(Author's Note: I'm not particularly happy with how this part came out. I apologize for any plot holes or whatever that appear in it, it turned out differently to how I had planned.)
Lucy opened her eyes sleepily, and yawned. She blinked a few times, letting the sleep fall from her eyes, before she confirmed her surroundings. She wasn’t in bed, like she had thought. In front of her she could see the armchairs of her living room, from a low angle. Her head rested on the carpet, and she found herself staring at the small glass case beside her kitchen door. She felt something cold pressing against her stomach, and shifted slightly until the coolness was gone.
Then, she froze, and lifted her head. The pain had stopped- there wasn’t a trace of it. Instead she didn’t feel right. She shook her head, blinking three or four times, Lucy stood up, feeling the door frame on her back before she had straightened her legs fully. Worry began to grow in the pit of her stomach, and panic started to settle in. She looked ahead again, becoming aware of a scaled snout in place of her nose. A second later she realised her vision had changed, as well. Edges seemed sharper, colours brighter. She looked quickly from side to side, confusion mixing into the stir of emotion.
She felt something extending beyond her spine, something long and twisting. It felt like another limb to her, something she could control freely as well as an arm or a leg. She craned her neck to look back at herself, observing a spine-tipped tail, at the end of a long, serpentine body.
For a moment, she paused. There had to be a logical explanation. This was a dream, she told herself. She was hallucinating again, just like she’d hallucinated all of the… the dragons. It wasn’t real. Her mind was playing tricks on her. A small voice in the back of her head reminded her that that didn’t explain the man. The worry began to crawl up her throat, threatening to choke her. She took an experimental step forward, determined to see what she could achieve in her dream.
She had forelegs in place of arms, and the paws on the end moved just as well as her hands had done. She stretched one of her back legs, twisting her foot as she tried to figure out what was going on. Her ankle felt stiffer, and she couldn’t move it like she did in the real world. She took a second to appreciate the unconscious thought that had gone into this dream, before she started to move around more, not worrying about the things she knocked off surfaces.
It took her a while to become even remotely used to four legs, and her entire body had been reluctant to do as she wished. She remembered that she had fallen asleep at the foot of the stairs, putting her stiffness down to the uncomfortable position she had most likely wriggled herself into.
The tail had also posed a big problem. Extra limbs took time to learn how to use, she had decided, and so had largely left its movement down to instinct. Time had been ample, and she had been able to play around with the extra length she had gained. She could coil her body in a loose ring through her three downstairs rooms, and touch the tip of her tail somewhere in the hallway if she did so. Mild excitement had replaced the strange mixture of feelings, and she found herself enjoying it by the time evening came.
By this time, the dream felt like it had lasted a good number of hours. She lay down, most of her long body in her living room, her head poking out of the door to the hall. Her tail snaked off somewhere into the kitchen, and she was vaguely aware that she was flicking it impatiently.
By the time morning had come, she was bored out of her mind. All she wanted was to wake up now. It had been fun to begin with, but as minutes started to feel like hours she knew it was enough. She had shifted positions a little since earlier, and now found that lying along the stairs meant that she could rest her head on her bed. Her tail had required a good amount of fiddling around, as there were broken pieces of plaster cast on the tiles by her front door, as she had had to remove the cast herself, finding her broken leg did not trouble her in the dream.
Lucy sighed, frost gathering on the inside of the window as she did so. She didn’t notice. Outside, the sun had begun to rise again, and it filled her garden with watery light. The sky was a rainbow of pastel colours, reds, oranges and pinks being the most dominant. She tilted her head to one side, feeling the cool fabric of her duvet case press against her scales. She shut her eyes, wondering if she could fall asleep in this dream.
Waking up around dusk she found that she was still stuck in what she thought was a dream. A small feeling of doubt had started to establish itself, and the fear grew beside it.
What if it wasn’t a dream?
Days had passed since she had woken up in a body alien to her. The nightmare hadn’t yet ended, and she was now doubtful it would. She shifted around her house restlessly. A building that had once seemed so big now felt small and claustrophobic, and she found herself wanting to leave more and more with every hour she spent spread throughout rooms. Lucy decided, at around 3 in the morning, that she needed to get out. Even if it was only for an hour or so, she knew she had to leave.
It was a challenge just getting to a point from which she could actually get out of the front door. One of the many disadvantages was that she had more of herself to move around. Confined rooms did not help.
After a good half hour struggling to get herself into a suitable position, she faced the door. The next problem she faced was getting it open. It was unlocked, she guessed. She hadn’t had time to lock it again before she had fallen on the floor and gone to sleep. The problem she had was that she needed the key in the door so that she could open it, and the key needed to be turned.
She had some decent level of control in her clawed front paws, but she knew that there wasn’t enough to do fiddly little tasks like that. Huffing, she turned toward her back door, crouching beneath the frame of her kitchen door as she went past. This door had a handle that she could press down.
