Hey everyone! Sorry for missing last week, got super busy. But now I’ve got big news. I’ve had this idea in the works but now I’m going to try and implement it. I love superhero comics but can’t draw, I can however write. So, about every week or so (might skip a week or two because of life) I’ll be posting a short story in the continuing tale of Naga, a superhero of my own creation.
Now, a bit of a disclaimer. This is not going to be the most polished thing ever. I will have little to no time to edit these drafts before I have to publish them here. This is to keep me putting out material regular and build an audience. Its also to keep me writing and improving my skills. My main goal is for all of us here to have fun and that’s what these short stories are for.
Here is issue number 1! Hope you enjoy and don’t forget to send everyone you know this way!
“Why are we going to the back of the school?”
It was a bright spring Thursday late in the month of April. Standardized tests had been taken, sports were wrapping up, and everyone was preparing for summer. School was closed for the day, and most kids were finished with their afterschool stuff.
Natalie was following her best friend, Jamie, around the back of the big, square, beige building that was their high school. Both girls had made sure to tell their mothers that they would be home later than usual. Their excuse had been that they would be hanging out with some friends, which was technically true.
“Because,” Jamie said, smiling, “Patrick and his crew are hanging out back there. Don’t worry, I’ve been back here like, a hundred times. It’s totally safe.”
This of course made Natalie worry even more. She loved Jamie like a sister and would go through hell for her. She did not however like her boyfriend, Patrick. The two were just not a good match for each other.
For one thing, Jamie was just too good for him. Her auburn hair fell in silky smooth waves down to her shoulder blades. Sparkling green eyes and a spattering of freckles mixed in to make her look like an Irish fairy, especially when she was summersaulting through the air during cheerleading practice. Patrick meanwhile looked like he’d dragged himself out of a dump truck every morning.
He was greasy, sickly pale, and dressed like a wannabe goth kid. The crowd he hung out with wasn’t much better. Most of the people she saw him with looked and acted as pathetic as he did, but every so often…
Now, Natalie certainly didn’t mind a bad boy. She herself had crushed on many a leather-clad biker-to-be. But Patrick seemed…wrong. Why? She couldn’t say. He just did.
She and Jamie rounded the corner to find a good-sized group of people, about twenty in all, gathered together near the school wall. Most of them were high schoolers like she was, but Natalie saw a handful that looked college age. One of them couldn’t have been much older than twelve.
Her nose wrinkled in disgust as a cloud of noxious fumes slammed into her. She could now see that they were all smoking. The stinking fog grew thicker as she and Jamie approached.
“Oh Patrick!” Jamie called gleefully.
A boy with black cargo pants, black army boots, a black t-shirt depicting the gruesome cover of a heavy metal band, and more jewelry and make-up than what Natalie wore to homecoming looked up as his girlfriend trotted up to him. His hair had obviously been dyed black to match his everything.
“Hey, hot stuff,” he said, in a gravelly voice that wasn’t quite a whisper. “Where you been?”
Jamie flung her arms around him. Pulled the cigarette from between his teeth he kissed her full on the lips. Natalie nearly puked just imagining what tasting by that nicotine infested mouth was like.
Why did Jamie have to pick him?
“Heeeey,” drawled a guy with muscles too big for his shirt, “Who’s this fine piece o’ meat over here?”
Natalie realized to her horror that she knew this guy. In fact, she knew several of the students in this group. The creep who had basically just compared her to a steak was one of the star linebackers for her high school football team. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was staring directly at her chest like a starving wolf who’d just come across two prime cuts of ham.
“This is Natalie,” Jamie said as she finally stopped sucking face with Patrick. “I thought it’d be fun for her to hang out with us.”
Natalie glanced around at the crowd in front of her more closely. She recognized a couple of fellow cheerleaders and two other football players. She shivered despite the spring heat.
At Jamie’s prompting she carefully stepped in to join the circle. It felt like being a square peg shoved into a round hole.
