|The Transformation Story Archive||Mythical Beings|
Mirah desperately claws at the doorknob with her oversized forepaws.
She emits a series of unintelligible squawks from her beaked mouth and instinctively butts her head against the front door of her apartment in panic. Around her, the full moon bathes the apartment complex like a soft wash, softening the sharp edges of the buildings, casting a blue-green glow across the meticulously cut grass lining the sidewalks. Reflections of the moon on the windows of other apartments watch Mirah like a dozen cold, stark eyes.
While the opposable thumbs of the paws should allow her to grip the knob in a human fashion, the size of her knobby fingers combined with the long talons on each finger tip cause her hold to scrabble across the knob and surface of the door. Finally Mirah works the pads of her fingers into contact with the doorknob and she twists it violently and shoves the door inward with great strength.
Mirah kicks the door closed behind her with a thrust from one of her powerful hind legs with nary a thought. She stands shaking in the living room of her small apartment, the darkened room as close to a safe haven from the world outside as she has. Her nearly mindless terror slowly begins to fade, leaving muscles wracked with exaustion; she crawls over to curl up in front of the couch as numb depression creeps in to replace the terror of before. Mirah pulls her wings in around herself with a rustle of feathers and for some reason the sound causes a sharp stab of pain her in heart, and a new rush of despair. She squeezes her eyes shut and wonders when the nightmare will end and release her.
"Quickly now, child, the snow won't be melting just for you." The old woman pushes an oversize, olive drab jacket at Mirah. She quickly sets down her school bag and grasps the slick fabric of the bulky but warm jacket and pulls it around herself, slipping her small arms down through the huge sleeves and awkwardly bending down to take hold of the strap on her bag once more. The old woman pushes her from behind toward the kitchen door.
"Mind the other scamps, girl, and don't be taken by their prattle," she babbles with a sour tone, the only tone Mirah knows her capable of. Always the same sharp, bitter hissing, like a snake. Mirah is used to it, however; it's only another background hum in her world, and she sometimes even didn't feel too bad when the hissing was directed at her.
"Remember!" The old woman taps Mirah sharply on the shoulder, a common gesture that was lessened by the padding of the coat. Mirah likes having the coat on; it's like her suit of armor. She likes to imagine that nothing can get through it. "If the snow builds this evening, don't follow the other little scamps through it! Mr. Myrtle will pick you up and drive you home. Stay at the school for him."
"Yes Gra'm," Mirah whispers from inside of her suit of armor.
Another push from behind and the click of the door latch, and the cold bite of blowing snow. A this rate, the school would be snowed under and Mirah would have to wait in the cold halls for Mr. Myrtle, the grocer and their next door neighbor, to retrieve her on his way home from work in the evening.
Mirah keeps a tight grip on her bag, and holds it to her as she makes her way one ponderous step at a time down the snow covered sidewalk and towards school.
As she passes the old, abandoned McKinley house, she looks for a second at the large gryphon standing in the yard as it gazes at her with a look of sad longing. The look makes her think of a small dog left behind as you leave home, watching you through a window and thinking, as dogs are wont to do, that you will never return.
Mirah ignores the gryphon and keeps trudging onward.
In class Mirah listens to the teacher drone on, her voice a background warble like in the Charlie Brown cartoons they would show at Christmas time when she was younger. The classroom is to her eyes pale washed out shades of grey and blue, a watercolor painting all around her. Mirah looks around as the door creaks. A great, forest green dragon wanders into the room. The dragon's bulk is too wide for the door but it matters little. Mirah watches the dragon pad around the edges of the room.
The teacher steps aside for the dragon without a glance, and then steps back to the chalkboard and resumes to warbling. The dragon exits the room again and Mirah returns to her lesson. She can never remember what her lessons were the next day, but she goes to school like a proper girl. That is all that mattered.
After the last class of the day, Mirah collects her books and sits down alone on the long bench in the hall just outside the classroom. The sound of the snowstorm wails outside and cold air blew in through the vent above the exterior door at the end of the hall. As the other children leave, making their ways through the snow, the fluorescent lights shut down one by one. Through the wire safety glass window of the door across from her, Mirah gazes silently at the gryphon staring back at her from the other side.
When Mr. Myrtle comes for her, clomping in through the main doors with a gust of snow chasing after him, Mirah rises and obediently follows him out again and into the storm.
On the way home, Mirah politely answers each of Mr. Myrtle's traditional questions about her day.
What did they have for lunch today?
Did she pay attention to her numbers?
How did she enjoy today's history lesson?
Did she pray like a proper girl in the morning with the rest of the class?
Answered true on all counts, and a warm smile of approval from Mr. Myrtle. Gra'm must positively glow at having such a good child to care for, in this day and age, he says. Mirah is a very lucky girl.
