Friday, July 14, 2017

The Shipley Situation

25.

"I'm just confused Gilbert." Doris had stopped Gilbert at the door and had been rattling on about the not bigfoot ursa all morning.

"Old woman had called the ursa to help her people, it didn't and so she revoked its permission to be here, and so it went back to wherever they go."

"No I got that, but where was the bigfoot?" Gilbert sighed, this was Doris's usual routine. She'd think it was one kind of monster, it would turn out to be another type, and then she'd prattle on about what happened to the real monster.

"There wasn't a big foot, it was an Ursa, I told you this several times."

"Gilbert don't dismiss this, this is just like on Mountain Monsters when they..." Doris was cut off by an overweight sweating man in a suit barging in to the office. He looked to be barely over five feet tall and sweating more than the outside weather would suggest he'd need to sweat.

"Can I help you sir?" Gilbert tried to be polite, though the man's face betrayed he was not going to be met with kindness in return.

"Who own's this shit hole?" Gilbert was already perturbed, his office had its problems, but he did not view it as a shit hole.

"Shit hole? Are you insulting my place of business?"

"Get the boss I'm not talking to the hired help." Doris looked to Gilbert who she could tell was about to leap over the desk and attack the smaller man. Gilbert who had been slouching to speak with Doris now stood up to his full height and peered down at the sweaty man with a look that had frozen monsters to their core, he figured it would work on a sweaty asshole without issue.

"Hired help? Sir I own this establishment, its GD Exterminators, and I'm GD." The little man did not seem to be afraid at all.

"So you're the asshole who has kidnapped my daughter!" The little man approached and stabbed a finger into Gilbert's stomach.

"You call everyone who employs your daughter a kidnapper? And as I recall from when she came to me Mr. Shipley you and your wife cut her off from funding, she was broke and had no where to go." Gilbert tried to control the amount of anger he felt at Shipley, at the very least not to harm his relationship with Clarissa.

"You also have her living with you, probably in sin."

"Get out of my business, do not return."

"This is america Dunkley I can do..." Gilbert snatched the shorter man up like a parent dealing with a petulant toddler. He took Mr. Shipley outside and dumped him on the pavement. "I'm going to call the sheriff!"

"Do it, he and I will have a nice laugh at you." Gilbert went back in and locked the door behind him, he heard Shipley pounding on it for a time and then just the shouting after. Doris watched the door expecting Shipley to come bursting on through it.

"What about our legitimate customers?"

"How often do they walk in the front door? Besides it'll get hot today, he'll go somewhere else and stew while he waits for the sheriff."

"Where is Clarissa today anyway?"

"Looking at some apartments, buying some clothes, she gave me some shit about what happened in Montana so I gave her the day off to do some stuff."

"I never get days..."

"Doris you took three weeks off in January and nother two weeks in May, I got no patience for this argument." Doris looked down at her keyboard shamed by Gilbert's memory. "If anyone who doesn't get days off round here, its me, and that's fine I like working, last time I took time off was to attend a funeral I didn't want to be at."

"You think the Sheriff will give you any shit for dumping him on the sidewalk?"

"Can't imagine he will, but I didn't vote for him, maybe he'll hold that against me."

****

"Gilbert he's really upset." The sheriff took three hours to arrive, but did so in force with five deputies in tow.

"I'm upset that racist asshole assumed I was the help, and threatened me in my place of business." The deputies were waiting outside, Gilbert wouldn't let them inside. He liked the thought of them having to be in the heat and not currently bothering him.

"Just apologize to him, he's a big man in town Gilbert."

"Pruitt this is the exact reason I didn't vote for your ass, I'm not going to kiss his ass, and I'm not going to fire his daughter. If Shipley wants to talk he knows what he did now leave if you aren't charging me."

"You're such an asshole Dunkley." Sheriff Pruitt went outside and talked to an irate Shipley who screamed about pressing charges. Gilbert smiled at the Sheriff telling him he couldn't do it, eventually they left no one happy.

"That's going to come back to bite us in the ass." Doris was eating her lunch while the whole play occurred in front of her.

"I should run for Sheriff, asshole like Pruitt don't deserve the badge."

"You're out of town too much to be sheriff."

"As if Pruitt actually does the job."

"Gilbert."

