Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! The late bell sounded, meaning that it was time to "stop loitering the halls and get back to class!", as Mr. Douglas, our principal, would say. It didn't matter to me, I was always in Spanish before the bell. It was the last period of the day, might as well make it seem like it was fun to be there. I watched kids frantically pile into the room, because they're not late if the bell's still ringing. Well, that's their logic anyway. Mrs. Lopez had a different way of seeing things, but by the amount of students that were always "tardy", she really couldn't do anything besides give words of discouragement.
"You know you arre to be in herre when the bell sounds!" She hollered at the class, rolling every "r" in sight. It's annoying, but you get used to it. The class did their usually grumbles and false-apologies, knowing that they were going to do the same thing tomorrow. Well, actually, Monday, but that's just semantics. I just didn't get what was so fascinating standing outside the door and talking, not hearing a word the other is saying, because literally hundreds of kids had the same idea as you. I'd rather sit inside the quiet classroom with the six or so other sane kids and talk to them. I sat in my seat in the back row, empty chairs to my left and right, and waited for her to take attendance. I rose my hand when she said "Kevin Dugan" and when back to my day dream.
The door opened up unexpectedly as Mr. Douglas walked in the classroom. He handed her a file folder. He started to talk to her in a whisper and presumably told her to open the folder. Her eyes grew to the size of footballs as she stared at something in it. She frantically started whispering back to the principal as he tried to calm her down. He apparently gave a valid reason for whatever was in that folder, as she calmed down quite a bit. It was still noticeable how shocked she was, though. Mr. Douglas walked out of the room and Mrs. Lopez walked to the front of the class. She cleared her throat, and put on the best smile she could.
"All rright class! I've just been inforrmed that we have a new student enterring Highrridge today! He is a strraight-A student frrom West Virrginia, and I hope you make him feel welcome!" She shouted over the class. Half the kids were paying attention and half were still goofing around, the usual for when she speaks. She shruged, took a deep breath, and yelled out into the hall, "Steven, why don't you come in here?" Only about ten kids payed attention to the door, myself included, as it slowly opened up. The new kid started to walk in, and after the first step inside the door, the entire room became still. He exposed himself completely as Mrs. Lopez calmly said, "You can pick any open seat you like, dearry!" She put on an obviously fake smile, as the kid stared up at him. He gave a half second twitch, which I assumed was supposed to be a smile, an went immediately back to his blank stare. He quietly started to walk down the rows, passing many open seats on the way. Every eye in the classroom was still focused on him as he progressed further and further to the back of the class, until he could go no further. He was in the back row now, with two empty seats waiting for him. He went over to one of them and sat down. The kid sat next to me! The dragon sat next to me!
Bright red scales, jet-black scutes, leathery wings, with dark gray membranes. A golden eye with a slit pupil, a long tail, black claws on three fingers and a thumb, and animal-like legs. He was definatly the definition of the freakest thing ever. He got situated at the desk and stared at the graffiti-ed material on it, seemingly fully aware that everyone's eyes were still staring at him. Mrs. Lopez diverted our attention by alerting us that it was time to take notes on stem-changing verbs or something. I got out my notebook and pen and started to copy what was on the board. I kept my eyes to the front of the classroom, but I always had "Steven" in the corner of my eye. "Me..." I thought to myself, "Why did he have to sit next to me!? I don't want to be associated with this freak!" I saw him take a notebook that had been unnoticed before now from his hands. He put it on the desk and put his claw gently into the pocket of his jeans. That's when I also noticed that he was wearing human cloths. I guess I just saw right through everything else and only focused on the beast that he was. He searched frantically through his pockets for something, but never found it. He gave up and took his claws out. He focused on the empty page before him, knowing full well he couldn't write. I looked at the pen in my hand. "I could always get the notes from someone else" I thought, "I gues...no. If he forgot a pen, it's his own damn fault. I'm not sacrificing my knowledge for some new dragon kid."
