Chapter 1

There are two species that remain a mystery to the human world. They hide from you because they're different and they know it. It's hard to distinguish one of the species from actual humans sometimes. The other species that you hear about in fairy tales happen to be real as well, but I bet that won't surprise you as much as the other two that you are constantly being protected from. They are the kinds that aren't mentioned as much as the cute little fairies with their thing for nature, or the powerful shape shifters and their short tempers. They are the ones that are usually "gotten rid of" -or have their heads whacked off with something dangerous- in the movies. They are the kind people of the human persuasion usually tell you to watch out for. They have abilities beyond the technologies of a simple human.

It's well-known that I'm sensitive to this subject, but I don't mind listening to people talk about it in front of me, even if they whisper it and glance at me often. I'm used to it, and I know that I have the ability to squash them like insects, and so do they. That's why they're whispering.

When they say, "Doesn't it bother you to be…different?" I say, "Does it bother you to get in people's business? Obviously not." That is basically all you need to hear to know that I don't have an issue with bullies…or tax collectors.

My life is not what a regular human would call "normal" unless they were on drugs. Most people go insane hours after finding out their real species, but I was one of those people that never had a problem with strange things, in fact, I was drawn to them. I was born way too different to have ever been persuaded into thinking I was normal, but I didn't know all about my species. I'm glad I had people to explain things to me. I wouldn't be in this situation without them, and by that I mean that I'd probably be eating people (alive) or rotting in an asylum babbling about things humans aren't supposed to know. This is so because I was not born human, in case you haven't heard.

My mom, whom I never knew and don't care to, was not normal either. My dad was, but my mother was a long-nailed, red-eyed freak. She was seductive and evil (from what I hear) and she wasn't completely human. Neither was her mother, or her grandmother, and so on. I come from a long line of women that are descended from a very stupid woman. This woman is the one who cursed us with the pleasure we feel when we see someone dying, or screaming, or burning alive. She's the reason why my instincts don't tell me to stay away from fire. She is why I'm the only one of us who has even tried to not be evil. She is the woman who made us what we are.

Dragons.

In case you're an ignorant human, I will let you know that I don't have scales and I don't breathe fire (yet), because I am not a real dragon. If I was, I would have a lot more trouble fitting in. My ancestor, Mesula Dart, was stupid enough to marry a dragon. Yeah, she was really stupid. She gave birth to a kid that looked completely normal, but did some strange things sometimes. Ever since then, women of Dart ancestry could do what Mesula's child could. Some used their powers for evil, some didn't care, but none did what I did. Try to be nice.

I spent my time, from the age of eight –which was nine years ago, training myself to behave. Every time my instincts took hold and my eyes went red, I held my breath and counted to ten. No, it's not that easy in case you're wondering, but it's more helpful than ripping their flesh to shreds and lapping up their blood, which I would actually do if I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my mother.

I have to wear non-flammable clothes, though, because my weakness for extreme heat proved too powerful for my super-restraint abilities. I also have to wear special gloves on my hands, but only on the palms because I tend to shoot fire from there. When I'm older I'll be able to shoot it from my mouth, but I'll have to chew on some nasty-looking rock and eat raw meat, more so than usual, anyway.

Until then, I'm learning how to not want to eat people and every animal that comes near me. I appear to be covered in a coating of soot, and that would be because I actually am. My skin cells die and produce more seventeen times faster than a human's, so my hair and nails grow really fast, but it has to go somewhere else as well. That's where the soot comes from. Yeah, that's right. I burn off my skin.

My hair is always in tangles because of my deep aversion for brushing it, so it's usually stuffed into a hat or (like now) braided into a million glossy black braids tied together at the nape of my neck, making tapping noises against the back of my leather coat when I walked. The fly away hairs were wrestled down with hair pins. I got funny looks from the civilians, but it usually only took one Hellish glare to send them looking the other way. That's usually how it goes when I'm sent in on a mission, which doesn't happen often. Everyone's so afraid that I'll blow something up or eat some little kid. They're probably right, but I'm really good at what I do!

I probably looked like some kind of Matrix-turned-assassin-from-Hell to these people. I don't really mind it, though. It means no one asks for ID.

What I'm doing now is waiting for two boys to walk out of this post office. One will be Caucasian with grey eyes and blonde hair. The other will be taller, African-American, and have uncharacteristic (for an African-American) green eyes, or at least that's what their files said. And when you steal a file from a room in a department for security labeled "AUTHORIZED PERSONEL ONLY", you can assume it'll be accurate.

This post office was rather large as far as post offices go. It had a little waiting room by the mail-guy's desk and everything. So far I'd managed to stay at the back of the line for a while now, but the mail-guy was beginning to look suspicious. Luckily the boy's shift was almost over.

