T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 13: dragon
Pestering her didn't seem to work especially well. The more he tried, the more turned off she became. Rabbit had promised him she would look into one of the many mysteries he was seeped in, but had delivered nothing aside from the date embossed on the first tag. Every week he asked again if she had uncovered anything new or noteworthy. If she had she was keeping it to herself. Subconsciously he began to worry. He’d given access to something she shouldn’t have. His trust in her was based solely on that he found her attractive. Yet, he was too taken with her beauty to openly realize the mistake he’d made. From the first moment of the first day of school, he had silently claimed her. Every so often he gathered the courage to try to pursue it, not that it had worked. He marked the tags as simply another failure to keep her interest, never taking into account the dubiousness of it.
Without the pursuit of love to keep him occupied, he turned back to the pursuit of mayhem. Several weeks passed as weeks do without any mentionable crisis or incident. With a little over a month after the lion attack David was becoming restless.
Students moved about day-to-day, routine after routine with not much break in the monotony. A scuffle between boys over any little thing or girls over jealousy and a false fire drill was all there was to shake up and loosen the prison-like atmosphere a bit. The tedium and claustrophobia of the brick and mortar rectangular walls was ultimately inescapable for those forced to attend classes there. David had once been quite eager to stop the home schooling he’d been brought up in. Now he was wondering exactly how screw-loose he had been to think subjecting himself to public school in a suburban-nothing trash town would be enjoyable in any way, shape, or form.
This was when he realized if no one else was going to step up and do something worth talking about, he would have to. Building his ego so far up as to consider himself a godsend to these teenagers and their mundane existence, he once again became careless in his actions.
The scene was set. The English teacher, whom had been the first to doubt David’s mental health, was rather fond of Shakespeare. He was fond enough to quote him as often as possible. David finally agreed with the professor and the bard’s decree that indeed “all the world’s a stage”. The high school stage, that is, would be the Morphist’s today.
Across from the bathrooms, Sue Hardy leaned casually against white cement blocks of the science corridor. Waiting patiently as she always did, never in any rush to get anywhere for any reason, she hummed random bars of a heavy metal track. Humid late spring air caused her long messy hair to droop. Her whole attire drooped. Bored, she pushed at where the rubber of her worn out sneakers was coming unglued at the toe with the toe of her other sneaker. When the flopping and snapping sound ceased to amuse her she pulled at the mud stained fraying hems of the legs of her jeans.
A tap on the shoulder interrupted her fidgeting “Sure you don’t mind getting in trouble?” Asked the charming lad.
Sue scoffed, “Who me, trouble? Pfft. Like I care.” She pulled herself off her slacking lean on the wall to stand next to David assuredly. “Let’s do this.”
“Long as you don’t mind,” in truth David was still bitter over their last encounter. There were lines not to be crossed and she happily jumped over them without regrets. It was a bit devious to make sure she’d suffer, but she deserved what was coming to her.
Palmer, on the other hand, took a bit more convincing. Intentions were not to cause harm to his newest and dearest friend. The boy had been nothing but kind and nearly always spoke sweetly. That, David saw, was the problem. The strong of the school had selected Palmer as the weak and preyed on him. “I’m still not sure about this you guys…” The quiet one in question advised timidly while nervously chewing on the end of his painted orange thumbnail. He knew the details of the plan, he would have to… be was going to be an ‘actor’ in the production.
“Ah, it’ll be so great,” Sue enthusiastically slapped him on the back enough that he almost lost his balance. She obviously had didn’t have any reservations. “Just think of what LEGENDS we’ll be.” She cheered, despite being ignorant of the disaster in store. In actuality, she had no idea what was going on or what her part would be in it. All she knew was that David was planning something big, something that would go down in school history for all time, and needed her to ‘stand by.’
David encouraged the worrying Palmer, “Maybe all you need is to invoke a little fear in those who torment you. Think of the good it will do to have a bit or respect around here.”
