Walk the Dinosaur

The velociraptor had come to Ottawa to be with his fiancé, Maria, for the summer. This would be the first time living in an apartment, their own place, instead of at home or the university dorm. It would also be the first time living in a place where human-dinosaur relationships were open. At least, more open. Her parents didn’t bat an eye, but instead threw an engagement party for them. Even her uncle, the Anglican priest, gave them his blessing.

Now that the hoopla had settled down, however, there were practical matters at hand. Maria’s parents had recently sold their home for a smaller, retirement property, and couldn’t fit two more people in, but her father had found them a decent city apartment. They were also willing to put some of their own money into it. The velociraptor knew that if his parents heard of this, they would do so as well, but it would hurt them. They were not as well-off. Work was needed.

First, Maria had pulled some strings with one of her cousins who did landscaping, and the velociraptor had tried his best. The combination of the sleepless night he had spent worrying about the prospect and the fumbling nature of his stunted forearms meant the job was short-lived.

Now it was a group interview at the Chapters bookstore. The velociraptor had library experience, which he thought would give him a leg-up. When the questions came to “workplace conflicts”, however, he could tell by the interviewer’s reaction that he came off as confrontational.

“I wouldn’t let my first impression of… things… colour my professionalism, of course,” he said lamely.

The interviewer said only that they would contact the applicants who were being considered further within a few days.

A few days, then several, passed. He wasn’t getting the job.

“They’re probably just prejudiced against dinosaurs,” Maria said helpfully. She wrapped her arms around him. Maria had fallen in love with his reds and blues, or so she said. The colours had served their purpose. She stroked the sensitive feathers along his neck.

“It’s all right,” she cooed. “You’ll find something. Be more assertive.”

Part of him ruffled at this. It never came up that she didn’t have a job and wasn’t looking.

But Maria was stroking down his chest now, and he shivered.

“I’ll make it better, love. Why don’t we go to bed, and I’ll show you.”

He acquiesced.

And couldn’t perform.

The jobs, the fucking jobs. They’d neutered him, broken him. He had to find one, reclaim his raptorhood.

The next morning he showered, scrubbing his scales shiny and new. He told Maria he was going out. She grunted from the bedroom. The velociraptor shrugged to himself, and went job-hunting.

There was a prep cook opening nearby, but that entailed the same arm problem as the landscaping. Restaurants found excuses not to hire him as a server, but he knew it was because some people found his species’ comportment unnerving.
Finally he found a place desperate enough to take him on.

“We’re the second-worst ranked outlet in the Ottawa area,” the boss said almost proudly.

“We’re low on staff–one of our guys phoned in with a broken arm–so we need to put your on the fast track, training-wise.”

The velociraptor tried not to show his desperate glee. The New York Fries was kind of lonely, in what was technically a food court on the second storey of a third-rate mall, but it was a job. The boss showed him through the employee entrance, gave him an employee shirt, which the velociraptor awkwardly donned. He was directed to the first section.
There was a vat of potatoes, and a lever-powered french fry cutter. The pimply boy using it looked up and gave an awkward wave.

“Rob,” was all he said.

“I think how the cutter works is self-evident,” said the boss. “Easy, repetitive. Now these are the beauties of the operation.”

The boss gestured to three deep fryers, currently being tended to by a middle-aged woman whose name tag read “Elaine.” She smiled shyly at him.

“You’re going to have to familiarize yourself with the three big parts of this job,” the boss continued, not stopping to introduce the woman. “The cutter back there, the till up there, and the fryers. The last one’s the trickiest. We’ll show you how to fry the suckers in the right order, pluck out any strays, and, the trickiest, drain the whole system when we close up. You’re going to have to do all this by yourself, soon, so pay attention.”

The boss must have seen the slight whitening of the velociraptor’s skin, because he said,

“Don’t worry, there’s only a minor chance of major burns.”

This didn’t help. Was the boss joking? The velociraptor couldn’t tell. If it was, it was a bad one. But the man was already gesturing towards the till, the heated chili and cheese sauces. (Mostly flour, and often left overnight. He wouldn’t be ordering those again.)

The boss slowed down. “We’ll just wait for some customers and you can see it all in action.”

The action was slow, unsurprisingly, but still a little befuddling. The till was the most complex, and he worried more about that than the fryers, oddly enough. Burns he could understand, but the arcane operation of the cash? In the downtime he got to know the others a little. Rob was working this job outside of high school, so he was only part-time.