The linebacker who had called her a piece of meat held a lit cigarette in front of her face. She flinched back away from the burning stub.
“Wanna smoke?” the boy offered.
“No thanks,” Natalie said, politely as she could muster.
“Come on,” the boy pushed. “It ain’t as bad as those stupid videos say. I didn’t take a drag or anything. I just lit it for you.”
Natalie glanced between the boy and the smoldering roll of paper and chemicals several times. Looking over to Jamie, she saw that her friend was already puffing away at her own cancer stick. Then she noticed everyone else was looking at her.
Natalie didn’t get stage fright, but she imagined this is what it was like. She swore she could feel their combined gaze on her skin like static. They all suddenly seemed much taller.
Finally, she took the cigarette. She cautiously put the joint to her lips and breathed in.
Natalie nearly collapsed as she was caught in a fit of coughing unlike any she’d ever had before. Her lungs burned, her nose stung, her throat was on fire, and her eyes watered. She felt like she might hack up every single organ in her body.
The pain subsided quickly, but she was not eager to risk another puff of the thing that had nearly killed her. No one in the circle seemed the slightest bit phased by what had just happened.
“The first time’s always rough,” the creepy linebacker said. “You just gotta get used to it. Then it’s awesome.”
I don’t care if it feels like Utopia! I’m not taking another breath of this vile thing!
Ten minutes of relative silence passed as everyone stood around taking drags from their cigarettes and competing to make the best shapes with the smoke. True to her mental word, Natalie didn’t take another puff from her cigarette. Instead, she just made sure to press the nicotine stick to her lips every time someone looked her way and then quickly pulled it from her face once whoever it was looked away.
If she hadn’t been so nervous, this would qualify as the most boring thing she’d ever done.
After a while, the two boys from the football team who weren’t the meat remark creep looked up. Following their gaze, Natalie saw that the second floor window on this side of the school looked in on the science lab. Inside, she could see Daniel messing with something in his backpack, his messy brown hair getting messier every time his head ducked into the bag.
Natalie only knew Daniel because she’d been forced to work with him on a biology project. Until then he’d always just been “that nerd.” Sure, there were other nerds in high school, but Daniel always seemed to be at the top of every bully’s hit list and the bottom of every girl’s to-date list. Even the other nerds didn’t want to hang out with Daniel.
From what little of his personality she had gleaned from their time working on the project together, she had concluded that Daniel was just too normal for most nerds and too nerdy for most normal kids. It made him stick out like a sore thumb. He didn’t belong in any of the cliques, and thus every bully within a mile radius had swooped on him like hawks on a lone chicken.
She felt sorry for the skinny teenager. He really didn’t deserve all the grief he got. She’d enjoyed working with him, even if it had taken a while for her to get him to talk in complete sentences.
Weirdly, she was also a little jealous. He wasn’t in any cliques, so he could act however he wanted. Meanwhile Natalie was caught in the high school popularity limbo competition.
She heard the two football players snicker and watched as they stalked off toward the school entrance.
Averting her gaze, Natalie went back to pretending to smoke.
A stone seemed to have taken up residence in her gut. She knew she should try to stop them. But what could she do? They were two big, beefy linebackers. She was a cheerleader, and not even squad captain. Besides, she’d draw even more attention to herself when all she wanted to do was disappear.
The sound of glass shattering rang out overhead.
Natalie looked up just in time to see a basketball shaped object hurtle out one of the science lab windows. It crashed into the ground right at Natalie’s feet before she had a chance to react.
The thing shattered like pottery laced with TNT.
Shards of it exploded in every direction and kicked up a choking cloud of dust.
Everyone screamed and fled in fear.
Natalie’s own cry was cut short as a particularly large shard embedded itself in her chest.
She staggered back a step, then collapsed as a sudden fatigue washed over her. The last thing she saw was her own hand reaching out in a plea for help as everyone fled the scene of the crime. Then her body went limp and her vision faded to black.
Natalie groaned as she slowly regained consciousness. She was lying on something cold and hard, and her groans echoed off into the distance. Water dripped down from somewhere nearby. She was sore all over and her skin felt almost uncomfortably dry.