"Fine fine Doris I won't run for sheriff, just tell me when Clarissa gets here so that we can talk about her dad."

"Can I..."

"No." Gilbert walked back to his office and tried to think of a delicate way to deal with Mr. Shipley that didn't involve angering the young Ms Shipley.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ursal Negotiations

24.

They heard the gunfire first. Little pops at first, like the beginning of a rain storm, and then a full on down pour of arms. Gilbert could make out the differences in sound and knew generally how badly Vasilly's men were doing with the Ursa. To Clarissa it just sounded loud, all sound and scaryness. She clutched the bow tight as they moved toward the gunfire which seemed like a bad idea. As they approached the gun fire the sound stopped, and it got eerily quiet. Gilbert held out a hand telling Clarissa to stop, she almost hoped he'd tell her to turn around and forget this whole thing, but he then waved her forward and they moved ever closer to where the sound had been coming from. They eventually came to what had become a clearing. The battle had cost several men their lives, their broken bodies were arranged in a rough half circle around the Ursa. It was standing in the middle of the clearing, one of the mercenaries bodies held loosely from its jaw. When Clarissa and Gilbert emerged it spit the man out and collapsed to all fours.

"We come in peace." Gilbert had his hands up, Clarissa kept her bow in her hands she was too afraid to let it go.

"You smell of dragon." The creature snarled, it kind of surprised Clarissa it spoke.

"I'd imagine I smell of a lot of things."

"The girl with her bow, she thinks it will protect her, it will not. I have killed many men today, why should I not kill you?"

"Because I don't want you to." The ursa laughed, the laugh shook the ground.

"And I should listen to you why?"

"Men will not allow a monster to live here, you know this, you know you have to leave, what you have killed today will not stop them, the man who leads these men has others, they are coming for you and eventually they will win and you will be dead."

"Maybe I want to be dead, maybe I want to kill as many of you disgusting creatures before coming to my death, a glorious death against you filth, rather than a slow one as you eliminate my home and choke my skys." Gilbert could see the sadness in the Ursa's eyes. He had run across monsters like this in the past, and they were some of the most dangerous.

"If death is what you want, I can bring you to that." This caused the creature to laugh again.

"One man and a scared woman? You see the destruction around you? Only a fraction of my power."

"We are exterminators by trade creature, and you are no more deadly than any other I have faced and slayed." Gilbert had taken out his pistol. Clarissa followed his lead and notched an arrow even though her hands were shaking and she doubted she'd be able to hit the Ursa despite its size. The ursa rose up on its hind legs and roared.

"ENOUGH!" The new voice was an older woman, Gilbert and Clarissa turned to look at her. Behind her was Chief and Ted Brightwater. "I revoke your invitation creature, back to whence you came."

"You have no power over me woman." But the creatures snarl was lowered, its ferocity subdued.

"I REVOKE YOUR INVITATION!" She punctuated it by slamming her foot in the ground and the Ursa was gone. Clarissa relaxed and then accidentally shot her arrow, which lead to a nervous laugh from everyone present. Chief Brightwater and the woman walked back from wherever they had come from. Ted remained looking smug with himself.

"So that debt I owe you is over right?" Gilbert had taken his pipe out.

"Nope, Ted saving me once does not wipe out all the times I saved your ass."

"That was an Ursa!"

"Yep big and scary, but still doesn't count for more than one Ted."

"Should have let it eat you Gilbert."

"Maybe you should have Ted, I'll be seeing you." Gilbert walked back to the van with Clarissa leading the way happy to be leaving Montana.

"Home please."

"I'm sure I can find another job here, one that actually..."

"HOME NOW."

"Ok ok I got it I got it." Gilbert smiled for the first time in what felt like a long time and Clarissa leaned her seat back hoping to wake up back in Washington and put this whole trek behind her.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chief Don'tCare

23.

"Camping near an Ursa, brave even for someone like you Gilbert." Ted Brightwater was a short slightly overweight guy with short blonde hair. The hair threw Clarissa she didn't know native americans to have blonde hair. His clothing was like a middle manager at an office, just a button up shirt and some khakis. Behind him was who she assumed was the chief, a polar opposite to Ted. He was very tall, with long black hair and his clothing was more what people traditionally thought of as native american, leather vest over button up shirt and some kind of hide pants. He looked very old to Clarissa, despite his size she was surprised he was still mobile.