“That’s the thing… I don’t think either of you HAS thought about it… consequences and all….” He shook his head sadly. It was clear from their expectant gleams in their eyes that there was no convincing them to use common sense.
Sue walked off first, circling the lobby to get to the auditorium. She was to wait by the normal entrance, keeping her eye out for some sort of signal. David hadn’t told her what the sign would be, but she would know it when she saw it.
Backstage was off limits to students during an assembly for obvious reasons. It would be quite the distraction for them to enter in any place but the side and far end of the auditorium to take their seats. The authorities wanted the sanctum of power of the front stage. You could only stand on the elevated steps if you were someone with something important to say. David currently considered “Roar” a worthy speech to give.
“But, it's locked,” Palmer stated the obvious. He tapped the heavy wood door to prove it, pointing to the neon tangerine spray paint stenciled ‘keep out’ as further deterrence.
“It only appears to be so. But with a flick of the wrist,” Motioning his hands like a master magician, David worked his spell. He’d only need one hand, so he used the other to display his work, as the glamorous woman assistant to the magician would do. He was a one-man show, and this was a measly warm-up, a card trick before main act. “Just say the words: Abracadabra, Open Sesame,” a thin layer of Xilvrin spread shimmering over his right hand. He stopped its flow at the band of his watch. “Spotless shine in mere moments. Look at the new polished glow!” Indeed it did appear as though a dirty sink was magically being cleaned by a super product. One could practically hear the special effect twinkles. .
The chrome liquid expanded down to a single bladed, flat sided, ten inch claw sharp enough to split hairs and wide enough to absorb impact. “Only available through this exclusive offer. Act now and receive a free gift. Operators are standing by waiting for you call.” David was absolutely enjoying selling himself this way. He struck the hand-knife against the latch. Sparks flew from where it hit. Hacking away with lips curled into a growl he splintered the wood around the lock. “Ok, so it’s not as easy as it looks…. I’ve ripped the hoods of trucks easier…but then, I had full armor and a set of mountain lion paws…” He said with a snarl as he continued to cut. With some effort he destroyed the first obstacle to his plan.
Xilvrin is tougher than most metals when in its solid state… most substances for that matter. Hardened Xilvrin took crushing impacts without dent or scratch. It did however have an effects on the bones and flash beneath its coating, as it sent a shaking wave to the effects of a tuning fork being struck through those who wielded it. In most cases it did not hurt all that much, but it did make it more difficult to stay steady. The secret was the handler’s experience and control. Transmission of human feelings had much to do with it. Fear and Sadness made it weak, confidence and anger made it strong. Right now David was wholly smug, so the Xilvrin dagger had cut like a diamond.
Down the hall, only meters away, the main office that processed troublemakers by the dozens daily, took no notice of the break in. Half of those in charge were inducing yawns from the audience at the assembly. The other half was busy with phones and filing forms. One would wonder exactly how they would deal with the situation. Men in suits and secretaries in high heels don’t make the best warriors.
Everything inside the space behind the locked door was utterly dissonantly black. Darker than pitch pipes and black walls towered on three sides. The ceiling was a hollow vacuum beyond charbroil-hued rafters. The coverings of the turned off light fixtures and wires to them were black as well. The stage was not ideal for what it was meant to be… putting on plays, concerts, or anything that a stage was normally useful for. For starters, it was too small. The floor was slick painted and glossed over concrete. The sound quality was awful. None in the assembly had heard the door being battered in. Heavy royal blue curtains (also seeming black in the lack of light) absorbed all of it.
Palmer snuck over to the moth-eaten burlap couch left there along with strewn about props from small student productions and clubs. There he sat on one of the cushions whose tears were repaired with duct tape, unsuccessfully so, for stuffing fluffed out of the threadbare edges. “Maybe we could…” he stopped before finishing an alternative suggestion to what they were about to do. He wanted to be with avid, but he didn’t really want to terrify a hundred or so people to do so. “I… I don… I don’t want to do this,” he stuttered out, worried that his friend would be mad at him for backing out.
