She loved spicy foods. She loved the kick they brought to her mouth, the feeling of fire on her tongue. She refused to give in to the pain, to drink milk or eat bread. Instead she savored every moment of burning intensity, unflinching and steadfast.
She always ordered the strongest, spiciest, dish on the menu and eat it completely, to the amazement of her table-mates, but they passed it off as a simple affinity for spice and that she was accustomed to the sensation. They did find it strange, however, that she never hung around for long after the meal was finished. She paid her part of the bill, exchanged a few quick pleasantries as everyone slipped on their coats, then slid into her car and out of the parking lot before anyone could notice or react.
She drove for an hour or so, out of the city into some bare field somewhere, a grassy meadow that lay fallow with no crops or livestock she could disturb, and then she would sit down and wait, just like normal.
She waited for the capsaicin to react with the unique enzymes she carried and to stimulate the chain reaction that would allow her to spread her wings and fly – but she was getting ahead of herself. She dug her toes into the soft earth and wondered where the spice would take her this time.
It wasn’t long before she felt the familiar fire rise up in her stomach – then she gritted her teeth as pain wrenched through her bones and ligaments and muscles and stretched them out to twice their normal length – bending them and forming them. Her shoulder-blades exploded outwards and grew cartilaginous structures that quickly filled in with a thin leathery substance. She raised her elongated head to the sky and let out a howl of exhilaration and suffering – the counter-intuitive mix she so enjoyed – and with that howl came a long jet of fire.
She flicked the tail that had formed, looked over her shoulder to make sure everything was in order, then pushed off from the ground with her all of her strength, leaping into the sky with three giant flaps of her wings that raised the dirt from the ground in a sort of ethereal shower of earth.
She lifted herself into the sky, rising higher and higher until her car looked like a small grain of rice on the ground. The air was crisp and cool over her hardened, scaly skin – and quickly a wave of euphoria rushed through her veins as she rose high enough to look like a bird to a viewer from the ground – a strange bird with an overly long tail, yes – but a bird none the less.
For a few hours, at least, she lost herself in the exhilaration that being a giant flying reptile provided – it was freedom she couldn’t experience as a earth-bound human. She let off a few roars (dutifully accompanied by giant jets of fire) before landing in the same dusty field she had erupted from so joyfully earlier. As the capsaicin left her system, her wings deconstructed themselves and her ligaments pulled all her bones back into place.
She drove away in her tiny silver sedan and went back to normalcy and human civilization and everything human that gave her a (smaller but no less significant) adrenaline rush. And her wings, folded up under her skin, waited until the next dose of spices that would set them free again.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ring of Fire.”