I woke up on Monday as a dog—a sloppy, tangle-furred St. Bernard who had grown up on the streets. Everyone in the neighborhood knew me and as the sun peeked between the brownstone houses that lined the east side of the street, I set out to discover breakfast. A few people called out to me, but I just barked and kept going. People around here might know me, but no one ever fed me.
No one except Mae, my adopted mother. She was blind—poor thing—but loved me no matter what. She fed me the same fare regardless of my form, sometimes with terrible results. There was a freezing day in February where I came to her as a goat only to find she had saved a steak just for me, cooked to medium-rare perfection. It repulsed me and as much as it hurt me to reject it, I could not touch it.
Mae was sitting on the porch steps when I bounded up. She could always tell when it was me. “Good morning, Harry. Come sit and talk to me for a while.” I barked at her and she nodded. “Maybe another day then.”
I wolfed down the bacon and eggs she had set out on the steps and lapped at the water next to it. The rest of the day was spent running around the streets and tearing into the garbage bags behind the McDonalds, searching for abandoned scraps and running away from the shouts and threats of the workers. It was a glorious existence.
On Tuesday, I woke up as a man and the grimmer reality that came with it. I ran a hand through my greasy hair, tried to straighten my clothes, and shuffled over to Mae’s where I ate with fork and knife and we talked about the weather and the arthritis she was getting in her knees. I brought my dishes in, washed them and the rest of the pile there, then took out her garbage. I was walking over to the park to sleep when I heard a shout.
“Harry, come here for a second.” It was a cop. I don’t know which one: I’m not good with faces, or names. He waited until I had approached the car, then kept looking at me until I was thoroughly unnerved.
“Some people complained about you urinating on the street yesterday.”
“Aw, Officer, I wasn’t myself yesterday,” I said. “You don’t arrest other dogs for marking their territory.”
The officer sighed and looked down. “I gotta take you in again, Harry. You know I hate to do it.”
“For what? What did I do?”
“You want the list?”
I went quietly. Violence is not what I’m about. I sat in the corner of the public cell but the other prisoners seemed to know me and left me alone. Luckily, the next day I woke up briefly to find that I was a sloth and then slept most of the day. When I did wake, it took half an hour to get over to the can and back to the bunk. At the end of the day, an official came in and talked to me privately but I was too sleepy to hear much. I caught the words “psychiatric” and “trial” but it didn’t concern me.
The next day, I woke up as a dragon.
The shock of sudden strength after a day as a sloth was electrifying. I had only been a dragon once before and that was when I had a horde to protect and I had spent the whole day sleeping on it. But not this time. I sat hunched on my bunk, eyes closed but flexing the muscles in my limbs and wings, feeling the deadly power in my claws.
“Harry, it’s time to go,” I heard someone call. I didn’t move. “Just go get him,” someone else said. “Cuffs but no shackles. He’s not a high risk.” The tip of my tail flicked back and forth in anticipation.
The cell door open and I sprang with a roar. I caught one look at the shocked expression on the guard’s face before I was on him, raking my talons across his face. My tail slammed him against the bars and I was free, my huge bulk crashing through the next room. It was pure exhilaration and I reveled in the power that I suddenly possessed.
I smashed through one room after another until suddenly, I was outside and then I was airborne and flying over the city. But where to go now? I couldn’t visit Mae—the weight of this new form would crush her house. I could not retreat to the subway system like I often did, not with my huge frame.
In the end, the form that gave me freedom caused my downfall. A dragon cannot hide well and they found me and netted me and brought me to another facility. A man came and talked to me, but all I could do was roar at him. It was his own fault for trying to talk to a dragon.
Today I woke up as a cat but they still guarded me as if I were a dragon. It’s a shame and I suppose I’ll never get out of here unless I turn into something stronger than a dragon, something strong enough to bend steel and smash concrete. I look out my window and see the beautiful blue sky. A perfect day for a cat to go exploring—a beautiful tabby cat with golden eyes who’s never hurt a person in his life.