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A white, balding, middle-aged man learned has back against the railing that separated the landing from the olive waters of the Delaware River aimlessly tossing bits of soft pretzel to the pigeons and seagulls that had gathered around him. He was chuckling softly to himself as a big green dragon pleaded with t-shirt guy to accept his cheque, waving around the special ID that had been issued to all the people with his “condition”.
“Oh please...I-I...Aw don’t leave...Come back...please?...Shit.”
The t-shirt guy walked away leaving the dragon, ID in one claw, cheque in the other, looking very dejected. The man on the railing was unable to hold himself back any longer and let out a small laugh. The dragon instantly swung his head around and hissed.
“What are you laughing at? I didn’t ASK for this to happen to me. You wouldn’t be laughing very hard if you were in stuck in my shoes you insensitive jerk. You wouldn’t be laughing very hard if I bit your head off either, but this is a public place after all.”
The man stopped laughing and wiped the tears from his eyes. “You might want to be more careful the next time you open that big fat maw of yours. I am in your shoes.”
The dragon looked a bit sheepish. “Sorry, you looked a little too normal. So, Bob, what’s your last name.”
“Moonrider, and my name’s not Bob, it’s Draco, Drake for short, but either way, it translates to Bob. So, I guess I should be asking why you look so “normal”.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t forgot other species could be afflicted with “the condition”.”
“Wherever there’s a writer there’s a Bob. It’s an equal opportunities sickness. Anyway, don’t get so down on yourself. Believe it or not you’re lucky, Bob.”
“Oh really? Do explain.”
“Your species is normally locked into those pathetic bodies. The condition gives you a chance to experience greatness.” Draco gestured towards Bob’s big green self. “I, on the other hand, no matter what the change might be am forced to take a step down.”
“HA!” said Bob. “You really think I’m lucky? Every night when I go to bed I don’t know what I’ll be when I wake up. A dragon, a wolf, a bear, a centaur, a griffon, a rat, male, female, herm, neuter, I fucking haven’t been able to buy clothes in two years. Your arrogant species might enjoy living alone, but I had friends, family, a wife...Well I don’t any more. I can’t live in a house cause I might burst it out. I can’t have personal possessions cause I break them. I can’t find many jobs because I CAN’T GO TO WORK!”
“At least you change every night. Have you ever read draconic literature? Short stories come in volumes and novels take up whole shelves. I sometimes go almost a year between changes,” snapped Draco.
“I’d KILL for stability like that,” replied Bob in the most serious tone of voice you ever heard.
“Not if a dragon was your writer. My kind can think up creatures so bizarre that even trying to contemplate them would make a human’s brain explode. Tentacles, claws, extra arms, extra legs, antennae, pseudo pods, suckers, hooks, fur, spikes, extra eyes, compound eyes, eyes on stalks, shells, hides, exoskeletons and slime. Oh god the slime, every colour of the rainbow, 32 bit. As thin as varnish or as thick as silly putty. If you get a shit form at least you know it’ll be gone by the next day. I’m stuck. STUCK!”
“Still nothing Bob. When my writer isn’t being gross he’s being philosophical. To tell you the truth I don’t know which is worse, to be stuck as a three headed, pink slimed, tentacled Squwab Monster or to be stuck as an igneous rock.”
Bob gave Draco a quizzical look.
“Yes! A rock! I spent four months as a ROCK! I heard the only people who bought his 7-volume study “The Secret Life of Rocks”, were governments that are looking for a new form of psychological warfare. Do you know what was even better? When he wrote “A Year in the Life of a Daffodil”. It might have started out fun, nice big blossom, warm sunny days, BUT THEN IT TURNED TO WINTER! Face it friend, you just caught me at a very lucky time in my life. Humans aren’t so bad compared to some of the horrors I’ve been.”
“Well I never have a lucky time in my life,” said Bob. “I change so quickly I never get any real enjoyment. I got so sick of cowering in that old warehouse I call my home that, risks be dammed, I just had to get out and get into the city, but everywhere I go my problems follow. You saw that yourself with that guy over there. I can’t even buy a funny t-shirt. Probably would never get a wear it, but there’s always hope.”
“This is stupid,” remarked Draco. “Why are we arguing about whose life is more worse? It’s just plain stupid. No matter who you are, Bob or Draco, “the condition” turns your life to shit. Plain and simple.”
“Why did this happen to us,” said Bob, resting his talons on the railing and staring out over the River.
“Because the lives we lead were such an uninteresting waste that they created a little black hole that sucked in other people’s creativity.”
