October 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
Some things that occurred to me recently:
The Permian extinction ended the reign of the therapsids, who were effectively the dominant terrestrial life forms before the Triassic. After the Permian, the few surviving therapsids got into an evolutionary war with archosaurs, including the emerging dinosaurs, and they lost. Despite an early strong showing following the Permian extinction event, the therapsids were forced to the fringes of the world’s surface ecosystems. They dwelled as nocturnal and subterranean entities for over 185 million years.
Now, the therapsida were hardly poorly suited to survive (just take a look at Inostrancevia here) although it’s clear that the huge blow they suffered at the end of the Permian didn’t exactly help them in competing with the archosaurs. For whatever reason, the ancestors of crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds (dinosaurs and birds themselves being so close that some paleontologists consider birds to just be a subset of dinosaurs) won, and ruled Earth for millions upon millions of years.
The therapsids were hardly wiped out, however. For instance, you’re a therapsid.
That’s right: strictly speaking, all mammals are therapsid, and there are no living therapsids left on Earth that aren’t mammals. Roughly 65 million years ago, life on Earth underwent an event similar to, but smaller than, the Permian extinction. This later extinction (known as the K-T Boundary Event) effectively reversed the results of the Permian/Triassic transition. In other words, 250 million years ago, our ancestors were pushed off the stage in favor of the archosaurs, and 65 million years ago, the archosaurs were likewise pushed off the stage for mammals. It’s as if one dynasty of large terrestrial animals was dethroned by another, which ruled for many millions of years, and then like MacDuff coming out of the Birnam Wood the therapsids rose up again.
With the help of a giant rock from space, yes, absolutely true. Then again, would the archosaurs have fared any better at the end of the Permian had the world not run riot against the therapsid rulers?
It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened had our gorgonopsid cousins not faced the Greatest Dying Ever as the Permian ended. What would the world have been like if milk producing, child rearing, egg laying almost-mammals instead of dinosaurs had been the ones in the driver’s seat for that 185 million years when the Earth’s oxygen content and climate was as favorable to large size as it ever has been? Therapsids lack the skeletal structure of birds and dinosaurs with its hollow air sacs that aid in respiration so it’s possible no therapsid could have reached the same dizzying size the dinosaurs did. While mammals did manage mammoths and indricotheres and even andrewsarchus sized terrestrial carnivores, no mammal has ever reached the size of a sauropod outside of our oceans. If therapsids had won against the archosaurs then, could they have held out against the descendants of the bunny croc Lagosuchus?
If it had been therapsids dominating the world at the end of the Cretaceous, would they have suffered the same fate as the majority of dinosaurs? Would some batlike therapsid have been the only survivor, and would our skies today be filled with flying mammal-like creatures while talking archosaurs debated what might have been?
October 23, 2011 § 3 Comments
You’re perfect, yes it’s true;
But without me, you’re only you.
Your menstruating heart, it’s not
Bleeding enough for two.
… Faith no More, Midlife Crisis
There are two men, standing in the light of the arched loading-dock. Both are a shade over six foot two, blond, with pale complexions. Four men are watching. The one who is currently moving, pivoting on his tight swimmer’s waist and snapping off an effective, well-shaped right cross, is named Bobby.
He’s twenty. He has the build of a young man who played football in high school, quarterback most likely, with the wavy hair and broad jaw and the body like an Olympian straight out of Ancient Greece, not overly muscled but each section developed and strong. He shifts his weight, throws a left jab, and solidly connects against the other man’s head. He smiles, trying to make it look good for the three buddies in his cheering section. He wants to take his time. He wants to take the other guy apart, and to look good doing it.
The other man does not move. His hair is longer, down to about the base of his neck. He has a beard, a darker red than the light blond hair of his head, and the beard looks like metal in the yellow bug-lamp loading dock light. Unlike his opponent, he is a naturally large man, wide in the shoulders and chest, with the weight that drinking and time add. As the hard knuckles of the younger man split his lips, he blinks his topaz eyes and simply steps forward, keeping himself close.
Finally, even with his three friends watching, Bobby tires of showing off. He snaps off a flashy combination of right jab, left jab into the slightly larger man’s ribs, then steps up and swings a right hand, punching right through the line of his enemies jaw, doing exactly what his teacher at the Y told him to and stepping off of his back leg as he punches.
There’s a loud pop as the fist connects, a tingle that rides up Bobby’s whole right arm, and he realizes that he’s popped his knuckle. He isn’t concerned.
The older man simply turns his neck and faces Bobby. For the first time, as that bullet-shaped head comes back to look directly at him, the smile begins to creep away from Bobby’s well-formed lips. He sees just how thick the muscles of that neck are, how wide the shoulders, and he realizes that he’s giving away a good sixty pounds to the other man.
Bishop smiles, blood on his teeth staining them orange.
“Are you done?” It comes out hoarse, almost a whisper.
Then Bishop steps forward, the morning fresh in his mind. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
She smiles then, arches her neck slightly, and the line of freckles that dust her throat make me wince as blood makes my wet jeans even tighter. She laughs a bit as I tent up. My face is hot and I duck my head, avert my eyes.
I walk over and sit down next to her.Beth is older and sometimes infinitely wiser. She takes my hand in hers and feels the ice underneath my skin. A hurt look spills onto her face, her brown eyes, lightly dotted skin. I can hear the sound of the day’s first thunder again.
“Very hungry. In both ways. I don’t suppose…”
“Split pea soup in the Thermos. Your father would have shit himself when you didn’t show up for dinner. I imagined having to fight with him for ten minutes. You should talk to him tomorrow.”
