Once again, I found myself up late at night talking to people online. I never really chatted much online before, but with it being the dead of winter and on winter break nothing was going on. It was now 2009. New Years Day was just another day for me really. I stayed up late, watched the ball drop in New York and all that jazz. I even stayed up to midnight myself talking with my friends, ringing in the New Year with each one as we were all scattered across the globe. It had been a while since I got to talk to Scales and Jake. It was nice to hear from them again.
'Howdy Scales.' I typed moments after I saw his status change from offline to online.
'Hi.' he quickly typed back, 'been awhile.'
'Yes is has.' I put on screen, 'How's the whole fight thing going? I've been worried about you and Jake.'
As if he heard me, Jake's status changed too. He has a habit of doing that though.
'Jake! You're here too?' I typed and fast as my claws could allow.
'It's New Years, we had to get on and be here for this.' he replied.
'farm, it's slow now.' Scales wrote, 'I think they're pulling back because of the heavy losses we gave them. We avoid outright confrontation, but we hit them where it really hurts, their supply lines. It's been a fun ride, but I can say I'm done now, we both are.'
'Indeed.' chimed in Jake, 'I've had my fill of fighting. We're back home for good now.'
'Really?' I asked, all excited to be able to just talk to them again like old times.
'Really,' Jake told me, 'there are enough dragons to fill the gap we left, so Arnold gave us the choice to leave. We did, we have things of our own to take care of. Although he did say he'd miss my explosions. '
'I won't.' Scales shot back, 'I hope my hearing will fully recover from that time you blew up that tunnel under Death Valley, they rang for a week.'
'I told you to run.' Jake typed, 'You should have taken the clue when my tail went around the corner. Still, it's closed and I must say, I'm quite proud of the demo job I did there.'
'Everything still has a slight echo.' complained Scales, 'its not bad, just annoying when I'm trying to get a tune right.'
'I'm just glad you two are okay.' I told them, breathing a sigh of relief, 'How's everyone else?'
'Arcade is still in there,' Scales replied, 'He and Wyraach seem to be at odds with each other still. Arnold has gotten into the habit of keeping them apart. Ian got out too; you should be seeing him back on DA soon. I'd say things will go back to normal soon enough. I, for one, am glad to be home. ^.-.^"
'I'm glad too man.' I replied, 'The old gang back together again. ^.=.^'
'Been far too long.' Jake said, 'We heard about a lot of your exploits. That little stunt you pulled at the Hierarchy base Siloam Springs State Park. I must say, that was either the bravest thing you've ever done, or the most retarded.'
'I had to, you do know what they were going to do to me right?' I asked.
'They didn't.' Scales replied, just with the speed he replied with said it all.
'Then you know where those battle dragons come from.' I told him.
'Man, that must have been terrifying.' he said, 'Arnold showed us videos from hidden cameras of that happening. Truly messed up stuff.'
'I saw it in person.' I typed grimly, 'It's not a pretty sight.'
'Anyway, we're back and active online again.' Jake said, changing the grim subject, 'Thanks to you, we can go out in public again. Not that we will very much, still us you know. We're online people.'
'I am too now I guess.' I replied, 'It's the airsoft off season. The only work I'm doing now is online.'
'Writing?' Scales asked.
'Yeah, lots of that.' I answered, 'I'm just writing in essence what's happened over the course of last year. Entertaining story at least.'
'I'd read it.' Jake said, 'I love a good story.'
'Thanks Jake.' I replied.
'Good luck man,' Scales told me, 'I think you should be a good at writing, you show promise.'
'Thanks Scales.' I said to him.
We just kept talking for hours, on and on like old times. It felt good to be able to talk to them again. I couldn't help but think all the way back to the beginning. I just posted up a Time Gate and that crappy drawing. Still, I tried to be nice and friendly. Eventually finding Scales' work and he got me into the online chat world. All the while, for three months, I did not know I was talking to a dragon, let alone a pair of them. They had kept it hidden so well that I never picked up on it. Then after I changed, I didn't know how they would react, so I stayed hidden. While out in public I couldn't hide the fact I was a dragon, online I could. Even though I did talk about it sometimes in a joking manner, so do a lot of people, so I never just out and out said what I was. I guess online you can be what you want to be and that goes either way. Still, now knowing they were dragons too, I felt more comfortable. It's nice to be able to talk about some things that are more embarrassing to talk about to others that don't have the context to judge from. Plus, the text format has some give in it. Emotion is hard to read from text unless it's written to convey it.
'Here's a question.' I asked, I needed to put to bed a fear and they would know.
'*Scales waits for Farm's question.*' he typed, joking with me.
'Do we hibernate?' I asked. I feared asking it, but I needed to know.
'Only in extreme circumstances.' Jake replied, 'Dead of winter, no more food and very cold. If food is still around, you stay active and warm, than you won't hibernate.'
'It's a emergency fall back feature of dragons.' added Scales, 'It's not really used much anymore since the clan normally provides a pretty good amount of hunting security, activity and warmth. Caves can get pretty cozy with ten or fifteen dragons in there. You, Jake and I don't have anything to worry about since we live in a heated home and have food available to us. You may get cabin fever though from being cooped up a lot.'
