The Drache


August, 1967


Skinny-dipping in the Bay is grounds for arrest, but it is after midnight, and officers have more serious concerns than a couple of publicly indecent teenagers splashing about in the cool water. No one will see Bing Bong and me anyway. The quarter moon is rising in the east, but clouds are skidding across the sky, hiding its light, the security lamp halfway across the park seems more decorative than useful, and even though my species’ eyes are sensitive in low light, it is only by hearing its water lapping on the shore that I can tell the Bay lies only a few feet away.

“Are you with me, Dragon Lady?” Bing’s drawl breaks the silence.

My street name, the one by which I’ve been known all summer, is “Lady Dragon,” but Bing insists on reversing the words, making it sound less formal and more egalitarian. Perhaps he cannot remember it correctly. Maybe he simply teases me.

Bing likely believes I adopted my name at random from the small, golden dragon suspended from the chain around my neck, but it is more descriptive than he imagines, referring to my species, the reason I wear the small dragon.

An understandable human error.

Bing’s voice, together with the clink of his belt buckle striking the ground as he drops his Levis, locates him off to my right, and I am certain he cannot see me any more than I him as I step out of my overalls and stand stark naked in the darkness, stretching my arms toward the sky as if I’m trying to clear away the clouds and to embrace the moon itself. I breathe deeply, catching a hint of salt air.

“I’m right here, Bing.”

I bend to scoop up my clothes, and I place them next to my sandals on a bench against which I had bruised my shin in the darkness a few moments earlier, hoping I’ll be able to find them later. As a sliver of moon peeks past a cloud, I glance toward Bing. I can just make out his shape, and I watch as he strips off his shirt and drops it next to his other clothes.


He nods.

“Lead the way.”

His body is now as bare as mine, but he reaches out to take my arm, a gesture of gallantry, holding my elbow to keep me from stumbling as we wade into the cool water of San Francisco Bay, the water splashing gently against our legs. I smile, thinking Bing has always behaved as a gentleman, reminding me of the boys I had dated back home in South Carolina.

Neither of us speaks. We both know how to swim, and we paddle away from the shore. I dip below the surface, rubbing my hands over my body, running my fingers through my hair, washing away the perspiration and grime accumulated on one of the hottest days of this summer. The Prof, the leader of the commune where we live, teaches that one’s body is simply a material object, not something sinful, not a thing to be hidden nor of which we should feel ashamed, so we feel no guilt as we stand waist-deep and take turns scrubbing each other until we feel clean.

I lie back in the water and float, allowing it to carry me away from Bing. I hum to myself while the water rocks me as if I’m in a cradle, and I close my eyes, losing track of time.

Suddenly, I stop humming and lift my head, searching for Bing. Flower children don’t generally prefer pop music, and if he were to recognize the tune of You’re Much Too Good to be True, I would be revealed as the fake, summer-time hippie that I am.

I cannot locate him in the darkness, and I want to call out, but the silence and the water are comforting, I don’t want to break their spell, and I take the chance he did not hear my choice of music.

To the west, stars fill the sky. My eyes fix on the very brightest one, and I know I ought to recall its name. I’m certain my father has told me what it is.

The clouds slip past the moon, and I finally spy Bing, silently approaching, only his head above the water. I gently move my hands like flippers, propelling myself noiselessly through the water, pushing away from him, leaving the spot where we entered the water, watching as the bench where I left my clothes recedes some twenty yards in the distance.

“Attack,” Bing shouts, his voice breaking the silence. He lunges at me, splashing water in my face with both hands.

“Help me. Help me.” I pretend to be frightened, and I call out with an exaggerated cry for assistance, my voice awaking birds in a nearby tree, who rise from their nests, squawking, their wings beating against the air as they abandon their perches, seeking safety. I retaliate against Bing, kicking my feet rapidly, spraying water five feet in all directions.

Laughing, we stumble onto the shore. A warm breeze from the Bay feels cool against my damp skin, and I shiver, crossing my arms across my chest for warmth.

“Are you cold?” Bing wraps his arm around my shoulders, and we stand together for several moments, allowing the water to drip from our bodies.

I raise my head, listening intently. I know others must be sleeping out in the park on this sweltering night, hoping to catch a breeze blowing from the Bay, but no voice, no laughter, no sound of couples rolling about on blankets under the trees, no chirping of insects, no noise at all, save the tires of the occasional vehicle rumbling across the Golden Gate, reaches my ear. Could we possibly be the only two in the city who have sought relief in the park from the near triple-digit temperature still hanging over the city?

It’s as if Bing and I are all alone in our own world. The idea frightens me—not the idea we are alone so much as the certainty we are not, the certitude others are nearby, watching us, possibly lying in wait, knowing something is about to happen.

