Everyone knows you don't use Anderson street. No matter how much time you think you'll save, even if your GPS tells you to. Do not go on Anderson street. There's something wrong with that road. It will mess you up royally if it even allows you to venture through it. The few who have come out the other end, come out with problems. The lucky ones, they mysteriously disappear.
I'm one of the unfortunate souls that didn't know about Anderson's reputation. I'd just moved here and had yet to hear about it. Anderson street. What an innocuous name. Doesn't sound threatening or dangerous at all, does it? It's a side street. Only a block long and connects 2 main thoroughfares. Makes sense you'd want to use it especially since its one of the last connectors before Franklin turns into a bad neighborhood. I think that's why it's there. To tempt you. In all honesty, you're better off going into the bad neighborhood than taking the Anderson shortcut to River. That's what I should have done that Thursday night, make it early morning. I didn't have the energy to deal with what I knew I'd find on Franklin. I'd been here long enough to know about South Franklin. To be perfectly honest, I was still a little drunk from the costume party I'd just left and not paying as much attention as I should have. That's how I ended up using Anderson.
Man, what a party it had been. I'd worked really hard on my costume in anticipation. It was already mostly done before I moved here 2 months ago and I knew I could have it done in time for the party. There was a prize for best costume and I secretly hoped to win it. I was not a very competitive person by nature, but I loved to cosplay. That is why I wanted to win. I wanted to give the respect that was due to cosplayers all over the world. I mean we're constantly being made of fun of for what we do. I wanted to show everyone how cool it could actually be. How a costume done right could wow them. I'd done most of my favorite characters from TV shows and was now working on my Disney villains. I had a soft spot for villains, especially when they didn't think themselves to be so. I ended up going as Maleficent, which as it turns out was really cool. A week before the party, I found out they were coming out with a movie. Enough about that though. You're interested in what happened to me on Anderson right?
I mean I don't need to explain to you. You've seen it for yourself, you know what happened to me. The question is why? Who knows why Anderson does what it does? Why I was allowed to live when so many others have disappeared? Well, live is a relative term. I wouldn't call what I'm doing living. I'm merely existing. I'm more of a sideshow freak, a cautionary tale to folks. Kept in this well-maintained cell under the premise that it's for my own safety. We all know that the reason I'm here is that they are afraid of me. The people of this city. Heck, I'm scared of me too. Every day I wake up a little less human than before. When it's finally over, I'm not sure I'll have the ability to speak. That's why you're here. To interview and transcribe for me a little memoir before I lose that. I'd write it, but they won't give me anything but a crayon. And well, I can't write anymore anyway. Not with these talons. I flex them to prove a point. Their sharpened points glisten under the stark medical lights.
I'm not really sure what happened to me. I took several steps into the street before I realized it was Anderson. I'd heard about it for the first time at the party. I didn't think too much of it. I mean who would? It's just a street. How could it have any sway over people? All I know is it looked different. The colors were strange, not like they should be at that time of night. I got a little woozy and leaned against the closest building. It was an abandoned storefront. I peered inside, it looked like it had never even been used before. I thought that strange in a city so populated. I continued onward when I felt better. It seemed like minutes. When I emerged onto River Road it was the next afternoon, almost 12 hours later. I didn't understand the time lost. It really had seemed like minutes, yet here it was. I dragged myself the rest of the way home, got out of my costume, drank about a gallon of water and passed out, hoping the hangover would cease. When I awoke the next morning, it had, although I had 2 small lumps on the side of my head. They were tender to the touch.
I'd fallen asleep still wearing the cosplay makeup and felt gross so I took a shower and that's when I noticed other strange things. Patches of my skin were bumpy like a freshly plucked chicken. It was kind of gross, but I'd experienced this before. I knew it was because I'd slept in the makeup and my skin was dried out. So, I moisturized the hell out of me, took a lotion bath if you will. I felt better and spent the rest of the weekend recovering from the hangover. I can't drink like I used to anymore. Everything was fine for the next week. The patches seemed to disappear and I felt great, but then one morning I was brushing my hair I noticed how dark it had gotten. Within a week it had changed from chestnut to a raven black. Not that I minded, it was gorgeous, but I was supposed to have brown hair. The bumps on my head seemed to have grown larger and had hardened. I could hear my brush scratch against them. It was strange but you couldn't notice them so I brushed it off. I rationalized it then forgot about it. Until the next morning when the bumpy skin returned, this time with a vengeance. It was on my face this time but it wasn't itchy like it usually is. I called my dermatologist and made an appointment thinking I needed some medical intervention. I covered it up the best I could and went to work.
The office mean girl pointed out my flaws, she knows who she is, I won't name names. She also pointed out I had something stuck in my hair. I hadn't noticed it that morning. I retreated mortified to the nearest bathroom. In the privacy of that space, I was able to examine my head and saw that I had grown something. Something black and hard was growing from the circular bumps on either side of my head. It looked vaguely like the beginnings of a horn, but people don't grow horns, generally speaking. I started to freak and wanted some help but didn't know where to turn. Especially since it all accelerated from there. That's when the whispers started. I told a few of my friends about wandering down Anderson and they became fearful for me. They wanted to help, but they also were clueless about where to turn.