Elaine had this job on top of another one because she supported two kids, alone.

The velociraptor was observing the till again when Elaine squawked. Metal rattled. The velociraptor looked back and saw Elaine prying her fingers from the rear fryer. The boss glanced back as well.

“You all right?” he asked.

“I… I don’t think so,” Elaine mumbled, holding her right hand. “It really hurts.”

“That’s okay,” said the boss, apropos of nothing. “You can take a five minute break. Velociraptor, man that fryer until she gets back.”

“I mean it really hurts. I think my fingers might be broken,” said Elaine, voice wavering.

“Can I go? I think I might need a hospital.”

The boss paused a second, then replied with a false smile: “I can’t operate here if you’re gone, Elaine. I’ve got no one to call in on such short notice. No. Velociraptor, man that fryer.”

“It hurts,” Elaine muttered weakly while the velociraptor simultaneously spoke a determined “No.”

The boss furrowed his brow. Rob had stopped cutting fries and was leaning out to get a better view of the situation.

“You’ll both do as I say or you won’t work here anymore,” the boss rumbled.

“I can’t lose this job!” cried Elaine.

“I don’t give a shit about this job,” said the velociraptor, “but Elaine’s keeping hers. Let her go.”

“You gonna make me?” said the boss menacingly, and he stood up to the velociraptor, chest out.

“I’ve hunted game four times your size,” the velociraptor warned. “I can track you by scent. Let her go.”

The boss blinked, then his face reddened. “Don’t threaten me, you little fag!” he roared, then charged forward, hands out in a strangling grip.

The velociraptor reacted instantly, whipping its leg out, its large, hook-like claw tearing into the boss’s prodigious belly. The boss halted, grunted only slightly, and looked down. His intestines were falling from the gash and coiling at his feet. The smell of blood, interstitial fluid, and putrid feces filled the room.

The faces of Rob and Elaine (her hand forgotten for now) gaped. The boss sank to the floor on his knees, then curled into a fetal position. His mouth opened and closed silently. The velociraptor took pity on the man and tore his throat out.

There was silence, then Rob and Elaine came and pulled the boss to the back. A trail of blood followed the dead man.

“I think this is my last day here,” the velociraptor said, half to them and half to himself.

“Go get that hand taken care of, Elaine. I don’t think it’ll matter if we shut down early, Rob.”

They mumbled their agreement, probably in shock. The velociraptor went home, a growl in the back of his throat, longing to pounce on Maria, ravish her.

He found her packing her things. The velociraptor stared, still caked in the boss’s blood. She looked at him and sighed.

“Typical. Can’t keep another job, huh? And probably killed someone, too, from the look of it.”

“You’re leaving?” he asked. This time he was in shock. “Why? What did I do?”

“I’ve been talking to my friends, and they’ve convinced me that I’m only with you because it feels transgressive being with a dinosaur. The danger.”

“And I’m not dangerous enough for you, is that it? I just killed my boss.”

“Exactly the problem. You act so civilized most of the time, then you lash out.” Maria waved her hand dismissively. “Why do you have to be so… messy?”

“You’re bored with me,” the velociraptor said. “I thought we were serious, Maria. We’re engaged, for God’s sake!”

“You can take the ring back,” she said, working it off her finger and handing it to him.

“And man-up. You’re such a limp-dick sometimes.”

The velociraptor sat down. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to. That’s not my responsibility,” she said. “My parents are coming for my stuff. They can fit me in for a while. My dad’s willing to help you move back.”

Then she left, the screen door swinging shut behind her.

A few days later, Maria’s father, embarrassed, came to move the boxes she had packed. The velociraptor helped him. After they were done, the velociraptor returned to find the phone in the middle of a ring. It was Rob, from New York Fries.

“I’m sorry man, but it’s management,” said Rob. “They want their shirt back.”

Love Eternal and True

Bruno loved Hilda fully and truly, no matter her feelings towards him. He loved her knowing that when she finally understood his love, she would finally love him in turn. Being told to fuck off countless times, hung up on beyond the number of stars in the sky would not deter him from what was surely the universe’s plan for him, for them both. But oh! Each second of the wait was agony, each moment away from her side burnt like lava in his veins. If only, if only there were a quicker way to her true heart.

