Here’s the thing about humans: they’re afraid of what they don’t know, and fear stinks to high heaven if you’re anything but one of ‘em. I’ll put up with some putrid if it means I get what I want, which just happens to be always. People are scared of each other, so they don’t ask the hard questions and they give soft answers. That’s where I come in.
Well, it’s where I would have. Respect and reputation vanish when you write what’s right about all the wrong people. I’ll give the humans one thing: They have power, and they’ll pull whatever strings they need to if it means cutting someone deep. Someone like me, a guy who threw everything away, burned every bridge, plucked his final feather without even knowing it could happen.
I was naive.
“You were used,” she says.
Women are about the only humans I can handle anymore, but this broad is getting on my nerves. She runs her hand up my nose and over my head, brushing over the too-long moppy mess I’ve let live there. I tell her to stop treating me like one of her animals. I am not adorable. I’m a velociraptor, goddamnit.
She holds the back of my neck and asks me again. I’m trying to steep in self-pity and she keeps trying to figure out why.
The tables have turned. Here’s this relentless human, totally unafraid of me, the coward on the other end of a hard question.
“Darling, I don’t give a good goddamn what happened,” she says. “I just want to know why you stopped after…well, after.”
I sit on this while soaking up another spirit. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder when the intimidating beast died and this sad sack fuzzy duck took his place. I didn’t like the joke standing on this stool anymore.
I let it all out. I tell her I don’t know how to handle defeat, and that losing what I was made to have left me lost. It goes on longer than that, but you get the idea.
When all’s said and done she offers me a job.
Before I even ask the details, I make the brash, rookie reporter move of telling her I’ll take it.
I get a haircut just so I remind myself this is what I’m supposed to be. I can fit into my old jacket, finally, and I look about as close to the velociraptors in film as I’m ever going to look. They never get anything right. Humans are as ignorant as they are afraid. That idiocy is how I end up with an offensive nickname like “The Drastic Jurassic.”
I half expect Evelyn Winters, who meets me at my apartment a day after the offer, to tell me all about a man. It’s not a cheating husband, a suspicious stalker, something ordinary and old and not my style. Winters knows I’m not the police or a private eye, so she gives me something good and she gives it to me straight.
She’d been sent to find me by a profiteering corporate overlord named Reuben Shack. Reuben was some super genius turned suit for the second strongest science and technology R&D firm on the planet — the first, of course, being the one that brought me back from the dead. Winters is his right hand woman, and she’d been sent to seize me.
She could have done it, too. I wouldn’t have fought back. I won’t kill humans, much as I hate ‘em, and she had me cornered in my own unnatural habitat. Winters reminds me she’s here with a job.
“I’m a scientist, Remy,” Winters says, using my first name for the first time. “I don’t agree with the sharp decline of ethics going on behind Reuben’s closed doors. Fortunately, I’m on the right side of the lock to do something about it.”
Winters wants to sabotage the entire facility. Getting me inside was easy, but the endgame had changed. I’d pull ShackTech’s pants down and then spill its guts all over the floor. Humiliation before evisceration. My kind of job. It’d win me back some public favor, too.
I don’t have the time to research any of this and I don’t trust a word of it. I figure I’ve got very little left at the moment anyway, so I put all my chips on the table. I tell Ms. Winters I’ll play her game.
“Good,” she says. “Now just play along.” Before I can lift a talon to ask what she means, I’m awake inside another lab on an unfamiliar table, staring up at Reuben Shack’s bloody lab coat.
Red isn’t my color. Dr. Plante told me the green tint to my blood was the only thing that went wrong during my awakening procedure. It wasn’t contaminated or tainted, it just didn’t revitalize according to plan. Fair trade for speech, I suppose.
Shack’s voice gets clearer and I realize he’s the only mad scientist in the white, windowless room. He turns to a computer and starts rambling about me, DNA, success, and Winters’ cooperation. Of course she tricked me.
I fail to sit up, damn sedative, and Shack takes notice. He takes a small camera off the desk and shoves it in my face, asking how I’m doing. Just fabulous, thank you for asking.
I see my face on the monitor. I have no more teeth. Presumably, they’re in a bowl somewhere so I can’t lash out at his throat. Not that I would have. Probably.
“Remy,” I hear a hoarse voice mutter. Winters is behind me sounding like she’s missing teeth, too.
Reuben Shack turns my bed around and tilts me up as he says, “Ah, she’s awake! Let’s take a look, shall we, little friend?”
The blood is obviously hers.
Evelyn’s blonde hair is all but gone, replaced instead by greyed feathers. She’s smaller than she was, closer to my three-feet-tall than her almost six. Her arms thinned but her hands stayed the same size, likely to accommodate the large talons bursting from between her knuckles. There’s a small tail swinging beneath her legs, hovering just above her three toes. She isn’t missing teeth — she’s wearing a new set, slender and sharp and digging into her chin.
“Marvelous, isn’t it? We can do here what your friends couldn’t,” Shack says. “They brought you back, but I brought you to life.”
He goes on for a while about bringing millions of years of evolution together, talks about how he’s fused time after failing so many times before. The longer he goes on the more information I have to take with me. I’m strong enough by the time he starts congratulating himself on camera that I pop out a claw and cut myself free. One strap? What an idiot.
Winters knew I’d figure out what to do as soon as I woke up here. She banked on it so confidently it transformed her into this monstrosity. Staring at her naked, deformed body, I felt, for the first time, sorry for a human rather than myself.
I leap for the camera. Shack tumbles over a table and sends his computer screen, a set of scalpels, and, sure enough, a bowl of my teeth scattering across the floor. I cut the keycard from his coat and dash for the door with the two items in tow. I close it behind me before he’s even off his knees.
Some papers say I sacrificed Evelyn Winters to get my story. They spin my interview quotes to support their theories. I don’t really care.This was like my birth all over again — people don’t know what they want to believe. They’re afraid of what’s out of the ordinary. The only thing that can convince them of anything is their own uncertainty.
Winters and I, we knew the truth. Reuben Shack knew it too, and I made him share it with the world when I made my way out of his lab. The man confessed, proudly, might I add, and yet half the population looks at me as the villain. He did not, however, own up to stabbing her to death.
Maybe I’m a little evil. Reuben and I both look at Winters as a necessary sacrifice, someone who had to go away for the greater good. It’s our definitions of good that divide us.
Look at me with my moral compass.
When the dust settles years from now, when everyone’s forgotten about Reuben rotting in his cell, maybe even I’ll look at the Pulitzer Prize without seeing her bloodstains.
Chuck Wendig gave me an excuse to elaborate on my Raptor Reporter idea. It’s super dumb/amazing, so this was fun.