Derrick had never seen a forest that looked so scary. To him, most forests were pretty spooky at night, but this one was on an entirely different level. Trees extending out forever into the murky blackness of the night, a low fog covering knotted roots embedded into the ground and hiding any creatures waiting to prey on him. It didn’t help that it was the day before Halloween, and getting closer to midnight.
His phone was his only comfort on the outskirts of the forest. His friends were supposed to meet him here, off the side of the road close to a bus stop. He decided the best thing to do was text them some more, maybe this time they’d respond.
He typed out a message, fingers shaking but still complying with his will: Hey guys you said to meet today not actual Halloween right? Send. He knew it was today, and he reaffirmed that with a few scrolls up many times over the past few minutes, but they could have changed it on him. He wouldn’t complain. As long as his friends were having fun, he was too. That relaxed mindset caused Derrick to get into a lot of altercations, but he did his best to forgive and forget.
Elsewhere, the two people Derrick thought of as best friends were out at a party, enjoying themselves. They had felt their phones vibrate many times throughout the night, but looked at each other and wordlessly agreed to act like they were only feeling the deep bass from the speakers or another person grinding up on them. It was when they were trying to get some drinks and pick up some girls that they finally had to respond.
“Who’s that, Alexander?” Said one of the girls Derrick’s acquaintance hoped to sleep with by the end of the day.
“Oh, nobody. Just some old friend from high school. He won’t just shut up though, god.” Alexander replied, hating that the message diverted conversation away from his rehearsed accomplishments and funny stories. His wingman, Terry, was wooing some chick of his own, so things were starting to look pretty bad for him.
“Were you planning on doing something with him?” She asked, reading through the screen of messages receives without seeing any sent back.
“With that guy? No way. We borrowed some money from him since his parents were stacked to get that company off the ground, but we’ve been stuck with him since then. Hate that guy.”
“Just a leech off his parents?” She said with disgust. “I hate those guys too.” She pushed up against him and took the phone out of his hands. He let it happen, glad to already get somewhat intimate. Or at least, as intimate as one could get at a party. Eventually, she started typing out a response, but Alexander barely noticed—he was busy looking over her body.
Derrick’s phone buzzed about fifteen minutes after he got the text. Just go in man, we’ll catch up eventually. He was starting to get cold, and he didn’t want the trip out there to be for nothing, so he decided to just go for it for once. Besides, he argued, the whole point of the excursion was to get scared, so going in alone should be even better for him. He opened up the compass app on his phone and sent a quick text back to his two best friends: Alright, heading north from the meetup. See you soon. Without any more preparation, he leapt into the forest before he could reconsider.
Away from any streetlights, it was darker than he thought it could be. Eventually it got so bad that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his own face, so he turned on the flashlight on his cell phone. He’d already wasted a lot of battery trying to talk to either of his friends, so he wanted to be conservative with the juice he had left. He turned the brightness down as much as it could go, preparing himself for the long haul. Derrick was enjoying himself a good amount though— he felt like there was something peaceful and solemn about being all by yourself in the wilderness, with only the bugs and the birds to comfort you.
His eyes were starting to adapt to the limited light he had around him, and he decided that he was having a good time after all. It was a nice break from the company and all his time spent indoors coding their website and all the templates they sell to consumers and businesses alike. Out in the wild, there was no company, no businesses, and no civilization. Sure, it was more dangerous, but now he liked to think of it as more exciting. Sure, he couldn’t share his experiences with anyone, since none of his friends showed up yet, but that just meant that he didn’t have to worry about what they’d think of him. He didn’t have to worry about anything.
Then his phone ran out of battery, leaving Derrick isolated and deprived of everything in the perfect darkness.
He was almost excited. Almost. He’d really get to see what life away from all that modern technology would be like. He waited for his eyes to adjust for a while, until he realized that there was absolutely no light there. It was a new moon, and the thick mesh of leaves above blocked any stars from sending down rays of hope.
Suddenly he would give anything for something he knew was safe around him, instead of the frightening calls of predators throughout the forest. He was intensely worried about his own safety, and couldn’t care less about what everyone would think of him when he got out. It felt like the trees were closing in on him. He turned around immediately, trying to head out of the forest, but he couldn’t know if he was heading in the right direction or not. He had nothing to get his bearings on, and fumbled around blind leaning against trees for any speck of data about his surroundings.
He started sprinting now, getting restless. Leaning against trees wouldn’t help any; he’d never be able to go anywhere and would probably just walk in circles. He picked up speed. If his phone hadn’t run out of battery, he could’ve just left as easily as he came in… why didn’t he just bring his battery pack?