“Well, what DO you want?” David said exasperated. He’d been looking forward to the stunt all day. He continued sizing up the space around him, calculating in his head his every move of the feat-to-be before starting it.
“N…nothing. It doesn’t matter. Forget it. So let’s… do this” and get it over with, Palmer added silently.
David readied himself taking a deep breath, freeing all tensions before he gave himself over to the beast within. He did not think about it, rather, he let the process define him. He had done his thinking a day before hand; now was the time to act, the time to be. The more one tried to force it after all, the less likely it was to yield. The instincts of ancient man lent itself to him, the basic awareness of sight sound and feeling absent of other rational or extraneous thought. A Xilvrin being could not say to itself “Now I want to be this animal”, no, he had to say to himself “Now, I am this animal” picturing the look and experience of its life before living inside its skin.
First came the basic body, reptilian and four legged like the alligator, but with midsections hoisted on longer legs better for walking and sprinting, unlike the alligator stubby limbs and wide body. Thick curved talons molded themselves around his fingers. False wings arched up: first just skeletons of jointed spines, then flexible sheets extended between them, silver sails being unfurled. The beast needed balance so a long lashing tail stretched behind him. Finally, the neck -on which a horned vaguely horse like scaled head was perched- lengthened like taffy being pulled. The lapse of time suiting up lasted no more than two minutes. Inside the serpent, David’s humanoid body had not changed. He was but a brain in the heart of the fantastical giant, controlling the costume’s slightest motion with whim.
Palmer had watched the tall waifish bespeckled blonde disappear into the folds of lustrous liquid. This had been the first time he bore witness to the actual progression. He approached in a mix of awe and apprehension. It was not still, nor heavy, like one would expect. As its artistic details were being finalized, even before that, as some informal mass, it looked about from blank slits of eyes. Peeking a toothy snout around the curtains, it beamed seeing all the unsuspecting humans it was about to terrify.
The small boy in charcoal clothes, now more than ever dwarfed by his friend’s power, reached out quivering fingers to stroke plating on its neck. Due to being not totally solid yet, the surface felt like skinned pudding, and elastic outside with still a jellied filling. “Good dragon… nice dragon…” he reassured it.
Something cold tapped him from behind. Before he could refuse, a thick reflective cord coiled around his waist. It then lifted him off the floor, feet dangling. The cord was a spiked tail, poised carefully as not to in any way puncture its ‘victim’. Gently set upon the shoulder blades of the dragon, Palmer was sheltered between the bat-ish wings. He had trouble making sense of the bizarre piggyback ride. This pewter sculpture come to life beneath him was David … and yet, it wasn’t David. Palmer was the rider of the silver steed, but he was in no way controlling it. Actually, from the cool metal feel and growing rumbling hum from its throat one could think of it as riding a motorcycle with a mind of its own… a motorcycle with claws and teeth and demonically slanting blank eyes.
Sue, on the other side of the curtain, tapped her foot anxiously. She craved nicotine. She could almost feel the cigarette resting on the rim of her mouth, taking the edge off having to wait for who-the-hell-knows-what. Then, as her gaze was wandering in boredom across teal walls, orange seats and the indolent people in them, she spied it. An enormous animal emerged from the concealed cover of the indigo velvet curtains. Sue shut the door to the electrician’s closet in which she’d been hiding, opening it only a crack to spy. At first she thought it was some elaborate contraption the boys had built but it moved with such natural fluidity that it had to be real. Her jaw dropped as it casually inched over to the speaker.