“What was so wrong with my life?” asked Bob. “I was living the American Dream. Get up, go to a good job, come back to a nice home in the suburbs, have a little private time with the wife, watch a little TV, sports on weekends. What was the harm?”
“Well what was wrong with my life?” responded Draco, not to be outdone. “Patrolling my territory, checking my investments (to make sure my hoard was working hard for me), a little hunting, a little sleeping, that’s what a dragon is supposed to do. And who said my life was so boring. I had a VERY creative collection.”
“What was that,” asked Bob.
“70’s 8-track tapes.”
“Did you ever consider the fact that most dragons have a weird collection?
“Yeah, so that probably didn’t help me much then.”
“I wouldn’t think so.”
“Well, what’cha gonna do.”
“You know, this reminds me of something. A while ago, before I was afflicted, I was at this party and there was a dragon there.”
“Oo, where was this party?”
“No, no. He was in human form. I remember him because he was 6’5” and was siphoning off most of the ladies. Anyway he was introduced to me as Draco and I quickly lost interest in what he was doing, but later I overheard part of a conversation where someone was asking him if he was worried about getting the “Bob” condition. He replied that he wasn’t and he said something about a soup kitchen.”
“What about a soup kitchen?” asked Draco eagerly.
“I don’t remember, my attention was definitely “elsewhere”.”
“You humans could achieve great things if you would just stop thinking with your dicks.”
“Well, about half the time I don’t really have that problem, now do I.”
Draco laughed. “You see, we can beat this “condition” only if we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and learn to joke again.”
There was a longish pause while the two contemplated tlife, staring off into the void.
“Have you ever thought of tracking down your writer?”
“Yeah, but what would I do if I found him? Kill him?”
“Well, you heard about that guy in Oregon who killed his writer and then got off on insanity.”
“Sure we might be able to get away with it, but it’s not right. I mean it’s not their fault that we lived our lives so badly. We can’t blame our writers and even if we do kill them or they stop writing who’s to say we won’t get a new writer. Do you want to live in a world without writing just so a few boring people named Bob won’t be inconvenienced?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“You know Bob, this has been fun. I could use a friend or two.”
“What, you want to come live with me or something?”
“Yeah, thanks for offering.”
“That wasn’t an offer. I was being incredulous.”
“Seemed genuine to me.”
“I live in an old tire warehouse.”
“And I spent 400 years living in a cave. Heck, I could use some of my vast financial resources to maybe heat your warehouse and buy personal items and are resistant to breakage. And of course, misery always loves company.”
“I live in Camden.”
“Not even that will discourage me. You can see how desperate I am.”
“Well I guess we can hang out here until the sun goes down and then I can give you a life to my place.” Bob spread his wings to emphasize the mode of transportation.
“Why don’t we take an aerial tour of the city? You only have those wings for the rest of the day,” suggested Draco. “No sense in wasting them.”
Draco jumped up on Bob’s scaly back. “Quick James, and through the park.”
Bob spread his wings and prepared to leap into the air, but first looked back over his shoulder.
“You know Draco, for a couple of average guys we sure do lead an interesting life.”
It took a second for that comment to sink in, but then both Draco and Bob’s jaws dropped at the same time, a look of realization of their faces. There was an audible *Ding* and suddenly Bob found himself pinned under a large blue dragon.
“I’M ME AGAIN!!” They both yelled in unison and the two new friends began to whoop, cavort and give hi-fives.
“Wait wait!” yelled the now human Bob. “What will stop us getting the condition again?”
Draco thought for a second. “A Soup Kitchen! Quick, where’s the nearest soup kitchen.”
“I think there’s one on Arch St.”
“Get on my back, we’ll fly. Hurry hurry hurry.”
Bob hopped up. “We can change our names too.”
“Oh definitely. I never like Draco to begin with.”
One of the Cosmic Keepers, whose job it was to make sure the universe didn’t destroy itself, looked over his panel and noted an alarming increase in the creativity buffers. Like a good little technician he quickly called his supervisor over.
“Supervisor, the creativity buffers are at 44% and rising.”
“Hmm, it seems to be a side effect of the “Soup Kitchen” loop hole in the creative energy distribution programme. Don’t worry, give it a few cycles and working at a soup kitchen will be demoted to an “average” activity thus de-exempting the Bob’s.”
“Supervisor, what about the “Befriending a Dragon” loophole.”
“That has a way to go, but I suspect it too will become average.”
“Thank you supervisor.”
“Carry on technician.”