Luckily for him, someone had a spare pen and noticed his distress. Bobby, from a couple rows up, told the people behind him to pass the writing utensil down. I watched them pass the pen row by row down to the new kid, who was unaware of it happening. I took a look at the pen they were passing down. I recognized it. It wasn't a real pen, it was a gag pen. The ones that shock you when you try to open it. Bob had used it many times before on new kids, I guess a dragon got the same treatment as them. Eventually, it finally got down to him, with about 10 kids watching. It landed on his desk and surprised him. He picked it up and looked at it. He looked up at where it came from. The kids staring at him gave him a fake smile. He did another half-second twitchy smile and gripped it in his claws. I couldn't help watching as he pressed down on the button. The circuits connected and sent a shock through to his claw. The initial shock (no pun intended) to him cause him to wince and out of pure reaction and instinct, he squeezed the metal pen. Apparently, he was stronger than the average 16 year old boy, and caused the pen to explode in his claws. The pen crumbled to dust on Steven's desk. He looked up at the children that were watching him. By this time, they had all turned around, except for Bobby. He didn't seem to mind that his novelty toy had been completely destroyed, it seemed like he just wanted to live. The dragon just sighed and looked down at the fragments on his desk. He made them into a neat pile and put them in the corner. He went back to looking at the empty page before him. At this point, I threw my pen onto his desk. He looked up at me, as I pretended like nothing happened I could always get the notes from someone else.
"That certainly was the most interesting Spanish class I've had in a while" I thought as I started to walk home. "Why is something as weird as a dragon is Highridge? What was he planning to do? We have a ticking time bomb here and we don't even know it...well, hopefully my act of kindness will persuade him to leave me a potato for life instead of completely dead." I reached my house, after all, I literally live right next to the school. I plopped down on my couch and thought more about why he could be here. Surely he can't just be here for no reason, other than to just be here. There has to be some kind of plot, but that raises the question once again: Why Highridge? In the grande scheme of things, Highridge isn't important...at all. Maybe he's picking out small towns to destroy before attacking the big cities. But how is he not caught yet? Maybe that place in West Virginia was the first.
"Yo, man, what's with this freak!?" Someone said from outside the door. I looked through my window, and, lo and behold, there was the dragon, surrounded by a bunch of stoners and jocks. Were they out of there mind? If they pushed too far, this monster could snap. I watched them push him around, as he quietly took the abuse. He was knocked down a couple of times, thrown back up, and knocked down again. "Those guys are idiots" I thought, "At least it's them he'll fry, and not anyone else. They probably deserve it the most." I saw the kid finally escape from them. He started to run away, but they were hot on his tail, literally. Why didn't he just fly away? Those wings couldn't just be for show. When he got closer to the house, I saw the reason. they tied his wings together, along with his muzzle. I started to feel bad for the kid, he didn't do anything wrong...yet. If anything, those bullies are just making everyone's lives shorter. I saw him run closer to my house. The jocks wouldn't follow him into someone elses house, and my parents were away...
I open my front door, just in time. He was just about to run past the house. "Steven!" I shouted. He stopped right in front of the path leading to my door. I reluctantly beckoned him inside my house. The jocks saw what I was doing, and chucked a rock at him when he was about ten feet from my door. The rock was a pretty respectable size and weight, at least three pounds. The jock had perfect aim. The rock smashed hard against the back of his head. And when I say smashed, I mean smashed. Just like the pen before it, the stone crumbled into dust after the impact. Steven didn't even stop, he just slowed down a little. While still jogging for my door, he turned his head to the jocks staring at him. He flexed his jaw, breaking the rope around it and hissed. The jocks, like everyone else, stared wide-eyed at him and ran away. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea letting this guy in, but it was too late now.
We both just kinda stood there in the room, neither of us knowing what to do or say. Wait, could he even talk? Sure, he was intelligent, but was his body physically equipped for speech? He was an animal after all, no matter how smart. The silence was getting more awkward with every passing moment. But, finally, he proved me wrong.
"Thanks" The dragon said quietly. His voice was...different than I expected it to be. It wasn't rough or rugged, just...normal. Like he would sound if he wasn't some kind of freak.
