I am greater than myself. Greater than myself from a second ago, greater than anybody I know.
It's a nice thing to think. I don't need to do anything. I can stew in my own stupid thoughts and become better. An internal discussion with myself.
I still resented my friend from school, they changed their name recently.
My eyes felt like they'd been smeared with vaseline. Their status update blurring away.
I'd promised myself that I'd do something today, but half an hour had already gone. I needed to be up early for the morning shift. I stood, blood rushed to my head. I expected the cycle to continue again tomorrow.
It was cold, so I put on my big coat. I descended the stairs to the main hallway of my apartment, floor tiles reflecting dimmed bulbs. I opened the door and headed out onto the city streets. Routine, the word rattled in my skull. It flows like bog water. I passed the same buildings and the same streets. Nobody is out this early, except for battered public servants like me. Worker elves keeping the city running when nobody else is awake.
It was windier than usual, a cold bite running through the troughs of the city. It carried a smell far worse than anything I usually smelt in my morning walk. It was wet, like a bout of rain onto a summer pavement. But it was winter, and it was a stench that even an experienced waste worker could pick up on. I paused in place, I didn't need to clock in for an hour anyway...
I turned right into unfamiliar ground. I'd been here before, obviously, I'd been everywhere in this city at some point. All high end cafes and tourist traps, the parked cars probably worth more than my life so far. The smell grew stronger. I felt like a bloodhound tracking down a fox or something. I could hear something, an uncomfortable rumble that shook my bones. It sounded like a dying car engine. It grew louder, and louder, until I came across an alleyway, like any other you could find in the city. I turned the corner and stopped. A gigantic yellow eye stared at me, black slit pulsating with pumped blood.
It was all teeth and no smile. A terrible maw of one thousand teeth. It blew a hot gust of rancid wind in my direction, nearly bowling me off of my feet. What kind of thing was this? Had I failed to wake up that morning? Were these the dying synapses of a coma fried brain?
It moved, unrestricted by the buildings to each side of it. It passed through them like they weren't even there. Yet still, its smell and its sound pierced my senses. A crown of horns spiraled away from it's elongated skull. A creature this large could easily tower over most of the buildings in the city.
"What manner of waste rolls to my feet?" the beast asked. It moved closer, I stepped back. "Ah, another son of man... yet still you can see."
"W-what the hell?"
"A pressing question, the pondering of a mere rat, stuck in a maze. Such as you are, yet you still see. What manner of dreg are you?"
"As if that were a way to define your existence? A name is of no use. I have one hundred."
It took me a moment to decipher the creature's odd way of speaking, "C-could you give me one?"
The dragon... laughed? A rumble that shook the ground but didn't damage anything around it. "I am Arteus, the unflinching eye, the wish granter, the fetid wyrm. But what value is a name, surely you will forget me soon enough."
"I don't... think so." I responded.
"A man of your sight should not be surprised. What a strange creature you are, have you not seen the unseen in this place before?"
"I can safely say, that I've never seen any dragons, no."
The dragon's scales shifted into an inhuman mockery of a smile. "Curious. As I speak however, there are a million more occurrences stranger than this. Do you think you are special?"
I shook my head.
"You are the other then, you wish to be special. Like all living beings, the haves and the have-nots continue their dance."
"Why are you... here?"
"I slip between worlds like a mortal switches clothing, in search of something that I do not know myself. Entertainment perhaps, to see the width of the life that exists beneath my claws." The dragon closed in, ever closer and closer. It was going to eat me, this great and terrible thing was going to eat me. He stops, as if reconsidering.
"You can see. You can see. You can see," he repeats, three times as if delirious. He smiles again, "You can see."
"See... See what?"
"Me, and others. I present you with a choice, Rat, dreg of man. I shall allow you to escape this maze temporarily. I will see everything that you are and then more. There will be only honesty between us. I will teach you the way of things that escape the minds of mortals. Satisfy my curiosity and we shall yet be friends."
I wasn't in any position to refuse this... thing. "And what does that entail?"
"Tail, tail, tail," he leans back and faces the morning sky, horns crested against the building peaks. "Tail. I shall give you a tail. It will improve your balance. You will become a balanced dreg, what kind of rat does not have a tail? It is obvious."
"A tail?" I didn't understand.
"I will grant you sight. This encounter is the first of many. Take your tail and go, dreg. Nobody will think anything of your absence so long as my presence continues. Explore your maze. For my amusement. This is what you wish for. I will give you it, for now." It's wicked claw reached forwards and tapped me on the chest. Darkness.
My sleep was restless. I awoke.
My worries about being fired were quickly replaced; with the sight of blunt limbs. I stood and tumbled down onto four legs.
"What in the fucking hell in this?" My reflection trembled in the nearest shop window, the reflection of a small, multi-colored horse.