Sitting up, she smacked her lips, which were hard and dry. Her tongue didn’t seem like it was the right shape and she ran it along the inside of her parched mouth. Despite her soreness, her joints felt as if they had turned to jelly, all except her legs, which for some reason wouldn’t pull apart. Come to think of it, they felt longer and thicker than they should have been.
Natalie sighed and rubbed her head with a hand. She really shouldn’t have let herself get talked into smoking. Those cigarettes were probably filled with some sort of hallucinogen. She’d probably walked around like a wingless fly for several hours before collapsing in the shadow of the high school.
Finally cracking open her eyes, Natalie noticed several things. First, everything looked different. She saw what she normally saw, but also strange blurry colors right on top. It was as if someone were playing the normal version of the world and the infrared camera version of the world right on top of each other.
The next thing she noticed was that she wasn’t at the high school. In fact, Natalie had no idea where she was.
It looked like a wide tunnel tall enough for her to stand in. The brick walls were covered in grime and scummy water ran through a deep ditch, like a stream, set in the middle of the floor. A surprisingly subtle stench permeated the air and invaded her nostrils. She was at the bottom of a tall ladder that stretched all the way to a manhole set in the ceiling above. An electric lantern set a few feet away cast all this in bright, fluorescent light, fading into darkness beyond. Her best guess was that this was some kind of sewer. Though she had no idea Central City had sewers this big.
Finally, she saw that the arm she was using to rub her head was covered in dull green scales.
She froze. Slowly, Natalie pulled her hand down in front of her face.
Sure enough, her entire arm and hand was covered in dull green scales, and her palm was covered in smooth, pale scales, like those on the underbelly of snakes. But that wasn’t all. Her elbow and knuckle joints no longer existed, instead her arm and fingers coiled like rope whenever she moved them. Her nails too were gone, leaving her fingers to end in tips like lizard tails.
Natalie’s breathe quickened and her heart beat loud in her ears.
She tried to stand, but as soon as she was sitting straight, she found that the reason her legs wouldn’t pull apart was that they couldn’t. The two limbs had been fused together into one long sinewy tail that was at least twice as long as the rest of her body. The tail too was covered in green scales, except where the front of her legs would be, there the same pale scales of her palms folded together.
At this point, Natalie was completely freaking out. She scrambled to the edge of the ditch to see the rest of her body.
“No, no, no! Pleasssse, no!” she repeated over and over, hoping against hope that the mantra would somehow change something.
Looking down into the filthy water, Natalie’s heart and hopes sank.
Yellow, slit-pupil eyes stared back at her from within the reflection of her face, which had stayed mostly the same, except for the layer of scales now covering every inch. Somehow, her long blond hair still fell straight from her scalp, and she even still had her eyebrows. However, that, her nose, and her ears were about all she had left.
Her light gray shirt, which once hugged her frame, fell loose and baggy over her now flat chest. A quick inspection showed that the pale scales from her tail continued all the way up her front until they ended just a few inches below the base of her neck. Sticking out her tongue, Natalie saw that it had become thin and forked, which accounted for the hissing whenever she spoke a word with an S in it. Opening her mouth, she saw that her teeth hadn’t changed too much, except for being a bit pointier.
She didn’t feel cold-blooded—though she had no idea how that was supposed to feel—which was a good thing considering the condition of her pants. Her jeans and shoes must have been ripped apart when her legs grew into a tail, because the pants looked like some sort of tattered dress and the shoes were nowhere to be seen.
Natalie sat stunned for a long time. What had happened to her? Why was she now some sort of snake lady? How long had she been out? Was anyone looking for her? Where was she? Who had brought her here?
As she tried to restart her brain, Natalie heard the sound of a metal scraping against concrete. She looked up to see daylight spilled in as the manhole was pried open. Had someone found her?