'Oh, so not eating a lot trips it?' I asked, suddenly realizing my plan was backwards.
'Pretty much.' Jake said, 'Remember what I told you, keep up your eating habits. You need to keep a good amount of energy up to stay active. You start to starve; your body will slip into emergency mode and start to shut things down. Wait, did you do something?'
I felt really embarrassed now, I had messed a basic thing up. I was just able to type,
'Kinda. I tried to not eat when I noticed my tail was getting fatter. I thought I was building up a reserve to hibernate on.'
'No, that's perfectly normal.' Scales interjected, 'Everyone puts on a few pounds in the winter, its natural. You're just not active enough to burn it off and it does double as an insulator. You don't eat, you get tired and cold. Boom, you slip into a hibernating state. You're lucky we came back when we did. Are you eating plenty now?'
'Mom is making me eat at regular times.' I replied, 'I scared her when I told her what was going on. She's making sure I eat now and my tail is getting bigger again.'
'Good, at least you're healthy.' Jake said, he must have been breathing a sigh of relief, 'We wouldn't want you in bad health over such a little thing as this.'
'Thanks guys. It's a load off my mind.' I typed with a smile. '^.=.^'
'No problem, don't hesitant to ask if you have any draconic questions. We learned a lot over our time as dragons.' said Jake, 'We still are picking up a few things too."
'More than I would like to on a few things. >.-.<' Scales said.
'Well, I'll save those questions for another time, but I think I have a general idea.' I warily typed back.
'Good.' he replied.
I was glad my fears were finally put to rest. I had still been cutting back on my food intake, but not to a very large degree. I knew then I could eat as much as I wanted to and it wouldn't come back and bite me. I admit I was curious about their exploits, but it was the New Year and I was just enjoying their company. Another chat window opened and it was another friend of mine, Pez.
'Howdy Farm.' he typed.
'Howdy Pez.' I replied, 'What's up?'
'I'm just here to say Happy New Year and to tell you I'm coming to America in a two weeks.' he told me, 'I wanted to come see you and take you up on that offer of an American cheeseburger.'
I was shocked. Pez lives all the way in England and for him to be coming all the way over here was incredible.
'That's awesome, when are you coming?' I said, all happy to be finally seeing Pez in person.
'January 17, a Saturday I believe.' he replied.
I checked my calendar and he was right.
'Yep, you want me to be there to pick you up?' I asked.
'That would be nice, thanks Farm.' replied Pez.
'No worries Pez.' I said in return.
I popped over to the other chat with Scales and Jake and told them the news. They were just as surprised as me. The next two weeks were just me getting all giddy to finally being able to see a good friend of mine and getting the house all ready. I had the crash bed all set and ready the Friday and the fridge fully stocked on frozen pizzas and chicken tenders. I was set for company; I cleaned the bathroom twice to get it respectable. It's amazing what a good bathroom cleaner and some elbow grease will do.
The morning of Pez's arrival, I awoke to my radio going off. I made sure not to over sleep because I really didn't want Pez to be standing at the airport for hours on end while I was in bed all snuggled in my sheets. Once I was all changed into my street clothes, grabbed some breakfast and brushed my teeth, I jumped in the Ford, heading for St. Louis.
"Man, Pez's flight arrives at 9:45." I said to myself, "I sure hope it didn't get delayed."
Then it hit me, all this time I had been talking to Pez, I never asked what he was. I guess I just never really got hung up on it, human or dragon, same difference to me. But Pez had a thing in chats of always liking to role play and be transformed into something else. I was never really able to keep up on what he was from day to day; he'd be something else every time I logged in. It just got to the point that I'd just say howdy and not really pay attention to what he was for that day. He's a friend first, what he is doesn't matter to me. Though, I was a bit curious to finally see the face on the other side of the screen.
Once the Ford was all tucked away in the parking lot, safe and sound near a trio of security cameras, I went into the massive Lambert Airport main building. That place is huge. I felt small inside of it. As I walked around, I noticed that I was pretty much the only dragon walking around. I saw one and he was sitting in a waiting room looking bored to tears. His droopy face was only highlighted by the fact he was a blue dragon.
"Blue on multiple levels." I said to myself, mostly drowned out by the dull background roar of the crowd and feet hitting the tiled floor.
My guess is since we have wings, not much need to go to an airport. Pez had told me his flight would be getting off at Gate 12, so that's where I went. I just took a seat and watched the board for any info on Pez's flight.
"Flight 738 from England, on time." I read off the board aloud, "I hope it stays that way."
It was 9 o'clock, so I had time on my hands.
"Waiting areas suck." I moaned, "I need to move."
I got up and started to just walk around a bit, stretching my arms, legs and wings. My tail just seemed to not like me anymore and was always getting kinks in it, probably because I sit a lot. Since no one was in that area and the tiled floor looks like a nice way to relax my back with some cooling time, I laid on my back along the far wall just stay out of the way.
"Ahh, this is nice." I said with a smile on my muzzle, "A nice cool floor to take the edge off."
