01
May
07

What? No, really… what?

archaeopteryx    
Mad, crazy turkey, or the link between dinosaurs and birds?

Last night I had a dream that I was stalking an archaeopteryx. This would be the long-extinct link between reptiles and birds. The “first bird,” if you will.

I was crawling on my belly on a forest floor. After waiting for who knows how long, I looked up and saw it through a gap in the leafy canopy. Its flight followed a graceful arc, its wings beating effortlessly. I don’t think an archaeopteryx actually flew this way. It was not a bird as we know it. It was a reptile, much heavier than a bird. Its bones were not hollow. It glided, and it flew short distances like a bird, but it was not like an albatross or an eagle or a sparrow.

The creature in my dream was beautiful, with a spectrum of feathers splayed out along its wings like a multicolored poker hand. It had fins of feathers on its head, too, like a gryphon. They looked like horns or ears. The head in real life would actually probably have been covered with something more like scales than feathers. And it would not have had horns. I remembered this after I woke, but during the dream I saw the creature as a normal specimen.

It soon spotted me and began to approach. I remembered it was a carnivore and that I probably looked pretty tasty, but I didn’t know where I could run to avoid it. And anyway, this being a dream, I couldn’t move. The closer it got, the uglier it looked and the slower it moved. Soon it was just floating down, like the petal of a blossom or a piece of fluff from the laundry.

When it reached the ground with a soft bounce, the creature looked nothing like it did when it was in the sky. It was brown, gray, withered, shabby. It looked like pieces were missing — its eyes, for one thing. It had no feathers. It was dried up. It was dead. But it was still moving.

It was trying to communicate with me, but it made no sound. It just hopped and flapped impotently, thrashing around through the dead leaves. I had the impression that these movements were meant in a menacing way. It wanted to hurt me, but it was harmless.

Then I became aware that there was someone else on the ground next to me. He or she was a companion. I knew that much, but I didn’t know who it was. This person was similarly dead and dried up in a gray, intact, zombie sort of way, able to move arms and legs but not apparently able to stand or walk or talk. Then I realized the archaeopteryx was communicating with — threatening, in fact — this dead friend. The corpse was scared of this creature, I could tell. And I realized that I was not. Rather than being startled by a partially mobile dead person, I was mainly annoyed that I couldn’t tell who it was.

I stood up and ran away. I tore through the brush, forgetting where I had just come from.

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