It felt very unnatural, but Sarah said it was because I had just gotten into some bad habits and I was going to need to break them. Once I gotten it down at a walking pace Sarah suggested I try trotting at a more brisk speed. No sooner had I gone 20 feet when my feet got tangled up in each other and I fell muzzle first into the mud, sliding some distance before I stopped. Sarah was overcome by laughter until I walked back and shook myself clean, splattering her with no small amount of mud. She then picked up a large fistful of the liquefied dirt, but before things had a chance to escalate I wisely backed down. Not to be deterred I tried again, and fell again. On my third try I tripped, but was able to remain upright. Finally, after some more slow speed coaching, on my fourth try I found myself leisurely trotting across the field. It was sort of like juggling. Once you work at it for about 20 minutes straight, it becomes almost natural.
"Hey! Look at me, I'm doing it!" I yelled in triumph.
However, also, much like juggling, this was an unstable equilibrium and my little self-glorifying announcement was all it took to tip the scales. I very quickly found my muzzle sliding through the muddy field once again. After some more practice I could competently trot if I kept my mind focused.
"Good job, maybe I can teach you how to pace."
"Um, how about next week," I said, spitting mud out of my maw.
Sarah once again felt confident enough to actually sit on my neck and off we went for our little ride. Due to my incredibly long stride we rounded the property and went round for another go. It was as we were heading back on lap two that I spied a gopher like thing waddling through the field I was running in. An idea sprang into my head and I stopped short.
"What's wrong?" Sarah asked.
"See that gopher over there? Want me to blast it with my ice breath? It's really cool."
"Ahhh! No! Definitely not." She started to kick at my neck with her boots.
"Well all this running has made me hungry."
"The school feeds you, remember? There's no need to kill innocent animals."
"What if I demonstrated on that little tree over there?"
"That would be acceptable."
I trotted over to the small tree near the edge of the field and took a moment to make it look as if I was concentrating or sizing things up. As the 'suspense' was beginning to wear thin I opened my mouth wide and the tree was blasted by the now familiar cloud of fog. As the cloud faded away the tree was clearly still standing making that crystalline sound that ice cubes make when you take them out of the fridge.
"Ooooooo, waaaaaaahow," said Sarah in an extremely sarcastic tome of voice.
"Oh yeah, watch this."
This move I had spent time practicing. Artfully coordinating my four legs together I quickly spun around, whipping my tail around right smack into the tree at high speed. About 10 feet of the trunk simply exploded in thousands of crystalline shards and I had about three seconds to be extremely pleased with myself before what was left of the tree (i.e. the top) fell on Sarah and me.
"Are you ok?" I called back.
"You idiot! Ow. A tree just fell on me, how 'ok' do you think I am!"
I attempted to back up out of the branches.
"Uht, ow, ouch. Stop moving! You're just making it worse. Just stop and don't move again till I say so."
I waited as Sarah untangled herself from the branches and lowered herself off of my back and then I was able to lift what was left of the tree off of me and throw it aside. I turned to see Sarah standing there with something to say.
"Ok, we're going to have a new arrangement for the next time we ever want to go riding. You're going to supply the body and I'm going to supply the brains. It's clear you don't have any. You should go ask the machine shop guys to make you some tack because I doubt anyone is ever going to ride you without any."
"Um, ok. Do you want a ride back to campus?"
"I think I'd rather walk... and at least 15 feet away from you at that."
When I got back to my lair that night I noticed a strange sensation coming from my fore talons/paws/hands. This sensation was pain, it was most strongly present in the wrist and it got worse as the evening wore on. I hadn't noticed before, but my fore appendages are not really designed for prolonged, hi-speed, locomotion and especially not on paved surfaces. There are no shock absorbing pads, no impact resistant hooves and my wrist is dually designed for both walking and grasping, with the latter at the expense of the former. My hind feet weren't much better. On the following Sunday I was completely lair-ridden and on anti-inflammatory painkillers.
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