The Seismosaurus

10 Nov

Taie transferred to a new secretarial post in Biota six months before the vacation that was to change her life forever.

After she moved, the tall, willowy amateur artist stopped painting completely. She was absorbed in her job at the Fresco Institute and exploring her new community in free time. The inspiration to paint deserted her until the fateful visit to the Vivarium.

One pleasant summer weekend she decided to make a short trip to the parkland reserve to ease her mind some. She had seen and heard many advertisements for the Vivarium, home to species recovered from historical oblivion through genetic reconstitution and biological reviviscence. One could see dinosaurs and other ancient beasts that were not extant anywhere else on the planet.

She arrived by train wearing a purple rose sweater and black slacks. The twenty-eight square miles of the Vivarium contained forests, grassland, and genetic laboratories. She boarded one of the special tour cars transporting visitors between protected stations. The vehicle had wide glass windows through which passing creatures could be observed in safety. A guide gave short descriptive lectures at each site.

At the first stop, her cocoa eyes glowing with interest, Taie gazed at a gigantic slothlike megathere. The whole group of fifteen people she was a part of grew excited.  A quiet frenzy arose at the second station when a massive, four-legged triceratops appeared and looked directly at the viewers in the minibus. Taie gasped with wonder at the long horns above each eye, the large bony crest on the neck, and the horned, beaklike snout. The painter longed to bring paints and canvas here to reproduce what her eyes and mind were experiencing.

“We go now to the third area,” announced the guide. “If we are lucky, you can see a seismosaurus. There is no larger animal creature anywhere in our galaxy.”

The tourists exited the vehicle and entered a small viewing shelter made of glass. Nervous energy pulsed through them. All of them were possessed by hope that this super dinosaur, this ultra sauropod would leave its forest and come near the viewing station. Indeed, their dream came true.

A hundred and forty feet long, eighty-four feet high, and weighing over 50,000 pounds, the great dinosaur moved out of the woods and into the grassy plain with thundering, earth-shaking steps. It looked like a small mountain moving on all fours.

The reality of the titanic living form enraptured all the viewers. They grew breathless and speechless.

Taie sensed an unprecedented surge within her brain. Something unknown took hold of her. A mix of alien sounds and sights flowed through her mind. The sensation grew as the dinosaur approached near the glass station. She looked directly into the huge lizard’s eyes. Was it focusing on her? she asked herself.

Before Taie could decide this, she swooned and fell to the floor, wrapped in silence and darkness.

She awoke feeling as if there had been no interelude at all. Why am I on some sort of bedding? she wondered.

A man’s face appeared on one side, moving to the center of her view as she looked up at it. His eyes were crystal azure, his skin reddish and leathery, his eyebrows and hair pale blond. “You fainted at Station Three and were brought here to my lab. I am Genetic Coordinator of the Vivarium and my name is Antan.”

“What happened to me? I was looking at the seismosaurus when a strange sensation came over me. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced in all my life.” She began to lift her head and shoulders.The man extended his arm around her and helped Taie sit up on the edge of the narrow bed. “Thank you,” she murmured as he sat down on a stool again. “When can I return to Biota?”

“Do you feel well enough to travel, Miss?”

“I must get back to work in two days.”

“You may not be well enough for that, even then. You should take no risk whatever at present. Why don’t you stay in the Vivarium, at least till tomorrow? We have a vacant flat in the staff residency. Your meals would be available in our cafeteria. I am a registered physician as well as a saurian geneticist and can measure your progress. My advice is to stay here and take advantage of all we can offer toward your recovery.”

“I do not wish to become an expensive burden…” Taie began, but he interrupted her.

“There is a selfish reason for this invitation, let me say. Direct observation of a seismosaurus has different effects on people. I wish to explore why you and others before you were overwhelmed by the mere sight of the enormous animal, Taie.”

The latter stared into his azure blue eyes as she decided what to do. “Very well,” she told him. “I can put off leaving until tomorrow.”

After her examination in an ultrsonic scanner, Antan took his patient to the Vivarium cafeteria for a repast of trilobites. He became visibly excited when she described her art background to him. “Have you ever painted landscapes that include animal life of some sort?”

She shook her head.

“But you could do so if you wished?”

Taie smiled. “Of course, if I had the opportunity.”

