Magdalene had just found out that she was a dragon. She still held the letter in her hand, the one from the Government Office of Human Affairs; the one addressed to her parents that she had intercepted in the hopes it was the credit card she had surreptitiously ordered.
The letter said that they had uncovered a clerical error and that she, one Magdalene Sylt, had inadvertently been classified as human at birth, but was, in fact, a fire-breathing, mythical creature. She would need to come to the office and register her new status. They apologized for any inconvenience caused.
On the one hand, this explained a lot about Magdalene. Her hot-headed nature, her sharp tongue. Her affinity for snakes and other reptiles. Her hatred of swords. Her iridescent, shimmery blue scales and 6-inch talons.
And now a lot of the events in her life made sense. Like the time she and John Terry went for burgers at Rosie’s diner and the soda made her burp right into John’s face. It had caused her no end of embarrassment and had also put John in the hospital with 2nd degree burns, which was a terrible thing because it had taken ages for her to live that down at school.
And we won’t even touch that time that her parents had grounded her for failing math and she had stormed off in such a huff that she’d taken out an entire village in one breath. To be fair it was only a small village and they were only known for their one prize pig that was going on 8 years old now. But once she’d calmed down, perched there at the top of the steeple, surveying the smoke and carnage and the bodies still aflame, she’d felt kind of bad about the whole thing. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t lose control like that again.
On the other hand, she had no idea what to do with this new information. She had felt a little different from her peers, that’s true, but doesn’t every 16 year old feel angsty and misunderstood?
Just then, as she was mulling over the course of her life thus far, her mother burst into her room with a load of laundry, causing Magdalene to jump almost five feet in the air.
“Mom! Jeez have you ever heard about knocking?”
“Yes, yes Mags, I’m sorry, I’m invading your privacy,” her mother replied with a roll of her eyes. “I’m only delivering all the laundry that I wash and iron for you before preparing all your food and catering to your every whim, forgive me for not knocking.”
Magdalene snorted and a short flame of fire burst from her mouth.
“What’s that you got there, something from school? Do I need to sign something?” her mother asked, pointing with her chin at the letter.
Magdalene looked down at the document in her hand.
“You didn’t raze another building to the ground did you? Your father and I have spoken to you about this Mags, our fire insurance is going through the roof and we cannot –“
“I didn’t burn anything down! Jeez, overreact much?!”
“Alright then what is it? It looks official…”
“CAN’T I KEEP ANYTHING TO MYSELF!” Magdalene yelled, fire coursing from her mouth and singing her mother’s eyebrows. “Gawd, have you heard about a thing called privacy, Mom!”
“Alright alright, no need to lose your cool,” said her mother, throwing her hands up. “But don’t come crawling over to your father and me when you need permission or money for whatever that is…not with that attitude.”
“Ugh what do you know about cool, you’re old,” Magdalene mumbled.
As her mother walked out the door, Magdalene flopped back onto her massive oak bed and read the letter again. She would need to come in and sign the form acknowledging her new classification, it said. In order to sign the form, she would need to bring in her birth certificate proving she was a dragon. As her birth certificate incorrectly classified her as human, she would first need to sign the form acknowledging her new classification before she could get a new birth certificate.
Magdalene rolled her eyes and turned onto her side. She tried to think if there’d been any indication that she wasn’t the human she’d been raised as, but as far as she knew, she was just like any other girl her age. She was Magdalene Sylt: pretty, popular (enough), member of the cheerleading squad, occasional eater of live cows and horses but who hadn’t felt the urge to hunt down a living beast and rip it to pieces to consume its still beating heart?
She’d had her series of firsts just like any other girl: her first period, at age 12, which had flooded the school halls with blood and required a massive renovation of the B wing; her first kiss, at age 15 which was largely uneventful; her first job at Minkle’s Creamery, the ice cream shop where all the kids hung out after school; and her first kill, when she’d used her talons to rip that man in two from head to crotch, but he had cornered her in an alley and had tried to put his hand up her skirt so, you know, whatever.
She was a decent student, excelling in medieval history and art, and she was the best football goalie in the region, what with her 20 foot wingspan. She had a good life. A perfectly ordinary, human life. But now the government was saying that it had all been a lie?
Magdalene huffed a puff of smoke out her nostrils. Naturally this revelation would have dire consequences. What, she thought, was this going to do to her reputation at school?
A quiet panic started to worm its way from Magdalen’s belly up into her throat.
She couldn’t tell them she was…she was…well she was basically a lizard, is what she was. She couldn’t bear it, to be so different from everyone else, to stand out so obviously. She would be ostracized. Her best frenemy, Miriam Heller, would make up some stupid nickname that would haunt the rest of her days, like Gekko Face or…or…firecrotch? She would never get asked to the September formal!
That’s it, she decided, as she got up from the bed. She was going to go to the Government of Human Affairs and tell them they had made a mistake and they needed to re-register her as human. She’d just explain her situation and about school and everything; it couldn’t be that hard?
Magdalene crumpled the letter in her backpack and stormed out her bedroom and past her mother in the kitchen.
“Where are you going, Magdalene?”
“I have study group for a history test, at Deniece’s.”
“Oh alright well, dinner’s at seven thirty so make sure you’re back by then,” said her mother. “Your father’s bringing home your favourite: goat! We’ll give it a 15 minute head start this time, you caught that last one so quickly.”
Magdalene closed her eyes for a second with her hand on the doorknob. She loved goat. They were nimble and fast and her appetite was always raging by the time she caught them. She looked at her watch – it was 5pm. She wasn’t exactly sure where the Government Office was, which meant she’d have to take the bus. It would be at least 20 minutes each way. Could she make it there and back in time for dinner?
She thought about the last time she was at a government office to get her driver’s license: she’d been there three hours before her name was called, just staring at the depressing, gray, peeling walls since you weren’t allowed to use phones in government buildings. They’d had a problem classifying her eye colour — which, for the record, was ‘the burning gold of a thousand firey suns’ – and it had taken another two hours to convince the sour-faced official to simply write ‘hazel’ on the form.
All of a sudden, she didn’t think it would be so easy to talk them out of her new classification and put things back the way they were. Not in, what, less than two hours? And she knew, as everyone does — even teenagers — that the people who worked at these government offices were the worst kind of people: no sympathy, no empathy, no heartbeat. She would never convince them to do what she wanted them to do. They wouldn’t care about how this would affect her chances of being Homecoming Queen next year, or that she would surely be dropped from the cheerleading squad if news spread.
And if they didn’t listen, and she was made to sign the form, well then it would be on record, wouldn’t it? Magdalene Sylt: dragon.
But there was a way, wasn’t there, to keep the status quo? There was a way she could keep her new status just her little secret. Sure, it would make her parents’ insurance premiums go up, but that was the least of her worries. And she’d promised herself she wouldn’t do it again…but being Homecoming Queen was at stake!
If the Government Office of Human Affairs went up in smoke, so would all her worries.
Magdalene smiled a little smile and stood a little straighter. She’d take care of it the best way she knew how and be back in time to hunt her dinner.