"It will blow over," I said, in as confident and reassuring a tone as I could manage. "It's just going to be another one of those 'Christ in a cracker' or 'I saw Bigfoot at WalMart' stories that the media runs when there isn't any real news to report. That's all."
The photo had turned-up the day after I got back from my stay in Mexico, and was a sidebar or bottom-of-the page item on most of the mainstream news sites. We hadn't dared peek at the fringe sites or the ones that featured what they said was cryptozoology - what Neeka called booger-science. This was just the sort of thing they'd use to justify any number of aliens-among-us conspiracy theories.
Leonora gave me a look that I didn't want explained. Her comment might not be something any of us would be comfortable hearing.
"Not that I'm comparing myself to ... you know. It's just that people think they see things all the time. Next week it will be Elvis in a mini-mart in Mississippi."
"Let's hope you're right," Neeka said. "But this wasn't Elvis, or Mississippi, and it wasn't some none-too-credible eyewitness talking about seeing Sasquatch or little green men. It was two Paleontology grad-students and their Professor on their way to do some fieldwork."
"What is a kwetz-all-coat-ell?" Jeff asked, his nose in the computer screen.
"That's Quetzalcoatl," I corrected, although my pronunciation couldn't have been much better than his. "A two thousand year-old Aztec deity."
"Aren't the Aztecs all dead now?" Jeff asked.
"Civilizations may die, but Gods do not," Leonora said. "The live as long as there are people who believe in them. Many more will believe in this one, now that you have awakened it."
"Hey!" I said, indignantly. "I didn't awaken it, I just tried to copy something that wouldn't remind anyone who happened to see it of anything to do with The Dragon. I thought picking something the locals would recognize might work."
"I do not think denial will deter your worshipers. They will simply say that you have God within you. And they will be right."
"What? Now wait..."
"It's a good picture," Neeka said, interrupting the theological argument before it could get going. "Much better than the usual out-of-focus mess the monster-hunters claim as 'proof' that their favorite booger exists. Is that your fanny-pack on your back between your wings? You can see the strap there. You're lucky it doesn't show terribly well from this angle. At least they didn't get a video or it would be all over YouTube."
"I tried to match a painting in a book of Alejandro's," I said. "But it had wings that were too small and too close to the head. They have to be at the center of mass for it ... me to be able to fly. Bigger too."
"I don't think those differences will matter to anyone," Neeka said. "All anyone has seen of this thing in two millennia is some stone carvings and I can't find two of those that looked alike."
"It wasn't easy to keep my balance, either. I had to keep moving or I'd flip over and fall. You can't tell from this photo, but I'm actually slithering through the air with my body flattened-out to get more lift."
"Like a real flying snake?" Jeff asked.
"Yeah, if there were such a thing."
"But there is!"
"NatGeo, remember? Burt let us watch anything educational. Flying snakes live in Borneo, Sumatra and places like that. Only they don't have wings, so they just glide."
"Do they have feathers?"
"Well, there's that. See, I have a feathered crest behind my head and another bunch on my tail. The tail-feathers help me keep my head up and the ones behind my head help me stay pointed in the right direction. The spines down my back don't do anything. They're just decorative."
"Why have you got your mouth open?" Jeff asked. "Showing off your pointy teeth?"
"I don't know. Maybe because I was scared I was going to crash through somebody's window. Heck, I'm still amazed that I was able to pull all that together and make it work. Something like that couldn't possibly have really existed."
"The carvings are all more like symbols than pictures," Neeka said. "Obviously none of the artists had ever seen one. That makes it more likely that the beast never existed.
"It existed then," Leonora insisted. "Just as it exists now."
"Are you trying to argue the improbability of the existence of some mythical creature you managed to turn into?" Neeka asked me. "Do you not see the irony here? Everything you turn into is by definition a mythical creature because they are all products of your own imagination."
"And I'm more improbable than any of them? Yeah, I get it. Believe me, the absurdity of my situation has not escaped my notice."