When they pass the McKinley place, she doesn't look at the gryphon. She isn't afraid of it, but it reminds her of her bad dreams, and the beating Gra'm has given her on more than one occasion for it.
Mirah peeks out at the room from under folded wings. Through window blinds shafts of sunlight illuminate dust in the air. She watches for a time, her fear forgotten in the dance. Then other senses intrude.
Through the channels in her beak, the scent of spoiled food from the kitchen. Mildew, rot permeate the air through the apartment. A sound tugs at Mirah's long and sensitive ears. A television in the bedroom drones on; static corrupts the reception, but fragments of a newscast drift through the air.
"Fire from sky in Belfast..."
"The plague sweeps on and fear preys on the minds of..."
"War in America as the Western states declare the new Commonwealth..."
"One group that seems excited by these trying times is the so-called "Sky Watchers", or UFO theorists and supporters. Mass pilgrimages have been reported with the destination of the former state of California..."
Mirah musters a whimper. Golden eyes sweep the room furtively. The words make no sense yet are understood. The nightmare only grows worse each time, its world more chaotic and confusing.
Thirst strikes. For a time she pushes it aside, afraid to move. When she is still, she can imagine she is still herself, safe in her bed in her home. But the throat of her long neck aches terribly when parched, and at last the need overcomes her, and she creeps into the bathroom. Mirah pushes the handle of the bathtub faucet upward with the tip of her beak, and twists head sideways to catch the water.
After the thirst is sated, hunger begins to take its place. In the nightmares, the hunger always puts her into a daze; barely able to think, or to perceive anything around her. The world swims, and she only knows she must eat. But the food here is rotted, and she cannot bear the thought of leaving this place during the day.
Mirah returns to the living room, searching desperately for something, and ends up taking a throw rug in beak and chewing on it for the rest of the day, almost delirious from the hunger.
When the blessed night at last falls, Mirah sneaks out of the apartment and through the moonlight, of which there is less now that the full moon has passed. The nightmares never ended until she slept in them, and she never slept until she ate. Here she was a large creature, a thing that required much to fill it's belly, but she had learned very early, in the first and most horrible night, where to find ample food.
She sulks through the alley behind the apartments to the business block that lays ajacent to them. Here, there is a Chinese restaurant that closes at midnight, and every night at the stroke of 12, the cooks came out to feed the local cats by dumping their refuse in a trow (much to the contrary of legends to the effect that such places collected said cats for the next day's menu).
Mirah makes it to the restaurant just as the evening's load is being dumped. The cooks never question her presence - people in dreams never do question the strange, do they? Still, one of them sometimes walks over to pet one of her ears as she eats.
Another day, the same snow, the same clothes and coat and books. The same sharp tap from Gra'm and another day at school.
Mirah thinks sometimes that the warbling of the teachers sounds the same each day. Everything at school is like that, in fact; she can never really tell one day from another, but then supposes that was why school is a Good Place. It is safe and predictable.
Lunch is always held in the recess area in the schoolyard, under a large awning shading benches and tables. Mirah has to remove her coat for lunch, as the schoolyard is always sunny and bright, the sun rather on the hot side. It is quite different from the walk to school, with its frigid storm, but then that's all right. The schoolyard is a different place, after all.
Mirah sometimes doesn't see the green dragon in the schoolyard, just as she didn't see the gryphon that looked after her forlornly. This day however, the green dragon is not only standing in the yard, but it walks over to meet her as she sits down at a table with her tray of porridge and milk and shiny red apple.
"Hello there," the dragon says. The voice is deep but not as intimidating as one would think, for a dragon. Mirah looks up at it. Or him, as the voice seems masculine. "Hello. I'm Mirah."
The dragon tilts his head and makes a bowing motion with it for her. "You come here every day, I've noticed."
A spoon of porridge pauses on the way to her mouth. She gives the dragon a sidelong look. "Of course I come here every day. I have to go to school. But you wouldn't know that... you're a dragon."
The dragon smiles and makes a sound from deep in his bulging throat that is perhaps a chuckle. "Why wouldn't I know that because I'm a dragon?" he asks.
"Because dragons stay in caves and sleep on their treasures. Sometimes they come out and make fire at people," she says slowly and carefully, sounding annoyed at having to state something obvious.
After a moment of pondering, "Dragons could do that. They could also know about school; even dragons have to go to school."
"No," she says with a smug grin. "No, they can't. They can't go to school and they can't talk and all they can do is guard treasure and make fire."
"And why is that?" asks the dragon.
"Because they're not real. They can't do real people things." Mirah says with a tone of finality.
The chuckling sound again from the dragon. "Then how are you talking to me now, if I can't come to school and I can't talk?"