I was there for awhile and thought I was safe to rest. I was proven wrong when a couple walked in with their son.
"Awesome! A dragon." The fourteen year old boy shouted with utter glee as he scrambled over to me.
"Jeffery, you stay away from him." his mother told the rampaging kid to no avail, "He probably wants to be left alone."
The kid just came right over to me and got right next to my face.
"My name is Jeff and I love dragons." he said with a huge smile on his fat face, "You guys are so cool. You can fly anywhere you want, breathe fire. My mom doesn't let me play with matches, she says it's dangerous. If I was a dragon, I'd breathe fire all the time. That would be so cool to do. You guys don't have to take nothing from nobody. Someone gets in your way, you just eat them. That would rock."
"Well, you sure like dragons, but it's not really that different from being human." I replied thinking that at least it helped pass the time, "I go to college, have a job, pay my taxes and insurance and I have to treat people the same as I did before I was a dragon. There are plusses, but it's not really much to say outside of some fun things to do."
"Awww," he moaned, "You're one of those boring dragons that don't do anything fun like breaking stuff or setting them on fire."
"Sorry to disappoint." I told him, just shrugging while still on the floor, "I'm just me."
"So if I was to hit you, you wouldn't flip out and try to eat me?" he asked, clearly angling for me to do something draconic, or at least draconic in his frame of thought.
"You probably succeed in hurting yourself." I straight up told him, "My scales are too hard for you to hurt me."
He looked like he was about to test that theory when he pulled his hand back into a fist, but his mother came over and grabbed his arm.
"What have I told you about hitting people?" she sternly asked him, glaring down at him.
"That its wrong and I shouldn't do it." He replied, just letting the words fall off his tongue like he said them a million times before and still didn't care what they really meant.
"I'm sorry Mr. Dragon, he's an excitable boy and seeing a dragon always makes him like this." Jeffery's mother said to me, "Every time he sees one of you he just has to go up to them and ask them a load of questions."
"It's fine, no harm done." I replied, "It happens sometimes."
They all went to the opposite side of the waiting area and sat down. I stayed on the floor so that my back to get as much rest as possible. Every so often I would have to stretch and yawn and each time I could feel those two child's eyes watch me. He was fascinated by me I guess and when I'd stretch or yawn, I show off a little more of myself then I do just laying there. He got to see my teeth and more of my wings. I maybe have been a dull dragon to him, but I was still the most interesting thing in that room, which really isn't anything special. It's a waiting room with one TV that's set to the news and a load of old magazines. Not hard to top that line up of entertainment.
After an almost an hour the board made a ding noise and the status for Pez's flight changed from 'On time' to 'Arrived.'
"Finally, he's here." I said as I got up.
"Who's here?" Jeffery asked.
I didn't see and need to inform him so I said,
"A friend of mine."
Then I just left. I heard him say,
"He's a mean dragon."
He said it like he was talking about a bully at school, but at that point I didn't care. He has a long way to go in learning how to talk to people if that's his attitude towards people he takes an interest in.
After a short walk to the gate, I stood there was a load of other people just waiting to see whoever was on that plane. It was neat to see a plane that close. Granted it was out a window, but still, it was a massive plane.
"Its marvel of how they manage to get something that big and that heavy to fly." I said as I looked and the huge plane, most likely a 747, but I'm not too familiar with planes.
Once people started coming out of the gate and past security, I waited to see if I could guess what Pez looked like in real life. I tried to picture a face, but I couldn't really tell if it was right or not. So I just hoped he would see me. I figured it shouldn't be too hard to spot an 8 foot tall red dragon in an airport.
The security guards did their job, screening everyone and used a metal detector to check for weapons. As more and more people came out and met up with the other people waiting, I began to think maybe something had gone wrong.
"I sure hope they didn't pull him off to the side." I said to myself, worried that security might have taken an interest in him.
About five minutes after the flow of people stopped, out came the last passenger. It was a dragon, a light blue dragon with white plates on his front. From the way he walked and nervously eyed the crowds, I knew he was Pez. He never really seemed to like crowds or strangers. He had on a sleeveless snow jacket and a pair of faded dark blue shorts that stopped just above his knees. He didn't have shoes though, but then again, not many dragons bothered with them. He's not very tall either, about 7 foot 9 inches and a wingspan that's under 14 feet. His wing membranes were a very light blue, summer sky blue. His light brown hair was kinda long, but it fit him pretty well. The most interesting thing on him was his odd horns. He didn't have the normal shallow slope pair of horns out the back of his head, but he did have a line of horns running down the center of his skull. All of his horns and claws were just as white as his plates, but what made the once on the front of his face odd was the way they bent. The ones on the front of his face seemed to lean backwards toward the back of his head, but curved forward toward the snout. They looked more like hooks facing forward more the normal draconic horns. They were big to, ranging from 3 to 4 inches high. Once they started to run down the back of his head, they straightened up and looked like normal dragon spikes, but they did stop at the base of his skull. Nothing was running down his spine, just normal scales across his neck and tail.
