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Direct download — If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love (audio) by Rachel Swirsky

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.

If you were a T-Rex, then I would become a zookeeper so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats. I’d watch the gore shining on your teeth. I’d make my bed on the floor of your cage, in the moist dirt, cushioned by leaves. When you couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.

If I sang you lullabies, I’d soon notice how quickly you picked up music. You’d harmonize with me, your rough, vibrating voice a strange counterpoint to mine. When you thought I was asleep, you’d cry unrequited love songs into the night.

If you sang unrequited love songs, I’d take you on tour. We’d go to Broadway. You’d stand onstage, talons digging into the floorboards. Audiences would weep at the melancholic beauty of your singing.

If audiences wept at the melancholic beauty of your singing, they’d rally to fund new research into reviving extinct species. Money would flood into scientific institutions. Biologists would reverse engineer chickens until they could discover how to give them jaws with teeth. Paleontologists would mine ancient fossils for traces of collagen. Geneticists would figure out how to build a dinosaur from nothing by discovering exactly what DNA sequences code everything about a creature, from the size of its pupils to what enables a brain to contemplate a sunset. They’d work until they’d built you a mate.

If they built you a mate, I’d stand as the best woman at your wedding. I’d watch awkwardly in green chiffon that made me look sallow, as I listened to your vows. I’d be jealous, of course, and also sad, because I want to marry you. Still, I’d know that it was for the best that you marry another creature like yourself, one that shares your body and bone and genetic template. I’d stare at the two of you standing together by the altar and I’d love you even more than I do now. My soul would feel light because I’d know that you and I had made something new in the world and at the same time revived something very old. I would be borrowed, too, because I’d be borrowing your happiness. All I’d need would be something blue.

If all I needed was something blue, I’d run across the church, heels clicking on the marble, until I reached a vase by the front pew. I’d pull out a hydrangea the shade of the sky and press it against my heart and my heart would beat like a flower. I’d bloom. My happiness would become petals. Green chiffon would turn into leaves. My legs would be pale stems, my hair delicate pistils. From my throat, bees would drink exotic nectars. I would astonish everyone assembled, the biologists and the paleontologists and the geneticists, the reporters and the rubberneckers and the music aficionados, all those people who—deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs– believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible.

If we lived in a world of magic where anything was possible, then you would be a dinosaur, my love. You’d be a creature of courage and strength but also gentleness. Your claws and fangs would intimidate your foes effortlessly. Whereas you—fragile, lovely, human you—must rely on wits and charm.

A T-Rex, even a small one, would never have to stand against five blustering men soaked in gin and malice. A T-Rex would bare its fangs and they would cower. They’d hide beneath the tables instead of knocking them over. They’d grasp each other for comfort instead of seizing the pool cues with which they beat you, calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not, shouting and shouting as you slid to the floor in the slick of your own blood.

If you were a dinosaur, my love, I’d teach you the scents of those men. I’d lead you to them quietly, oh so quietly. Still, they would see you. They’d run. Your nostrils would flare as you inhaled the night and then, with the suddenness of a predator, you’d strike. I’d watch as you decanted their lives—the flood of red; the spill of glistening, coiled things—and I’d laugh, laugh, laugh.

If I laughed, laughed, laughed, I’d eventually feel guilty. I’d promise never to do something like that again. I’d avert my eyes from the newspapers when they showed photographs of the men’s tearful widows and fatherless children, just as they must avert their eyes from the newspapers that show my face. How reporters adore my face, the face of the paleontologist’s fiancée with her half-planned wedding, bouquets of hydrangeas already ordered, green chiffon bridesmaid dresses already picked out. The paleontologist’s fiancée who waits by the bedside of a man who will probably never wake.

If you were a dinosaur, my love, then nothing could break you, and if nothing could break you, then nothing could break me. I would bloom into the most beautiful flower. I would stretch joyfully toward the sun. I’d trust in your teeth and talons to keep you/me/us safe now and forever from the scratch of chalk on pool cues, and the scuff of the nurses’ shoes in the hospital corridor, and the stuttering of my broken heart.

 

Rachel Swirsky photoRachel Swirsky’s short stories have appeared in Tor, Subterranean Magazine, and Clarkesworld, and been reprinted in year’s best anthologies edited by Strahan, Horton, Dozois, and the VanderMeers. She holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop, and graduated from Clarion West in 2005. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, the Sturgeon, and the Locus Award, and won the Nebula in 2010 for best novella. Her husband is a dinosaur fanatic, but if he turned into a dinosaur, he wouldn’t be a T-Rex. He’d be a Therizinosaur.

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52 Comments

  1. This is such an amazing story!

  2. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

  3. Lovely. Just lovely.

  4. A beautiful story of love.

  5. Wow, thank you. What a well done story!

  6. Wow. Just WOW.

  7. I am weeping. Thank you, Rachel. This is beautiful.

  8. Well, she knocked this one out of the park, didn’t she!

  9. Riveting and beautiful…I could not stop reading. Your flow was effortless and smooth. You communicated a really lovely combination of emotion and defiance.

  10. I…I have no words….magnificent.

  11. What a terrific story, Rachel!

  12. I couldn’t read past the first two sentenses.

    • Why? You really should. It is magnificently beautiful.

  13. Lovely. Thank you so much!

  14. Glorious, poetic, moving.

  15. Beautiful.

  16. A gorgeous story. Well done.

  17. Fantastic story!

  18. Loved this. Loved this. Loved this.

  19. Terrific story. Poetic, lovely, with a gut-punch of an ending.

  20. Oh Rachel,

    This was amazing. Thank you for such strong and beautiful imagery.

