Friday, October 24, 2014

Day Seven-Seventy-Three: Unleashed

When night came, Dragomir went for a walk.

Upon returning to Pubton, Dragomir had found a city that was foreign to him. At least four times larger than before and filled with a mixture of familiar faces and strangers, Pubton was home… but not home, at the same time. He recognized the old pub, the first building in town; he recognized the remains of Pagan’s manor, now being slowly rebuilt; he recognized the wreck of the Matriarch, still used as a command centre or sorts for the city’s defences. Most important, he still recognized his old house, which had been commandeered by a family of goblins. (Needless to say, they’d been promptly evicted.)

Yet so much of Pubton was unfamiliar. The city had a town hall. It had several marketplaces. It had expansive fields, much larger than before. It had stores, each belonging to people Dragomir did not recognize. It had restaurants, and playgrounds, and a bank, and a graveyard… all bore a distinct, worn, wartime look, of course, but Pubton was nevertheless a city, a veritable metropolis, and between the new locations and the influx of goblin architecture Dragomir felt like a stranger in a strange land whenever he left his house.

On this particular night, that’s exactly what he wanted. The moment he caught wind of Libby’s tired snores, he became a stranger.

Sneaking into the cramped back yard of his home, Dragomir looked around for any sign that he might be followed. When he saw nothing, Dragomir seated himself on the grass, beneath a cedar tree…

… and he looked up at the moon…

… and he concentrated…

… and when he checked his palms, they were as black as the shadows beneath the back porch.

Taking a deep breath, Dragomir pulled a mirror from his pocket and looked at himself. At first, he looked no different than usual: vapid expression, pale cheekbones, unruly, dirty blonde hair, two gaps in his teeth. But lines of ink seemed to be running out of his temples and across his forehead, and soon they’d criss-crossed over his eyebrows, his cheeks, his tiny nose, his mouth. The process panicked him, and he dropped the mirror, breathing hard - but by then, his hands were already pointed claws. 

“No.” Dragomir looked down at his clothes. They seemed to be sinking into his skin. “No, no, no. Stop it. Not that much.

As if responding to his demand, the sleeves of his undershirt stopped sinking. The white fabric along his arms popped back into view, and with it, the pale pink of his skin. That calmed Dragomir a little, and he stared at his arms for a while, not sure what to do. His breathing slowed.

He concentrated again. This time, the oil oozed into his skin… but his clothes remained. Picking up the mirror, he focused it on his glowing green eyes. They stared back at him, deep, lacking pupils, and utterly alien… but most definitely his.

“Fuck me,” Dragomir whispered, tossing the mirror aside again. “Fuck… fuck me.”

Rising to his feet with a springy bounce, Dragomir skulked into the house. Tiptoeing gently, he retrieved a cloak and pulled it tight around himself, covering his face and hands. Then, gulping so loudly that he feared he might wake his wife and son, he stepped out into the streets of Pubton.

At this time of night, Pubton was empty. Only nighttime guards seemed interested in walking the city, bearing heavy lanterns and heavier arms, yet Dragomir had no trouble avoiding them. He seemed almost to sense their presence, knowing in advance which streets to use - and which to avoid. Soon he was striding boldly through alleyways and across small courtyards, vaulted on strong, elastic legs into small hops, then jumps, then leaps.

Logan must feel like this, Dragomir thought, suddenly elated. I’ve been missing out.

His senses of timing and balance now unnaturally keen, Dragomir didn’t have to think twice about taking to the rooftops. When he reached the old pub he leaped onto the roof in a single bound, heedless of the lights inside, and used the second floor to jump to the top floor of town hall next door. He almost didn’t make it, his foot slipping on a broken tile, but his arm stretched as he reached for safe purchase, and as his claws sank into the stone he pulled himself to safety quite easily.

Standing atop city hall, silhouetted by the moon, Dragomir felt the odd, primal urge to howl. He didn’t, but it was a difficult impulse to quash.

Dragomir leaped, and leaped, and leaped again, landing nimbly on each building in turn with the greatest ease. No height, no ledge, no distant wall seemed to be out of his reach, and his heart pounded with exhilaration and terror at his sudden power. He was so thrilled by the experience that he failed to notice his nudity, as his body had absorbed his clothes again - though even if he had noticed, he probably wouldn’t have cared. Only two creatures saw Dragomir anyway, and those just barely.

The first was a rat. It resolved, in the morning, to give Dragomir a stern lecture on acting responsibly. Its eyes twitched violently as it did so, and it wished, like so many others wished, that it could simply kill the man and be done with it. But, no - he deserved far worse than that. It didn’t know why, exactly, but it also didn’t care.

The second was a boy. This boy was far larger than most boys, standing just over ten feet tall, yet he tracked his father as silently as the reaper tracks mortality. His eyes glowed a deep green, though his confused tears were as clear as ever.

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