As he got closer, I could see finer details like his light green, vertically slit pupil eyes. He was of average build for a dragon, kinda sleek and slim but with some muscle tone as well. He tried to look shorter than he was because he walked hunched over, coming up to about 7'7", maybe even a bit lower. He just walked with his hand in the only two pockets of his snow jacket with his tail just following behind him. He looked a bit wary, but that could change once he saw me. A friendly face always seemed to make him feel better.
"Howdy Pez!" I shouted to him.
He perked up a bit and then he spotted me as I walked towards him.
"Farm, there you are!" he shouted back.
We met up in the middle of the very large room, both of us looking happy to see that other.
"Howdy Farm." he said as soon as we got within good conversation range, his British accent was very apparent.
"Howdy Pez." I replied, wearing a big draconic grin, "First time we've said that in person. So many times have I just typed it to you."
"Yep," he said, looking very happy to see me, "Now we can talk like normal people. And you do have a think American accent just as I thought, traces of a southerner in there too."
"It gets stronger from time to time." I said to him, "On certain words and phrases, my mood can factor in as well."
He just smiled and said,
"I bet. So, you offered me that American cheeseburger and a root beer."
"I did, didn't I." I said in return, thinking back to when I said in a chat that if he came to America that I would buy him a cheeseburger and a root beer, "I guess I need to make good on that, let's go."
"After you." he said, motioning me to lead the way.
When we got out to the parking lot and finally got within sight of the Ford, Pez stopped. He just looked at her in silence till I asked,
"Pez, you okay?"
"I'm fine," he replied, sounding a bit taken aback, "It's just after reading about you and that truck and finally seeing it for myself. It's quite a sight."
"Well, you getting in?" I asked with a smile, opening the passenger door for him.
"Oh, yeah." he quickly said in return and came over to the side of the Ford.
It took him a bit to fit inside, but being a smaller dragon than me he fit far easier into the cab. Just folded his wings in tight and squished in.
"Tail on the floor." I told him as I climbed in the driver's side, "Coil it up and you should be able to sit just fine."
"It's okay Farm, I can manage on my own." said Pez, just as he got settled in his seat and closed the door.
"So, you want greasy or really greasy?" I asked, just smirking to myself at how true that tends to be with American fast food.
"Your choice Farm, I really don't know." he said, just looking out the window at all the parked cars, "You Americans have a lot of cars."
I smiled a bit and started the Ford which Pez seemed to jerk a bit at the sound of her engine roaring to life.
"Yeah, The United States is a big place and cars are really the only way to make it across the distance." I told him, putting her into reverse and backing out of the parking space, "If we didn't have all these cars, I don't know what we'd do."
"What do you me 'we'd'?" he asked me as we got underway to our unhealthy next meal, "We're dragons, we have transportation built into us."
"I meant Americans." I sighed, "I'm a diehard car guy. Nothing gets my going like a V8 engine of good ol' Detroit muscle screaming down the highway. I'd have a 1969 Dodge Charger if I had just committed to blowing all my savings on it. Sure it was a rusty old piece of crap, but I could have fixed it up and had a muscle car. That would have been cool."
"You wanted to make it that one car from that old TV show. What's the name?" he said, my guess he didn't remember the car in question.
"The General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard." I said, "and yes, I would have done it all to get my very own General Lee. The show was okay and I liked it, but that car was kick *ss."
"What stopped you?" asked Pez, just looking at me in puzzlement.
"Well, college was coming up and I really didn't have the money to spend." I answered, "Well, I did get that scholarship and then my grants so I could have bought it, but the deal was that was before I got into airsoft. With all the money I've blown into that sport, I could have got that car running and maybe even close to done and there's the kicker."
"What do you mean?" he said, still confused about my statement.
"Well, there are paths in life we turn down in favor of others and that was one of them." I told him, "If I had bought that car, I would have started to lean towards mechanics and spent all my money on that car. I never would have gotten into airsoft, never met John and Jake, never went to Storming the Farm and you can fill in that last blank."
"Never got turned into a dragon." he finished, "That choice to not buy that car just filtered down into the rest of your life."
"Every decision does Pez, no matter how small." I said, just thinking over how much I wanted that car, but deciding against it for lack of funds to work it over, "I would probably be some auto mechanic in a shop somewhere right now, not working on a series and going for my dreams in computer animation."
"How is that going anyway?" he asked.
"Slowly, but I'll get it all done." I replied, "All I have to do it keep at it."
"Good luck." he said with a smile on his muzzle.
"Thanks Pez." I said, returning the gesture.
We just drove out of St. Louis and back across the Mississippi river into Illinois, mainly because it was closer to home and I know it better. I know a lot of fast food places near my house, I am a college kid after all.
"We got Rally's, Sonic, McDonald's, Arby's, KFC and Burger King." I said just as we passed a sign on Interstate 255 saying Edwardsville was up ahead, "What do you feel like?"
"Well, you offered a burger and root beer so a place that sells that." he answered, looking out at the wide open spaces, "You have a lot of open countryside here. It's a little cramped in the city back in England."