"So it can talk..." I mumbled under my breath.
"Yes, I can talk. I'm not just some animal, you know." Steven said quietly, with a slight hint of bitterness. It was like he read my mind. The awkwardness came back.
"Yeah, I know...hey, uh, those guys might come back, so you can, um, sit down and whatever..." I said to him nervously. "I'm going to, uh, get something to eat and stuff...do you, like, want anything?"
"No." He said quickly and quietly as he sat down on the sofa. He started to twiddle his thumb-claws nervously. I walked over to the television and turned it on.
"You can change it to any channel you like and stuff...the remotes over there" I said slowly and in random spurts, as I walked into the kitchen. "Stupid me. What's a dragon gonna do with TV? How's he gonna even understand human comedy? Stupid!" I thought, mentally beating myself up as I looked for food. I looked around the kitchen, finding nothing that even looked edible. After all, it was my dad's cooking. I moved some stuff around for a while to find a hidden box behind the tons of crap food. The text on the outside of the box made my mouth water. Cookies. The ultimate food. I grabbed the box and headed out the kitchen door. No one could resist cookies. not even a dragon.
"Hey, um, I got some cookies. If you want some they're right here" I said, as I put them on the table.
"Haha, thanks," The dragon giggled, as he kept his eyes glued to the TV.
"Wait, are you actually smiling?" I asked, as I looked at the screen. It was stand up on comedy central, from the looks of it. And, of course, Larry the Cable Guy was on the stage. He made some joke about his mole-covered sister, while Steven almost lost it. I chuckled a little at the joke, it was sorta funny. "Heh, Ron White is better," I said, as I sat down.
"I agree, but what can you do?" He said, a little louder and more confident than he originally was.
"Yeah...so, um, do you, like, wanna do anything?" I asked.
"Just ground those bullies into dust..." Steven said solemnly. I stared at him in shock, running through the scene in my head over and over. Blood everywhere, severed limbs, everything on fire, and one cackling dragon. A complete tragedy played in my mind, from six little words. I realized that I had been staring at him like he was a monster, when he didn't even do anything. I broke my gaze and looked down in shame. "It's ok." He said. "I'm used to it. If humans beat up a dragon, they become Gods or something. Even if people think that they're jerks for doing it, they're still only jerks. If a dragon even mentions beating up a human, he immediatly becomes a demon and a plague to society. I'm used to it by now."
"I...I'm sorry" I said pathetically.
"Don't worry about it, I'm used to it..." He said, once again. "Hey, did you ever get the Spanish notes?"
"No, not yet," I said. He took out his notebook from his bag and handed it to me, along with the same pen I gave him a few hours ago. I opened up his notebook and my own simultaneously. "You have really nice handwriting. You know, for a dragon" I said. Immediately afterward, I kicked myself in the face for it. "Sorry, I didn't mean it the way it sounded..." I said.
"It's ok. I'm used to it," He said quietly, as I continued to copy the notes. I finished about five minutes. I always find it amazing how it takes Lopez forty minutes to teach five minutes worth of notes.
"Well, uh, thanks for letting me copy the notes" I said, putting the pen down.
"No problem. Thanks for letting me borrow that pen in class." He said. "I better get going, it's getting kinda late"
"Oh, ok...where do you live?" I asked, half expecting him to say in a cave somewhere.
"Over on north street. House 136. My parents must be worried sick, I better get going." He said. Without another word, he ran out the door and up the street. I watched him run, expecting him to extend his wings and fly away. But it never happened. He just ran and ran, and probably continued to run even when he escaped my view. There was something odd about seeing a dragon running, it just didn't look like normal dragon behavior. Of course, who's to say what normal dragon behavior is after all. It's just that running made him seem so...human. It didn't fit.
