Chapter 2: Experiments
//*Dust – Hans Zimmer (Interstellar): YT Link*//
I had the most peculiar dream last night. It sounded crazy, but I was a dragon! I could remember the events as though it had actually happened, it was an incredibly vivid experience. Not only that, it lasted for almost an entire day! Looks like someone got a little obsessed, don’cha think?
Back to reality. I silently moaned to myself as I slightly adjusted my position in the sand. Wait…SAND!?
My eyes snapped open and I saw a tail right in front of my nose. I jumped in surprise, sending myself 20 feet straight up into the air before landing back on the sand on all fours. I glanced around me, still processing what just happened. It seemed that I had curled up while I was asleep and then my own tail gave me a jump scare when I woke up, and I guess my super strength would explain how I jumped so high without even trying. I smirked, imagining how that must’ve looked like from the 3rd person perspective, probably like one of those cats who is startled when the toaster next to it goes off. Boy, that YouTube video would’ve gone viral fast.
Standing up and shaking sand out of my mane, I pulled myself back to my current situation and thought about what this all meant. What I thought was a dream wasn’t a dream. So, I’m a dragon. Cool! However, the consequences of that were going to be huge. Questions bombarded my brain the longer I thought about it. Why was I abducted and transformed into a dragon? The reasoning there couldn’t have been well-meaning. And where is the rest of my family? I dreaded the idea that they were abducted as well. Who knows what they went through! As if I wasn’t worried enough, an even more unsettling thought came across my mind:
How am I supposed to live the rest of my life? I was starting to prefer that this was a dream.
However, reality does not bend to preference, so for now I had to believe this is real, which meant I had to figure out what to do next. Judging by the position of the sun it was about 10:00 in the morning. I had slept well. My first thought was to continue my journey eastward, but I realized that I would be putting myself at risk of being seen during the day, because I would likely be flying over cities. I would have to travel during the night and even then, it would be hard to conceal myself in the dark sky with my white scales and all. That gave me several hours to do whatever I wanted on this tiny little uninhabited island.
It occurred to me that I didn’t know if I could physically talk. All this time I had subconsciously assumed that I couldn’t talk because of the muzzle. Now, my curiosity was piqued.
“Can I talk?” I asked myself, the words slurring together. The answer was self-evident. I wasn’t surprised that my voice was 2 octaves lower than my previous voice and a little rougher. It did feel strange to have my new lips and tongue move in those particular ways for speech, but who was I to complain?
“Looks like I’ll think out loud for practice then,” I decided.
There were so many things about my new body I wanted to experiment on, but just then I realized I was hungry. Not surprising, considering that I went the whole day yesterday without eating. I could just eat the leaves from the ferns on the island, but that probably wouldn’t be very filling. Also, I wanted to see how difficult hunting in the ocean would be. I’d never hunted before but who knows? It could be fun!
I looked out over the endless ocean and sighed to myself, which sounded weird. “Here goes nothing.”
I waded into the waves, at which point I took my deepest breath, dove into the water, and propelled myself along the ocean floor at a healthy clip. I watched the surface of the water recede away above me as I descended with the ocean floor, until I could only see the faint sunbeams that had managed to pierce the surface. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness well. They even managed to keep the visual clarity that was normally seen above water, as opposed to the fuzziness that any human would get without goggles underwater.
It was a bit unnerving, to be honest, being so far underwater. My imagination was free to scare me with the possibilities of what could go wrong. What if I can’t find any food? What if I get attacked by a shark? What if I can’t get to the surface in time when I start to run out of air? That last thought was enough to scare me to return to the surface immediately. I pushed off the ocean floor with haste, and in a matter of seconds I was at the surface. Only then did I realize how much air I had left in my lungs; I would’ve been fine for at least five more minutes. My worries from a minute ago were dashed as I remembered what I was, and I had no reason to be afraid any more. Being afraid is okay, however, if it doesn’t keep you from achieving your goals.