"I guess I'm lucky enough to be here and enjoy all this space." I said, smiling to myself a bit, "Sonic sounds good enough to me, big burgers, big sodas and low price."
"Sounds good enough to me." replied Pez, "I'm just a hungry from the long flight."
"At least you didn't have to fly it yourself." I laughed.
"Are you kidding?" he shot back, "I'd get tired and drop in the ocean if I tried that. Only the big dragons try oceanic flight and even at that they go really high and ride the jet streams. I've been tempted myself to fly into one, just never really got up the nerve. They go one way and if I go farther then I'd like, the trip back wouldn't be fun."
"Yeah, I stay low and only fly locally." I told him, "It is nice to stretch the old wings and I do find myself flying more. Not so much now that its winter time and it freaking cold out, but the spring and summer I'll try to fly a lot more. Still, I'm not turning lose of this old truck. She's done too much for me to let her rust up."
"You're one of the very few dragons that bother with a driver's license," he said, pretty much in a dead serious tone, "From what I can tell, you're the only one I know personally that has one."
"What can I say?" I said with a slight chuckle and a smirk, "I'm a sucker for a good ride."
We got to Sonic in Edwardsville just talking about each other's lives and what we were doing with our lives. He knew mine, but his life was a bit of a mystery. I don't like to pry, but I did know he was going to college and has a hectic life. Mainly online from what I gathered. Right after we pulled into one of the many open parking and ordering spots that Sonic is famous for, you order from your car and they bring it to you, I ordered four of the biggest burgers on the menu along with four orders of fries and to RT 44 root beers, the largest size of drink they had, I started to ask Pez a few things starting with,
"So, you still sleep with your laptop on?"
"I sit on my bed with it so when I do pass out from all you guys talking till 5 AM," he replied, not like he was upset by it, just like it was normal, "If all you people weren't in America and Canada I wouldn't have to stay up so late just to talk to you."
"I'm sorry Pez," I apologized; I never knew how he does it almost every night, "I wish you would just go to bed when you get tired."
"It's okay, it's my choice." He answered, "I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to."
"Well, it is nice talking to you on there, I do appreciate it." I told him.
"No problem." he said, smiling a little bit.
He did look tired, but that was to be expected from a long flight.
"After we get lunch here, you want to go to my house and rest a bit?" I asked.
"You don't have to do that, I can get a hotel room." replied Pez.
"No worries man, you're a visiting friend I made up a room and a bed for you." I told him, "You're all set."
"That's really nice of you. Thanks." he said, seeming a bit happier than he already was.
"Not a problem." I told him just as our food arrived.
"Okay, four Super Sonic cheese burgers, woah." The waitress said as soon as she got to the side of the Ford with our food, "By the ton of food and only the two drinks I should have guessed it was two dragons that ordered it. Well, maybe it could have been a few other things."
"Maybe, I'm sure you've seen more than a few odd orders." I said with a smile.
"There have been a few ones that got me to think about them. Well, here's your food. Where was I? Oh yes, and four large fries and two RT 44 root beers. That will be $36.78." She said, finishing up her list of our food.
"Out of two 20s." I replied, handing here the money.
"That's a lot of money you just spent." Pez said as the waitress counted me back my change from her change belt, "I don't want you to go broke because of me."
"Its fine Pez, I rarely get to eat out anymore." I said, "This is a treat for me as much as it is for you."
"Thanks." he said while I handed him his brown paper bag full of his half of the food.
"There you go, that's all yours and so is that drink." I said to him, placing the two drinks into the cup holder on the bump on the floor.
It bumps up there because the transmission is there, it does make it convenient for the cup holder so it all works out. He two out one of the burgers and unwrapped it from its shiny silver wrapper. Steam wafted away from it and Pez sniffed the burger a bit before he carefully took his first bit out of it.
"Oh, this is good." he said as he chewed, "It's so tasty and the cheese. This is nice."
"I'm glad you like it." I replied while eating a bite of my own burger, I swallowed it before I continued talking, "Sonic makes some very good burgers. I like eating here."
He continued to munch away on his burger until he got the idea that he needed a drink and picked up the large Styrofoam cup. He was pretty careful with it considering his claws, but claw control is something I think every modern dragon picks up on pretty quickly. Kinda have to. He took a slip from the straw and his reaction was priceless.
"That is like nothing I've tasted before." Pez exclaimed, sounding like he just drank pure joy, "It's so sweet, it's got a bite to it. It's even got a pleasant taste as it goes down, and a bit of a body to it. I'm not drinking water or anything that's got a creamy feel to it. It just goes down smooth and sweet and leaves you feeling quenched and relieved."
"I'm glad you like it." I replied, just smiling mostly because it worked out as I hoped it would.
He just continued to eat all of his food looking like he was enjoying every bite of it. I ate my food as well, still enjoying it, but I don't think on the level Pez was. It was all new to him. After the last bite was eaten and all the fry containers were emptied into our maws, I decided to ask the big question.
"Pez, how did it happen?"
He looked at me and then at the dash.
uh." he started, clearly thinking it over.
