Dumpsters and Dragons
by Michael Brenner
©2006 Michael Brenner -- all rights reserved
Jeremy guarded the gate to the dumpster for years, always alert for the possibility of people getting in. The mountains of rubbish and refuse were, to him, a maze of treasure discarded by uncaring owners. He made sure the gate in and out was locked every night and closed on holidays. He would not let anyone in except the trucks that brought more garbage if he could. No one had any business in there except him; only he could appreciate what was brought.
He made arrangements long ago to live near the city dump -- upwind but close. In truth it could have been downwind and he wouldn't have cared. He'd long ago gotten used to the smell, and even prided himself on being able to identify each aroma, whether of rotting fish or decaying pizza.
One day during December Jeremy woke up to find himself feeling itchy. It wasn't unusual -- winter weather often dried up his skin. He took some lotion out and rubbed the area on his chest, a dry patch of reddish, almost scaly skin. He looked in the mirror and sighed. His brown skin was starting to show the sign of his age, the black hairs on his chest were turning white and his belly and chest were both heading south. He showered and dressed. He headed back to the kitchen and then made himself some cocoa and watched the snow turn the mounds of garbage into miniature snow peaks.
Over the next few days, despite no change in routine, Jeremy's chest and belly slowly began to rebound. The flab and sagging were giving way to taught, younger skin, even if that skin was increasingly whiter and scalier. The changes were minor at first, hardly noticeable. As they grew into noticeability Jeremy found them to be delightful. No longer was he out of shape or even old. And if it was scales -- so what? They were smooth and easy on the hands. Many women he knew claimed to love smooth, sexy skin and his new hide was certainly all that.
Eventually the trucks brought loads of new garbage which had colorful wrapping torn and floating out of it. Jeremy shook his head. So much waste, and for what? He sipped his cocoa and watched before going to take a bath. Whitish scales covered his athletic chest and belly area while fiery red ones sparkled on his side and back. He always admired his scales, even when he was younger. He'd been noticing that his shirts were starting not to fit as well as they used to. He didn't feel any larger, nor did they seem any smaller, but somehow after putting them on they felt odd and awkward somehow. Maybe I'll just stop wearing shirts, he thought. The cold weather, for whatever reasons, no longer seemed to bother him as it once did. It wasn't even as if he needed to leave his house. A speaker, television and switch for the gate had been installed to allow him to identify those coming in.
Going back in after they left, he relaxed in a bath, loving the feeling of the warm water against his body -- particularly his scales. It was too bad they didn't cover his whole body. He realized he'd left the soap on the sink, only a foot or so away, but he hated to have to get up to get it. Staring at the soap he found it suddenly, if clumsily, floating to him. I can do magic! he thought, grinning.
January came, the middle of it bringing one of the fiercest blizzards in recorded history. Jeremy stood outside in his Bermuda shorts and sipped his cocoa, his dumpster turned into a winter wonderland by the weather. Against his scaled body, the bitter, biting wind felt more like a tropical breeze. His feet were growing longer and more claw-like every day, as were his hands. He was leaving his lair more and more often now, carefully watching those that brought the trucks in to make sure they didn't leave with anything.
The changes seem to have accelerated. Since it'd been going on for years Jeremy wasn't particularly concerned. In fact he was really looking forward to when it ended -- the mild aches from growing pains were slightly annoying.
He'd lost his hair at the beginning of the New Year, but since it was replaced by nice, shiny white horns he didn't mind so much. His face, despite being covered in scales, was still clearly human. Of course it was. He was a human, after all -- just one that happened to be covered in scales and growing horns and claws. Perfectly natural. The person that brought him his food had even told him so once. The only really annoying thing was that the trucks bringing the garbage were unable to come until the weather let up. He tried some magic to help stop the storm but it failed miserably. He was still learning the more powerful types, the ones that could sculpt body, mind and even reality itself. His yellow-green eyes glittered in anticipation of ultimate power.
In March Jeremy spread his wings and flew over the melting piles of snow. The garbage would be finally showing itself again after months of being snow-bound. He didn't mind the stuff being snow covered, it hid his treasures well. But now that it was spring again he'd have to be on the look out for thieves. A dragon could never be too careful.