These were the thoughts percolating in his brain on the evening he caught glimpse of a bright pink neon sign, blinking on and off in the night. LOVE POTIONS SOLD it advertised in the window of an otherwise unremarkable, shabby-looking shop labelled “Madame Tethys’ Charms & Elixirs.” Bruno hesitated, his disbelief and self-respect straining against entering, but his desperation won out.

The interior of the shop was not the haven for old incense and older occult props that Bruno had expected. Rather, it was clean, functional, all glass and metal frames. Displays offered vials, bottles, paper constructions, wood and metal gewgaws. Behind a counter stood a statuesque woman, olive skinned with horn-rimmed glasses that seemed professional rather than trendy, and coal black hair gathered into a bun.

“Welcome,” she said, genuine warmth emerging from her professionalism. “Anything in particular I can interest you in?”

“I—” Bruno’s voice cracked. He coughed. “I was thinking about the… love potion?”

“A popular one,” said the clerk. “It comes as a powder, you should know. You mix it yourself, in water or some other liquid medium.”

“T-that should be fine,” said Bruno, who hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. “But, ah, it actually, y’know, works?”

“Oh, yes,” said the clerk. “Very much so! Immediate and complete fascination and adoration guaranteed. So strong is it, in fact, there is no known means of reversal. An improvement over the original, you might say.”

“So, I get my money back if it doesn’t work?”

“Definitely,” she assured him. “Not that it’s ever happened.”

Mind alive with the hope of the requited love he had long awaited, Bruno paid the woman the agreed-upon price. He hurried from the shop, featureless plastic bag clutched furtively to his chest like a man with an eagerly-sought and particularly foul porno tape.


“This isn’t a date,” Hilda told him for the second time. “This is just because I don’t think you’ll get it unless you see the words coming out of my mouth: “I don’t love you. I don’t like you. I can’t stand you, so would you please just leave me alone. If you don’t listen to me this time, I’m getting a restraining order.”

They sat at the window booth of the bar. Bruno sat rapt in the presence of her perfect beauty, as usual, captured by each movement of her black dreadlocks against her brown forehead, each angry flicker of her deep brown eyes, each hissed insult from her perfect, full lips.

But Bruno could not allow himself to be distracted from his desperate mission. She couldn’t see him put the powder in her drink, lest she think he was slipping her roofies or some other nefarious date-rape drug.

“Oh, isn’t that terrible?” he said, pointing out the window, unable to think of a more convincing ploy. It still worked. Hilda looked.

“What?” she asked, distracted from her disdain. Bruno emptied the opened packet into her beer.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought I saw a crow carry off a puppy. Never mind. Let me make a toast at least? To new beginnings?”

“To new beginnings,” Hilda assented. “Amen.”

They both downed their beer. Bruno watched Hilda eagerly.

“What?” said Hilda. “Do I have foam on my face?” She wiped.

Bruno’s heart began to sink. The clerk had said “immediate.”

“Did I get it?” Hilda asked. “I—whoa….”

“What?” said Bruno. “Are you okay?”

“The room just got all… spinny. I think I drank too fast. Just let me….” She looked down, then looked back up again at Bruno. He could see her pupils dilate. His heart quickened. Was this it?

“What’s wrong?” he whispered.

“You… I’ve never really looked at you before, I think. Do you want to have another drink?”


“Let me rub your feet, love, they must be sore,” said Hilda, already removing the shoes from the feet of her husband of five weeks. Bruno pulled back.

“No, no, I’m quite alright,” said Bruno.

Hilda stood up and immediately scurried across the room. “A drink, then,” she said, eagerly, “to calm your nerves, love.”

“I’m—I’m fine. Thanks. Really.” Her beautiful form—she was still beautiful, achingly so—was seemingly overshadowed by the fervour of her love for him. Dampened. Tarnished. Cheapened. He broached the topic he’d been working himself up to for days.

“What—you see,” he stuttered, “Hilda, I don’t think it’s working out,” he blurted. “I think I want a divorce. I’m pretty sure.”

“Oh, love, that’s ridiculous,” said Hilda without hesitation. “We belong together, you said it yourself so many times, when I wouldn’t listen. Now I finally understand, and you say we have to part? Nonsense. The world will keep us together.”

“I don’t think you understand,” he persisted. “I don’t love you, not anymore. I just don’t, and that’s that.”

“Hmm…” she pondered. “That is a problem, then.”

“So you see,” said Bruno, “Divorce is the only option. I’m seeing a lawyer tomorrow. I want you to come.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” said Hilda, moving suddenly towards the door. “I’m going out. Don’t wait up.”