"If you don't want to tell me, its fine." I said, trying to relax the situation, "But I'm just curious is all."
"Well, I guess I can tell you." he said, still acting a bit hesitant, "It was about a year ago, I was just your normal guy, just trying to get by and be helpful. I was on summer holiday and was taking a walk when I heard a rustle from a bush along the side of the road. I didn't know what it was, but I was curious. I went towards the sound and heard breathing, heavy breathing. It sound like something was in a great deal of pain. As I got closer to the bush, I caught sight and a bit of green scales behind the green leaves. I was about to shout was a clawed hand shot out of the bush and grabbed my head, I couldn't see with its hand over my eyes. Then I felt it slap me on my left arm with its other hand and like a rock was in it, but that rock was made of sugar because it just crumbled when it hit me. Then I heard it tell me with its hissing voice 'shed your former life and join us.'"
"I've never heard of them doing that before." I said, half to myself.
"Who?" he asked, looking at me with a cocked head.
"The feral dragons." I told him, "They normally don't go near humans, much less grab them and slap the stones onto them."
"Well, that one did." Pez replied, "It drug me off as scales grew all over me as it brought me to an old hillside with one of those houses that were dug into the side like a little cave. My hands became claws, wings grew on my back and a tail grew out of my backside. It hurt a lot, but I don't need to tell you how much it hurt. You already know. When I finished transforming into what you see today, it told me that I was to help them take back what belonged to them, the world. For all its 'we' stuff, I only saw only that one dragon and it wasn't all there."
"How so?" I said, wondering what that meant.
"Well, I was just turned into a dragon, so I was pretty much a prisoner there by that thing." he went on, "I didn't know if I could ever go home. So I stayed there for a few days and in that time, I noticed a few things about my captor. The first thing I figured out was that it was a male. He talked to himself a lot, more then what I would consider healthy or normal. He'd rant on for hours at himself, arguing with himself on the best solution to getting is goal of taking over the world. Then he would pace back and forth, but at each end he would bang his head into the dirt wall. He'd do that for at least a few hours. Other times he would get into a corner of the cave and just rock or curl up into that same corner into a fetal position and cry, sometimes moan about his parents, friends or, oddly enough, his barber. I thought he'd been in that cave too long and finally snapped. During one of his crying fits, I snuck out. I figured I'd take my chances at a normal life with my loved ones than end up like that guy."
"So, then what happened?" I asked eager to hear the rest.
"It was tricky sneaking back home." he told me, "I had to dodge the constables and sometimes someone would hear a noise and look out the window. I hid in a dumpster twice, it wasn't fun. But I made it home and I found my parents sitting in the kitchen. They looked like they were crying; Mom was holding a picture of me in her hands. I tapped on the glass window; I knew I had to tell them I was alive. I just couldn't run off and leave them with so many questions. When they heard that, they rushed outside. They thought I had come home and wanted to rush out to see me, but the sight of my new body caused them to stop dead in their tracks the second they stepped out the door and saw a dragon still with and outstretched claw next to the window."
"Well, that happens I guess." I said with a slight nod, "They just wanted to see you again."
"They did and they were frozen in fear." said Pez, his voice got a load of tension in it like he was feeling it all over again, "I quickly told them I was their son and not to panic. I wasn't going to hurt them and all I wanted to do was come home."
"They go for that?" I asked.
"Once I said a few things only I would know and that only family knows, they rushed over, grabbed my arms and pulled me inside the house." he said.
"They sheltered you?" I said to him, just trying to piece the story together
"Yes, I wasn't allowed to leave the house." he told me, "I was told to stay away from the windows, wear clothes, keep my manners and try my best to act as human as I possibly could. They didn't really understand that I never lost anything that made me human other than my looks, I knew how to act. I guess I traded one prison cell for another."
"But at least they care about you." I put in.
"Yeah, but it wasn't till you came out and showed the world that dragons are real that they finally let me go outside." he said, "Even then, it was two months later."
"Well, you're out now and seeing the world." I told him, putting on a smile to try and lighten the mood.
"I guess." Pez replied, "If I had stayed with that dragon, I'd probably be just and nuts as him. That's something I avoided."
"Indeed." I said to him, "Now, I guess we should get going."
"Yeah." he said, just fidgeting in his seat, "I think we should because it's starting to feel cramped in here."
"You get used to it." I laughed, starting up the Ford and pulling out of Sonic.
It didn't take us long to get out of Edwardsville and the surrounding country side. Once we felt the city limits, it opens up in a big way. Rolling fields granted nothing on them except a little snow. Pretty deep, but not bad, at least the roads were clear. It was farmhouse after farmhouse as we rolled down the highway 157 toward Bunker Hill. Pez just looked out on the landscape that seemed to stretch on forever, vanishing onto the horizon.
"A dragon or really anyone really, could just really stretch out here and not have to worry about anything." Pez said, just looking like he was talking it all in, "Freedom to move, freedom to just make what they could from all this open land."
"One of the things I love about this country, it's wide open spaces." I told him, just letting myself fill with pride for a bit, "Granted all that is well tilled fields that's own and worked by families for generations, but it does really give that sense of freedom to make your own way."