He watched eagerly as the humans brought more tribute to him. The trucks that came and went, each load a delight in his eyes. My treasures to guard. My tribute for keeping away from their city. He practically laughed at how easy it was.
He knew, vaguely, they considered it garbage, but for him it was treasure. He flicked his long, supple red tail and thought about the months that had gone by. Memories of what had been and what was swirled in his mind like flotsam in a flood. He knew, on some level, that he had once been Jeremy Banks, an aging African American assigned as a guard to the city dump. In his new, more powerful dragon form that information mattered little. He was better off physically than he'd been and if his mind had changed -- well, it hadn't changed much. He still loved cocoa and that was all he cared about. That, and guarding the dump.
But what if he could do the altering? He still wasn't sure what had changed him, but he was now used to magic, able to control and shape it and reality with it. He could have altered himself back, but had no desire to do so. Maybe, if he'd been this powerful a month ago, he would have been tempted but now... The scent of unfamiliar humans in his treasures gained his attention. For all his changes, he really hadn't grown much, though in this case that was an advantage -- it was much easier to hide.
The months went by. Spring changed into summer and summer changed into fall. He knew a reputation was spreading about a dragon guarding the city dump. Reality was warping to fit him even as he changed reality... He was still careful about making appearances, however. People still thought that Jeremy Bank -- crazy old man -- was living in the house on the hill by the dumpster. He liked maintaining that illusion for now. He would need to do much more warping before the majority of the humans in the city were able to accept him as real, let alone as their master. That would change soon, he just needed a way.
In October Jeremy caught a new human scent. Two males in their early 20's were wandering his dumpster! Intruders! Thieves! He ought to kill and eat them! Then a grin, much more horrible than his murderous thoughts, spread across his reptilian face. Why not?
Sam and Kenyar had taken the fraternity dare to steal something from the old garbage dump on the hill. While it was still in use, no one had ventured there for years due to rumors of a dragon guarding it. Naturally a few thought that if there was a dragon there must be something worth taking. Outside the city dump, one of the elder frat brothers awaited to make sure the initiates actually went in and didn't just grab some random garbage on the street. Not that he believed in the dragon, but he wanted to make sure the two did what they were supposed to. He might call the police on them, to add to the fun...
Jeremy approached his victims with all the stealth his body gave him. He watched as they slowly began to change, waiting for the right time to reveal himself.
"So what should we get?" asked Sam, his blond hair starting to slowly turning brown-grey.
"All this stuff is garbage and nothing but garbage, let's just pick something and go." Kenyar rubbed one of his dreads nervously. The black hair was lightening to a grey-brown color.
"I don't know. I mean some of it may be worth something to someone."
"True, but there's too much of it to tell what's valuable from what's junk."
"Maybe I can help."
The two turned to see Jeremy the dragon before them, his scales glistening in the sun.
"There is a dragon!" yelled Kenyar.
"Now, now, my two trespassers." Jeremy growled, smiling in a most unpleasant way. "I'm feeling rarely lenient today. If you answer my questions truthfully, I promise I won't eat you."
Sam and Kenyar looked at one another, their fur-covered faces terrified. What choice did they have?
"My first question: What is your hair color?"
"Grey-brown," the two answered automatically. That was easy -- they might get out of this alive yet!
"Good. How long have you been covered in fur?"
"All our lives."
Jeremy nodded. "I'll bet those shoes are feeling uncomfortable, aren't they?"
The two nodded in unison. It was so easy to answer his questions. "Why don't you take them off?"
Not thinking, they both removed their socks and shoes, adding them to the refuse around them. Their bare, clawed, fur-covered feet felt much relieved.
"Did you ever wear anything on your pawfeet?" asked Jeremy, amused.
The two looked perplexed for a minute. Something seemed odd about the question, but they answered truthfully, "No, never."
"I thought not, but I wanted to be sure. I'll bet that the shirts and jackets you have on are feeling a bit warm." They nodded, their ears slowly moving up their heads as they did. "Why don't you take them off?"
Eagerly Sam and Kenyar took off their upper wear. Their bare, fur-covered chests and arms felt good in the semi-warm breeze. "Ever wear anything on your upper body, boys?"