With another deep breath, I went back under, this time a little more determined. After a few more minutes of swimming I came upon a coral reef that sat upon the edge of an enormous drop-off that went miles deeper than I was willing to go. It was teeming with thousands of different species of fish, all going about their business. There looked to be no sharks in sight. It was quite entertaining to watch the numerous schools of fish move in unison, as if they were all miniature fish armies preparing for battle. They might as well have been, as they were about to be terrorized by a certain beast called Connor. My name’s Connor by the way. Nice to meet you!
I hesitated. I was about to end some innocent lives, and that didn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t hurt a fly! It took a couple minutes for me to convince myself that I had to do it for survival, which is nothing I should be ashamed of. I figured that the guilt would probably never fully go away, so I’d have to live with it, because as far as I’m concerned, You Only Live Once.
After another refill of air from the surface, I sprang into action. As one would expect, the fish avoided me like the plague, darting back into their little nooks and crannies where I couldn’t fit. On top of that, they were still more agile than I was due to their size. They could make acutely tight turns while I couldn’t. It was extremely frustrating, but fortunately my body handled the strain like a walk in the park.
After maybe an hour and a half of my ever-losing game of Tag with the fish, I found a certain swordfish whose IQ wasn’t quite as high as the other fish. Oh, you think I am your breakfast? WRONG! Natural selection at its finest.
Using my special North/South sense, I pulled the dead swordfish back to my island by its…nose? Sword? Eh, whatever. I flopped it down on the sand and shook some of the excess water off me. I could deal with the cold ocean water but the wind chill made it too uncomfortable for me.
I looked at my meal and wished that I could cook it so that it would at least taste decent. Then, I almost facepalmed. You could just cook it with your fire, you idiot!
I hadn’t tried it yet but I was certain I could breathe fire. I tried to feel anything in my throat that would allow me to breathe fire, but there seemed to be no such “extra flap”.
“Maybe I’ll feel it when I actually try to breathe fire,” I hoped.
Aiming in no particular direction, I opened my mouth and imagined how breathing fire would feel. I exhaled forcefully and willed fire to come forth, but all that came out was “hhhhhhhhhhh”.
Still determined, I tried again, this time aiming at the swordfish. I thought I felt something warm at the back of my throat, but it was only my imagination.
I tried a third time, channeling all my willpower.
Brisingr! Nope, still nothing. Not even a spark.
I huffed in frustration, disappointed that I wasn’t able to breathe fire, as it was one of the main perks I was looking forward to as a dragon.
“Looks like I have to eat it raw,” I looked at the swordfish unenthusiastically and shook my head. “Oh boy.”
I knelt down and picked up my meal. The thought of eating raw meat killed my appetite and the nasty wound in its midsection made it even harder to convince myself to eat. I still had to eat, however, as I didn’t know how long I could last without food.
I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I dug into the underside, trying to get as much as I could in one bite. I was met with a surprisingly neutral taste, mostly because the fish was still cold from the ocean. The texture, however, was almost unbearable. The meat was so slimy that I had to fight back the urge to throw up. I tried to chew it, but since I sort of don’t have any cheeks it fell out of my mouth and onto the sand.
Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I hurriedly picked up the excess meat from the sand and shoved it back in my mouth. Bracing myself, I forced myself to swallow. The feeling of the slimy meat making its way down my elongated throat was enough to give me shivers. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever experienced.
I looked back at the swordfish, seeing that some of its inner guts had spilled out onto the sand. I’d had enough. I grabbed the swordfish by the nose and flung it out into the ocean in a hurry to get it out of my sights. I watched in amazement as I had grossly underestimated my strength and had flung it several hundred feet into the water. Curiosity restored itself over my disgust as I was reminded that there were things about my body that I had yet to discover.