“Why?” I let her peel my wet jacket and shirt off of me, and then I shudder as the night air brushes against e and my nipples tighten into angry pebbles. I have goosebumps all over me, some from cold, some from the pinpricks where her fingers brushed skin. My hands twist the top off and I drink soup, still warm and thick the way she makes it, with chunks of ham that give a honey sweet edge to the heat rolling down my throat. After about half is gone, I offer it back to her.
“I’m not hungry.” She smiles as I fail to keep disappointment off my face. “Let me know when you’re done.”
October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I pop into first gear, let the clutch fly, and tear a wheelie into the wet mucky ground, then point the nose for home. But then, instead of taking the right fork and heading for the gate, I cut left and ride until the trail ends and I’m on the grass, uncut and holding me up well despite the rain, and I’m rolling through the back acres, cutting around the farm and the barn. Keeping distant. I know my Dad can hear the engine torquing up.
I bang the clutch in and jackrabbit upshift with my left foot, and I know he could see my headlight rushing through the woods. But I think it’s late enough that he’s sleeping, and I just don’t care to go home yet. I need something. Besides, there’s nothing he can do now. He’ll never be able to do anything about it ever again.
Hanging branches brush my head, messing up my hair, and something that wasn’t here before the rain could be at head level, and then I’ll die. My skull split open. Wind makes my eyes tear up and my ears cold. My right hand is throttle-back as far as it’ll go. Top speed. Headlong into darkness barely dispelled by the headlight.
Where the Hell am I going?
I only realize when I go sideways along the stone-wall marking the end of the farm and then right at the dip where it isn’t anymore. He came and took the stone. Sold it. I don’t even know what for. It’s still here in my memory. I’m going to the Hill.
October 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
The sky is my God. I worship it, especially when the wind rolls in and blows the deep grey over us, capping off the land from the sun, and whorls roil out from the heart of the clouds, and then there’s the first crack of a giant spine snapping. The color of a stroke.
Wind tries to tear trees out of the ground, rain slants sideways and invades every crack, lightning strikes close enough to bring that tang into the mouths of people scattering for shelter.
I walk out onto the pier and watch my God work.
The boats in the Cove left unhauled are beginning to know fear. At the least, their owners are, as the bruised purple water first slaps, then strikes their fiberglass hulls, driven into froth by the wind. Eventually Bob Triamant’s boat, with its twin Detroit diesels and his thousands dollars worth of radar, is smashed up against the granite and shale breakwater and cracks form in the side. The blue paint flies with each impact, and even though I can’t see his house I can see him sitting at the window, watching his boat die. Wishing he’d hauled it.
I told him it was coming. The bland red-haired man on Channel 10 had predicted sunny days ahead, but I told them all: God is coming. I stood up on top of Pine Hill and looked out over Narragansett Bay, and I saw the Newport Bridge with a thick haze of water shimmering in the air, and I told Dad and everybody else who would listen. Which was nobody.
That crazy Garanhir kid was acting up again.
The wind shakes the wood under my feet, raindrops explode off of my skin, my shirt sticky and cold against my skin, my hair dripping water down my face, and I start laughing as a white-blue crack erupts from the sky down trees behind me.
I know it killed something.
The sky continues to attack. I continue to watch.
October 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
The air above the ruined house crackled with lightning, blooming across the sky like the stresses of a shattering plate. There were sounds of thunder.
Two who were once like brothers, who shed blood together, who fought the Qlippoth at the dawn of time, who resisted the Fallen when the lightbringer made his choice, now resumed the task of killing each other. At speeds surpassing sound, they banked and whirled and slashed, obsidian and emerald streaks.
Sariel threw out a wing as he banked in the air, driving it past Baraquiel’s guard, crashing it with a squeal of crystals scraping against the spiky facets of his enemy. He barely got it folded back in time to avoid the slash of Baraquiel’s lightning-edged Sword, a crackling abhorrence that devoured life and light where it swept. Sariel was more at home in war than Baraquiel ever would be.
Baraquiel bore a Sword.
October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
The groaning metal and rustling, heaving sound of wet cardboard shifting as one of the towers of compressed garbage collapsed was certainly not pleasant. Nor was the prospect of being buried under trash, if he had to put a tail on it. He rolled to the side and into one of the descending bursts of sunlight lighting up dust and bits of debris in the air from the concrete vault far above their heads.
“What the fuck is that thing?” The shrill voice of the twitching, mange-ridden rat that stood like a man cut through even the murk of his disbelief. Beneath Westminster Avenue, the rat men teemed, but even he hadn’t expected to discover ones that could speak. Squeezing his eyes shut and forcing them open, he fought back the dull roar of approaching unconsciousness, feeling nausea recede. In front of man and rat swelled a tower of fluid that was solid. Seething translucent filth that burbled and sang.
“It’s very, very bad.” It filled almost the entire southern half of the chamber. When the rat king had made the bargain, he’d expected to find a feral were-thing, perhaps a sewer alligator or other impossible cryptid, something that could be killed with sufficient force. Not this. “You need to run back to your people and prepare them to head out into the junkyard.”
“It’s the middle of the day! If the junkers don’t pick us off coming out, the cops will…”
“I don’t know of anything that can kill it.” He hissed, his voice cold. The tower of what almost looked like a greasy film over water somehow holding a wave’s shape twitched, and dozens of eyes simply grew out of it, sweeping the chamber. As several of the eyes developed pupils and slits and focused down on them, gaping holes parted the faintly glowing mass and whistled.