They looked at one another, again feeling as if something had passed them over, as if the dragon were making a joke at their expense. Still, they answered truthfully, "No, who'd need to with fur?"
"It certainly beats me," Jeremy said, grinning, "but those pants look uncomfortable. I bet you'd both be happier naked."
The two nodded -- why were they wearing pants anyway? Taking them off, they felt more comfortable than ever. They even swished their coon tails to show their pleasure. Their masked faces looked at the dragon.
"So, what are you two?"
"What do you think of the city dump?"
"It's a great place to live!"
"How long have you two been working for me again?"
"Since we were cubs -- you raised us, Jeren." Sam stuck out his tongue at the silly dragon and Kenyar just rolled his eyes. They'd never understand why Jeren got this way sometimes.
"Yeah, after our human parents dumped us here because of us being furry," Kenyar finished.
"I guess that's it for now. Why don't you two have fun? There's someone at the front gate I need to take care of."
"Sure, Jeren," said Sam breezily.
"Have fun." Kenyar went with his friend and started looking through the garbage for shineys. They really liked shineys.
Jeren headed to the gate. He could eat the human there, but there was much more fun he could have changing him instead. Or even altering him to have him bring more people to the city dump -- a dragon could never have too many willing followers.
Rick couldn't remember why he was standing at the gate to the dump. Usually the only time he came here was when there were new initiates, and there weren't any this year. He turned one last time to try and remember and found himself staring straight into glowing reptilian eyes.
"I have a few questions for you," the dragon said, smiling.
Rick moved back in horror. He wanted to scream but he couldn't seem to make any noise.
Jeren took advantage of this and came closer. "What are you doing here?" he asked, never taking his eyes off Rick. "Answer and perhaps you'll live."
"I-I don't know. Normally I bring initiates here for hazing." What was he saying? It was the truth, but he'd wanted to say he was waiting for friends.
"I see. Do you like rats?"
Rick glared at the dragon, he'd be damned if he were going to play along "Of course I like rats you moron!" Wait, he didn't like rats, did he?
"Are you sure?" Jeren smiled; this was delightful, better than the flesh of female human virgins.
Rick paused a second. "Well, uh, yeah, of course I'm sure." Something didn't seem quite right, but Rick wasn't sure why.
"I thought so, you look the type. How would you like to be a rat, or rather half rat, half human?"
Ricks face furrowed. "What? Of course I'd like to be!" Wait, that wasn't what he meant to say -- was it?
"Good. I can make you into one, little by little." As if to demonstrate, he pointed to the back of Rick's hands, which became covered in brown rat's fur. Gasping, Rick felt the fur with his palms. It seemed so silky, so nice...
"M-more?" he asked, falling in deeper.
"Yes, later, as a reward." Jeren held up a spatula. "What do you think of this?"
"It's shiny and has a really nice black handle."
"How would you like to keep it? To use it?"
"I -- I like spatulas." Rick was answering to the first thing that came to mind, ignoring any sensations that something was odd. The silky rat fur on the back of his hands felt too good to really concentrate on much else.
"Excellent. You will use this spatula and start altering people with it, making it so they will accept me as their ruler. Understand?"
Rick nodded eagerly as the dragon gave him the spatula. He hugged it close to his chest. The dragon deserved to be ruler.
"If you wish to be changed further into a rat, bring me people at least once a month. With the power of the spatula they will not question your suggestions. But only bring me two at a time, either male or female. Understood?"
"Yes, Lord Jeren."
"Excellent. With your help I shall soon alter this city, and beyond that the world!"
Rick smiled and left. There was much to do to prepare the world for Lord Jeren, the Dragon of Great Justice.
Jeren smiled. Rick was smart; he'd figure a way to bring people in. In the meantime Jeren would devise ways to alter things on a larger scale so that the changes, and the disappearances, would not be questioned too much. He was even considering alternative lairs, on the off chance someone should want to play hero.
He had thousands of years at his disposal, so time was not of the essence. Careful planning, long-running plots, those were what would allow him to finally change the world.
And then his Mistress would rule them all.