I found a few rocks on the beach and put them in a pile next to me. For my first experiment, I was going to see how far I could throw. I picked up a baseball-sized rock and tossed it a few times in the air, feeling it’s near weightlessness. I aimed at a spot on the horizon and, doing my best to emulate a baseball pitch, drew my arm back and whipped it forward. I missed way left of my target but it flew for a good 5 seconds before making a tiny splash in the ocean 500 feet away. Satisfied, I picked up a similar sized rock and threw it harder, this time at a 45-degree angle for maximum distance. I couldn’t believe how far it went; it must’ve been a couple thousand feet.
Excited, I picked up a third rock. This time, I was going to throw as hard as I possibly could. I wound up for the pitch again, my arm going back until it touched my right wing. Holding nothing back, I whipped my arm forward as fast as it would go. This time, something different happened. As the rock left my hand, there was an ear-splitting whip-like SNAP that came from my hand, along with a quick vibration.
//*What Are You Going to do When You Are Not Saving The World? – Hans Zimmer: YT Link*//
Without even bothering to see how far the rock went, I frantically examined my right hand, worried that I had broken something. There was no pain and I could move it perfectly fine like before. Nothing in my hand looked out of place either.
“So where did that noise come from then?” I asked myself, perplexed.
After a few seconds of not finding the answer, I tried throwing another rock as hard as I could to see if I could replicate the results. Again, there was that snapping noise. I thought hard again, and this time it hit me: when I released the rock, my hand must have been moving faster than the speed of sound, making a sonic boom!
With this realization and an evil grin on my muzzle, I threw another rock as I had done the previous two times, watching how far it went this time. It went so far away that I trouble seeing it even with my eagle-like eyes. It must’ve flown at least a mile!
I was having so much fun it was another 45 minutes of skipping supersonic rocks on the ocean before I figured I should try out my other abilities. I was curious to see how fast I could run and fly. I made two ruts in the sand 100 feet apart. My plan was to count the seconds it took for me to get from one rut to the other. It took a few tries for me to even reach the end as I kept faceplanting into the sand because of my unfamiliarity of my new body. Once I got the hang of running, I counted just over 1 second from one end to the other. After some quick calculations, I concluded I ran roughly 60 miles per hour (or 97 km/h for you non-Americans out there) and that was on sand which was undoubtedly slowing me down.
I did the same test for flying. I found that the minimum gliding speed was about 40 miles per hour, and the fastest I could fly propelling myself with my wings was 100 miles per hour. I didn’t know if this knowledge would be useful, but it was nice to know anyway.
Next was to find out how high I could jump. After making sure there weren’t any planes in sight, I started small. With minimal effort, I jumped 10 feet into the air. I bumped up the effort on the next jump and went at least 100 feet in the air. I landed with a dull thump in the sand and looked down at my legs, amazed at how easily they took the strain. They weren’t even the slightest bit tired.
The next jump was 50% effort, and that sent me so high I got vertigo. I used my wings to safely glide back down for fear of breaking something when I landed. I was being a bit of a chicken considering I had survived a fall from space the day before.
Finally, I decided it was time for me to see my true jumping capabilities. I squatted down as I had done before, but this time I prepared for the full force. I took a deep breath and focused.
3…2…1... MAXIMUM EFFORT!
Just like in the spaceship earlier, I felt an enormous surge of energy in my thighs as I pushed off as hard as I could. I shot skyward with an incredible speed, streamlined myself, and surpassed the few of the lower clouds within seconds. The wind was deafening in my ears as it worked hard with gravity to slow my ascent. I noticed that there was a white haze occupying my peripheral vision that wasn’t there before. It dissipated as I continued to slow down, and that’s when I got the clue: it was a vapor cone. I was going faster than the speed of sound!
The sky spun around me as I gave my wings a slight tilt opposing directions. The experience was so exhilarating, I felt like a superhero. I was invincible.
“WOOOOHOOOO!” I could barely hear myself over the howling wind but I didn’t care.