Perhaps I’m troubled by Bing’s arm. I’d thought it was meant to protect me from a chill, but the breeze has died, and it still lies across my back and his hand gently massages my shoulder.

Bing and I have spent the summer with at least forty people in a four-bedroom house, communal living, sharing everything, money, food, clothes, space. Each night, thirty of us or more, have crammed into the two double beds in each of three bedrooms on the second floor. Life is cozy when four adults share a bed built for two. Sleeping arrangements are not gender-specific, and hands wander during the night. Bing has frequently shared my bed and his hands, but he has never made a bid to explore beneath my overalls nor suggested we remove to one of the rooms downstairs, where, unlike in the bedrooms, space on the floor is plentiful, clothing is the exception, and sleep is seldom the goal.

Tonight, though, Bing’s arm has not been thrown across me at random while he sleeps, nor does it wander. His hand slides purposely over my still wet skin, the length of my spine, not wavering, stopping only as it traces the contour of my rump. He will find it compact, firm, and rounded, the sort considered most attractive by males of my species. Bing’s palm stretches across one buttock, and he closes his hand, squeezing softly.

“Stop,” I order as I take a half step to my left. I don’t care if Bing considers my rear end attractive, and I slap his hand away.

“Don’t do that.”

He catches my arm and halts me in mid-step. He pulls me back, turning me to face him, and he presses my body flat against his.

“No,” I shout. “Let go of me.”

“Relax,” he says. “Relax. It’s cool.”

It’s not cool, my naked body pressed against his, but using only one arm, he holds me in whatever position he chooses. I hit him on the back and kick at his legs, to no avail.

“Behave,” he tells me. “Or I’ll turn you over my knee.”

I aim for his head, but he laughs as he ducks, and, without warning, he twists me around, bends me forward, and holds me, immobile, for a moment before bestowing a quick, playful slap on my bottom, the smack of skin against skin no doubt heard across the park. Then he flips my body back to its original position.

Tears blur my vision, not because his slap hurt, but because I am impotent. He can do as he wills, and I am unable to resist. I feel as I did when my mother had once humiliated me with the same punishment while my cousins looked on, giggling, and I could do nothing except to steel myself, tensing every muscle in my body, and refusing to cry out.

“Let me go.” I speak loudly, confident my voice will be heard. “Move your hands.”

I push against him, but he doesn’t budge. I struggle for my freedom, twisting my body from side to side and kicking at his legs, stomping on his feet.

Bing Bong claims to be a college football player, and I can believe it to be true. I can imagine his shoulder pounding into my stomach as he reaches to pull my legs from beneath me. He certainly weighs close to the three hundred pounds at which he claims to tip the scale, and he towers above me, his head a full six inches higher than mine. I feel like an elf, like a baby in his arms.

“Let me go,” I order again, but I am locked in his arm as surely as if I were in a cell, and I’m helpless to contest any position in which he wants me.

He snickers. “Want another smack?”

The moon peeps through a break in the clouds, and my skin glistens in its light. A low, drawn-out wolf-whistle floats lazily across the park, the first sign of life other than the two of us.

“Bing, please…” I struggle to break his hold, but resistance appears futile. “Please…”

Bing leans away from me, and he leers as he inspects my body, his eyes traveling from my shoulders to my knees and back, lingering on my chest, then flicking down, locking on what my mother would call my private parts, parts no man had ever seen before and which, my mother had ordered, should never be seen by any man other than my mate and not by him before our mating night. He licks his lips.

I attempt to cover myself, but his hands clamp my arms by my sides.

“I like what I see.”

Suddenly, my mother’s advice no longer seems as old-fashioned as it had when I’d first heard it, and the Prof’s teaching about our bodies no longer seems attractive.

“I need to dress.”

I speak in a matter-of-fact voice, hoping to take charge of the situation. I will take charge by walking away if I can, but I am a drache, and I will take charge.

“I don’t think so.” He smirks. “Not for a while.”

He pulls me firmly against his body again and holds me there as he kisses me on my forehead, my cheek, my neck.

Had Bing known my species, he would not be treating me as one of the skinny blond coeds who devote themselves to jocks, helping them celebrate their victories, consoling them in defeat, and distracting them at all times in between.

“I am a drache,” I murmur.

Bing chuckles. “You’re drunk? Is that what you said?”

He bends his head and kisses me on my mouth. I jerk my head back, and he laughs.

“Girls like my kisses, Dragon Lady. They truly do.”

He places his free hand on the back of my head to hold me in place for a second, extended kiss.

Drache is a variant of the German word for dragon, as is my last name, Drachen—pronounced drah-ken, with an ‘A’ as in father, rather than drake-en or drack-en. The names were not random choices, nor is my amulet, the gold dragon, as beautiful as it is, a random piece of jewelry.

Our family story tells how the Great Dragon decreed his followers should mate with humans in the hope of creating an omnipotent species, and the draches were their offspring. In our view, we comprise a separate species of human being, homo sapiens draco.