Antan leaned his head forward and spoke to her in a whisper. “I would like to propose that you become our first official painter. We have never had one in the past, but it can be financed out of visitor admissions. Why not try it for a short while at least? Is it possible for you to receive a leave from your present work in Biota?”

The painter gave a start of surprise. “The idea never occurred to me. It might be extremely interesting. Yes, I could obtain a leave of absence. But what will be done with my paintings finished here?”

“We can feature your works in our souvenir and gift shop, Taie. I will make all the arrangements at once,” promised Antan.

Guion, the general manager of the Vivarium, was an imperious giant with fiery filbert eyes and red-orange hair. He ran the institution like his own private kingdom.

Antan was summoned to his office to report on the recent incident involving the artist and the seismosaurus. The scientist arrived in the main office with no small measure of trepidation. Once seated, he laid out the facts of the curious event for his superior. “This incident confirms my suspicions about the telepathic capability of the seismosauruses,” he concluded. “They possess certain special gifts.”

Guion reacted with boiling fury to this. “Do not repeat such ancient rumors! Do not waste my time with tales of mental waves from their limited brains. I can’t stand such rubbish. How soon will the Vivarium be rid of the painter?”

“I have offered to make her our first animal painter, and a vacant room has been provided for her,” Antan admitted. “I believe we owe the poor woman that much.”

The general manager glared at the geneticist, saying nothing, until his subordinate realized it was time to leave.

Taie spent the next five days painting several stegosauruses. She concentrated on realistic rendering of their sharp backbone spikes. Her confidence and accuracy both grew as she applied her knowledge, experience, and natural skill to the tasks before her.

“Your work is magnificent!” enthused Antan when he inspected her canvasses.

The artist blushed slightly. “What do you think I should concentrate on next?” she asked him.

He gave a warm smile. “Do you think you can handle a seismosaurus?”

“Why not?” she returned, wrinkling her brow.

“I was only remembering what happened to you the day of your first viewing of that dinosaur.”

“No, I’m not afraid of attempting it,” she said firmly.

“Good,” he laughed, “you can start the painting tomorrow.”

“I will be ready.”

This is the same animal that appeared the day I fainted,” Taie instantly realized. Her stool and easel were a short distance from the viewing shelter where the unfortunate incident had occurred, yet she felt no dread whatever there. She began sketching on the canvass with a piece of charcoal at once. The absent beast seemed present in her memory with greenish reptile skin.

Taie’s mind and spirit were totally absorbed in the aesthetics of the project, in the application of her inborn and acquired talent. How friendly and gentle the painted seismosaurus appeared to be as it slowly moved in a field of grass. She thought of a majestic land ship sailing through a sea of bright green. It was a great vessel full of exotic cargo.

At times, Antan stopped by to see how the work was progressing. “Quite good!” he told her as she began to apply color to the body of the animal in the sketch. “This is going to turn out a masterpiece, I predict.”

Taie turned to him with a carefree laugh, swiveling about on her stool. “Flattery is not necessary, Antan. All I can promise is my best, however it comes out in the end…” All at once, she felt something like an electric bolt in her head. A confusing vertigo seized hold of her brain and squeezed at it.

Antan noticed her faintness and moved a step closer. “What is it, Taie? How do you feel?”

But she was struck blind and mute. Her thoughts ceased as she fell from the stool to the ground. The paintbrush fell from her grip as Tae lost consciousness once again.

She woke up on the bed of the flat assigned her. Looking up, Taie caught sight of Antan sitting on the plain wooden chair next to her.

“Do not try to speak,” he softly mumured. “Do not try to exert yourself. You fainted again. Physically, you are recovered. It is your inner psyche that needs additional care. So, let me be truthful with you, Taie. I possess knowledge that I have intentionally kept from you. My judgment told me that was best. But that is no longer so, I believe. A secret experiment has been conducted on you, without your knowledge”

She sent him a questioning look.

“The brain of the seismosaurus is comparatively small, no larger than a walnut. But I have come to think, over many years of observation at the Vivarium, that this colossal species has extraordinary psychic ability. Call it telepathy of a uniquely elevated order. But it was impossible for me to prove until now.”

All of a sudden he rose and approached until he stood beside her bed.