He slammed into a thick tree, cutting himself on the rough bark and falling quickly back to the ground with a thud. He knew why he didn’t bring his battery pack: he assumed he’d have friends there with him as a backup. Now he just hated himself. Derrick regretted that he would ever assume his friends were going in after him, and screamed curses at them in the night. If he was being honest with himself, and put away all the things he told himself to stay positive and happy, somewhere deep inside, he knew they weren’t really his friends, and that he wasn’t really their friends. But as he kept up the charade, so did they, and now he was paying the price for it.
He shook on the ground, balling up and starting to cry. The reality of the situation was starting to unfold in front of him. He could start to see newspaper articles about the boy reported missing 11/3, but since nobody really cared about him, no one would send search parties. No one would find his body, emaciated and eventually decomposing, becoming food for fungi and some scavengers who were able to survive out in the deep woods. He would die as he lived— alone. The breathtaking finality of these thoughts sent his mind reeling, and he couldn’t stop the tears from gushing forth like a river.
At that moment, when his emotions finally fought their way out, a glowing blue light appeared in front of him.
Of course, Derrick thought he was hallucinating. The flickering cyan flame in front of him was too perfect, like a rendering in a game engine. The glow it radiating from it was comforting to him though, and he was happy that he could see again at least. He decided not to question it (he wasn't sure if he wanted to acknowledge his insanity), and walked towards it a bit to get a closer look. It extinguished right as he got near it, and another one lit up a few meters away. He approached that one too, and it did the same thing. More and more lights led him through the forest one by one.
He realized how dreamlike and surreal this was. But at the same time, he didn’t have any other options, and the soft blue glow coupled with the warmth that seemed to penetrate his entire being felt so nice. So he continued his march deeper into the forest, almost in a trace. Eventually, the dense trees opened up to a murky lake with lots of mist hovering over the surface. The flares led him to the shore, and he sat by it. He didn’t want to go swimming and get hypothermia, anyway. Right when he sat down, countless of those blue flames appeared over the lake. The many lights shone brighter than any of the streetlamps on the outside of the forest. It was almost like it was daytime again, other than the fact that everything was bathed in an eerie blue hue instead of a natural tone.
He felt a voice speaking to him from what felt like inside him: Hello. Derrick looked around, trying to find a source, but only saw the now a little frightening blue flames burning indefinitely over the water. It is us, the spirits of the forest, the powerful voice said again, shaking Derrick’s entire being. He decided he would try to talk back in response.
“Spirits? Are you guys the blue flames?”
Yes, we are. This forest has become home to many lost souls, people in much the same position you were in.
If it was coming from anything other than magical ghostly flames, Derrick probably would have laughed and been delighted that he finally found a well-done Halloween prank. “Shoot, so all of you guys were once just people who got ditched by their friends too? Do you know the way out?”
We know more. Our minds have expanded over the long centuries, and we have become something greater than what any one of us could have been. Together.
Together. These had to be spirits, because they knew exactly where they needed to press him to get a response. Or maybe they were just good at reading open books like the majority of the people Derrick met.
“So… are you guys like a hive mind or a collective or whatever now? I don’t mean to disrespect your… power or anything, don’t get me wrong, but it all is a little creepy.”
Nothing like that. All of us are still the people we once were, just enhanced through the passage of time and the wisdom and knowledge eons gift you. We have chosen to transcend our mortal limits, to help forsaken brothers like you and countless others.
“Help? Could you just point me out of here. I think I’ve had enough experience out in the real world for my lifetime.”
That would be possible for us. We would temporarily force your consciousness to shut down and lift you outside of our domain. It would be almost instantaneous for you.
“Yeah, that sounds pretty great right now. Can you take me home too or should I call my other stupid friends after?”
If you so desire, it would be easy for us to do so. Please consider that you’d be passing up on the opportunity of a lifetime. No, the opportunity of eternity. We don’t just offer power, we offer much more important things... Our companionship will never forsake you.
That sounded great to Derrick right now, after being stood up. For some reason, he also felt a strange and compelling desire to agree with the ghosts. They hadn’t done anything wrong to him yet. In fact, judging by actions, they were some of the nicest things he had ever met.
“So what does accepting that offer entail?”
You will become one of us. Not just one of us, but our leader, as I am now. Able to command the energies of all those who have come before and contribute to all those who come after, as a limitless guardian of those who have no brothers to call upon.
“I…” Derrick started. The offer sounded amazing, if he wasn’t lying to himself. He wouldn't even need his company anymore, if he became this supernatural being that was never alone and never needy. He couldn’t shake the growing friendliness he was feeling towards the flames too. That initial desire had only taken root and bloomed in his mind ever since he really started to consider it.
If he said yes, he would have to give up on the life he had. Honestly, he wasn’t opposed to that though. He had thought about spontaneously moving away or even committing suicide a few times before. It just felt sometimes like there was no way out. He did a good job of pushing the creeping thoughts that Alexander and Terry were pushing him way past his breaking point for their own gain away for a while, until they all caught up with him in the forest. Coming to a conclusion, he decided that there really wasn’t anything that he wanted to keep in his life until now.
