"What?... Fever So you cannot come?...Ok . Wait, then who'll play the dragon?" Then, Hao Jie put down the phone, and looked at me. "Keane, you like dragons right? Here's your chance to be one. Darrel has a fever, and can't come. I need you to take his place."
"Hao Jie, I'm the Logistics committee chief, I work behind the scenes, and I'm no actor! Get someone else!" I exclaimed, trying to hammer into the event organiser's thick skull that I had no intension to go on stage. He had spent the past week pestering me to take up a role in the play, as he believed the rumours that said that I was a good actor. The only reason why I let him continue was because both of us were good friends, and I didn't want to damage our friendship over such a petty matter.
"Come on la, Keane, No one will be able to see your face! You'll be in the costume anyway, so for that matter, no one will be able see any part of you for that matter!" He seemed equally exasperated.
"Uncle ah, whenever something goes wrong, why must you always look for me? First it was the suit, which I managed to rent at the last moment, then the AV equipment died, and I had to fix it. Now this?! I'm okay with the first two, but I'm NOT going on stage!" I snapped, as I turned to leave. "If you don't mind, I have to double check if the speakers are working properly."
"Keane, you're the only one who doesn't have to do much during the skit itself, and as far as I know, the only one here who'll fit into that suit comfortably is you. I don't have a choice!"
I shrugged. "Too bad. Good luck finding a replacement." Then, I walked off.
"I'll buy you lunch if you do it!"
"Oh, now you're bribing me?!"
"As I said, I have no choice! So, will you do it?"
"You don't give up, do you? Fine. I'll do it." I then flashed a weary smile at him. "As for lunch, just get me a drink and we'll call it quits."
"Good. We start in twenty minutes. Go and change into a T-shirt if you have one, then suit up."
I sighed. "Yes boss."
I then rushed off to the hall, where our bags had been kept backstage. There, I rummaged through my bag and pulled out a T-shirt, and ran off to the toilet to change out of my uniform shirt. As for my pants, I had no choice but to wear my school pants, as the other pair that I had brought was a pair of shorts. I then proceeded back to the hall, where I spent an eternity looking for the costume itself. I had only called the shop to rent the thing, but it had been collected by someone else, as I had been busy at that time. Eventually, I located it in the dressing room.
The costume was in the shape of a green bipedal dragon, whose underside was supposed to be of a creamy white colour. However, thanks to what I assumed was poor maintenance, the underside had acquired a greyish hue. The hands, or rather glove's fingers were tipped with black plastic claws, which were covered in an assortment of scratches. The feet/boots and tail were in the worst state. Most of the green fabric had a dark greyish tint due to dirt, and the claws there weren't in a much better state. On the back of the costume hung two limp green wings, which had faded yellow stripes on them. Along the back of the costume, there was a row of black spines that ran from the head to the tail tip. The mask consisted of part of the neck, and the head, which had a pair of piercing blue eyes, that seemed to follow my every move. At least the plastic that made up the eyes was still clear, as I would be looking through them. At the back of the head, was a pair of formerly white horns, whose plastic had a yellowish tint from age. I couldn't help but feel cheated. Over the phone, the storekeeper had made it sound as if the costume was in a far better state than this. I made a mental note to lodge a complaint after this was all over.
Feeling sorry for the poor dragon that was the suit, something prompted me to walk over, grab several pieces of tissue, and gave the suit a quick wipe down. It was a shame, for I saw dragons as noble and intelligent creatures, and to let the representation of one, such as this suit to deteriorate to such a state was deplorable. The moment I moved the thing, my nose was assaulted by a foul smell, of sweat and smelly feet from the costume. I gagged and backed away, reaching for the door. I stuck my head out, to find Hao Jie standing there, about to knock on the door. I spoke first. "This thing is damn smelly! Do me a favour and get my bag for me. I want to spray it with some deodorant first."
He nodded and returned quickly with my bag, which I took. As I closed the door, he tapped his watch repeatedly, indicating that I didn't have much time left before the skit started. I nodded, and then set to work on the suit. Holding my breath, I practically sprayed half my can of deodorant into the suit, making the smell at least tolerable.
Leaving my valuables in my bag, which I would be locking in the room later, I then picked up the body of the costume and climbed in, then came the boots, and the gloves. Just as I sprayed more deodorant into the mask, I heard someone knocking on the door. Checking to ensure that the eyes of the mask were clear, I donned it and opened the door to see Hao Jie. Just for fun, I shouted, "Rawr!" and jumped at him as the door swung open. He jumped, and then laughed.
"Your timing is good. You got ready just in time!" he said, as he shooed me backstage.
"I know. It's always good. It's my job to be timely. Anyway, I have no lines right?" I replied, sounding somewhat muffled thanks to the mask. Thankfully, the smell was still tolerable.
"Nope. You just walk out, stomp around, then get killed by the hero."
"Typical little kiddie story huh."
"Yup. We actually wanted to do something better, but since the audience is a bunch of eight year-olds, this had to suffice. Anyway, you only come out at the end."
"Heh, so I'm the boss monster?" I replied, chuckling. As I spoke, I realised that something didn't feel quite right. My hands and feet felt a tad too dexterous despite being stuck in gloves and boots. My vision also seemed too clear, as the plastic eyes, although clear, also had their share of scratches, yet my vision seemed unchanged, as if the eyes were new, and flawless. Something wasn't right. However, it was too late for me to do anything, for the skit had already began. All I could do was to try to shake off my feeling of uneasiness.