When we discuss our heritage, we speak of our “inner dragons,” whatever it is within us that is the basis for our superior intelligence, our great strength, our emotional intuitiveness, and our ability to shift, to transform, to summon our “outer dragons” in times of danger.

Bing is truly playing with fire.

Only he doesn’t know it.


As black clouds roll over the moon, plunging us into absolute darkness once more, lightning streaks across the sky, from one cloud to another off to the east. As Bing’s head snaps up, I seem to be forgotten and, as his grip relaxes, I step away. His fingernails scrape across my back end as it slips free. I turn and run.

Perhaps he does play football. He runs faster than I, dashing up behind me, grabbing my arm before I’ve traveled two yards, spinning me around.

“What are you doing?” I cry. “Bing, stop. Stop.”

I know we’re not alone. The wolf-whistler can’t be far away. Someone will hear me. Someone will come to my aid.

“Help me,” I scream.

He grasps my legs and, as I had imagined, tackles me, dumps me on my face. My forehead strikes the ground and rocks cut into my skin.

“Ow,” I scream. “Ow.”

I twist to the right, onto my back, hoping to roll down the small bank to the Bay, out of his reach, but he throws his body across mine, flattening me against the earth.

I gasp for air and I try to roll again, rocking from side to side, hitting with my fists, spitting, kicking, crying for help.

Bing laughs. He pins me firmly against the ground. Had we been in a wrestling match, I would be down for the count.

He grasps both of my wrists in his left hand, his fingers easily circling them both. He stretches my arms above my head, leaving his right hand free to explore, and he pins my legs to the ground. I struggle for release of even one of my hands so I can pound it against his head or scratch out his eyes, but his grip is unyielding. My legs are immobile and I’m unable to kick.

“You’re one hot bird, and I’ve wanted to get it on with you all summer,” he whispers in my ear. “I’m leaving tomorrow. Tonight’s my last chance.”

Bing is ready to do it, I can tell, no preliminaries. I yelp as his right hand locks onto my breast. He kisses me, hard. I snap at him, my teeth just missing his lips, and he laughs.

“Help me,” I shriek “Please help me.”

He laughs. “No. No. No.” His voice taunts me. “No one, nothing, will help you.”

His body rubs across me and he pants for air. I can feel his heart pounding. He wedges his legs between mine.

“Bing Bong is ready…”

His grip loosens as he moves, and I yank my right hand from his grasp and punch his ear, hoping to rupture the eardrum.

Bing cries in pain. “You bitch.”

“Get off me,” I cry, but he lunges, trying to recapture my hand, and his body scrapes across mine. My stomach revolts as I imagine being taken, but I feel a narrow gap between us, just large enough for me to slip my hand inside. He cries out again as my nails scrape across his chest.

We are taught to use our amulets only as a very last resort, and I wrap my hand around it.

“Drachen, kommen,” I scream. “Dragon, come,” I whisper.

Bing’s left hand still paws at my chest and he crushes my breast between his fingers, twisting as if he wanted to separate it from my body. Retribution, I assume, for the smack against his head, since he could not possibly believe I would find it arousing.

My yelp of pain mingles with a roar that shakes the earth beneath me. Golden mist engulfs us, and the odor of sulphur permeates the air.

Bing gapes at me. A mixture of confusion and horror spread across his face as the blond girl with the mischievous smile, round breasts and, what he must have hoped would be a willing body, begins to shift. His hand no longer squeezes a soft ball of pliable skin, but it now grips a firm, unforgiving, almost metallic plate. Where his body rolled across my smooth, soft belly, it now presses against boney scales. He screeches as my face turns reptilian and he ducks his head as my pointed tongue flicks toward his face, and my daggerlike teeth snap at his nose.

As he jerks away and begins to dismount, to run, to escape from the worst nightmare possible, my left arm shoots out, and grasps his neck. I roar a second time, a flame from my mouth singes his face, and warm liquid trickles down his leg onto mine.

Holding him at arm’s length, I rise from the ground to my hind feet in a single, fluid motion, and, tall as he is, I loom over him, my left claw tightening around his throat, my two-inch, nail-sharp teeth bared, my blood-red eyes glaring into his face and reflected in his wide-open, terrified eyes.

He shrieks. His chest rises and falls as he gasps for air, whistling as he struggles to force it into his lungs. His body twitches, jerking from one side to the other. His arms flail, striking the air as he reaches out to pummel me. He flings his too-short legs in all directions, unable to connect. He is a kite, caught in the wind, tossed helplessly, first in one direction, then in another.

I squeeze his neck and Bing Bong gags.

“Dragon Lady, please,” he croaks. “Don’t hurt…don’t kill me…Please. You’re my friend. I’m…I’m sorry…”


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