Dinochicken (part 1 of 2)

November 2, 2009
“I presume you all know what a dinosaur is?”
Professor Keller’s words surprised me. I was attending Honors Chemistry class at Pearson University. She had some odd teaching methods, sure, but I couldn’t think of any way to connect dinosaurs to chemical formulas, or balancing equations. Sensing our confusion, she smiled and continued.
“As most of you know, birds are dinosaur’s closest living relatives. When developing in an egg, birds have dinosaur features, such as a tail, sharp teeth, and short, stubby 3-clawed arms. As they grow and mature, these features change, until the egg finally hatches. Then birds look like, well, birds.
“But what if you could turn off that gene?” Her eyes were shining with excitement. “What if you could genetically modify a baby chicken so those teeth didn’t form a beak? Or his little arms didn’t turn into wings? What if…” She trailed off, apparently lost in the wonder of it all. My friend, Lucy, poked me in the arm and gave me a look that clearly said, what is she leading up to? I shrugged: I was just a puzzled as her.
Professor Keller reached behind her desk and brought up a small, white box. It reeked of something I couldn’t identify, and had many pinpricked air holes.
“Behold,” Professor Keller cried, “Dinochicken!”
She reached into the box and lifted out a small, green-grey wrinkly object. Lucy gasped in surprise and grabbed my arm. It was a dinosaur. A baby, certainly, but a dinosaur none the less. Pitifully wailing, it snapped at Professor Keller with its tiny, sharp teeth. She laughed and held it at arm’s length. The dinosaur stared her down with its cold, reptilian eye, as though it would love nothing more than to eat her.
“As you can see,” Professor Keller yelled over the din of students moving and the dinosaur screeching, “My colleagues and I have successfully engineered the first modern dinosaur by genetically modifying a chicken to retain its dinosaur-like features! It is not a Velociraptor, or a Tyrannosaurs Rex, but an entirely new species! Therefore, it is not a dinosaur, but a Dinochicken!” The Dinochicken leapt off her hand and attempted to take a chunk out of her cheek. It missed by several inches, and only got a mouthful of long black hair.
“Owww!” She cried, as the Dinochicken dropped to the floor and scuttled around her ankles, nipping at them occasionally. She massaged the spot on her head where a large chunk of hair had come out, scooped up the Dinochicken, and threw it back in its cage. The box rattled as the little dinosaur howled.
“Not to worry, not to worry!” Professor Keller ushered a few anxious students back to their seats. “Our little girl is a bit riled up today, but usually she’s quite calm. The whole scenario is perfectly safe, I assure you! Honestly, it’s not like we’re at Jurassic Park!” She threw her hands up into the air, as if to emphasize the point.
“But Professor,” said Lucy, “it looked like it wanted to eat you for lunch.” A few students nodded in agreement.
“That’s a perfectly natural reaction,” Professor Keller said to Lucy in a soothing tone. “Given the appearance of the Dinochicken, and the public’s perception of dinosaurs as savage beasts, it’s completely expected.”
“But Professor—“Lucy began, but was cut off by Professor Keller.
“Now, my dear girl, let us see Dinochicken here in its natural habitat, and you can truly begin to appreciate her majesty and grace! Now, if you’ll all follow me—“
“Natural habitat, my foot,” Lucy snorted as everyone began filing out of the classroom. “That thing belongs in a bucket with Seven Secret Herbs and Spices on it.”
“Definitely,” I agreed. “I wonder how she got the funding, or the permits—“
“Quick!” said Lucy. “Here she comes, you ask her—“
“I’m not going to—“
“Come on, she already suspects me—“
“Anything wrong, ladies?” Professor Keller asked, holding the box with Dinochicken in it tightly.
Lucy poked me in the ribs with her pencil. I said, “No, Professor, but we were just wondering how you got the permits and the funding. It seems like an odd thing for the university to fund…”
Professor Keller’s expression was unreadable as she turned away. She spoke with an icy cold that was foreign when she said, “I’m afraid I didn’t hear you. Perhaps another day, then?” and walked away, her long hair swinging behind her as she herded straggling students out the door.
“Well, it’s obvious what’s happened,” muttered Lucy bluntly. “She never got a permit, and payed for the experiment out of pocket.”
“But that’s impossible!” I hissed, noticing that Professor Keller had stopped and cocked her ear towards us. “All that genetic equipment, the research… it would have been over a million dollars!”
“It was probably a friend of hers, then,” Lucy whispered, “someone that pulls a lot of weight around. Or she snuck into the lab on the weekends or late at night…”
“Lucy! April!” Professor Keller snapped. “Are you coming or not?”
Lucy looked at me. “I’d rather not, if you don’t mind,” she said. “I’ve been wary of the forest since I got lost for 3 days as a child. It was terrifying…” She shuddered, and winked at me. The forest story was a blatant lie, but Professor Keller fell for it, as her expression softened.
“Yes, yes, of course,” she murmured comfortingly. “Well then, double time, April, if you please—be sure to bring a notebook and pencil, we’ll be noting this little girl’s diet,” She chuckled, patting Dinochicken’s cage, which she held under the crook of her arm. As I bent to pick up my notebook from my bag, Lucy hissed in my ear, “be careful. I’ve got a hunch that this little Dinochicken isn’t the only thing she’s been hiding…”

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

naturelover said...
Dec. 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm
I was on the edge of my seat. Good work! I can't wait for the next part.
Astra95 replied...
Jan. 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm
Part two can be found here: http ://www.teenink .com /fiction/sci_fi_fantasy/article/160554/Dinochicken-Part-2-of-2/ Glad you liked it!
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