"Was hoping it would swing in for a cook out, Chief you look well." The chief just nodded and said something in a language Clarissa didn't understand to Ted.

"Didn't know you had a new white person."

"Well I don't collect them Ted I employ them." The Chief said something else and Ted frowned.

"Chief said he'll talk when she's not around." Gilbert looked at Clarissa, looked back at Ted and then shook his head.

"Well it was nice seeing you two, I guess I'll do this shit on my own." Ted looked shocked by Gilbert's statement, Clarissa was too, she figured it was more important to kill the Ursa than spare her feelings.

"You didn't have an issue when it was Charlie."

"I did have an issue, racism is racism Ted, and I don't need the old man's help if this is the cost."

"You're firm on this."

"I'm firm on this Ted, sorry to waste your time." The Chief laughed, he had a deep rumbling laugh.

"It's ok Ted I was just seeing if I could fuck with him, the girl is fine."

"You're screwing with me old man with an ursa running around?"

"Lots of nasty things going around Mr. Dunkley, but I'm old and almost done with my time here, let me have my fun." Gilbert was visibly upset, but it didn't seem to bother the Chief. Ted just shrugged, a symptom of having dealt with his dying fathers eccentricities for years.

"So this ursa."

"It's a spirit of the woods, not normally harmful unless its disturbed, probably what's happening here, some assholes putting up a housing complex in a place they should leave alone."

"What can I do to stop it?" The Chief leaned back, chewed on his lip, and then smiled.

"Nothing, it can't be stopped if its upset, it'll do what it'll do Mr. Dunkley, just leave." It was not the answer Gilbert wanted.

"Why come out here to tell me you can do nothing to help?"

"Always wanted to see an Ursa, figured this would be my chance." Gilbert got up to leave. He already felt stupid for having called Brightwater, now more so.

"Well thanks for the no assistance."

"Good luck on not getting eaten." Ted went to say something to Gilbert as he was leaving, but he was having none of it. Clarissa barely got in the van before Gilbert drove away.

"That was fucking useless, god damn old man wasting my time."

"What do we do Gilbert?"

"Plan B."

"Which is?"

"Try and talk to the damn thing, and if it won't talk, well then I've got some shit that can kill most things, we try that." Clarissa didn't say anything, clearly Gilbert was upset and she knew it was best to just let him be angry. Still talking to the huge creature they'd seen wasn't very reassuring. Especially not with Chief's insistence they could do nothing against the creature.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Unhappy Camper

22.

"I hate camping." Clarissa heard the branch before it smacked her in the face. Gilbert for all his ability to kill monsters was a terrible path finder, he kept going through paths and leaving the branches to hit Clarissa. She knew she already had some welts near her eyes and at least one scratch.

"It's not camping it's work, don't you enjoy the wilderness?"

"Nope, I like the city, I like buildings and lights, I hate nature."

"I just don't understand you young people."

"It's not a young people thing, its a me thing, don't generalize."

"Well you picked a bad industry to join if you hate the wilderness."

"I'm beginning to suspect that." Gilbert hadn't found anything yet. He kept looking for bear signs, but was coming up empty. Clarissa figured a bear would leave a fairly large trail to follow, but according to Gilbert they were fairly good at covering their tracks. Gilbert hadn't brought a lot of gear with him, just some bear spray and his revolver. Clarissa had her bow though she suspected against bears or bigfoot it wouldn't do that good.

"Why are we out here looking for this bear? Shouldn't we let Vasilly and his idiots handle it?"

"No, those morons are more likely to hurt someone than they are to stop either bear or bigfoot, we're out here to make sure everyone goes home."

"I just feel silly we aren't being paid, we don't even have..."

"Quiet!" Gilbert grabbed Clarissa by the mouth and pulled her close to a tree. The creature that they almost ran into looked far too big to be a bear, and also not human enough to be a bigfoot. Like some kind of combination of both. It seemed to be unaware of Gilbert and Clarissa, its mind occupied by some other task. Gilbert visibly relaxed as it moved further away from them.

"What is that?"

"An Ursa."

"Isn't that just another way of saying bear." Gilbert looked at Clarissa with a glare.

"Or its not."