"In England we can do that too." he replied, "It's just ton on this big a scale."
"America is a big country." I said, "Lots of space and that offers a few things. Still, it has draw backs. One being we're so big that it takes cars to keep us moving. If we didn't have cars, we'd be so screwed. Of course we're driving out so deep into the country that the towns are still laid out for horse and buggy travel. Four or five miles apart so you can make the trip in a day."
"You are joking right?" he said, sounding a bit worried that I was taking him deep into the boondocks.
"Not really." I answered, "Shipman, Woodburn, Bunker Hill and Brighton are all within ten minutes of each other which I believe works out to about a half a day or so by horseback, maybe a day on foot."
"Wow, that's interesting." Pez said, "I have to ask, what are your neighbors like?"
"Worried about hearing a banjo in the night eh?" I smirked, "Don't worry, all the basic modern essentials are there and my neighbors are just as up there. The ones I would be concerned about moved away and now a nice lady lives there, so no more revving of their engines till 3 AM with their stereo blasting punk rock."
"That's good." he said with detectable relief.
I knew there was probably a few things about my life there that would give him pause, but it wasn't bad. Work on a farm is work on a farm, that never changes. But Pez was a guest and that means he gets all the best treatment we can offer. It was twenty more minutes till we got into the driveway at my home, all that time Pez got to hear some of my favorite country songs like Sideways by Dierks Bentley, Drive by Alan Jackson and Young by Kenny Chesney. At least he wasn't trying to scratch his way out the glass window from the music, he just seemed to listen to it impartially. Once we we're in the driveway and I parked the Ford in her normal spot, I shut her off and we climbed out. Pez got his first look at my home.
"Wow, this is nice." He said as he looked around at the brick ranch style home, the yellow tin barn with the white tin extension that hold all the equipment it can which is normally the two tractors, the two chicken houses and Dad's garden that sat between the barn and the chicken lot.
"You don't have to be nice; I know it's not tidy." I said, making note of all the junk that is randomly in places like the old furnace next to the barn, the stack of old wood pallets, ladders on the ground, the water tank near the chicken lot and all the equipment that was left out in the weather along the driveway along with that blue, manual wood splitter in the back yard.
"No, it big and has lots of character." he replied.
"And by character you mean rust." I said to him, still just thinking that the place could use a good overhaul, or at least all the equipment could use some paint.
"Well, a little cleaning up might help." he said.
"Best we can do to keep it all running." I told him, "A lot of this equipment is very old. The newest tractor we have is a John Deere 420 U and I think it was made in 1956."
"Wow, that's an antique." he said in surprise, "And you still use it?"
"Still works." I replied, "The Model B isn't in fighting shape yet, that one's even older and needs help. I told you the story once of getting that tractor back."
"You did, some story." Pez said, he just walked down to the barn and looked at the two John Deere tractors in the shed, "These are the two tractors you talk about from time to time and this is the Model B that you went down to get with your Dad and older sister."
"Yep, that's it." I said, just a little more pride snuck into my voice as I recalled that adventure to get that tractor back.
He went up to the back of the B and put a claw on its right rear tire.
"It's really something to hear the story and then come to see it for myself." he breathed, "All of this is just amazing to finally see in person. I didn't imagine it exactly like this, but its close. To actually see what you talk about is really cool. It's like hearing about a place for so long and then finally getting to see it."
"I just hope it's not a disappointment." I said, a bit of a sigh slipped out.
"No, its fine." he quickly replied, "It's actually a bit better than I thought. Somehow I pictured it a bit more rustic with a few old over grown cars, some old woodsheds and maybe a bit bigger."
"That's next door." I told him, laughing a bit, "They have that."
He laughed a bit too, but all that didn't change the fact that it was true. The neighbors have a more, as Pez put it, rustic life style. It's still mostly the same even with the new tenant; she's too busy to clean it all up so it all just rusts.
After a quick tour of the barn, the animals, the woods and a wagon ride through the pasture, he really liked riding that wagon while I drove the 420 through the snow, I showed him the house.
"Okay Pez, there are two floors." I said to him as soon as we got inside to the kitchen, "The upstairs and the basement. The main kitchen is upstairs as you can see; there is the dining room up here as well as a living room and bathroom. Mom, Dad and Sam all sleep up here in the back bedrooms. Downstairs in the furnace and my apartment which we'll see in a bit."
I noticed a note on the kitchen table. Pretty normal, Mom likes to notes if she leaves the house and we aren't there. I picked it up and read it.
"What is that?" Pez asked.
"A note from my Mom," I told him, "Her and Dad went grocery shopping and Sam is gone for the weekend with her friends."
"Ah, okay." he said, "I was wondering where they were."
"They'll be back home soon; no worries." I said, it normally takes them a few hours to shop. "Would you like something to drink?"
"You've talked about Kool-Aid before." he said, "Do you have any of that?"
"I made some up just for that eventuality yesterday." I said with a smile.
I went to the cabinets to get a glass for him while Pez looked around.
"None of your cupboards have doors." he remarked, "I thought your Dad was a carpenter?"
