Her screams echoed throughout the small-town hospital, waning into deep, shuddering sobs at the sight of her newborn son, Francis Dolarhyde. Consolation was futile coming from the doctor, as well were his warnings when she had finally asked to see him after being separated for three days. The doctor resorted to giving her a shot to calm her down. The following day, Marian Dolarhyde-Trevane abandoned her newborn son at the hospital. Some surgery was performed on the infant, the doctor unsure and wary that severe facial reconstructive surgery would distort the growth of his face. They sent him to the Springfield Foundling Home, Francis staying there for just over a year, and eventually he made his way to Brother Buddy at the Morgan Lee Memorial Orphanage. Upon his arrival, noticing Francis’ Leaf-nosed bat like appearance, Brother Buddy asked the boys and girls to pray for him.
Five years later, at the cusp of age six, his first and last visitor asked for him, her smile radiating with deep pleasure at his arrival. The smile burned into Francis’ memory. No one had ever smiled at him like that, not with the way he knew he looked. Even failing at calling her Grandmother upon introduction, the smile never wavered, only increased.
"I'll just bet you can say your name. I just know a big boy like you can say his name. Say it for me." Francis had perked up bravely, confident, and excited.
The occupants inside the cafeteria at Gateway Films had faded away, their heat signatures dissipating with the increase of his transfixion, his painful reverie. Pulling himself out of his adolescence, he threw his attention on the skin of his hand. It was dry, and with his eyes he perused the faint white trails following the natural lines in his skin. The full moon wasn’t far off, and his monthly ecdysis would begin. The comfort wasn’t found here, the reminder of his otherness triggering more anxiety.
There were times when he reveled in his difference, particularly during the full moon, finding himself preening, almost gloating, in his more-than-man existence, his uniqueness. The rest of the days, he found himself sullen, shameful, and ruminating about the abuse that his nature had made him receive. He had been born and abandoned a freak, a borderline cryptid being among men.
The skin on the majority of his back and some of his shoulders was thick, and slightly flesh-red tinted, fortunately obscured by normal clothing. His soft-pallet had been deformed at birth, cleft lip apparent, and the surgery that had been performed right away left a garish scar. The doctor, as well as anyone else at the time, was completely unaware of it’s true purpose. The rest of his oddities were less obvious here in the breakroom, especially in comparison to his prominent cleft lip, sacrificing it to the eyes of the world. He had slightly pointed ears and tongue. These were not noticed over the peculiarity on his lip, people often afraid of staring. Francis was also born with double eyelids, and his pupils had the ability to become slits. They only really showed in light, his pupils retracting defensively against the brightness. In awareness of his eye oddities, he often wore dark glasses if he found himself spending time among the public, and red goggles at work, especially if Francis knew he’d be returning into the dark room for more repairs on film processing equipment. Francis also never blinked in public if he couldn’t help it, knowing that one of the two eyelids slipped across his eye faster than the other.
Mutated, his life was filled with screaming insults, some echoing harshly in his ears now, intrusive, sudden, and unstoppable, unheard by anyone else in the room. Francis shook his head defensively, and looked around the table only he occupied.
Someone had left a TIME magazine, obviously done with it. Francis Dolarhyde hadn’t touched it or looked at it when he had initially sat down. Francis tried to covered his dry hands with the each other as he pondered the magazine, eventually deciding that he was desperate to silence Grandmother’s voice. He slid the magazine over to him, hopeful. The text on the cover reached his eyes first, white and bold on the depiction of a painting by William Blake.
'The Great Red Dragon…’ Francis read, and something deep inside him purred unexpectedly.
The painting itself looked marvelous, a demonic form with multiple horned heads, muscular arms stretched wide along his powerful wings, and a curling, looping tail, hovering in an overbearing and dominant fashion from above. He seemed to be swooping down, almost engulfing a form of golden, fiery beauty at the bottom of the page. Intrigued by the display of overwhelming power radiating from the being, Francis’ fingers stroked the pages to find the William Blake article halfway through the magazine.
His breathing halted at the sight of another Blake painting, the figure on the cover now shown in wonderful, stark detail. It was magnificent, and he found his sulking was silenced immediately, defeated by the raw power emulating out of the painting. The man-dragon on the cover had fallen to the earth now, flaunting his well-defined back to the audience, muscles bulging attractively down and across his body into powerful wings. His legs were strong, thick thighs and protruding, pointed calves flexed in an awesome display of supremacy and strength. The golden beauty, finally engulfed and helpless beneath his feet, was laying at the bottom of the page, woe written on her pale face.
After five minutes, Francis drew out a shuddered breath, forgetting that he hadn’t been breathing, and the people from inside the room fazed harshly back into awareness, their mutterings sudden and heavy in his ears. He didn’t need to breath as much as normal humans did, oxygen somehow finding its way inside of him. He covered his mouth with his hand, scrubbing at his lips, disguising the breath with actions attributed to a sigh or a yawn. Fire was beating hot inside his heart now, his chest prickling, the heat settling nicely under the many layers of his clothing. The name tag on his dark work shirt shuddered slightly with each of his breathes, Francis barely able to control the spike of emotion rising inside of him. He peered briefly back at the people behind him, noting favorably that no one was paying attention to him, and reached again for the magazine, scrutinizing it until the figures faded from his awareness again.
The painting spoke to him, spoke to the very essence of his mutated soul. The image was glowing in his vision, everything else bleak and meek in comparison to the authority and demanding supremacy. In the moments he continued to look over the painting, all things work related became unnecessary and inconvenient. He found that he was growing to know the dragon, understand him. He found something deep inside his chest that had been coiled up, something passively dormant for so long. He found purpose. He found drive.
A Year Later
The grunts from his efforts seemed to echo loudly in this room, buzzing in his ears and reverberating off the clutter that found its dusty home here. Francis had gotten into the habit of growling, building up the power of his roar, while he was working out. His body was shaking, beat red from his exercise, his muscles pumped full. He peered up to the large print the Blake painting he had purchased and framed, the Dragon watching him, seemingly pleased with his progress for today. Setting the weights on a thick mat, he sauntered over to a shattered mirror, checking the fragmented pieces of his newly transformed self through the netting of a headwrap. His muscles had gotten larger than he expected, but he could still see work to be done. Francis didn’t have to turn around to know that his back muscles, although bulked and toned, were nothing in comparison to the Dragon’s. His eyes flickered up to his broken face, the shattering of the mirror most prominent there. It was difficult to see with the headwrap pulled down below his eyes, but he dared not to pull the mask off.
The upper levels of the house, once reserved for the childhood bed that he still slept on and Grandmothers room, had been transformed over the year into his own place to train, to become. Francis liked dwelling in the upper parts of Grandmother’s old house now, feeling the most physically content up in the muggy rooms, the heat tending to rise and settle there wonderfully, allowing him the comfort to not be covered in layers of clothing to keep his warmth. He also enjoyed the upper levels of his house because after all this time, he had finally taken it from Grandmother. She had been out of his life for 20 years at this point, dead for a majority of them, and now with the power of the Dragon on his side, her hold on him had slackened.
The beginning stages of his transformation had been grueling, the Dragon’s demands severe. He pushed Francis to his physical breaking limit often, Francis trying his best to achieve the Dragon’s orders while fighting Grandmother’s voice. Her words were louder up here, so close to his childhood bedroom and the strongest in her own. Every repetition seemed to be pushed or thrown into her screaming, her revealed displeasure of his existence. A few times, Francis had found himself curled on the ground, begging Grandmother to believe that he was a good boy, that he wasn’t disgusting. The Dragon hardly intervened, choosing instead to watch from his framed shrine on the wall.