After a few moments of fiddling she realised that this door was unlocked. By some miracle she had left it. It took her a moment to wrestle it open, but finally it was. A long wave of cold air rushed past her muzzle, and she cherished the moment. The wind blew through her house, taking with it the heat. Lucy walked out of the door, being careful with her tail. She stood in her garden, her body winding back and forth in an uncomfortable zigzag. Moonlight shone down from above, glittering over her silvery scales, and illuminating her garden. She could see perfectly outside. The darkness made little difference to her vision, except for the slightly dulled and darkened colours.
Lucy didn’t mind, though. She was too busy enjoying the feel of wind through the short fur that formed a trail along her spine, too busy feeling the coldness of a winter’s night. She shut her eyes, imagining herself in her own body, with hands and fingers, without a snout and standing on two legs. When she opened them, nothing had changed, and she sighed.
She looked back at the door, pondering whether it was worth the trouble of closing it. After a brief mental debate she decided it was not, and turned to look over the fence of her neighbour. She could finally stand up straight outside, and found herself towering above the fence, her head just about level with the bottom of second story windows.
After a few moments, she stepped over the fence, easily lifting her legs over, and hopping over with her back legs. She did this all the way along the row of gardens, heading for the small gap on the furthest one which opened out into a smaller front garden on the corner of the street.
Hopping over fences got tiring quickly. She realised she hadn’t moved this much since she had broken her leg. As she jumped over the last one, she stood for a moment, catching her breath. She raised her head, looking up the street, before turning away and lumbering down the road she had just come out on.
The town was devoid of all humans. It was the time of night when animals took over the streets. A few cats gave her strange looks, one even going as far as hissing at her. She bared her teeth at that one, and the cat rushed away, its bottle brush tail sticking straight up. Lucy even saw a few dragons. They were small ones, hanging around outside shops, picking up scraps from the floor. She was considerably bigger than most of them, and they shied away as she passed. It was an odd feeling.
Nevertheless, walking down the middle of the road made her uneasy. Almost everything turned to at least glance at her as she passed, and she felt like she possessed a strange, unnatural power over them. Her tail flicked from side to side nervously, not dissimilar to a cat’s. She felt tense, and found herself glancing back every now and then.
It was quiet in the middle of town. A gentle wind whistled between the buildings, the long, straight street creating a sort of tunnel. She couldn’t hear any cars, and there was no constant chatter like there was during the day. The pavements were empty, save for a few filled bins, and the road was lined with parked cars. They looked like sleeping creatures, all huddled in their own space, patiently awaiting a driver.
She felt a shiver run down her long spine, digging her claws into the tarmac a little.
The air had a strange taste to it, she noticed, and stopped to smell it. It smelt like a mixture of scents, all blended together in a storm. She sneezed, shaking her head as she did so. There were too many smells to process, too much to focus on at one time.
In the distance, dogs barked. She looked up, tilting her head to try and hear. Her ears twitched a little, as she tried to figure out how exactly all of the extra muscles worked, how each movement could fit together. It didn’t take long for her to give up.
Her claws clicked as she walked along the tarmac. It got smoother the closer to the middle of town she got. When she was about a street away from the very centre, she decided it was probably best to turn around and go somewhere else. She didn’t actually know if people could see her or not, and even in a dream she didn’t particularly want to find out. Besides, she thought to herself, I need to be heading back. She was reluctant to stay out for too long. She didn’t know what she might find when day broke.
The gentle walk become a gentle trot, and she wove through the residential streets with ease. She had decided to take a more roundabout route back to her house, wanting to make the most of her time outside. Her freedom felt like something to be treasured.
She turned the corner of a particularly sharp bend, spirits high and feet light. What she came upon stopped her dead in her tracks.
Around the corner, in one of the older, narrower streets, she could see Ariss. He stood, holding a long sword, above a dragon’s corpse. As he turned around, the corpse started to turn to dust, and a wave of wind washed in, scattering most of it.
He mirrored her actions when he saw her, freezing in his tracks, sword part-way into its sheath. His face curled into one of anger and hatred, his lip curling where the scar caught the moonlight. His eyes were in full shadow where he stood, with only the very whites of his eyes reflecting any light. He pulled the sword fully out, holding it loosely in one hand. Lucy stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. Fear had spread through every corner of her body, stiffening her legs. She flicked her tail, suddenly regaining control of her legs and backing off. Opening her mouth, she tried to form words, tried to tell him not to attack. All that came out was a strangled screech, and he narrowed his eyes, taking a step forward and accelerating toward her, his free hand joining the other on the hilt. He started to swing when he was little more than a few meters away from her.
With her mind still clouded with confusion, Lucy darted out of the way, stepping into a full run as she streaked past the silver blade.
Ariss was thrown momentarily off balance, regaining it just to see the tip of her tail as she disappeared around a corner. He let out a cry of frustration, sprinting toward the corner and skidding around, loose stones flying out beneath his shoes. It was gone. He sheathed his sword angrily, the harsh scrape of the sword against the side was loud, and echoed through the streets. Lucy heard it, as she was running, and shuddered.