The spoon falls from Mirah's hand with a loud clatter. Squeezing her small hand, she looks down at the table. "Because I'm crazy and have bad things in me," she whispers. She can't think of why she is saying these things she tries so hard never to think about.
The dragon lowers his head to put his large, yellow eyes level with Mirah's. "You don't look like you have bad things in you."
Mirah keeps her eyes planted on the table. "Why are you here? I can't let you be here, Gra'm will know the bad things are in me and beat them out."
The great dragon looks at Mirah for a long moment, and then turns to go. As he spreads his wings and crouches to take off, he looks back at her. "I suppose I could ask you the same thing, child. Why I am here, that is."
And the dragon is gone into the bluest of skies.
Gra'm knows the moment Mirah walks in the door. Ripping her coat (her armor) off, she drags her into Gra'm's own bedroom and shoves her roughly onto the bed. "Wicked child, just like your wicked sinner mother."
And the belt comes out. Gra'm always knows. Mirah's mother had been a bad, bad woman. Gra'm never speaks the true word for her mother. Mirah thinks Gra'm is afraid just saying it is a sin: witch. And Mirah's real mother always told her daughter she was very special, and had a special thing inside her and maybe someday, Gaea willing, it would come out and everybody would see just how special she is.
And when Mirah's mother was killed by that person who shouldn't have gone alone to the pub in Brunswick, killed by his car after he was on the way home, the 8 year old Mirah had come to live with Gra'm, and Gra'm knew. Mirah had learned the truth about herself then. She learned about the wickedness of her mother and how all the things her mother said were words of the Devil, and anything Mirah has inside her isn't special, it is a damning thing that will drag her down to hell.
But Gra'm cares about her granddaughter of course, so she won't let her go to hell. She will beat out anything bad, beat it until her precious granddaughter's hide is raw.
At last the belt is put away and Mirah is dropped into her own bed, face down so as not to let the welts keep her from sleeping. But she is afraid of sleep as much as she is afraid of Gra'm.
Mirah finishes up this evening's meal at the restaurant, and the cook puts out the five gallon bucket of water for her to wash it down with. Her bad dreams are always so confusing. Some things are scary, others are not, like the restaurant and the people in it.
On the way back from the restaurant she stops to look out from between to buildings in the alley. Across the street is a large mall, closed at this hour, but still lit up with a hundred bright lights. The thought occurs to her unbidden that she would like to go there, would like to walk through it. A little part of herself says that the people would enjoy her presence, and might find her beautiful. The little part forms the image of herself walking unafraid through the mall, with crested head held straight and great wings spread slightly, her brilliant plumage of purple and white feathers pristine and reflecting the sheen of the colorful neon signs and lights inside.
The little part with the pretty dream is crushed quickly by the rest of her. Real people go to malls. Not crazy people like her with bad things inside them, who were bad things, things that can't exist, that are not allowed to. She can never be anyone or anything here, like this.
Mirah sneaks back to the apartment that is her refuge here before the dawn returns.
In the hall at school, there is something new.
Mirah slows and lets the other kids move by her and into the room. They are all the same to her, each a dull grey figure with barely even a face. Sometimes she thinks they don't even have faces in truth, but that shouldn't be strange. Gra'm has told her to stay away from the other scamps, so there must be a good reason.
But what Mirah is looking at in the hall now has a face for sure. It has a long blue snout that melts back into a wide face, with flaring ridges over the eyes that blink slowly at her. Golden. She winces at that for some reason. And a tangly white mane spills down over the face, with wide floppy blue ears sticking out from either side of the head. It looks like the dragon in a way, except she realizes it isn't attached to a dragon.
The thing in the hall looks like a man, kind of, with a dragon's head and long tail and wide clawed feet. It stands there, wearing a beat up leather jacket and blue jeans and keeps staring at her.
Mirah is not afraid of the green dragon man directly, but something about him makes her feel a little panicked. She looks around nervously, but everything else is normal, like any other school day.
The dragon man waves to get her attention. "G'day. Meddy told me I might find you here."
Mirah somehow knows that Meddy is the green dragon. "I have to go to class now." she says timidly.
"Class is dismissed," the dragon man says with a chopping motion of one hand. Mirah becomes more agitated at that, and her heart begins to pound a little. "I'm here to take you home, you see."
Mirah chews her lip and asks, "Mr. Myrtle takes me home. Why are you here?"
"Because it's your dream, birdie."
Silence as she only stares at him, uncomprehending. Except for a little part in her mind that runs and hides from something, but from what, she doesn't know.
The dragon man doesn't wait any longer and takes her by the hand, walking toward the main doors. "Wait!" she cries, "We can't walk home, there's too much snow, that's why Mr. Myrtle..." she trails off as the dragon man pushes the door wide.