A figure clambered down the ladder, stopping to close the manhole behind him before he went further. Whoever, it was clambered down the ladder—the infrared of her vision making his skin look blotchy—and turned to face Natalie as he touched the ground.
Much to Natalie’s surprise, it was Daniel, and he was carrying a lunch box. As the skinny, brown haired boy saw her, he sighed and gave a relieved almost-smile.
“Oh thank God, you’re finally awake,” he said, shifting nervously. “I was afraid you might end up turning completely into a snake before waking up…Anyway, I brought you some food, since I thought you might be hungry after—”
Natalie lunged forward. She didn’t know how to use her tail to slither, but she was close enough to the boy that she was able to tackle him and pin his arms to the ground. Tears filled her eyes as fear, confusion, and anger all clashed for her attention. Daniel hit an impressively high octave as she loomed over him.
“What’ssss going on?” she screamed, her grip relaxing as tears poured down her face, but she didn’t move from her position.
Daniel’s face seemed to be trying to pale and blush at the same time—which created a bizarre heat reading.
“I-I don’t one-hundred percent know,” he stammered, eyes wide with fear and bewilderment. “I moved you here when I saw you transforming into…what you are now?”
“Why did you move me?”
“I was afraid that if authorities saw you that they’d shoot first and ask questions later. Or they’d lock you up in some sort of secret research facility.”
“Where am I now?”
“You’re in the sewer tunnels beneath my foster parents’ apartment. I often hang out down here, so I figured it was safe place to bring you…Can I get up, please?”
Natalie hesitated before awkwardly pushing herself off him and wobbling in a sort of half-sit, half-stand on her tail.
“Thanks,” Daniel said, sitting up.
“Explanation,” Natalie reminded him, “Now.”
“Right. So, remember that field trip we took in history class a few days ago to those cool man made hills?”
She hadn’t found them that impressive. They had just looked like a bunch of weird hills.
“Well,” he began, the words coming out in a rush, “while Mr. Ross was lecturing about the theories surrounding the mounds, I tripped over something buried in the ground. At first I thought it was just a rock, but when I looked back at it I saw that it had an animal carved onto it. I dug it up and found a big, clay…ball? It was covered with pictures of animals, some not even from North America. I meant to show it to Mr. Ross, but I never got a chance to talk to him alone.”
“I’m guesssing thisss ball isss what crassshed through the window.”
“How did that happen?”
“I had arranged to meet with Mr. Ross after school today to show him what I found. I was waiting for him to get out of a meeting when two guys just showed up out of nowhere. They saw the ball, snatched it up, and started playing monkey-in-the-middle with it. You can probably tell who the monkey was.”
“Ssso, let me guesss. One of them threw it a bit too hard and the other misssed. The thing crashed through the window and broke when it hit the ground.”
“That about sums it up. When I came down to see what’d happened, the ball was gone and you were unconscious, on the ground, growing scales, and turning into…well…this,” Daniel said, gesturing at her.
Natalie drew in a deep breath, ready to release hell on him.
Daniel was staring at the ground, tense and seemingly trying to shrink into himself. He looked like he was expecting her to hit him. He had obviously already been blaming himself for everything.
She remembered that he was the one who’d brought her down here. He’d been trying to keep her safe from the police and government. She didn’t have the heart to vilify him. Heck, he’d even brought her something to eat, which he would probably get in trouble for with his foster parents.
Letting out the breath in a deep sigh, Natalie slid awkwardly over to one of the curved walls of the sewer. She slumped down against it, sitting as normally as she could manage. She leaned her head back and looked up toward the manhole that Daniel had come down, the heat from the sun turning it reddish in her heat vision. It seemed so far away. She wondered if she’d have to spend the rest of her life down here, living off one boy’s kindness.
What would happen when that kindness ran out? What if he changed foster homes or got adopted elsewhere? Would she have to start eating the rats that lived down here? Would she become something like Bigfoot, with pseudo-scientists and fake news reporters forever on her tail?
Natalie’s eyes blurred as tears formed. She found strange comfort in the fact that her she could still cry.