  21. Oh, that was devastatingly beautiful. Thank you.

  22. OMG. Poetry masquerading as fiction. Story telling with a scalpel.

  23. Wow. This was wonderful. Thank you!

  24. Gorgeous and so sad–a wonderful story, thank you.

  25. Just gorgeous. And great right brain/left brain imagination — the science was strong. Am currently working on a dream story and am stuck in plot clay. This may have helped at some subliminal level. Loved it!

  26. Jesus, wow.

  27. I’ve come back to this story at least ten times since it was published. Just wanted to say, “Well done.”

  28. Well-written and written with artistry, but I don’t like what it says. I suppose we can expect that from works of writing. I don’t like what Dostoyevsky’s stories say either.

    • Seriously? “…works of writing”? I would say get a clue, but I’m quite sure you wouldn’t recognize one.

      • Well, clues aren’t anything a person is expected to recognize.

  29. Beautiful.

  30. I have done a lot of reading in the past few months as I try to pursue my own writing career. I was reading so much because I wanted to find out what made a story worthy of a Nebula. I think I’ve found it. This story is…well, award worthy.

  31. Surprising, touching and wonderful. A gentle lure before a hard squeeze on the heart.

  32. Congratulations to Apex and to Rachel Swirsky for the effing HUGO NOMINATION for this piece! :D

  33. Wonderful prose and a good, creative, unusual story. Congratulations on your Hugo nomination.

  34. whatever its an alright story. but a hugo and nebula award nomination? nonsense. asimov is rolling in his grave.

  35. A brilliantly written love story with a sharp haunting edge to it.

  36. Wow – It’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, only for grown-ups. Great story!

    • I was thinking that it is like The Runaway Bunny for grown-ups! In any event, a delightful, lyrical story.

  37. Congratulations to Rachel Swirsky for the deserved Nebula Award. It’s a great story!

  38. Beautiful and haunting. One of those stories that leave me wishing I had written it. Rachel Swirsky, Congratulations on winning the Nebula. It is well deserved!

  39. It’s an okay story, but it’s utterly mundane. This is not speculative fiction, as hard as it tries to make us think so. This does not deserve to be called the best short story the field can produce.

    • An amazing story. Congratulations on your win!

  40. One of the most unconventional stories I have ever read, and one that pays off with infinite rewards. It’s not a story for me, but I don’t care: it’s awesome and you should be proud of it.

  41. Ignore the Philistines and the trolls, milady Swirsky. You have given us a moving, quirky, poetic, heart-wrenching, loving story. Best of luck, both in the awards process and in all of your writings!
    Thanks.

  42. This is very, very well-written. It is a work of art, it shows excellent mastery of the writer’s craft, and I commend you, Ms Swirsky, for your accomplishment. But I very much don’t like it.

    For those pondering whether it truly counts as SF, consider this: it is a metafictional story. The person telling us an SF story is not Rachel Swirsky, it is the unnamed fiancee of the brutalized paleontologist.

    Perhaps that’s why I don’t like it. The inner narrative is joyously strange and exuberantly weird, but the frame story is mundane and tragic and brutal and sad and mournful and viciously, heartbreakingly ordinary.

    Defying the literary standards at such a fundamental level can produce remarkable, memorable work; I’m reminded of Tom Godwin’s “the Cold Equations”, for instance, or Elizabeth Hand’s “the Maiden Flight of McCauley’s [i]Bellerophon[/i]“. People are still angry about “Equations” over fifty years later, and it took me over a year to properly understand what Hand was doing with “Flight”. But both of those are undeniably SF. Here, that’s not really the case: the distancing effect of metafiction leaves us, ultimately, in Stein’s Oakland.

  43. Nebula Award Winner and, thus far, Hugo Award Nominee. Well done, friend. Write on.

  44. Wonderful, memorable story.

  45. I was all smiles until you wrung tears from me. I loved it!

  46. I’m melancholy tonight, too much prose in my life. I didn’t know I was thirsting for poetry until I read your story. Thanks and congratulations on your award.

  47. A deeply compelling story found from Escape Pod. You should have won the hugo award for this odd but powerful and touching piece. Thank you for inspiring me.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New short story at Apex Magazine | Alas, a Blog - [...] If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love: [...]
  2. Short Fiction 2013: January – March « ~ fran wilde ~ - [...] Swirsky, “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love,” [...]
  3. Online Fiction Recommendations & Publications for 3/12/2013 | The World Remains Mysterious - [...] terrific pieces in its March 2013 issue. My favorites are Mermaid’s Hook by Liz Argall and If You Were …
  4. I love this story | Bear's Den - [...] in love with another story – Rachel Swirsky’s If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, via Ken Liu’s post. …
  5. The Sneaky Lathe of Poetry « ~ fran wilde ~ - [...] meaning and sound into the smallest of spaces. Swirsky’s “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” (Apex Magazine), and …
  6. Fran Friel's ASM Blog Horde Interview with Kristina Grifantini - Amazing Stories Magazine - [...] I read some fantastic stories in the most recent Apex Magazine, as well, especially enjoying “If You Were a …
  7. If You Were A Dinosaur…. | Pages - [...] http://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/ [...]
  8. 2013 Favorite Reads « ~ fran wilde ~ - […] “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love,” Rachel Swirsky, Apex […]
  9. Black Gate » Blog Archive » Voices in Fantasy Literature, Part 1 - […] first was “If You Were My Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, Apex Magazine, March, 2013. Swirsky’s whimsical voice …
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