I wished the moment would last forever, but of course it didn’t. As I hit the apex of my jump, I flapped vigorously to stay level, fighting the strong air current that was trying to toss me every which way. I nearly panicked when I saw how high I was, and my wings almost locked up but I managed to keep them pumping. The ground was miles below me. I shut my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. I told myself that I was alright; I had wings and nothing bad was going to happen to me. As my anxiety went away, I opened my eyes.
The view from up there was like nothing I’d ever seen before. The vastness of the ocean had become far more apparent, water stretching out in every direction with no land in sight. The island was only an insignificant dot against the great blue expanse. On the northern horizon was a magnificent cumulonimbus cloud formation that towered miles into the sky, clearly ready to start a storm. If I had a camera, I would’ve saved this as my wallpaper.
After another minute of admiring the view, there was a glint of light on the horizon. I squinted, mentally zooming in on the object. It was a commercial plane, many miles away, coming in my direction. Unfortunately for me there were no nearby clouds to hide me from sight, which meant I had to get back to the island as fast as I could before I was spotted.
And there was only one quick way I could think of. Divebombing. Great.
Count this as another experiment I guess. I had survived a space fall into water, so how hard would it be to survive landing on sand from a few miles above the ground? I felt insane for asking myself that question, but I was also convinced at that point that I had superpowers, so surviving would probably be a trivial matter.
Without wasting anymore time, I pulled my wings tight against my back and let myself fall into a steep dive. As I directed myself to land on the island, I started to panic again. My human instincts were telling me that my life was in danger, despite the fact that I could pull out of the dive at any moment. Even with the wind howling, I could hear my heartbeat running out of control, and I could feel the effects. My teeth were gritted, I was stiff as a board, and my vision tunneled as worry continued to take over my mind.
I willed myself to stay in the dive, and attempted to calm myself back down. You will survive. You will survive. You will survive. You will survive. No you won’t. No you won’t! NOYOUWON’T! OH SH**!!!
I couldn’t take it anymore. My wings snapped open and I pulled out of the dive just in time. The salty spray from the waves greeted me as I zoomed just above the surface. I banked to the right, my right wing skim the water. The immense fear was quickly replaced by confidence and control once again. My natural grace returned as I relaxed, relieved that that experience was over. I let a clawed hand graze the surface, creating a massive wake behind me, and gazed at my distorted reflection in the water.
I shook my head. I’ll have to get used to that. I may have to do it again in the future.
I circled the island a few times as my speed continued to decrease. Finally, I pulled up, stalling midair, and dropped the last 20 feet to the sand.
Remembering why I came back down, I hid behind a palm tree until the plane was out of sight.
//*Iris – The Goo Goo Dolls: YT Link*//
Without anything else to do until dusk, I decided to refine my flying skills, teaching myself how to do tricks and aerial acrobatics. I was never a fan of rollercoasters (I had never gone on a single inversion in my entire life), but being able to control the ups and downs was the most fun I had ever had.
I spent the next few hours enjoying the moment, as I was sure few people got to experience what I did.
When there was about an hour of sunlight left, I decided the I should continue my journey home. With enthusiasm, I pointed myself east, got a running start, and performed another Supersonic Jump to get me on my way.
I hastily climbed high into the air, perhaps high enough as to avoid any aircraft encounters. Hello, stratosphere. Up here, the powerful jet stream gave me a nice boost, as if nature knew I was in a hurry.
The peach-colored backdrop behind me eventually gave way to the stars as night took over. As I often did when I was outside on a cloudless night, I stared up into space, mesmerized by the immense size of the universe. At moments like these, it felt as if all the problems of my life were insignificant. I never felt small when I stargazed. Rather, I felt privileged to be a part of a universe as amazing and beautiful as this. Like all the other moments, I wondered why people waged war down here on this miniscule mote of dust that we were forced to share. If only they had their heads on straight and recognized their place in the universe, things would be much different.