"One of many drawbacks to that is the carpenter's house is the one that is never done." I told him as I poured the glass full of the sugary drink, "Mom wanted a certain kind of door and Dad never could find the time to make them. They've been like that all my life. It's handy in a way, you see all you have to choose from. Just a glance and you know if it's time to make a run to the store."
"I guess." he said, "I've just never really seen a set of kitchen cupboards without doors before."
"Oh well, it's just normal for me." I replied.
I handed him his drink, which he sniffed a bit and then took a sip.
"Wow, that's sugary." he said, "Tasty, but very sweet."
"It should be, it's basically sugar water with flavor added to it." I said, pouring a glass of my own, "2 cups of sugar added with two packets of Kool-Aid mix, stir till you have enough in the pitcher. I'm not too bad at making it and yes, you can screw it up."
"How?" asked Pez, "It sounds simple to me."
I just thought for a moment to gather all the times I screwed it up to give him the general outline and said,
"Well, you can add too much water, too much sugar, adding two different flavors and messing up an entire batch that no one wants to drink and not mixing it up enough so it's not an even mix throughout."
"So it's not that easy?" he said, looking at the drink in his claw like he wasn't sure what to make of it.
"Oh it's easy once you get the hang of it." I replied, trying to address any concerns, "I was just saying you can fail at making Kool-Aid."
"Okay then." he said, talking another drink of it.
Once Pez was all settled and knew where the important stuff was, it was time to kick back and relax. He had brought with him his copies of his Tales games for the 360 and so he started with that. Alone that chewed up hours because of the sheer length of those games, he did bring his profile and his game saves so he could jump to the parts he wanted to show me.
"Tenebrae is pretty cool." he said as another dialog scene jumped up, "He's funny."
"He does have that hard case with a soft center feel to him." I replied, just sitting on the red couch almost ready to pass out.
"I know, this game isn't really your taste." Pez told me, "I just wanted to show you the best bits."
"Thanks Pez, but you're the one that came all this way." I said, "Don't you want to go a few places instead of sitting on another couch playing the same game?"
"Well, what do you have in mind?" he asked, saving and closing the game.
"Well, uh, hum." was the series of things that came out of my mouth, not one of them made any sort of cohesive thought or pointed in the right direction or even any direction at all.
The sound of gravel popping and a low engine meant Mom and Dad were home. I looked at my watch and saw that it was just past four o'clock, just about normal for them to get back from a shopping trip.
"Well, it looks like something to do just showed up." I said, getting to my feet.
"What?" he asked, getting up as well.
"Mom and Dad are home," I replied, "I have to help unload the groceries."
"Cool, I'll help too." he offered.
"You're a guest." I said, "You don't have to."
"I wouldn't feel right if you did all the work." He told me in a steadfast tone, "You're letting me stay here and this is the least I can do."
"Thanks Pez." I replied with a small smile.
"No problem." he said with a smile of his own.
We both went upstairs and I could hear Mom on the steps telling Dad to back the GMC up a little more.
"Come on back." she said a few times till she finished with, "Okay, stop."
I opened to the wood kitchen door and sure enough, Mom was on the other side.
"We're home." she said with a big smile, then she noticed Pez behind me, "Oh, I see your friend from Britain is here."
"Yeah Ma," I told her as I moved out of the way a bit so she could see Pez better, "This is Perry."
"Well nice to meet you Perry." she replied as she came into the house, "I hope you had a nice trip."
"It was pleasant Mrs. Compas." he replied, "I appreciate you letting me stay in your home."
"It's not a problem, I hope you enjoy your stay." she said with a grin and went into the breezeway to put away her coat and purse.
I stepped out onto the stoop and popped open the back lid of the GMC, then all I did was start handing bags to Pez.
"Just put them on the kitchen floor for now." I said to him, "Mom will be putting all away as we unload."
"Okay." he said with a nod and just started making the short trip back and forth from the door to the kitchen table where he started putting things.
Dad got out of the GMC's cab and started to head into the house when he saw Pez.
"Well hello there." Dad said, "I don't believe we've met."
"No we haven't sir." Pez replied as he still kept taking bags from me, "My name is Perry."
"Well hello Perry. I'm glad you could make it all this way." he said.
"I'm glad too. This is a nice little farm you have here." said Pez.
"Why thank you." Dad told him with a big old smile on his face, "We do pretty well for ourselves out here."
"You do indeed." he said as the last bag went into his claw.
"That's it." I told them while I closed up the back of the GMC, "All of it is unloaded."
"Thanks." Dad said to me.
We all went back inside and I waited for Mom to give me the frozen foods because the freezer was in the basement. Once I had that, Pez and me went back downstairs and I loaded it into the freezer. Once that was done, it was back to square one.
"Well, I guess we're back to nothing to do?" Pez asked me.
"It would seem so." I replied.
We just sat down on the red couch and both of seemed to be trying to think of something to do, I don't think he was having an easier time to it than I was. It was ten minutes later of nothing but two thinking dragons when suddenly a loud, rapid series of knocks banged on the door.