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GABRIEL

 

LEK

ASPIRING AUTHOR

Lost Discoveries

This title is under the Peabody Collection

The Opening Line

1874. I have returned from the sheltered creek, where the object of my consternation lay in my own bare hands, the most banal and most ordinary object I shall befuddle myself with! Night should have covered the sky, and made a fog so penetrating my own petrifying walk would have yielded. How could it be worth the trouble, wading my way under the umbrellic canopy of the swampy brook for the second time? But like all living creatures great and small, curiosity gripped me like a piercing vine, swinging me back to the quiet site in such spirit my body hardly held itself together in my stern, controlled perambulation of a restrained Victorian gentleman.

It was a piece of rock, too large to fit in any nook or crevice within the vast trappings of my bog-barreled accoutrements. A most extraordinary specimen, what with the large rotund bottom coming up towards a point, transforming into a brief streak of red when light struck at that exact precise tip. Cracked lines and a ruptured surface resembling that of a tough scaly bark envelope the specimen in leathery hues so dark one would have simply ambled past for lack of any form of resplendence in color in this extra ordinary object. But it caught me off-guard with that particular red-tip gashed over the top. With a sleight of hand it disappeared, only to come back in the most accidental angles. A most disturbing sight, maddening, really.

But what was it? After all the trouble, of retrieving the particular object of my importune fascination after a failed attempt in concealing it on the mid-morning trip. There was just something about it – something dark, as if it was an old artifact or totem used by some lost ancient tribe, imbibed with the ways of the old religion. It kept me awake, night after night, in the frigid rains of the cold Colorado basin as the jaunted trees swayed in direction of the winds, as if craving alms of some supernatural entity. Before long, my own anxious wellspring of fears steeped into a voluptuous panting simmer at the divine anagnorisis of having taken something I should not have touched.

***

A letter from Berthoud.

‘Old friend,

Good health. It transpired between Arthur and me that this delivery should be of some import. Your expeditions must have wakened your nimble self, my man, what of the news from an escort retelling the tale of your mad delays along those long and winding roads that so riled the natives. Stopping every three steps on your horse, I hear? Hark! But I speak beside myself.

This particular specimen was brought to my attention by dear Arthur, who reports of a lost collection of fossils in the Denver formation. This could be one of them, a possible tooth belonging to some theropod, given to him by some clean-faced college whelp named a certain Peter.

For your kind perusal.

With deepest sincerity,

Yours.’

***

The wooden box sat proudly on the makeshift desk. Its steeled black polish brought a singular focus to the room, and captured the man’s darting right eye each time he paced across the room, from the dark stone recesses of the fire gate to the three arched windows flooding the study with long narrow beams of light in its floor to ceiling construction. But the imposing feature served only to direct the man’s glance towards the locked black box, as he laid the letter on the mantle.

He opened it, pausing to marvel at the handsome agate lock, and kneaded his fingers gently to unwrap the layers of parchment beautifully wrapped with a butterfly knot amid the delicate clump of straw trimmings luxuriously stacked to fill six times the volume of the mysterious beauty. The bearded man reached in and held the specimen, looking at it with his half-opened eyes in his usual form of skeptical scrutiny.

‘Ah. A tooth indeed, from a carnivorous dinosaur. Must be from an Allosaurus.’

With that, the man closed the box and dumped it along the other four thousand boxes that were bigger and more impressive than the box of some Grinnellian college kid.

***

2016. A case of sad misshapen chance where two remnants of once great creatures sit opposite one another. The totem, rock, or whatever you prefer to call it, now rests on the namesake of a T-Rex tooth. Apparently Carpenter and Young discovered the fossils found in the Denver formation to be in the same time equivalent to those in the Hell Creek and Lance formations, after some biostratigraphic analysis. 66 million years were well short of the 150 necessary for Marsh’s all-too-casual assumption of an Allosaurus. So this specimen, which would have been the world’s first record of a T-Rex fossil, now rests past the age of excitement – an age it never had.

Yet a striking contrast lies on the other end. An Anchisaurus, strewn flat but with a hand held up in one final bid to raise his name in his death-dying throes. The shame, the most complete dinosaur fossil ever found in New England or perhaps the Mississippi east, more complete than the type specimen housed in an Amherst moose. Its glory of 39 years as Yaleosaurus died down with time, a brief pause in its eternal ultrahistory. Is the ignominy of changing one’s proud name by force worse than the revelation of losing one’s recognition?

Two lost discoveries, one announced past its prime and one mistaken for some exotic new species. Yet they breathe new life into the building, if only for the joy of resolving something new, some lost riddle, or the bewilderment of wonder in tracing something a little closer to its origins. After all, these would in turn be replaced by another even if fate struck the right chord. But for now, the pair may live to see another day in the remarking of the type specimen, or the potential finding of a long-lost dead burial ground. And upon the day their flames do die, they would once again come to see the death-dying day of fame, to once more trace the unexpected journey  or relive the victorious moment, to once afresh the past and the present into a continuum of human existence, and to do it all over again.

Continued...

A mysterious rock came to be unrecognized for a hundred and twenty-eight years. Some other rock staked its claim on fame during this period. What is this rock and how did it come to be missed?