As the play progressed, I began to feel more and more uneasy, as more inconsistencies emerged. Within the first two minutes, I could have sworn that I felt the digitigrade feet and clawed hands as my own. Then, it felt as if I could feel the tail and wings, as if they were attached to my body. All this caused my thoughts to point in one direction: I was turning into the dragon embodied by the costume. However, I shot those thoughts down, as I was well aware that I was wearing clothes beneath the suit, and that it was nigh impossible for that to happen. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss.
The next thing that happened completely freaked me out. I felt a presence, one that was not human next to me. I turned to see the green dragon, the one embodied by the costume, standing next to me, and gazing thoughtfully at me. There was no one else around, as they were already on-stage. I wanted to scream, and to rip the dratted mask off. I opened my mouth, only to find that my voice box had stopped responding. I reached for the mask, and pulled, however, it seemed to have had attached itself to the rest of the costume. It was the same for the gloves and boots. I reached behind, looking for the zip along the back of the suit, only to find that it had disappeared as well. I was trapped. The dragon stood there the entire time, watching me. He seemed amused at something, as a smile crept up his muzzle.
Then, he spoke. His voice was rich and resonant, hinting at years of experience and wisdom. "Greetings, young one. I am Qalith."
"wh-wh-what do you want? Why cant I take this off?"
"I saw that you give dragons the respect that we deserve, and although you knew me as only a costume, you still showed care for me. I've decided to reward you, so I'm bestowing upon you a great honour, which is to become a dragon, so that you may experience for yourself what it's like to be one of us, and so that I can have a body once again."
"So, I'm becoming you?"
"yes, and once the transformation is complete, both of us will share our body"
"What if I don't want this 'honour' of yours?"
His expression darkened. "You don't have a choice." Then, he smiled again. "However, both of us know that you want this..."
I sighed. "Why does the weird shit always happen to me?" I muttered. Seeing the expectant look on Qalith's muzzle, I sighed again. "You're right. Either way, I don't have a choice anyway." He said nothing, but gave me a big smile.
The next thing I knew, I could no longer feel my clothes. I was now naked inside the costume. Then, there was a searing pain in my back, and tailbone, as the wings and tail fused to my body. As they did so, I felt a rush of new sensations, as plastic, stuffing and cloth was replaced by scales, flesh and bone. Once again, I wanted to scream, but found that I couldn't. Some unknown force held me in place, unable to move, or speak. To any bystander, I looked like I was just standing there, waiting for my cue. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Then, I ceased to feel any sensation from my human skin, as it dissolved, and merged with the costume, filling out the spaces with muscle and bone. My vision blurred, and failed for a split second, as the muzzle merged with my body, and when I opened my eyes, I found myself staring down my own scaly muzzle. As the changes progressed, I felt waves of new sensations, as my nervous system reconfigured itself from that of a human to a draconic one. There must have been some changes in my mind as well, as I found myself in possession of several new instincts. My senses had also become sharper, with my vision like looking through a pair of high definition cameras, and my sense of smell had become far better, and I was picking up smells from the stage, and from the audience. For that matter, I could hear what they were saying crisply and clearly.
As my mind cleared, and adjusted itself to my new configuration, my vision blurred momentarily, and I experienced a bout of dizziness and light-headedness. As my vision cleared, I noticed another presence in my mind, who I assumed to be Qalith. I was right.
<Not much space in here...> was his first comment. <Still, I've found a nice little room here. You'll stay here if you turn over control to me.> He then began to instruct me to stretch any and every muscle in my body till I interrupted him.
<Right. You do know that I'm supposed to be acting in a play right?>
<Yes, I know. Don't worry. We'll have no trouble defeating that 'hero' of yours> he replied, and then chuckled.
<That's not supposed to happen! The hero is supposed to kill me... I'm supposed to be evil>
He snorted, and laughed again. It was strange that he could do that even though he existed as pure consciousness for now. <And reinforce the stereotype that we dragons are bad? I don't think so. You have much to learn, young one!>
I sighed. <If I don't follow the script, I'll get into a heap of trouble! Besides, it's just a play.>
<Alright, alright. I'll let them have their way with the script this time.>
I had convinced him just in time. I saw Hao Jie beckon to me from backstage, indicating that I should go on. I complied. I jumped on-stage with a roar, and snarled at the hero, flaring my wings in defiance. I had all but forgotten that I was supposed to be a human in a dragon costume, not a full-fledged dragon! Luckily, everyone thought that it was part of the act, as apart from Hao Jie, no one had managed to get a good look at the suit.
The play itself ran it's course, and I performed my role, though I could feel Qalith's anger at such an insult to our kind. I felt no different, but the script had to be followed, for I didn't want to traumatise the kids.
By the time we were done, I acted as if I was tired, as I would have been if I was still human, excused myself and made my way to the changing room. In actual fact, I was anything but tired, and Qalith seemed to be quite happy, despite his anger earlier, probably because he was happy to have a body again.
I went into the room, and locked the door.
<What now?> I asked Qalith, wondering how I could get home looking like this.
<We take human form, and leave. Very simple, yes?>
<Yes. Very simple. There's a catch right?>
<Yes, even in human form, you'll retain one dragon trait. It's usually your eyes that will retain their slit pupils, but sometimes you end up with a tail.>
<I see. How does one take human form?>
<Just concentrate on being human, and your body will do the rest.>
I complied, and I felt my wings and tail being sucked back into my back, and my horns disappear. I looked in the mirror to see my normal human self, only with slit pupils. Assuming that they wouldn't be that easy to spot, I grabbed my things and slipped out. I had already made arrangements to leave early, as I had a dinner to attend. However, once we left the school, we shifted back to our proper form and flew off, en-route to a new life.