Outside the school, the eternal snow storm is gone. Clear skies embrace a warm sun and the air is filled not with the oppressive slashing wind and freezing sleet, but only the scent of fresh cut grass and new flowers. Mirah reaches out toward it all with her free hand, then shrinks back, fearful of the change. It makes no sense, it's... dreamlike.
Mirah is gently but firmly walked home. As they pass the McKinley house, she realizes with a start that the gryphon is not there in the yard. She keeps looking back toward the empty yard as they move on, suddenly feeling a great longing to see it, and for the first time understanding the expression it always had.
As they turn up the walk to Mirah's house, cold fear welcomes her back, as it always has for as long as she can remember. She tugs at the grip on her hand, trying to stop. "Gra'm is there, she'll be mad I didn't wait for Mr. Myrtle."
The dragon man looks down at her and smiles with warmth, and a trace of something else. "I'll explain everything to Gra'm. Let's go inside."
Mirah stares in awe at the scene before her. Upon entering the kitchen with her blue escort, Gra'm rushes in as always to inspect Mirah as always for the slightest sign of deviation. This time however, Gra'm stops dead and stares. The old woman works her gnarled face through various expressions, settling into a sort of confused stupor.
"Greetings," the dragon man says.
"This is my... friend," Mirah tries to say, but is cut off sharply as the old woman's usual personality comes back to the fore. "This is a beast, a beast from the pit. You've been a horribly wicked girl," Gra'm hisses.
"More wicked than your mother, even, by all the saints..." Gra'm continues as she starts toward Mirah.
The crone is interrupted by the dragon man, who holds up a hand to her, palm facing out, fingers spread. Mirah can see delicate talons on the tip of each. "She is not yours to keep. She has spent too long here, in the place you created for her, old ghost."
Gra'm swings towards him and makes something like a snarling sound. She raises an arm, "I know where you lurk Satan, I will drive you out!" the old woman screeches and makes to strike the dragon man.
Mirah begins to cry a little and runs to one corner of the kitchen as the dragon man catches Gra'm's arm on the way down with a crushing grip on the wrist. He twists the arm, causing the fragile old woman to wail from the pain and sink down on weakened knees.
The green dragon man looks down over his outstretched arm at Mirah's grandmother and smiles very slightly. "It's unseemly for the dead to prey on the living. Go back to your hell," he says softly and a blinding light bursts forth from his palm, expanding to fill the room and wipe everything from sight, save the profile of the dragon man. Mirah hears a thin scream from Gra'm, the last time she will ever hear the woman's voice in her very long life to come, either sleeping or awake. The scream fades into the distance, and with it the light.
When Mirah can see again, the house and it's stench of decay are gone. Her street is gone, and so is the school in the distance. She stands with the dragon man in the valley below a great, white capped mountain. The same feeling of warmth and smells of fresh flowers return, as when she left the school.
Mirah realizes that she no longer is looking up at the dragon man, but at his own eye level. She looks down at herself to find a grown woman in place of the scarred and battered child. Her blue friend smiles.
"I need to go now. You carried a rotted thing inside you, planted by someone long dead. You should not feel afraid as you were, when you wake next," he says.
Mirah looks at him closely, trying to comprehend. "I... remember being afraid there, on the other side of my dreams. I don't know what to do, or who to turn to. What am I?"
The dragon man smiles widely. "You are something special. Your mother was right about you. And there are plenty more like you. You just have to step outside. They will be waiting for you."
He turns partly away, as if to leave. Rubbing his neck in a thoughtful gesture, he leaves final words for Mirah.
"Some people think that the inspiration for the mythology of angels comes from dragons. Winged benefactors. Ah, but we're not that good. We're too cranky," he says wryly, and looks at Mirah appraisingly. "But gryphons, on the other hand... wake up soon, you have a lot of work ahead of you."
Mirah wakes with a start, pushing herself bolt upright to stand on all four legs. Every detail of this last dream is as clear as crystal, and the words of the strange green dragon ring in her head. Before her, she looks at the reflection in the mirror over the apartment's small fireplace. This time, she understands that the image that looks back at her is the gryphon from her dreams, that she always passed on the way to school.
Around the living room, the midday sun shines through the blinds, and the smell of fresh cut grass makes its way even into the tightly sealed apartment. Mirah casts a last look around, and walks to the door. Calm now, in full control of herself and her form, she grasps the doorknob with beak and pulls open the door, letting almost blinding sunlight stream through.
Mirah pauses, letting her sensitive eyes adjust. The words of the dragon still echo inside. She thinks of a time long ago, in a life now behind her, before a cruel grandmother. Of a kind mother who kept the most beautiful paintings and hangings and statues of gryphons all around the house, and of her daughter who would examine them endlessly, and touch them carefully when her mother was away, and would think to herself "What if..."
And Mirah puts one great taloned foot across the threshold.
Waking Up copyright 2001 by KAS.
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