Shorts: Dragon scales

A short that digs up some memories of becoming. We spend a long time becoming who we are. It is a painful process, and it is often only ourselves that realise it, when we take the time to notice. Many of us have particularly difficult journeys – with disease, disability, sexuality, trauma, race and gender all playing a role.

Perhaps this story is a little more ‘YA’. For me, I had terrible psoriasis (I still do, but it’s under control) and of course I’ve struggled with sexuality and some trauma. So this goes out to everyone who feels the pain of moving on.

I’ve always had really soft skin. My friends used to touch it and tell me it was the smoothest skin they’d ever touched. What did I use? I must moisturise three times a day. But I didn’t. I hadn’t done anything to deserve these compliments. They were just me. I was born with this award-winning touchable skin. The first person I ever slept with couldn’t stop stroking it and told me it was because I was half-Asian. And Asians have the smoothest skin, apparently. I always thought it was because they used a different kind of soap.

A few years later, I got this weird, itchy bump on my arm that wouldn’t go away. Two weeks later I had tiny bumps all over me. I went to the doctor’s in tears. I wanted to kill myself. The boy with the perfect skin, now covered in tiny, itchy, scaly bumps. I kept going back. ‘I can’t take this,’ I would say, before being prescribed something else to try.

I started to dream. I was allergic to myself. So maybe I wasn’t me. Maybe I was trapped in this body, and the body was allergic to me. We just weren’t compatible, my skin and I. My body and I. What was I?

I dreamed that my skin was hardening. The vertebrae in my spine became more pronounced, and the ridges sharpened, like they were struggling to escape. At night, during one final, painful transition, they broke through my skin: spines, like a dinosaur. Like a dragon. My shoulder blades, too, had grown more elongated, coming to a point until they tore away from my back, forming new skin around them, the skin red and itchy and sore until it, too, was scales.

Silver, opalescent, beautiful.

I sat upright in my bed, flexing my new muscles, trying to learn how they worked. I understood why I had been suffering. I wasn’t built to fit into this world; I belonged in another. A world I would likely never see.

I wondered how many others were out there, like me. Was I the only one? Feeling a rush of confidence, I pushed open my bedroom window. I was only on the first floor; if my instincts were wrong – and somehow, I knew they weren’t – I wouldn’t have far to go. And besides, I had wings to slow me.

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I leaned forwards, curved my back and tipped forwards, then brought my arms out, arched my back and felt a tingle of exhilaration as my trajectory steadied and then curved upwards. A steady pulse of my new muscles kept the wings beating. I was flying.

Higher I dared, until my window was a tiny square of yellowish light amongst thousands. How could I return now, knowing how much I’d changed? What was there to go back to? Still, my muscles tired, and I slowed my pulse to descend. Perching on the roof of my building, I caught sight of something. Something silver. A flash of a winged creature, like me. Just a flash, then gone.

I rested a while, seeing the night sky with new eyes. The stars seemed brighter; the city lights dazzled like the sun. I saw new shades of blue, of yellow-orange. The night wasn’t grey any longer, but full of colour.

Perhaps this was my world after all. I left the roof, gliding down to my open window. It was harder to get back inside; I had to fold myself smaller than before – had I grown?

I sat on the end of my bed, looking at my new figure in the mirror with my new eyes.

A knock on my door, and without pause, it opens.

“Are you alright? I heard a noise,” my housemate.

“I’m fine,” I say, and look back to the mirror. Wings, eyes, scales, spines. I look back at her. She smiles at me, oblivious.

“Okay, sorry. I was worried. Good night.”

“Good night.”


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