"You know, it does sorta look like you posed for the photo," Jeff said, not actually accusing me of anything.
"The picture must have been taken when I was flying over the road going through the town. I wasn't terribly high-up at that point. And all my concentration was on finding a spot to land in ... or not to crash in, anyway. I took off by basically jumping off a cliff. I had no clue how I was going to land again, so I was trying to hit the balance between going fast enough to stay in the air and slow enough to keep from getting hurt when I hit. I did pretty good ... considering."
"It's impossible to get the right scale from this picture," Neeka said. "The mountain in the background makes stuff in the foreground look huge. Anyone who didn't know you've only got just over a hundred pounds to work with would think you were much larger."
"I appreciate your imprecision. But that just means it's very unlikely that anyone would connect me with that thing and that's all I care about. We don't need people knowing that I was hanging out with a big-time drug kingpin like Alejandro Cordoba. If his mountain gets overrun with Quetzalcoatl hunters like Loch Ness gets overrun with people looking for Nessie, I won't be terribly unhappy. It serves him right for trapping me with that harness."
"Why did you bring that back?" Neeka wanted to know.
I shrugged. "Why do you still have that tail? I think the harness is cool. It makes me feel like one of those kick-ass comic book heroines."
Jeff kept his face to the computer screen, but I saw him smile. I'd brought the harness back partly to see if he liked it on me, since he was into the kind of comics that featured busty heroines wearing skin-tight outfits that are more skin than substance. It worked better than I could have imagined. My first night back, I'd almost done to him what I almost did to Alejandro. Although Jeff had recovered quicker. The advantage of being twenty years younger. Not to mention having the sexual stamina of his superhero alias – Tomcat.
Neeka flicked her two-foot-long tail. That was a skill she'd mastered so she could call attention to her chestnut appendage. She did it amazingly well, too. She could control it completely without moving her hips. That made the tail seem like a completely convincing and natural extension of her tail-bone, instead of just an anal-suppository that had been used as a prop in some rather extreme BDSM videos.
It also proved to be a strong attractor for males. More-so for those who were into female buttocks. And particularly for those who preferred posterior penetration. In short, ass-men who would see her anal dexterity as a promise of unbounded pleasure if they could only convince her to use her retrograde skill on their male members.
Fortunately, wearing it full-time was impractical. Otherwise she would have had a herd of backdoor-buddies following her around all day. She still wore the thing whenever she could, which was most of the time at the beach house, and on a few memorable occasions when we'd gone out partying.
I blamed myself, actually. A while back, I'd managed to get both of us into an audition for jobs performing in some porn films that featured some really hard anal action. We had a good reason for going there, one having to do with investigating a series of gruesome murders, but the lead proved to be a dead-end. After an intense break-in and training session, we managed to escape with our abused assholes considerably loosened - and with a new-found appreciation for analism. While I could take it or leave it, Neeka had developed a partiality to rear-entry that had ultimately led to her adopting the posterior-pacifier and teaching her ass to use it. And use it with devastating effect, to judge by the number of guys whose eyes were drawn to every twitch and flick of her tail.
Jeff was definitely attracted by the tail, but I guessed that was less because he wanted her to let him replace it with something of his than simply because he had one too. Having something in common with someone, however fake, had to be a nice thing for Jeff. Whichever it was, Neeka waving it around was impossible for him to ignore, even if he was temporarily unable to respond because I'd wrung him dry.
When one flick failed to get the expected rise out of our aptly-named Tomcat, Neeka upped the ante. She thrashed it back and forth and then around in a circle while we all watched in frank admiration of her anal adeptness.
"If there were any flies in here," I told her when her display subsided, "I think you got them."
Instead of a snappy reply, she snapped her tail at me like a whip.
"You're getting dangerous with that thing," I told her. "Maybe we should register your butt as a deadly weapon."
"Maybe we should," she said, swishing menacingly.
I reached out to grab the tail, but she shied away.
.... There is more of this story ...