And screw it, he reasoned, I was spontaneous before, there’s no way this could be any worse. “I accept.”
Just like that, the fires surged towards him and engulfed his body, completely encapsulating him. Their warm blue turned into a blinding white, and the soft heat turned into an inescapable burning throughout his entire being.
“AAAAGGGHHHHH!!!” Derrick couldn’t hold back the violent scream erupting from his body. The fire made quick work of his clothes, which would leave him freezing or embarrassed if it wasn’t for the unbearable hotness inside of him. He fell forward from his calm sitting position on the ground and into the water with a loud splash. He started to spasm as he fell deeper under the water and the bubbles started to drown out his screams.
He spared a glance towards the vast depths still underneath him and caught sight of his legs too. Just then, the pain flared up to unimaginable levels for just a moment, and then died back down. His legs were still a little difficult to see, but it seemed like the brightness was fading. He could feel the unbearable heat become more manageable as well. When the flames died down enough and he was finally able to get a clear view of them, he almost hurled. His soft, pink legs had been replaced by those of a monsters’! They were covered in midnight blue scales that almost blended in with the water around him, if it wasn’t for the slight ghostly glow they exuded. They had reshaped into a digitigrade stance, like a dog’s, and bulked up tremendously. Some of his toes had merged, creating a new footprint with only three tips instead of five. Most strikingly to him, he saw that each of those three toes was capped by a lance of a talon, extending out way past his foot and viciously pointed.
His silent screams got more desperate as the pain in his torso flared up. Just like before, after the flare, it gradually lessened into a gentle heat following that flare. He watched as the flames receded and inky blue scales took their place. His abdominals gained a lot of muscle, becoming cleanly defined for the first time instead of almost visible. Similarly, his pectorals seemed to perk up, losing the little bit of sagginess it got after years coding without much exercise. He felt a bit of pressure in his tailbone, and twisted his body to look at it. Once he could see it, he watched as a new limb extended out, creating new muscles and nerves were there weren’t any before. His new tail was thick and sturdy, and still completely covered by his scales. In a brief moment of reprieve and innocence, he wanted to spin it around and enjoy it, but was instantly reminded of his situation by another pulse of pain, this time in his arms.
Once the pain started to lessen, he saw the scales continue to proceed in covering his entire body. After another few moments, the scales had finished their work on his arms, and he got to watch more muscle fill in. Then, he grunted as his spine bent sharply, forcing him into an animalistic stance. His arms and legs quickly reoriented themselves to face down, or whatever direction would be beneath Derrick had he not been spinning aimlessly in the water. His fingers merged into thicker digits like his toes, and those same long claws grew out of them. He was starting to recognize that he was turning into some kind of terror of the night, and that what used to be his arms would now be his forelegs.
His screaming continued, crying out for anything to give him his old peaceful life back, as the world around him continued to silence him.
The only pain left was in his head, and he felt one last flash of pain. Right on cue, the scales marched up his neck, but as they did, it elongated further and further. Eventually the scales caught up to it, but not after his neck was stretched out like a snake’s. His hair fell out, falling further down into the water, and the scales didn’t hesitate to cover his head and face. His teeth followed, falling out to make room for teeth much larger and sharper than anything a human should’ve had. His eyes tickled as his irises and pupils were replaced by just the pearly white sclera. This didn’t impede his vision at all somehow; he swore his vision might have even improved. His mouth pushed out into a snout, leaving his nose to flatten out to just a few slits tipping it.
Finally, bony spikes shot out of his body from the base of his neck all the way to the tip of his tail. Intimidating and fierce horns curved out of what were now his temples, moving back, swooping down, and ending pointed up. With that, the pain finally died down, and he instinctively pushed up to the surface, thrusting his whole body and using his tail like a natural.
He burst out of the lake, and thudded back down to the shore. He was stunned, unable to process all the changes that happened to him. “What… the hell. I don’t know what to say.”
Your gratuity will suffice.
“WOAH! Don't do that, man! That scared me… I forgot you guys were still here.”
We’ll always be here. We are one with you.
“Okay, that! That’s what I’m worried about! I don’t know who the hell you guys are and you somehow just turned me into this monster forever it seems like, and now I’m just stuck with you? I didn’t ask for this!!” Derrick screamed, still recovering from the shock of his new body and trying not to completely panic.
No, we offered it. And you accepted.
“You didn’t mention you were turning me into some kind of freak lizard! You said I’d just be one of you guys. A flame or whatever, just chilling. Someone with real friends.” Derrick stated, mood gradually shifting from anger to simple regret. “All I wanted was friends. How I am I supposed to make any if they can’t even look at me?”