"We'll need some help here, I didn't bring anything that can take down that, and I doubt Vasilly did either." They ran to the van. Gilbert had it started before Clarissa could even ask what could take down such a monster. Soon as they weren't near the woods Gilbert parked and took his phone out.

"Ted Brightwater."

"Brightwater? What happened to Ted Salmon?"

"Ted Salmon didn't get as many rich white ladies paying him to do a ceremonial smudging of their houses." Gilbert sighed.

"Ted isn't that the shit I found you doing last time that almost got you killed."

"It's cool Gilbert I know if I run into a real ghost to call in a pro."

"So speaking of real trouble."

"I knew this day would come! I'll be right over with my tea and herbs!" Gilbert sighed.

"No Ted I need the old man." There was silence on the phone for a bit, Clarissa didn't hear anything and almost thought Ted had hung up.

"The chief? What would you need him for?" Ted sounded now upset.

"Ursa." More silence.

"Where?"

"Montana just outside of Great Falls."

"I'll see what I can do, do not go near the Ursa." Ted hung up and Gilbert looked at Clarissa and shrugged.

"Ordinarily I'd say we camp, but you said you hate camping, but I don't know of any hotels around here that I'd..."

"Fine fine we'll go to a campground." Clarissa was upset, what was supposed to be a day trip had now turned into a multi day affair, with camping the one thing she didn't want.

"Don't worry I'll tell ghost stories, we'll have smores it'll be a fun time."

"And we'll hope to avoid getting eaten by the Ursa."

"If he shows up we'll offer him a smore."

"Will that do anything?"

"Let me tell you about the time I killed a Garul with a cocktail weenie..."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Montana Squatching

21.

"Sasquatch?" Despite it being three in the morning Doris was wide awake and ready to supply a job.

"That's what the customer said, he assumed big foot, but you know he didn't exactly see it, they are illusive, like on finding bigfoot..."

"Doris don't talk to me about those fake shows you enjoy, I've told you they are bullshit and the people on them know to avoid real bigfoots." Gilbert's look told Clarissa this was a constant argument between the two.

"Ok Mr. Sasquatch Expert, the client's name is Bill O'Grady, he lives north of Helena, I'll text you the full address."

"Doris how many sasquatch jobs have I taken?"

"By my count two hundred and forty seven."

"And how many have turned out to be sasquatchs?"

"Twenty four."

"I rest my case, text me the address, and can you get me an address for a hunting shop around here, regular not monster, I'm going to need bullets that can kill a bear."

"It's a sqautch Gilbert."

"The address Doris!" Gilbert hung up and sighed.

"You think its a bear?"

"I don't think I know its a god damn bear, it's always a bear, sasquatch are normal loving creatures that don't bother people let alone rise to a nuisance, O'Grady has a damn bear, probably black, might be brown, We'll try and spook it and get it going somewhere else, if not we'll put it down. It's a monster in its own right if its approaching people's houses, just not the normal type I hunt."

"And if its a squatch?"

"Then we'll talk to it and get it to know it should be moving on."

"You can talk to them?"

"Yeah they speak English for the most part, picked it up over the years, hell some squatchs that don't have much hair even join society, they are not the creatures most people think of them." Clarissa didn't know what to think. She just thought big foot was something idiots believed in.

"Well I hope its not a bear, bears scare me."

"Coming from the woman who just killed a troll I'd say bears are the least of things that should scare you."

****

Gilbert and Clarissa had to wait for the hunting store to open up. Gilbert went and bought coffee and donuts while they waited. The hunting store was pretty normal, the kind of place neither Gilbert nor Clarissa felt comfortable in. The store owner who went by "Rick" also didn't seem the comfortable with them, and the sooner they left, the sooner everyone moved on with their lives.

"That was awkward."

"Always is, I tell you hardest part about doing this job is all the rural people who give me the side eye. I'm sure you'll get it just as bad being a woman."

"Good too know Gilbert, equal opportunity life suckage."

"You can always quit, though I imagine much like I did back in the day, you've got the taste for it, you see how we're needed and you see how being useful is a reward even if everyone gives you shit about it."

"Well that and I sold my soul to get here."

"Not sold put it up for pawn really."

"You have the nicest ways of explaining stuff."

"Doris said the same thing after I explained to her why her raise wasn't as good as that of a friend."

