March of the Monsters:
Leonard Bartholomew Draconis
He never remembers his dreams. He used to keep a dream journal by his bed, just in case, but he always slept through the night and couldn't remember anything he dreamed about once the alarm went off. He never knows if he should be happy or sad about this.
The bell over the door jingles as he squeezes himself sideways into the office. He carries his taped-together briefcase under his arm because the handle fell off three months ago.
"Hi, Leo," says Deena at the front desk. She doesn't even glance over at him.
"Hi, Deena," he says in his usual proto-bass rumble. "H-How are you doing this morning?"
"You're blocking the door, Leo," she says as she clicks through her e-mail. "Letting all the heat out."
He lurches the rest of the way inside, wiping his gigantic iron-clawed feet on the rubber mat and wrapping his spiked tail around one leg. "S-Sorry," he stammers around his tusks before lurching away, embarrassed. He ducks down to enter his office by the back door and shrugs his way out of his overcoat. He tries to be gentle, but the tear at the shoulder widens a little more.
He eases his way, slowly and carefully, into the rickety chair behind his desk. He has trouble using his computer keyboard because of his claws, so he fumbles for a couple of pencils, turns them eraser-side down, and begins slowly pecking his way through yesterday's sales report.
The numbers are down -- thanks to the slowdown in the economy, everyone's more careful about what they buy. And he's never been the greatest salesman -- self-conscious, shy, unwilling to hard-sell clients. There are vendors out there who like him, and who call him to make their orders, but he's never been at the top of the sales chart, and he knows he never will be.
At 10, everyone breaks for coffee. Darrell sticks his head in the office and chirps a bright "Hey there, Leo, my man! Wanna head next door with us for coffee?"
It's part of the daily ritual, and Leo sticks to the line everyone expects from him: "No, thank you. I'm so busy today."
Darrell favors him with a smile and a thumbs-up and then disappears back down the hallway to join the rest of the office at the diner next door.
He did take them up on the offer once, eager for a little camaraderie with his co-workers, hoping to be part of the crowd. He was awkward, embarrassed. He stammered. He spilled his coffee on his shirt. While he was wiping a paper towel against the stain in the restroom, he heard them laughing at him. "What a weirdo! Could you believe that tie? He really is the most boring person I've ever met. Shush, shush, what if he can hear you?"
Now he stays in the office with a juice box and a package of crackers. It's better this way.
Mr. Vinson comes into his office in the afternoon while he's making some sales calls. He sits on the corner of his desk and watches him. Just watches him, never saying a word. Leo always gets anxious when anyone watches him while he's on the phone, so he wraps up his call as quickly as he can.
When he hangs up, Mr. Vinson says, "Leo, we're going to be short-staffed next week. Karin's going skiing in Colorado. Can you handle her clients 'til she gets back?"
He can't, not really. He doesn't like having to call new people, and Karin's clients would rather talk to her, not Leo. It's not like he'll get any extra commission -- if he makes any new sales, all the extra money will go to her. And he's due for a vacation, too. When is he going to get some time off?
"I guess I can, Mr. Vinson," he says, his leathery wings fluttering nervously. "If you really, really need me to."
"Good man," says Mr. Vinson. "I'll have Karin get you her client and phone list before Friday." And he strolls out the door into the hallway without another word. Leo wishes he'd had something else to say.
At 5, he slides his bulk into his little blue Toyota, tucks his tail into the back seat, and drives home. He heats up a can of chili and eats it with some chopped onions and lizard hearts in front of the TV. After "Law and Order," he switches on his dim reading lamp and reads old, old books until late. Before bed, he brushes his tusks and cleans some grunge out of his scales.
He gets under his covers and slowly drifts off. He dreams glorious dreams of flight, of fire, of endless and bloody battle. He never remembers these dreams in the morning, and he never knows whether to be happy or sad about that.