We will never abandon you. You are not limited to this form either: you’re a being of pure energy now, you can choose how you manifest. This wingless but nevertheless undoubtedly draconian form just came naturally to you, I suppose.
“I could manifest as myself again? And just go home?”
…Yes. However, attempting that level of control is quite dangerous right now, with your level of experience. You have all of eternity to become accustomed to your new existence, don’t push yourself too hard.
“Shoot… I really do live forever?”
That is correct, we are completely immortal.
“I can’t even kill myself?”
The only way for us to terminate our collective existence would be for every soul to consent to being disbanded. That is extremely unlikely unless the world implodes or a similar catastrophic event were to take place.
“What’s even the point of going back to my old life then?” Derrick wondered, unthinkingly growling a bit under his breath. “All I’d get to do is watch as the people I used to call friends live a nice happy life and eventually die off as I continue alone forever.”
You’re not alone. Thinking that will only serve to depress you.
Tears started to form on the edges of Derrick’s eyes, and gradually fell down to the bottom of his muzzle. He would never be able to find happiness in human society. “Can I just sleep for a bit and let my subconscious figure it all out?”
If you wish. However, it would be wise to make the most of All Hallow's Eve, that’s when our power is naturally greatest. Should you wish, it wouldn’t be difficult to change your form tonight. Most other times of the year, someone without the years of experience and practice we’ve all accrued throughout our centuries would have immense trouble even maintaining a corporeal body.
The teardrops slipped off his muzzle and into the lake, rippling out until he couldn’t see it anymore. Now he was a part of something greater that would last forever. “…Alright, I’ll suck it up until midnight. Then I’m going into hibernation while I figure this all out, so help me God.”
Just probe our minds for any information you may be curious about. We will always be with you.
Still wondering about the scope of his powers, Derrick tried to ask the spirits for help. He didn’t get any more responses. After a quick session flicking his tail back and forth for a bit, he decided to try looking inside himself, like the spirit said.
Derrick tried to calm down and focus. His breath was still shaky, and his head was swimming with everything he had been presented with over the past few hours. He visualized the lake, choppy and splashing up against the shore. As he calmed his breathing and thought soothing thoughts, he pictured the water calming down. His breathing deepened, and eventually, the water was still. He gazed into it, looking beneath the surface for any hints of information. He could occasionally see glimmers of light, of all colors. A peaceful green, fearsome red, a timid yellow. He felt such strong feelings of joyfulness, ferocity, and sorrow emanating from them that it became instantly clear what they were: the spirits. Eventually, some bubbles floated to the surface, and once they got there his understanding immediately grew. He had received a thought from one of the spirits, for sure, and he knew it because it felt unmistakably… real. It was seamlessly integrated into his movements and thoughts just upon breaching the surface.
His body glowed brighter, and levitated a few feet off the ground.
The thought felt like it was him from years ago, way before he could have ever possibly been born. His horns were smaller, body much less intimidating and strong. He remembered just how to persuade his body to really become like energy, stopping gravity from holding him down. He floated up a bit higher, like he had done it many times. In a way, he had, and was just now remembering.
He phased through the canopy of leaves without any resistance. His was massless now, trading his smooth hard scales for that blue energy that made up the flames, and directed himself upward as easily as he could walk. He flew free, staring up above at the sky he never knew could be so beautiful, covered in glistening stars. For the second time that night, he was beginning to forget about his doubts and trepidations temporarily and enjoy himself.
That’s when he heard his friends down below.
“Where did that little shit run off to?”
“I dunno Alexander. Maybe you should call your broad for help.”
“Please, you know how it is.”
“Just a one-night fling!” Alexander and his Terry said in unison before bursting out in some healthy laughing. Terry was the first one to speak again.
“We really should find that guy though, without any fresh code we’re bust.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s the issue with trying to run a website business when you don’t know a thing about websites. It’ll still look good for later employers though at least.”
“Yeah, we’re totally fine. Still, I don’t want him dead on our hands.”
“Not our hands! It was all that little bitch when she took my phone. I even texted him to get outta here. I wouldn’t just screw all our prospects of profits over like that dude.”
“No signal, retard. Why are you even the head of the company…?”
“Because you were too much of a pussy to talk back!”
“Oh please, you’re the real idiot.”
Derrick watched from above as the two continued to bicker. He couldn’t help but think,
|My latest short story! Ghostly dragon TF!!|
Some guy who's into writing stories about scaley stuff.
Don't hesitate to talk to me, although I'm pretty busy so I may not get back to you super fast. I got into this because I wanted to write the best TF stories I could, and stories that no body else had really done before. I want to keep pushing myself to become the best author I can be. I hope we can all enjoy each other!