The next morning all of my skin was bumpy and continued to stay that way no matter how much lotion I put on. The horns started to grow thicker and curving away from my head. I was still able to hide most of this for about another week. Even when tiny feathers started mysteriously appearing on my shoulders and back. I plucked them until they got too numerous and started spreading to other parts of my body. By this time, my friends were royally freaked out and had begun abandoning me.
Then I got another bump, this time near my sacrum, where your back becomes your bottom. From there is where my tail originates and my eyes? My warm brown ones became this, slitted and an unnatural yellow color. I blinked the human way. I didn't need to anymore, now having a nictitating membrane that washed my eyes for me but I still had my human eyelids, so I did it out of habit. I imagine those will disappear; I have a feeling. My wings? Yeah. They were painful when they came in, to say the least, but also what I like the most. I flap them a few times to make a point. I hope they will allow me to fly, but I'll probably never know since I'm almost positive I'll never leave this place if y'all don't kill me first. I muse to myself.
Turning back to the man sitting outside the glass, to reiterate, I have grown black spiral horns, my skin is scaly but has also grown feathers. That happened first. The horns and feathers. Scales came in to protect the feathers once my wings started to grow. That happened after my tail sprouted. The talons came when my eyes started to change. I still see the way you do but have picked up a few more nanometers on the light spectrum allowing me to see some UV and infrared. Which means I can see in the dark. Another handy skill I've picked up. The talons came next so I stopped wearing clothes. They were becoming cumbersome to put on because of the feathers. Once I lost the ability to use my hands properly it seemed easier. You can't see anything anyway; I'm completely covered with the feathers and scales. They are quite a glossy shade of black don't you think? I say as I spread them out and turn around for the interviewer to admire.
"You have a few red ones coming in near your claws now. Did you know that?" He mentions.
"Hm, I did not," I comment and maneuver to get a better look at them. It's hard in this small space but I'm able to get a glimpse. They are a beautiful contrast to the black and I find I like it.
"Mind if I take a picture? It would go great with the article." He asks motioning to someone in the hallway.
"I guess that would be acceptable," I say and pose expertly for some pictures when the photographer comes in.
"So, would you call yourself a bird or a snake or something else entirely?" He asks.
I give a burp and a flash of something bursts from my lips. I'd been having a burning sensation in the back of my throat and chest for a few days. I hadn't mentioned anything to the people keeping me here. Why help them think of reasons to hold me? This convinces me. "I'm a dragon." I hiss mysteriously. The look on that guy's face was priceless. Equal parts fear, surprise and awe. I swallow and taste ash and brimstone. I'm not entirely sure if that fact is true if I really am a dragon, but I believe it to be so. I cough and a blast of fire erupts from my lips. "Yes, definitely a dragon."
He watches me, smoke rising from my nostrils, from a nose that is decidedly more beak-like than I remember it. There's another flash from the photographer and I give him a sly smile. "Put that in the papers." I roar and a stream of liquid fire is emitted and hits the plexilated glass. I watch as it begins to melt. The interviewer simply gets up and moves out of the way, while the photographer is terrified and starts screaming profusely. "SILENCE!" I roar and he cowers in the corner, covering his head. I find I like this feeling of power and I doubt that anyone would actually try to stop me from leaving now. The sirens are screeching wildly while I blast the acrylic a few more times until I melt a sizeable hole in it.
"Would you like an escort out of the building?" The interviewer asks and I give a nod. He knocks on the door. "Open up!"
"NO! WE CANNOT LET IT ESCAPE!" The voice warns from the other side of the metal door.
"I don't think you really have a choice in the matter now. Open up or I'm afraid she will get a little violent and destroy both men and machinery on her quest to freedom. I don't think you want people's blood on your hands do you?" He says into the speaker. There's nothing for a few minutes but the sound of sirens outside the area. Then a buzz and the door swings open. "Good choice, lads." He says with a smile.
I follow him down the corridor without seeing another soul. Looks like they have made the smart decision not to stop me. I spit a few fireballs at the alarms as we pass by. They are starting to annoy me. Finally, we reach the spacious lobby with its high ceilings and immense windows. I see sunlight for the first time in 6 months. I take a moment to soak it in, stretching my wings fully for the first time ever. They must span at least 12 feet or more. Then I turn to this guy. This person who was sent to find out all he could about what happened to me on Anderson street. How he doesn't even know me but helped me out. "Thank you for your kindness. I won't soon forget it." He nods. I flap my wings and find myself gently lifted in the air. I can fly! I flap harder and raise up and away from the man. I spit a fireball at the window, blowing a hole in it, glass exploding in all directions. With a burst of strength, I didn't know I had, I swoop through the opening taking flight to my freedom.