I walked over to the couch to think about what an interesting day this had been. I sure didn't expect to see a live dragon in class, outside, and eventually in my house! Where did he come from, why was he here? What was he planning to do? And his parents? Living in some house on north street? How did that work? Had no one been wary of a family of dragons moving in? Why the hell doesn't someone do something!? Who knows when they will make their move...well, if they make their move. Steven seemed kinda laid back and...nervous around me. He didn't seem like the type to go on a killing spree out of nowhere...wait, what am I saying? He's a monster, no matter what he seems to be on the inside...even if he did seem kinda lonely. But there's a high chance that he could have killed all of his friends in West Virginia, if he had any. He didn't seem to have many friends, or any at all for that matter. But was that his fault? He was a monster, even if he didn't want to be one. Can I really blame him for being a freak...on the outside? So much to think about...has a half hour already passed? It didn't seem like it had been so long. I suppose I should study for spani-oh crap. He forgot his notebook here. I guess I could return it, but that would mean facing his parents. I still would like to live. But would they kill me right off, or wait? Maybe this was a trap, and he forgot it on purpose. He didn't seem like he would do that though...maybe it was just an honest mistake. He didn't seem the type to do that, but you could never be sure...Still, he would need his notes to study, and being the new kid was already hard enough...I guess I could quick drop it off. North street wasn't that far away.
I walked up slowly to the door, took a deep breath, and knocked twice. I played through every possible scene in my head, most of them ending in some sort of death or torture. I braced my legs for a full speed escape, as I heard the locks unlatch. I watched the door swing open and I saw...just a normal human woman, looking in her mid 40s.
"Um...hi...is Steven here?" I asked curiously. The kid probably screwed up his address, or just made on up so he didn't have to reveal his cave.
"Oh! Are you a friend from school!? Come in, come in! Make yourself at home! I'll go get Stephan!" She exclaimed, as she literally dragged me inside the house. She threw me onto a chair in the living room and marched up stairs. For some reason, it seemed more awkward than it would've been if his parents were dragons as well. It seemed so weird, just sitting there alone in a room with a seemingly normal family in the room upstairs. Except for their son. And maybe the father.
A few moments later, the same red and black dragon marched down the stairs, a surprised look on his still-frowning face. I held up his notebook to jog his memory. He smacked his claw against his forehead and rolled his eyes. He took the notebook from my hands and quietly said "Thanks"
"No problem, I thought that you might need it to study from or something," I said, laughing a little at his facepalm.
"Well, uh, thanks again" He said. Then came more awkward silence, we both stood there just scratching out heads and not knowing what to say. I broke the silence with a bit of small talk.
"So, uh, your mom called you "Stephan" before. I thought your name was Steven?" I asked
"No, it's Stephan. Mrs. Lopez or whatever just messed up." He replied quietly.
"Yeah, she seems to do that a lot. Why didn't you say anything though?" I asked.
"I don't know...I was just nervous I guess. It was bad enough having everyone stare at me like I was some monster..." He said. I immediately felt guilty, I really hadn't given him a chance. He snickered a little as he said "At least she didn't call me "Strrrrrrrrrrreven" or something."
"Yeah, rrrrrreally" I chuckled. He replied with some sort of draconic snort, that I supposed was supposed to come out as a laugh. We both laughed again at the slip of the forked tongue. Just the simple five seconds of laughter seemed to lighten the mood a lot, it seemed like the world was suddenly a little less heavy.
We both heard the stairs creak, and we looked up to see someone coming down the stairs. A middle-aged man with white-ish grey hair and a beard greeted both of us.
"Oh, I didn't realize you had a friend over." The man said to the dragon. We both looked at each other a little uneasily at the mention of the word "friend". We had literally just met, you couldn't really classify us as friends. It just seemed weird to think of myself being friends with someone like him. The man turned to me. "Hello, I'm Mr. Marcelli, Stephan's father," He said, extending his hand in the process.
"Hi, I'm Kevin. Kevin Dugan. It's nice to meet you" I said, shaking his hand. His father...how did that work? It made no sense at all; how can that happen?
"It's always good to meet Stephan's friends," He said. The stiffness came back when he mentioned the word again, but he didn't seem to notice. "Are you staying for dinner?" He asked.
