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Friday, April 20, 2018

Microstory 825: Dodo

In 1604, a ship called the Resplendent set upon the island of Mauritius, and abducted dozens of dodo birds. Records recovered from its wreck suggest it was on its way to Malaysia, with plans to sell the birds. The last journals of her captain reveal that a terrible storm came upon the vessel, and dumped a great deal of its cargo into the ocean. They were then able to travel several miles towards Australia, before finally sinking altogether. A single scribble in the margin of the first mate’s journal read, beached birds? And I work for the woman who believed this to mean the dodos survived, and landed on an uncharted island, somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Of course, the scribble could have meant nothing at all, or was simply part of the last ramblings of a dying man. Still, my boss has a lot of money, and she was willing to spend ever last cent of it on the search for the lost dodo birds. We boarded a new ship, complete with GPS, and weather tracking software. We spent months on the water, using every bit of research we had found to hunt for the island the Resplendent’s first mate might have been talking about. We came upon the shores of many small islands, but found no evidence that any dodos had ever been on any of them. Until one day. Right there on the beach was a bottle of Cirne Rum, which was known to be the Resplendent’s captain’s favorite kind. This wasn’t proof that the birds had ever been on this island, or were still around, but if we were going to find them anywhere, it would almost certainly be here. The place was absolutely teeming with life, like people had come here to purposely plant a botanical garden, with as many species as possible. It was larger than it should have been for having apparently never been discovered. It was shaped like a top hat, with a sea level beach and wooded area along the perimeter, and cliffs in the center. We scoured the beach, and the wooded area, but found nothing. We knew our only option was to start climbing the tall rock face that led to the top of the hat. Though I hadn’t planned on doing any climbing, my boss had, and was fully prepared with all the equipment we would need. I had to get over my fear of heights to make that climb, but I did, and it was well worth it. In only four hundred years, the dodos here had transformed dramatically, growing larger, with tougher talons for grabbing onto rocks. They had evolved vibrantly colorful iridescent feathers; the most beautiful I had ever seen in my life. I told my boss that, as the leader of this mission, she had the right to name what we knew had become an entirely new subspecies of what they once were. She smiled and shrugged, ultimately deciding the informal name we had used to distinguish them from those who had never been placed on the ship was good enough: the resplendent dodos.

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