Unfortunate, thought Bruno, but he hoped this flight might at least indicate he’d broken through to her.


Falling asleep without her the night before, Bruno woke the next morning to the sound of her singing in the kitchen. As he propped himself up in bed and blinked the sand from his eyes, Hilda entered the room with a tray in her hands, a hot breakfast and orange juice carefully arranged.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to wake you, love,” she said happily.

“You didn’t have to do this,” said Bruno. “The divorce—”

“Oh, I don’t care about the silly divorce,” she interrupted. “Just take a gift for what it is.”
Bruno acquiesced, and started in on the meal. He was a trifle nervous, as Hilda hovered attentively over every bite and sip as he did so, but it was good. When he was finally finished

“Thank-you,” he said, levelling what he hoped was a stern gaze at her. “Thank-you but this doesn’t change—uh—doesn’t—”

“Yes,” she asked eagerly.

Bruno stumbled over his words, but somehow all he could think of in his head was “I love you.” Something’s wrong, he thought. I’m not in love with her anymore. I wasn’t in love with—the juice! Something was in the—

Then their eyes met, and he was lost in them forever.

Trophy

Andrew mulled a cigar, relaxing in his trophy room. Being there was a balm after a relatively unsuccessful hunting day, but with diminishing returns the longer this drought continued. Nonetheless, he meditated on the preserved female heads of the particularly pristine zombies he had come across, mounted carefully on his wall. “Immaculate” would perhaps be a better descriptor. Their beauty and serenity would not look out of place on images of the Madonna.

But looking at them now made him bristle. The latest forays into zombie territory had given up only decayed monstrosities. “Rotters.” Nothing worthy of immortalizing. The opportunities in finding and preserving female beauty as he had so done had proved a limited window.

A thought itched. A “what if?” He had dedicated his life too fully after this plague began to give up now that it seemed to be winding down. He placed his cigar in the ashtray, a decision reached. Andrew picked up the phone and dialled.

“Hello?” came an uncertain voice out of the phone.

“Maria,” said Andrew. “It’s Professor Dinklage. I apologize for how late is, but I just had the wildest idea about your thesis, and I wanted to strike while the iron is hot.”

“Oh, Professor Dinklage!” she said. “Of—of course. What is it?”

“I don’t think I can really get into it fully over the phone,” said Andrew. “Why don’t you come over to my place and we can hash it out here.”

“Okay…” she said. He hung up.

Andrew rose, took his machete from its place above the mantle, and sharpened it methodically until he heard the doorbell ring. He approached the door, the machete hidden behind his back, and opened it.

“Ah, Maria. Did I ever tell you how beautiful you look?” he told her.

Rotter

“Hey bitch! Hey rotter!”

The live boys laugh as they mock my shambling gait. There’re about six of them, white, I think. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. They’re slumming. You don’t need twenty-twenty to read that from their body language. Bystanders awkwardly avoid us as the boys follow me, walk ahead of me, still laughing.

“Hey, are you a girl or a boy, rotter?” asks the live boy I assume to be their leader. “Are those supposed to be tits?”

“Ghnarrghl,” I came back, unable to help myself.

“Fuck you, rotter!” dares one of the lesser boys in return

Their paths start to worry me; they’re closing me off from the street, steering me towards the entrance to an alleyway.

“Come on, let’s have some fun, rotter. In the name of human-rotter relations,” says their leader, sneering. I am human, just a dead one, but I can’t say so. Doesn’t matter, wouldn’t register with this lot.

I try to push back and regain my initial, stumbling route, but I have nothing near the coordination that the live boys have. No one else on the street notices, or cares, that a bunch of live boys herd a lone rotter into a dark alley in broad daylight.

“Thrrghl!” I try to protest, but I am shoved now, grabbed, pulled to the fence at the alleyway’s end. I turn on the leader, snap my teeth. Bravado, and he knows it, slapping me in the face.

“Keep her held down, guys,” he says. “We’re going to find out—” he gropes my crotch “—yes, it is a rotter girl! I thought I smelled rotter pussy.”

Some of the live boys hoot and holler at this, take turns grabbing my decayed vulva, the remains of my tits. A few stay back, awkward.

“This is too fucking gross,” says one, letting go of my shoulder. Another live boy is on me before I can push for my freedom.

“Pussy!” shouts the leader. “Fag!”

