A sunset ends another damn day on the bike. Once I wouldıve appreciated a sunset like this, with the sun reflecting on the water as it dips behind sloping hills, but Iıve seen too many sunsets on this unending bike ride to care. I used to keep track of sunsets, but I lost count decades ago. This bike ride started, those many sunsets ago, as a pleasant neighborhood ride, until that dog got in my way. As I turned a corner, a large dog lunged into my path from behind a car. I braked but my front wheel hit the dog, and I tumbled onto the street. "Curse you, damn dog!" I screamed from the pavement. "You made me fall off my bike." "Curse me?" the dog sneered. "As if you could add to my curses." "You talk?" I asked amazed. "Not every day that you ram your bike into a talking dog?" he asked. "However, Iım not, properly speaking, a dog. My present body form is a crocotta, technically." "A crocotta?" "It is a mythical wolf-dog mix, as youıd know if you read Pliny. More significantly, the crocotta is not my real form. It is merely the structure in which my human essence is trapped." "Howıd you become a crocotta?" "Centuries ago, I was the envy of my fellow wizards. Many came to my mountaintop fortress to challenge the mighty wizard Alkar, but I defeated them all and then transformed my enemies into some humiliating form. "After vanquishing hundreds, I faced a usurper who appeared as a mere novice. Sarmeni was no novice, despite his deceitful appearance, but a skilled magician. That ancient trickster easily broke my initial incantation. He capitalized on my surprise and restrained me in a spell of inanimateness before I could cast a second spell. I was defeated, and Sarmeni turned me into a beast as I had done to so many before. So I am cursed to remain a crocotta." "You used to be a powerful wizard who transformed his foes, and now youıre just a street hound you canıt do anything more than make me fall off my bike," I laughed. "You think thatıs funny? Iıll show you what Alkar the Mighty can still do. Since youıre so upset about falling off your bike, Iıll make it so you never fall again." He raised one paw in my direction and spoke in a strange language. I found myself back on the bike, pedaling involuntarily. "For eternity, you will never fall off your bike," he proclaimed as I rode away. So I ride, unable to fall or even stop pedaling. My clothes became fragments and fell off. Even my skin and muscles wore off, and I prayed that I would die from the lack of organs, but no, my skeleton remains as I continue my cursed ride through many sunsets.
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