This story was inspired by yesterday’s New York Times article about a pair of fossil dinosaur skeletons that are going up for auction. The two dinos may have died locked in combat, and they could each be new kinds of dinosaurs, both traits that would make them incredibly important from a scientific perspective. But if they end up in a private collection, paleontologists may never get a chance to study them. I couldn’t help thinking, though, about how lonely the pair would get.
The men left, carrying away the wooden box and packing peanuts, the tape and the tools, closing the door and dimming the lights, leaving behind two fossil dinosaurs, half stuck in the rock where they had rested for millions of years.
“Hello, there,” said a big white bird. It was a dodo, stuffed. “Welcome to the Collection.”
“What? Where are we?” one of the dinosaurs asked. He glanced around. The room was cavernous. On three walls were two levels of shelves made of a rich, dark wood. Most were packed with books, leather and gold trimmed. Some were fronted with glass, enclosing treasures, like jade statues and odd-colored stones and one-of-a-kind gadgets. The fourth wall was all windows, with overstuffed chairs poised to look out over an expanse of green.
“The Collection,” the dodo repeated. “I’m so glad to have company. It’s been so quiet here. I’m Dee. What are you called?”
“Hmm,” the dinosaur said. “Well, I’m a Nanotryannus, so I suppose you can call me Nanny. My friend here is a Chasmosaurine.”
“Call me Chaz.”
The dodo hopped down from her shelf and walked around the pair. “You can’t move out of that rock, can you?” she asked.
“No,” said Chaz. “We’ve been stuck like this for forever.”
“Pity. There’s an ancient bowling game around here somewhere. It would be nice to have someone to play against,” Dee said. “I haven’t had any friends since I left the museum.”
“Museum? What’s that?” asked Nanny.
“Oh, you didn’t come from the museum? I used to live in one. It was kind of like the Collection, but fewer books and more stuff, especially stuff like you and me,” Dee explained. “And during the day lots of humans would come and visit. I miss the little ones. Even if they were noisy and screamed sometimes. It’s so quiet here. No one ever visits. Only the cleaning lady.”
“We got bought in an auction,” said Chaz. “We overheard one of the moving guys talking about it while we were in the box. He said we cost millions of dollars.”
“What are dollars?” Nanny wondered.
“He also said that a rich guy bought us,” Chaz went on. “But I don’t know what that means.”
“The rich guy owns everything in the Collection,” Dee said. “Including you and me. But he never comes here. I’ve only seen him once. He brought in someone who took lots of pictures. Hasn’t been back since. Do you like Asimov?”
“Asimov? What’s that?” Nanny asked.
“Isaac. Author. There’s first editions of all his works here,” Dee said. “I’m currently working my way through them. I read Darwin and Austen last year. Newton the year before that. Or if you don’t like science fiction, we could try Tolstoy. I could read aloud to you. Since you can’t bowl.”
“I suppose it’s better than what we have been doing,” Nanny said.
“Which was nothing,” Chaz muttered.
“Though I liked your description of a museum,” Nanny said. “I should have liked to have gone to one. Maybe met other dinosaurs like me.”
“It could be worse. We could be alone,” said Chaz. “We might not be able to move, but at least we’re together. And now we’ve got Dee.”
“So,” Dee said, “Asimov is OK then?”
Image from the Natural History Museum in London courtesy of flickr user Kit