“So…um…” Daniel said awkwardly, drawing Natalie out of her thoughts, “If you’re hungry, I brought sandwiches. I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I brought you a couple of different kinds. I like all of them, so if you don’t eat any I’ll just save them for school.”
Natalie wiped her eyes and slithered unsteadily over to the lunch box that Daniel was sifting through. She noticed that she was already getting the hang of moving around on her snake tail. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“I’ve got peanut butter and jelly,” Daniel listed, pulling out the sandwiches as he named them and setting them on a napkin, “Cheese, ham, ham and cheese, turkey, peanut butter, and bologna. Which do you want?”
Due to her rollercoaster of emotions, Natalie hadn’t noticed how absolutely famished she was till now.
“Cheessse, ham, and ham and cheessse, pleassse,” she said, her mouth watering and her new forked tongue licking her scaly lips. She immediately stopped that latter action because it felt weird in a way that sent shivers down her spine.
Daniel unwrapped the sandwiches from their clear-foil wrapping and handed them to her. She quickly took them and bit into the first one. Luckily, everything still tasted right, if a bit stronger.
“I also snuck out a big bag of chips,” Daniel said, pulling out a fiery red, plastic bag of nacho cheese flavored goodness.
“Awesome,” Natalie said, her mouth full of ham and bread. Normally, she’d try to have better manners, but considering she’d just been transformed into a snake-girl and was currently sitting in a sewer tunnel, she reckoned she could get away with being a little more crass than usual.
After opening the chips, the two of them sat back against the wall to enjoy the sandwiches. It was several minutes before either of them spoke again.
“Ssso,” Natalie said, finishing her second sandwich and leaning back to let it settle in her stomach, “what am I sssupposssed to do now?”
Daniel paused mid-chew, swallowed, and pressed his thumb to his lips in thought.
“Well,” he said, hesitantly, “We could try going to your parents and explaining this to them.”
Natalie shivered. “Are you kidding? My mom’s a cop! She’d shoot firssst, asssk quessstionsss later. My dad wouldn’t be much better. Maybe my grandma but…no, jussst no.”
“Ok. We can’t go to the authorities. We can’t go to your parents. I may have an idea of who we can go to.”
“Mr. Rosss?” Natalie asked, doubtful. “What can he do?”
“He’s an expert in weird historical things, and he’s the only person we know that wouldn’t shoot first.”
Natalie frowned. “I don’t know. Even if he didn’t try and disssect me, how can we know he wouldn’t tell sssomeone who would?”
Daniel fidgeted with his shoelaces, “Well…he’s kept a lot of secrets for me.”
Natalie was tempted to ask just what those secrets were, but there had been enough stress that day without forcing someone to reveal their soul to an almost stranger.
“Alright, we have a plan,” she said. “I guesss I’ll jussst hang out down here.”
“I’ll try to get you a bed or something.”
“You don’t have to. I can sssleep on the ground.”
“No. It’s partially my fault you ended up this way, I should at least make sure you’re comfortable while we try and sort everything out. Besides, this sewer may be abandoned but it’s still a sewer, you don’t want to sleep on the floor.”
Natalie stared at Daniel. She barely knew him. They hadn’t even spoken much during their one school project together. Yet here he was, helping her in an impossibly bizarre and huge crisis. He didn’t even seem to want anything in return.
“It’sss not your fault,” Natalie said kindly, but firmly. “If it’sss anyone’sss fault, it’sss thossse two idiotsss who ssstarted throwing around a mysssteriousss, ancient ball. I shouldn’t have been back there anyway, ssso it’sss kind of my fault too.”
“I guess it’s really no one’s fault then,” Daniel said, shrugging. “Still, I’m going to help you with this. No one should have to deal with this on their own.”
“Thank you,” she said, and she meant it with all her heart.
In the city above, things were stirring, changing. Bodies twisted into pained and unnatural shapes. Senses and teeth sharpened. Plans hatched with new life. Just beyond the sight of humans, their world was entering a new age.