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Primal Dreams, Part Two

Catherine has published many informative articles and also enjoys creative writing. This is part two of her second short story.


Daruis had managed to crawl into the electrical room and was hidden behind a large generator when he reverted to his human form. He was thankful for the darkness and the heavily shadowed corridors. He had terrified but not physically harmed anyone, yet he felt both embarrassment and remorse. His first thoughts were of Polly and how frightened she must be to have witnessed what happened in the stairwell. He had to find her.

Polly Whitfield was traumatized by what she thought she had seen. Darius had been with her in the dank darkness of the stairwell then there were the screams, the gold eyes, and thrashing tail as it whipped out of the recess. What had happened? Was that scream her own? It all seemed so nightmarish and surreal.

Polly had drifted in and out of fitful sleep with haunting images of those glowing eyes in the darkness. It had been over fifteen hours in the basement when the residents were finally allowed to return to the main floor. The hurricane has passed, and there was rumored to have been an alligator that had gotten inside to escape the turbulent waters and heavy rain.

Darius found Polly in the common room wrapped in a blanket. He approached her carefully, unsure of her possible reaction. She was visibly shaken yet relieved to see that he was alright. Still, there was an obvious uncertainty or distrust in her eyes.

Darius longed to tell Polly of his boyhood forays into the caves at El Questro and the shaman who guided him through vivid dreams, trances, and metamorphosis. He wanted her to trust him, not to fear him. He had gone beyond his primal attraction to her bird-like features to one of respect for her inquisitive and fearless nature. He wanted to protect her.

Polly continued to read and research in the Meridian's library, discovering many things about the Australian aboriginals. It became quite clear why the missionaries had such difficulty in converting them. It was the cultural traditions and the ingrained attachment to the natural elements and its creatures. The more she read about Australian folklore, the more she learned of the dream trances, the animal mysticism, the shamans and their "gifts." It was all beginning to make sense. Darius, his endless days in the Kimberley, in those same caves. When they sat across from each other in the light of the fireplace, she saw his golden eyes, and she knew.

As they were walking through the Selby Botanical Gardens like they did every Wednesday, Polly found the courage to ask Darius about his experiences at El Questro. She told him what she had gleaned from her research and boldly asked him if he was a shape-shifter. Darius was taken aback by her direct question but also felt relief that it had saved him from an awkward attempt to explain the events of that stormy night in the basement.

Darius Taylor, unlike most Australian boys that learn about aboriginal folklore, had a gift. He was able to transcend the dream state into one of physical transformation. He found in those primal dreams that he could find oneness and become the creature with the gold eyes, the sacred Perentie, the King of the Australian goanna lizards.

Polly, upon hearing this truth from Darius, felt no fear because she knew he would never harm her. This revelation, however, confounded her faith and brought up questions that weren't answered by her Biblical studies. Her father, as a Methodist minister, would surely classify it as the devil's work.

At dinner that evening, Darius was clearly annoyed with their table waiter, Sergei. He had always been helpful and eager to please, especially with Polly. Now he was edging on touchy-feely, and Darius could see the tension in her body language.

Sergei had been waiting tables in the Meridian's dining room for a little over a year after two as a busboy. He was not terribly tall, around 5' 8", but rather lanky with a receding hairline and a thin moustache. Darius found him overly-attentive and rather smarmy.

Polly was noticeably uncomfortable when he hovered and leaned in to clear her plate. She could feel his hot breath on her neck. Darius could feel his throat tighten in that air- sucking spasm and desperately hoped he could suppress the audible hissss.

Sergei Ivanov liked working within the retirement community. He had come to Florida from Belarus in 2015 and moved to Sarasota from Miami in 2019. Most of the residents here were widowed women. He found them very receptive to his attention and, in some cases, actually encouraged it. Sergei had fantasized, but he never acted on these opportunities. Nevertheless, they emboldened his behavior.

Polly had been asked to play an impromptu concert that evening after being heard playing some Chopin nocturnes earlier in the afternoon. Friday evenings were special with movies, lectures, or concerts in the common room followed by dessert and hot beverages. This week their scheduled guest speaker had to cancel his travelogue, and Polly was delighted to be asked to fill in.

Most of the kitchen staff had finished work and gone home, but Sergei had offered to stay on to handle the dessert and to hear Polly play.

Following the concert and cake, residents began to disperse and head to their beds. Polly offered to help Sergei gather and carry the dirty plates and teacups to the kitchen. Darius was perusing a magazine while waiting to escort Polly back to her room when he heard a tray of dishes crash to the floor. He quickly got up to see if things were alright.

As he peered through the round glass on the swinging door, he saw that Sergei had pressed himself against Polly, pinning her against the heavy work table. Broken china scattered at her feet. Darius could feel his neck tighten and his skin begin to crawl as metamorphosis began. Claws jutted out of yellow-spotted scaly feet, his ribboned tongue tasted the air. He whipped his tailed body around and charged through the door.

Sergei's face twisted in horror as the perentie stood on its back legs, neck extended, reaching well over six feet. Darius, the shape-shifter, dropped him with his powerful thrashing tail and relentlessly whipped it back and forth. Polly could hear the dull snap of Sergei's femur and the crunch of foot and ankle bones even as more dishes clattered to the floor. Sergei howled in pain as Darius opened his strong jaws revealing spiked teeth and took a large bite from Sergei's thigh. Then he passed out. Hmmm, Darius thought, "tastes like chicken. . . "

By the time the police arrived, any evidence of the attacker was gone. It was believed to have been another alligator attack, and Sergei's account was largely discredited due to his vivid imagination. He left the Meridian that night in an ambulance, never to return.

Perenties by nature are rarely threatening to humans unless provoked, so Darius never experienced his transformation again. He and Polly remained good friends. His golden eyes were the only reminder of the primal being within. Oh, and the occasional "hissss" that escaped his lips when he felt protective.