If you're asking yourself why some weird chick with a dark past is stalking a couple of innocent boys, and how on earth did she get their permanent records and birth certificates? Well here's why; those boys aren't who they think they are, and it's the right age for them to be taken to the ESP (Echidna Security Program) and have everything explained to them. The Echidna Security Program is not a place, but rather a community that is spread throughout the world, translated into different languages, has been questioned, investigated, and searched, and yet it still stands –a strong reminder of the heritage that was left behind a long time ago.

For those who don't pay attention (ever), Echidna is not a made-up word. In Greek mythology, Echidna is a monster born of Sea (an actual person in Greek mythology…sort of), who is born of Gaia. She is nicknamed the "Mother of Monsters" because she had a bunch of little monster babies with Typhon (another Greek mythology character).

What does this have to do with stalking people, you ask? The Echidna Security Program ensures that all little monsters will be housed, trained, and raised properly. The name is a reference to Greek mythology, as to lead humans off track. ESP makes sure that monster kids like me aren't running around flinging their power all over everything like idiots.

So as part of my job –which I do actually get paid for, in case you're wondering-, I watch over our little friends here, Thomas and Aric, make sure they're not super evil, stalk them a little more, then when we're out of sight, shoot them with small, titanium darts coated in Sodium Pentothal, and get them to talk. Just kidding. That was outlawed a while back. By that I mean I was grounded. Oh, come on (chuckle, chuckle), I don't follow laws.

My trained senses did not allow me to fall asleep sitting there, waiting, but they did bring up some distracting memories of the last time I had to wait this long in the human world on a mission. I was twelve, and I was being registered into an orphanage (that was my cover). I was supposed to get close to a girl my age that was allegedly a monster. She had no files, that's why they sent me in. That mission was especially difficult because I was young, naïve, it took a long time, and the girl was hesitant to make new friends. By that I mean she threw me down the stairs when I asked if I could borrow her hairbrush. It was then that I realized that we would be friends forever.

My eyes were drooping by the time the boy's shift was over. The sky outside was beginning to darken, and disappointed-looking people that were waiting in line began filing out of the doors to the post office. I alone remained in the stained, padded seats in the room. The mail guy glanced at me once, set a piece of paper on a stack behind him, and turned to me.

"May I help you?" he asked, looking rather bored with the thought of having to deal with a weird teenager, probably not for the first time.

I didn't respond. I didn't have to. I'd leave in a minute, but I had to wait for just the right moment. I just sat there staring at him with my arms folded, legs stretched out in front of me –ankles crossed- and my head tilted down. Listening for the jangle of keys and the slam of a door. I heard a male laugh. The mail guy furrowed his brow and twitched uncomfortably. My eyes were staring directly at him with an intensity not meant for him, but he froze, paralyzed under a reptilian gaze. Two distinctive scents shifted and left the building. I got up in one fluid motion, leaving without a word to the postal worker.

Outside, the air was hot and heavy, summer in Texas. The sun was slowly being swallowed by the ground in the horizon, and yet the heat still lingered on every surface, thick to the point of visibility. With this heat came warped scents, things I would've smelled more cleanly without the hot air and heady smell of animals.

With these scents came voices. I stopped pacing on the post office's patio, and listened. Above the cicadas and barking dogs, I heard,

"Tom, I don't understand why you can't comprehend this, YOU ARE A FREAK. We are not normal at all, and one day someone's going to notice!"

Someone already has, I thought grimly. They're just lucky it's us. No one told me these fools already knew about themselves. This is going to be difficult.

The boys appeared around the corner of the building, and I didn't even try to hide myself. I let them see me, look suspicious, turn away and continue talking like I couldn't hear them. They walked to the edge of the road and began walking down the street. I knew that they weren't registered to any cars, but it really bugged me right then. It would be even harder to follow them this way.

I calmly put one foot in front of the other and began walking ten yards behind them, keeping them within my sight the whole time. Being immune to dirty looks really comes in handy when you look like me and you're walking alongside the road all by yourself in the evening. Padding silently along the road and down a long gravel driveway, I followed them. Their parents were home, so eventually I'd have to hide. I didn't like this part of the country. It's too open, and there are no places to duck and hide when you're following someone. Luckily these boys were exceedingly unobservant and it was dark. It may also have something to do with the fact that I'm really quiet, and if I stood really still, I could probably blend right into the now black scenery.

The long gravel drive way opened into a small blacktop that the boys dropped their backpacks on and began playing basketball. I slipped into the hedges on the right side of the blacktop. They talked about random nonsense like who was going to ask which hot cheerleader to the dance, and how they were going to kick some guy's butt for doing whatever. It was such a waste of time that I was just beginning to think about abandoning the mission when the one called Aric picked up his backpack and said, "See ya later, man." Thomas returned the parting gesture, grabbed his own bag and walked into the house.

Dang it! I thought, I did not think of that. They are going to separate, making things very difficult for me. Why didn't I grab them when I had the chance by the post office? Or better yet, when they were in the mail room by themselves? Ugh!