The Milky Way faded into existence the longer I looked, presenting a mysterious red glow I had never seen before. Now that I thought about it, all the stars had their own red glow, which varied in strength depending on their distance. Why was that? Was I colorblind? No, I couldn’t be. I could see fine during the day. It was more likely that I had infrared vision, or heat vision, whenever visible light wasn’t overwhelming.
After an hour of flight, I spotted new stars on the horizon, city lights. I was relieved at first because I knew I wasn’t far from home anymore, but then I grew anxious when I realized I didn’t know what I’d do when I got home. In fact, would it even be smarter just to find a place far from civilization? I still had to consider that the rest of my family might still be there, worrying about me, and it would be wise to get some supplies from my house anyway if I did end up running (or flying) away.
I pondered the idea as I observed the intricate web of city streets miles below. The city features seemed so small from my perspective, it was as if the city was just a miniature model of the real thing, and I could almost reach out and touch it. This particular city surrounded a large kidney-shaped bay and had a network of bridges connecting different parts of the city. At the bottleneck of the bay was a familiar looking shape: the Golden Gate Bridge.
A light bulb went off above my head. This is San Francisco! That meant I was on the right track for home across the valley.
Acknowledging that I had subconsciously made my decision to find home, I scanned the land for any highways that I would recognize. From this high up it was hard to tell if I had previously driven on those highways, so I settled for following a random road eastward.
Given all the time in the world to think, I imagined all the possible scenarios I could encounter when I arrived home. How would my family react? I was sure that I could convince them that it was me through personal information. But what if they still wouldn’t believe me? Or thought it was a dream? Or went insane? I had a sinking feeling in my chest as I was bombarded with uncertainty and doubt. It worsened as it dawned upon me that they might not even be there to greet me, because they were probably abducted along with me.
“Only one way to find out,” I mumbled.
By this time, it was late at night. It was dark enough that I was able to see the infrared light with amazing detail. The intense red glow from a house would indicate a fire in its chimney. The subtle color differences in the air currents around me told me where updrafts and downdrafts were. From my lofty vantage point, pedestrians were little points of red light, like the sidewalks were crawling with fire sparks.
My mind wandered, engrossed in the newfound ability yet again. It didn’t last long, however, when I finally recognized the pattern of highways that I had driven several times when I would commute across the valley. In a way, I was pretty lucky to be this close to my home by now. I could have just as easily landed on the other side of the globe, and then have to travel unfamiliar lands without the use of a GPS. Gosh, I missed my phone. You never know what you have until you lose it, right?
As I neared my hometown, the tiny shred of anxiety in the back of my mind began to grow again. It was tough to keep my doubts and concerns from pervading my mind. I kept telling myself I’d get the answers eventually, but the feeling persisted.
You just can’t stop worrying, can you? I scolded myself.
Unfortunately for me, my house was located in a dense part of town, in the middle of a bunch of neighborhoods. Landing without being seen would be tricky, given my all-white body. I would have to dive bomb again. For the first time, I wished my scales were black. That would look much cooler anyway.
I hovered directly above my house, still miles in the air, waiting until it appeared that no cars would be around during my descent. I let myself fall into a steep dive, this time being more cautious about my speed. As the ground rushed up at me, fear gripped me, but I refused to panic this time. Halfway down, I got into proper skydiving form and spread out all my limbs except for my wings—they would make me more visible—to maximize drag and slow my fall.
Every second that passed took years in the terror and anticipation of my fall. I knew I didn’t need to do this to myself, to terrorize myself again, but it was necessary for me to avoid being seen and possible causing a panic.
Finally, only a few hundred feet from the ground, I flared my wings to their maximum extent. The membranes bulged considerably as they caught the full force of the wind and I was jarred by dramatic deceleration that followed. I used the remaining time I had to course-correct so that I’d land on the lawn in my backyard. After a few forceful strokes to further slow my descent, I landed softly on the grass on all fours.
I stood up on two legs and shook my hands free of dirt.
Home, sweet home.