Mr. Menia, an overblown balding whale of man in a suit who’s suit buttons threatened to burst at any moment and a blubbery lip babbled on about proper conduct in the halls between classes. He spoke all the louder when the crowd before him cringed and gasped and whispered among themselves. He did not know what inspired fear in them, but he gloated all the same, assured he had found the right tone of voice and set of threats to keep the brats in line. As he nodded satisfied, he felt a draft from where his ill-chosen toupee normally sat like a road kill rodent in the gutter. He looked up, beady eyes widening as he saw it hovering above him. The synthetic brunette strands were caught in the craw of a smiling 15-foot tall winged lizard.
The rest was pandemonium. Some laughed, some ran, some screamed, others remained glued to their seats. A few cheered. The collection of sound was deafening. The clamor rose as David the dragon’s performance turned from comedy to horror. Coolly stepping over Mr.Menia now that that joke was done, the crocodile mouth went to work on the closet door and the walls around it. It destroyed with more ease than a steam shovel, extracting a scarecrow of a girl and snapping her into its jaws. Teeth stuck to Sue’s sides as thorns having ripped through the smoke scented fabric of her clothes, but again, did not pierce the skin. She let out an uncharacteristic blood-curdling scream. Sure, sue was laid back when it came to ordinary occurrences, but a dragon seemingly trying to eat you in front of gathering of your peers was far from ordinary. His intent was not to kill, only to stun. When she fainted, the beast dropped her, letting her flop onto the stage like a dead fish.
The dragon’s rider was shaking. This was not how it was supposed to happen, not at all. He futilely pounded his fists against the silver back, but only succeeded in hurting himself. “STOP IT!” He cried, “Stop it now!”
David strode forward, claws catching the cement lip of the stage. Bellowing, his voice echoed in the hollow chambers within the pipelines of the dragon. With that one last warning, he launched into the crowd. They scrambled aside like a mob in a monster movie having seen his small show of might.
A brave, lunk-headed soul took a stand. Cupping his hands around his mouth as a makeshift megaphone, she shouted up to Palmer, “Hey weirdo! Call off your demon!”
The dragon pushed him down with its three toed foot. The reptile then picked up the offender, letting the husky male swing by one arm. He then tossed the bully to the wall against a cluster of students, like a killer whale breaking the back of a seal for its dinner. David wasn’t out to murder; even in a beastly frame of mind he made sure the force wasn’t enough to shatter bones. The bodies of the crowd helped reduce the impact. He had to set an example, for nor he or his friends were to ever be insulted. From then in, the dragon herded out the people as a border collie would sheep, growling in low thunder and nipping at their heels. Goat’s horns butted them forward when that was not enough. Wings as great fans swept away any who came too close to his sides. Those who tried to sneak up behind him received a sharp slap with the flat of his tail. After a while, they gave up fighting and decided to flee. Sue’s limp body was dragged out by one of the supervising teachers who’d felt enough sense of responsibility to take care of those under his charge and not leave until they were safe.
“You’re awful. Awful!” Palmer wailed. Yet, at the same time he experienced a sense of power seated high where he was. David was right and it frightened him. Causing fear in others did give him a certain rush, as did the invincibility of the position, but deeply troubled him morally.
His white knuckled grip on one of the neck spikes loosened. He’d been it so tightly to keep from sliding off. Now that no witnesses remained, the dragon armor was melting. What once was a solid surface dissolved like a fast-forward of an ice cube on a brutally hot summer’s day. What’s more there was no steam rising, no was Xilvrin wet exactly. The unique element was here, and then it was gone. A fourth of the time was spent releasing the Xilvrin armor than was building it up. Moreover, it gave the impression as if it had disappeared into nothingness. Palmer went form being ten feet up to on the ground in less than thirty seconds, and yet, it wasn’t that hard of a landing.
“Yup,” David unsettled the last droplets from his hair, proud of what he’d wrought. “That’s just what I needed,” he stretched, “…some good exercise.”
“ARE YOU INSANE!” Palmer sat sprawled in the isle in the middle of a rapidly vanishing chrome puddle of what was once portions of wings, tail and scales.
“Was that a question or a statement?” David blinked.
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