“Whatever, dude,” says another.

“Rotter-lovers!” accuses the leader.

I hear murmurs of the dissenting live boys, unwilling to help me, God no, but weirded out regarding how watching another live boy fuck me makes them feel about themselves. They flee, but there are enough left, malicious enough to hold me down as their leader unzips his pants audibly. He’s more than ready to do all the things he ever wanted to do to a live girl but couldn’t.

“Nrghl,” I hear from the street. “Argh.”

Fuck. I am relieved, infinitely, but just… fuck.

“What—” says one of the live boys, and then he sees what I know lie at the alley’s opening. “Oh shit,” he says.

“Look what you got us into, you dirty cunt!” screams their leader, his pants still down.

I cannot see, but I can hear, the shuffling of a dozen feet amongst the filth of the alleyway.

“Grrghl!”

The live boys are penned in against the oncoming micro-hoard of my fellow undead. They let me go, I collapse to the pavement, and they start to climb the chain-link to their escape. I can hear and feel the live boy leader struggling with his pants, thoroughly fucked. The undead move around me and the live boy screams as they do… whatever. I close my eyes. A tentative touch brushes my shoulder, helps me to my feet.

“Gurghl?” she offers.

I try to hiss my displeasure. All that comes out is “Hwqwahqw.” I open my eyes again. Her rotted face is friendly, but I am in no mood to accept her kindness. I had forgotten, willfully or not, the cardinal rule: safety only in numbers. Why should it be so? How is it fair to live tethered to the herd? But it is the way it is, and we literally have no voice to make it different. C’est la vie.

Ally

Glasses clinked at Piers’ quintuple-yearly graduate student party, celebrating… whatever.

“Well, I object to your use of the term ‘zombie,’” said Piers. “I don’t know if you know, but it’s really quite offensive.”

“B-but my point—” said Phonse. “—Isn’t it simply dangerous to have living humans and… the dead work side-by-side?”

“Ignorant!” said Piers. “Just ignorant! I won’t dignify that with an answer!”

“Have you worked alongside a dead person?” asked Phonse, gaining back his steam. “I’ll bet you haven’t even dealt face-to-face with the dead.”

“Well, ah, I have my own way of helping my much maligned brethren…” said Piers evasively.

“Your activism is just a function of your guilt as a living person!”

“I’m a dedicated ally!” protested Piers.

“I refuse to debate with you further until you correct your serious hypocrisy,” said Phonse.

After the party was over, Piers should have let the conversation go. Many in his place had, either accepting that they couldn’t fully appropriate the voice of the voiceless dead, or, rationalizing that some would always use an angle like this to undermine the dead cause. But Piers was of that particular social class which defines itself by winning debates at parties. He burned with embarrassment in ways that you or I can only imagine, erasing all thoughts of safety or prudence.

By the time he was on the street, Piers had cooled down enough to feel pangs of apprehension. The nighttime streets were not his place, per se. He’d never been accused of having “street smarts.” He’d never even had it implied. As far as Piers could see, however, those who did have them were lesser humans, so how hard could it be?

Piers walked tentatively, not wanting to disturb the denizens of the night who were not his current quarry. He began to feel like some ancient predator, ears pricked forward, intent on tracking down his prey. Piers had to remind himself he was not hunting to harm, but to help. At last he heard the telltale moans of diseased and rotten mouths emanating from a deserted lot ahead.

“Be not afraid,” said Piers, walking amongst these poor unfortunates with arms wide. “I have come.”

“Grr,” said one of the dead.

“Arrgh,” said another.

And then they all turned towards him, and the meat that was his only real contribution to their lives.

Late at the next party there came a slow, methodical knock at the door. Phonse opened it to find a familiar, if dead, person slouched on the other side.

“Oh, Piers,” said Phonse. “What did you do to yourself?”

The dead man smiled. He had won.

Species

“One day,” I confessed, “I was working for my father, fixing up a house of his that had fallen into disrepair I went out to check on the dilapidated mailbox, and, when I opened it, some movement caught my eye. I looked closer and, once my vision had adjusted, I recoiled. The inside was coated in wriggling earwigs that had nested there. My stomach turned. I loathed them. I wished to destroy them, not for any practical reason, but because I found their existence to be intolerable.

“I wondered sometimes what other, superior species would think of us.”

“Please,” the ambassador asked with a wave of her tentacles, “if you could just point us towards the dinosaurs.”