“My suspicion of your own extrasensory sensitivity has been confirmed by the second incident. The first collapse you suffered spurred the idea that was strengthened. I now believe with all my heart that your mind receives telepathic waves from this animal. That is what causes you to fall unconscious.”

He stared down into her eyes for several seconds, then went on.

“What I now want to do is to continue your exposure to the seismosaurus and its mental waves. Such experience will ultimately strengthen you so that the power of seismosaurus thought can be withstood by you without fainting. Then we will be able to test the opposite possibility: transmission of waves from a human brain to that of the great dinosaur.”

Out of breath, he looked down into the face of Taie. Though she did not say a word, he was able to read acquiesence in her placid expression.

Antan stayed beside the easel while when she became well enough to return to the painting of the seismosaurus. He tried to keep her mind occupied, continually conversing with her.

“Giant dinosaurs like ours are plant eaters. The seismosaurus has the legs of an elephant and a tail as strong as a whip. We cannot call it warm or cold-blooded, it has aspects of both. Its unique homeothermic system of temperature keeps it steady on cool nights. There is a special nerve center at the hip that controls the hind legs and the tail. Individual animals can live to over a hundred years.

“We know that, by instinct, the seismosauruses travel in herds in the wild. The young are kept at the center, protected by a ring of adults. That is why, I believe, the telepathic ability developed and evolved in them. It is an instrument for preserving the herd. But gifted human psychics can also receive these signals under certain conditions, in a process of inter-species telesthesia.

“Eventually, I shall invite journalists from Biota to a presentation of my findings on this type of mental communication,”

Taie grew excited. “Can I come to your press conference?”

“Of course,” he said with a grin. “You will be my prime human witness.”

The conference with media reporters went smoothly, but the same could not be said of the aftermath. An immediate result was a summoning of Antan to the office of he general manager.

“What are you trying to do?” thundered Guion as soon as the geneticist was in his presence.

“It was my professional duty to announce my discovery at once, sir,” calmly said Antan.

“You should have asked my permission!”

“Would you have granted it?” shot back the scientist.

Guion glowered at the unexpected boldness. “I am warning you, do not defy my authority again. I heard reports that you exploited the testimony of the painter. You must not encourage her fantasies.”

Antan turned around and made a quick retreat.

As Taie worked the next day, she completed the head of the seismosaurus. Antan came up behind her and announced some news. “I am going to write an article on seismosaurus telesthesia and the phenomenon of your mental contact with the one you have been painting.”

Suddenly, the geneticist stopped talking. He concentrated on Taie’s face as she put down her brush and looked away from him. Her cocoa eyes were fixed on the seismosaurus she knew and painted, the one that had caused her pair of fainting spells. From the far end of the field, it came closer and closer. Her stare froze as she watched it coming.

“Try to send him some message,” proposed Antan, tense with excitement.

She made no reply, but focused her mind on the animal that was approaching.

Second by second, it came nearer. Its gigantic scarlet eyes were on the painter it recognized.

Noiselessly, the mass of flesh approached till it towered over the two human observers. The seismosaurus froze into a rigid stance, as if it were a statue. Then, it collapsed in a heap.

The impact on the ground was a tremor like an earthquake.

Both watchers knew that the great dinosaur was dead.

Taie, across from Antan on a train to Biota several hours later, looked as if on the edge of nervous collapse. “It’s all my fault,” she weakly confessed. “If I had never come near the Vivarium, the seismosaurus would still be alive. It was my mind that killed it. I flooded its tiny brain with too great a mass of waves from me. I murdered the dinosaur.”

The scientist put his hand over hers. “You deserve no blame in any of this. It was the seismosaurus that invaded your mind and awakened your dormant, hidden capacity. But the telepathic power of our species can become many times too strong for the brain of an animal to contend with. Your brain might have been overwhelmed under total attack from the dinosaur. It was an automatic defensive outflow on your part. You had no evil motive at all.”

“I did nor wish to kill him,” said Taie with tears streamimg.

“You’re not guilty of anything,” said Anan with force. “It was an accident, all of it.”

“But you lost your position at the Vivarium!”

‘That was inevitable. Now I’m free to present my theory of dinosaur telesthesia without inhibition or censorship of any sort. I can attempt further research on my own.”

“I can’t ever return out there to the Vivarium again,” she whispered, looking out the train window.

Neither can I, thought Antan silently.


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