He kicked at the road beneath his feat, uprooting a loose stone and sending it flying off into the darkness between the street lights. He turned, coat splaying in the sudden motion, before he walked back toward where the minor showdown had happened. A creature that size was too dangerous to let roam the streets, he thought to himself. It wouldn’t take much for another attack to happen.
The last few clumps of dust were being whisked away as he passed, dispersing into the air and leaving the spot clean. Without casting it a glance, he walked past, coming to a halt just past the corner. At first he just looked around the area, before he crouched down and ran his hand over the road. A few bits of black tarmac had been torn from where they had lain less than five minutes ago, in the large shape of a dragon’s paw. It had long claws, he noted, putting his own fingers into the holes. He looked up, toward the opening of the next street, where the dragon had run off. He could see a point in the road where it suddenly got darker, right on the corner, where the dragon would have had to turn. A faint grin spread across his face, and he stood up, moving toward the marks, and beginning to follow the trail.
At most street corners that the dragon had turned, there were matching marks where its claws had dug into the tarmac. There were times when these markings disappeared, like when the newer roads started to give way to the older ones, but by that time Ariss had found other ways to follow its trail.
It took a few hours, as the creature and wound from street to street, running in a loose zig- zag pattern as it attempted to lose his trail. He found this mildly amusing- he couldn’t remember a time when a dragon had employed tactics. Or a point when one backed off from a fight without dealing a single blow. A smile started to creep across his face. This was going to be an interesting hunt, he decided.
Rain began to fall as he tracked, starting out as little more than a fine mist that fell through the black sky, before transitioning into a storm. As the sun rose, the thick clouds above obscured most of its light, and Ariss could barely tell if it had actually risen. It was only when he heard the distant clock tower striking seven times that he realised it had to have risen.
Finally he had come to a long street, where the marks in the road disappeared. He’d scouted both sides of it, finding nothing to show a trail continuing. The dragon was somewhere among its grey houses.
Lucy hadn’t stopped running until she reached her back garden once more. She had leaped over the garden fences, taking to at a time, practically gliding over the tall wooden slats. It was only when she had reentered her house that she felt somewhat safe. It might not be perfect, she thought to herself, but he wouldn’t think to check inside a house for… for a dragon, would he?
As she lay down on the lower for, she found herself thinking about what had happened, her mind drawing her back through her memories to that particular point in time. She had started to lose any doubt that this was not reality. The glittering of the sword had been far, far to real and the feeling of fear had felt too pure. She had felt every single stone as it dug into the pads of her feet, she had felt her claws as they slid over the cobbles of some streets.
She lay there, her frantic breathing slowly settling to its regular rate. She flicked her tail every now and then. Nerves too high, she was unable to fall into the peaceful lull of sleep. Instead, she had to keep her eyes open, watching every tiny movement within her house and listening to the ambient noise of her house- the steady buzz of her fridge, the quiet howling of the wind, and the distant patter of rain. She raised her muzzle, tilting her head. The rain was getting heavier, moving on from the slow drizzle had walked in to, shifting to a damper shower.
It didn’t take long after that for her to fall asleep, her nerves calmed by the rhythmic tapping of raindrops on glass.
It was the three, short, loud knocks on her door that roused her from her slumber, and she opened a sleepy eye. It took a moment and a second lot of three knocks for her to fully register what was going on. Somebody was at her door. Somebody was at her door, trying to get in. She stood up slowly, careful not to make a sound. Outside, water fell from the sky in sheets, hitting the windows hard. The wind howled around her rooftop, a cold draft blowing in from her chimney. The few books that lay on the hearth, having been knocked there in her initial day of confusing, were being splattered with raindrops. It was dark in her house, she realised.
She moved silently into her hall, slinking up the stairs. When she got to the top, she looked down, through the frosted window at the top of her front door. She could see a tall figure waiting outside. Terror welled up inside her as she realised it was the man- Ariss- again. If he was here, it meant that he had either followed her home, or tracked her. Or, she thought to herself, perhaps he’d been stalking her. A shudder ran down her spine, and she hurriedly crawled to her room, managing to fit her long body in. She lay there for a while, coiled around twice, her head pressed against the landing floor. She watched the figure outside her door, unconsciously flicking her tail from side to side.
He stood outside the door, arms folded behind his back as he waited. This was the seventh house he’d tried. All others before this had answered, the inhabitants weary-eyed and confused. He’d apologised with each one, pretending he had been looking for his sister. Most just waved their hands, muttering something along the lines of “It’s fine.” Before shutting the door and shuffling back to bed. Sunday mornings saw most people lying in.
This house had been the only exception so far. Nobody had answered in the ten minutes he’d stood there. He turned away, mentally marking it for further inspection. He would try again perhaps the next day, at some later time. He needed to be sure nobody else was hurt.
Inside the house, Lucy breathed a sigh of relief. The dark shadow from the other side of the door had disappeared, and she was safe, for now.