"Uh, no. My parent's are out of town until Monday, and they just wanted me to order out." I said, scratching the back of my head.
"Oh, nonsense! We have enough food here, and a home cooked meal is better than any fast food!" He exclaimed.
I really didn't want to stay, it would be too awkward, just like the rest of my day so far. I had to get out of this somehow. "Um, well, I really sho-"
"Tonight we're having steak and salad. I think we have some sort of pasta in the fridge, I'm not sure." He said, half talking to me and half talking to himself.
I don't think he understood that I didn't want to stay. "Um, yeah, that sounds delicious and all bu-"
"For desert we have some cake. Chocolate, I think. You really have to experience my wife's baking, it's simply magnificent!" He exclaimed.
"I would love to, b-"
"Great! I'll go set up a plate!" He said, as he rushed into the kitchen without another word. I wasn't too sure what just happened, but I think I just got a free meal that I didn't even want. I wasn't too sure what to think of the situation. On the one hand, I had to have one of the most awkward dinners ever: Two adults and one dragon. On the other hand...hey, free food.
"Looks like you're staying for dinner, huh?" The dragon said to me nervously.
"Looks that way, don't it?" I chuckled nervously.
"Well, it'll probably be a while...is there anything you, like, wanna do?" He asked slowly and in spurts. I just shrugged my shoulders and looked at the tiled floor. I really would rather not be here at all, now I'm being treated like I'm part of this really screwed up family.
"Well, uh, I guess we can watch some TV or something. Can you get the remote? It's right over there" He said, pointing to a table on the other side of the room. I walked over and found a black remote instantly...and something else. A picture frame, with a picture of a smiling family. A mother, a father...and a son. Just a regular picture. I recognized two of the figures, it was obviously the same two adults that had greeted me earlier. But the boy, a normal human boy, didn't...fit. The picture was torn, and taped back together. A memory they wanted to forget? Was there some sort of tragedy? Where was this smiling boy? I looked a bit closer. Not only was it torn, it was a clean shred. Three separate cut marks, the lines of tape. Clawed apart was this young boy's picture. The picture was dated 2008. Only a year ago. I looked back at the creature in the corner of the room. What had he done? Why had he done it? Was he just a...replacement?
"I found the remote..." I said, walking back over to the couch.
"It's the topmost button" Stephan said solemnly. I clicked the button, bringing the small TV to life, and put the remote on the table in front of me. Images and words flickered across the screen. I wasn't sure what they said, I wasn't sure what they meant, but I wasn't really paying attention. I was too wrapped up in my own train of thought. Was he really just replacing a lost child to these people? Or did something more happen? The claw marks on the picture...did he hate this kid? Did he envy him? Did he get what he wanted, or what he wanted to avoid? What was the relation with them? Were they enemies? Were they just strangers? I looked back at him, solemnly sitting in silence.
"Were they friends?" I muttered under my breath. He must have heard me, because he turned his head quickly to the side and looked me. I couldn't quite read his eyes; they showed hints of his usual lonely look, but with a little extra sadness, and even some anger thrown in there. I wasn't sure what to do, I felt like I couldn't break the gaze, like there was something in those cold eyes. Some explanation that would reveal itself as long as I continued to look into those black holes.
"Dinner's ready!" A voice said from the kitchen. We both ignored the call for a second, locked in our own stares. It ended when he turned to leave, without a word or warning, like I wasn't there. made the evening even more displaced from normality. I followed quietly behind him, also not saying a word, into the kitchen. I watched as he took a seat near the middle of the long table. With the two adults already sitting down, I took the remaining seat, already equipped with food. They gave grace, something I wasn't used to at my house. We just ate, never really thanked anyone for the food. It was odd, seeing something like that praying for food, instead of preying for food.
We ate in silence for the first few minutes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. I don't why, but I expected him to tear at it savagely. But he didn't. He picked up a fork and knife, cut it in bite sized pieces, and ate it like a human would. He ate slowly and in an even tempo, in constant motion, not even stopping for a drink. He seemed almost souless, like he lost all of his free will somewhere along the line...maybe he did.