The clients house was north of Helena, way north almost in Canada which Gilbert groused about, grumbling other towns in Montana she could have mentioned it was near. By the time they arrived it wasn't even morning it was late afternoon and Gilbert was already upset. He got more upset when he saw Vasilly and his band of mercenaries blocking the clients house.

"What is This happy horse shit?" Clarissa could hear the anger in Gilbert's voice. He parked the van and stomped up toward the truck already fuming all the way, Clarissa struggled to keep up.

"Private property exterminator man."

"Yeah I know that son, what's you name? Jones? Jones get me Vasilly now."

"And why would I do that?"

"Otherwise I'm getting back in my van and ram your stupid truck out of the way." Jones seemed to think this over for a bit and then got on the radio. Vasilly was summoned from the house and came walking up with a smirk. He seemed to be taking his time which only upset Gilbert more.

"GD Exterminators, saw on the news how that whole ax thing worked out, glad I wasn't involved in it."

"Why are you at my clients place?"

"My client, you didn't want Mr. O'Grady's business so he went to someone who did."

"It's a brown bear Vasilly you know this."

"It's a bigfoot Dunkley, and you're in my hunting so I'd be glad if you'd move your dumb van and go back to Ellensburgh like a good boy." Gilbert flinched at boy, but he still went back to his van. Vasilly waved at him as he backed up to turn around.

"So we're going home?"

"Nope, we're going out in those woods and showing those idiots its just a damn black bear." Gilbert gunned the van and made sure to dump a bunch of smoking tires in Vasilly and his mens face. It was petulant and childish, but he did feel suddenly like a boy again.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rough Introduction

20.

"You remember a whole lot of these things that happened a long time ago."

"You don't meet a dragon every day."

"We literally just me one."

"The second I've run into in forty freaking years, will you just let me continue with my story?"

"Right right continue."

****

"A dragon? What the hell did I drink last night?"

"You like most of the humans in this world like to believe monsters are things of legends, something people made up, but that is not the case. We exist, we hunt, we kill, and in turn we are killed Mr. Dunkley as you did to poor Janzu." Del returned to her old woman form, clearly being a dragon was to impress upon me she wasn't real. Though instead of rags she was wearing a golden robe of jewels.

"What do you want from me?" She sighed, I could tell I was testing her patience.

"For you to listen Mr. Dunkley, for you to listen and know the world is not the small place you see it as, but a big expanded world of horror and happiness. But more importantly, I need you to kill for me." She smiled when she said kill and I knew even then, that being killed by the Janzu was probably the easy way out of what I'd just stepped into.

"Why would a dragon need a man to kill something?"

"Because you owe me Mr. Dunkley, I saved your life even though you did not know it, and now you must pay that cost."

****

"Your first extermination job was for a dragon?" Idaho's roads felt like they went on forever to Gilbert, he figured he'd be finished driving before getting to this part of the story, but he was still in Idaho as if they were trapped in an old Twilight Zone episode.

"I guess so, never thought of it like that."

"So what happened with that job?"

"Well long story short, I killed the creature, was recruited by the US government to kill monsters for them, retired from that, and went into business for myself and that's how I got here."

"I still fail to see how Del was anything but a helper for you." Clarissa actually liked the description Gilbert had said of Del, then again as a child she always loved the idea of dragons, hearing they were real was amazing to her.

"She tried to kill me several times after I did her job."

"Well why not lead with that story?"

"Because its just a story without history, it would just 'oh that one time a dragon arranged to have me killed' without knowing she saved me when I was weakest, it just comes across like any other monster story I'd tell you."

"I guess." They drove in silence for a bit, Clarissa herself felt like they had been driving forever. It came as a bit of a surprise as they turned a corner and saw "Welcome to Montana." Gilbert didn't say anything at first, he just kept driving.

"Oh I forgot to tell you we have a job in Montana."

"Forgot to tell me in that I didn't pack an overnight bag and wasn't aware there were additional jobs."

"Yep."

"Just tell me you got lost and now you want to find work in Montana instead of admitting you got lost."

"Nope, just let me make a call to Doris to get the proper address."

"GILBERT!" But he wasn't listening anymore, he was invested in the lie, and so Clarissa let it go, she always wanted to see Montana.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Dragon Lady

19.

"She was a dragon?" They were on the road, Gilbert kept it five under the speed limit not wanting to be arrested again.

"Yeah didn't know at first, probably wouldn't have taken the job if I did, but she was showing it to me at the end, not even hiding it. The gem was a big hint, breathing smoke the other." Clarissa was just stunned, she just thought Miss Parker was a nice old woman.

"I thought you said dragons are dangerous."

"They are, but they are also unknowable, which is the real danger. Like that troll was no issue for her, literally could have plucked it from this world and eaten it, but what she wanted to see was us and how we would handle the creature."

"But why?"

"It's a good and terrifying question. Dragon's at their nature are secretive, in the past they were hunted, now because of how society has forgotten them, they have become the hunters to an extent, putting us in conflict with each other so they can remain." Clarissa was quiet, this felt almost like more of Gilbert's distrust of government anything, but there was something else there, something she wanted to know.

"When was the first time you encountered a dragon?" Gilbert knew the question was coming and sighed all the same.

"1973, I was twenty and a dragon saved my life."

"So are you going to tell the story or?"

"I was getting to that trying to arrange my thoughts damn woman you're worse than my wife." They both laughed at that, it was a way to break the tension.

****
Japan was a nice place in the summer, I remember that more than anything else. I was in the air force back then, off on a vacation with some other serviceman who's names I don't remember. I remember their faces though, mostly what they looked like when the creature got them. It was a Janzu demon, at the time I had no idea monsters were real, all I knew is that the nice japanese lady that had lead us to a "sacred forest" had turned into some lizard thing that spit venom and had killed my friends.

My eyes were burning from the shit she spit on me, I don't know how I found my way to this small shrine with a fountain, but I did. Looking back on it I probably desecrated the hell out of that shrine just trying to wash the venom from my eyes. I could hear the Janzu coming, the dying scream of my last companion told me she was on the way. She sang a song while she came, I don't know what the lyrics meant, but I assumed it was some kind of dirge about eating me.

I could see more now, and saw the shrine had some kind of bladed pole weapon alongside the little fountain I'd used. The weapon is called a Naginata, this one looked more ceremonial with a blade made out of jade, but I figured if I was going to go down, I'd go down swinging. The creature arrived with me standing there half blind holding this bladed staff and it laughed. It laughed and laughed. I think that just pissed me off more than anything. To be facing death and your killer is laughing at you. I was so angry I just swung that big pole at the creature. Ordinarily I would have come up short, just slammed that big blade into the ground and then been feed for the creature, but that wasn't an ordinary weapon. It must have taken my rage and turned it into an extension of the weapon, because instead of missing I sliced the Janzu in half. Its stunned expression permanently frozen on both sides of its face.

"Janzu I told you to leave the americans alone, and yet you just couldn't help but go for a bite." The old woman had come from thin air. She was dressed like a beggar would, and her hair was stringy and a dirty grey. What was strange to me is she appeared black, I hadn't seen another black person who wasn't a fellow american, let alone an old woman who wouldn't have been in the service. I was immediately fearful since she knew the creature I'd just killed. I turned with the blade holding it in front of me like a ward.

"Stay back."

"Hush child I mean you no harm." With a wave of her hand the weapon was out of my hand and back in the shrine, its blade already cleaned of the creatures blood.

I fell to my knees, "Please don't kill me I just want to go home, I never wanted to come here." I truly was afraid, I admit I probably pissed myself.

"I told you I mean you no harm and you should know when someone like me makes a statement we mean it." I was just crying at this point, and she came up like my mother and calmed me. Her touch was warm almost to the point of feeling like she had a fever. "Hush child, you're safe, you're safe." I eventually calmed down enough to speak again, I feel like a damn fool now, but back then my life almost taken I was so very afraid.

"I just want to go home m'am whatever you need I'll provide what little I have." Now she laughed, I imagine at the thought of someone with very little yen and nothing of any material wealth trying to barter with a dragon is hilarious.

"Dunkley is it? Wow unfortunate last name young Mr. Dunkley, what you have I do not want, I came here to see what had disturbed my shrine and now seeing you I feel very sorry for you. You don't even know what's going on here."

"What is going on here?" The old woman smiled.

"The world just got a lot bigger for you Mr. Dunkley, my name is Del, and I'm a dragon." The woman who had been an old woman in rags suddenly became a huge green dragon and I damn near passed out again.