Monday, October 29, 2012


As a boy, I seldom missed the 1956 Japanese monster movie Rodan when it aired on TV. Considering the film’s budget and the available technology, many of the effects are remarkable. The miniatures are very detailed, and one scene of a bridge collapse is impressive even by today’s standards. Within the same movie, other effects are cheesy. They include a man in a rubber suit crushing toy tanks. For all its flaw, it is a monster movie, and in my preteens I lived for those. Presently, I own the DVD of Rodan and, when in a particularly nostalgic mood, put it on – or at least I did prior to today. After this morning’s events I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

With the onset of middle age, I struggle to keep pounds at bay. My latest weapon in the battle of the belly is the bicycle. After years of disuse, the very bike I owned as a teenager is back on the road. Only a few drops of oil and grease put it back into shape. Putting me into shape is taking a little longer. On weekends I join my younger and much more athletic friend David pedaling the 20 mile circuits he prefers. I’d prefer fewer miles, but I don’t like admitting this to David. I guess that is no longer an issue.

It all began this morning when David had gotten far ahead of me, as he often did, and circled while I caught up. It was a brisk and sunny autumn morning, and we both were enjoying the scenery of grassy fields and horse farms on each side of Lamington Road in Bedminster, NJ. No sooner had I caught up to Dave when a rapidly moving shadow caught my eye. I looked up and saw a giant pterodactyl. We both stopped and stared.

“That isn’t possible,” I said.

“There it is.”

“It must be a model or something.”

“If so, it’s a really big model.”

Maybe it’s a mocked-up airplane with someone inside flying it.”

“Maybe, but who would build one? It looks pretty realistic,” Dave observed.

“Maybe it’s a publicity stunt for a new movie.”

“Expensive stunt.”


The pterodactyl executed a vast sweeping turn, descending to near treetop level as it did so. We got a better sense of the scale of the thing.

“It’s the size of a 737,” Dave said. “If it’s a machine, it’s the most lifelike reconstruction I’ve ever seen. And it’s quiet. Do you hear any engines?”

“No, but it can’t be real. There aren’t any of those things alive. Where could they breed and not be noticed?”

“We’re noticing it now. Um, it’s headed our way.”

“This can’t be happening,” I insisted.

Whether it was hatched from an egg or a factory, neither of us wanted to be in its way. We jumped off our bikes and flattened ourselves on the road. The tip of an enormous talon raked Dave’s back. He shrieked. The turbulence from the creature’s flyby lifted our bikes and tossed them twenty yards. I ran over to David. His back was a bloody mess. Through his shredded shirt I could see vertebrae.

“Let’s get out of here!”

Cars and trucks had pulled off the road. Their occupants looked up at the sky. The thing swept another long arc. David ran to his bike and jumped on it.

“No, it may go after you.”

He ignored me. Though he must have been in tremendous pain, he pedaled away faster than I ever saw him go before. I hit the pavement again as huge shadow raced toward me. The shadow passed and I looked up in time to see a spray of red as David, or at least most of him, disappeared into the thing’s beak. I stared dumbfounded at what was left with the bicycle.

A Ford F150 weaved along the road and pulled off to the side. The driver jumped out of the truck and removed a Remington 700 from a tool box in back of the cab. Working the bolt expertly, he unloaded five rounds in quick succession at the thing. To my surprise this appeared to have an effect, though I doubted it was more than minor stings. The beast began another wide turn.

If David was the appetizer, I had no wish to be the main meal, so I jumped the three-rail fence by the side of the road and ran toward the closest building, which was a horse barn. I heard a crash. I glanced back and saw the roof of the F150 had been crushed down onto the seat. The shattered windshield was blown out. The shooter was nowhere to be seen.

How was this possible? Wild thoughts raced through my mind as my feet raced toward the barn. The previous evening I had watched a DVD of Forbidden Planet, the classic 1956 science fiction movie in which a character unknowingly projects his dreams into real forms. Was the pterodactyl this kind of observer-created reality on a grand scale? Had I, perhaps, called it into existence by remembering those old Rodan movies? Yet, even in Forbidden Planet, the monsters were made real only with the help of a vast machine that assembled energy and matter. I didn’t own one of those. Was there someone in the world who did own one – or who didn’t need one? Did I need one?

I looked back and saw the pterodactyl swinging toward me. Though my lungs and legs already hurt, I redoubled my exertions. The shadow was over me when I reached the open barn door and dove inside. The thing flew over the barn close enough to send shingles flying in its wake. Panting, I struggled to my feet and staggered to the back exit of the barn. I watched a shadow grow over a horse galloping in the pasture. Talons grabbed the horse. The horse lifted several feet into the air but then came back down as the pterodactyl settled to the ground. I didn’t stay to observe it consumed its meal.

The wise thing would have been to remain inside, but fear got the better of me. Hoping the beast would be busy with the horse for a while, I hurried back to my bike and cycled away. I constantly glanced around for a shadow, but I saw no more of the beast on the way home.

As I pedaled, I considered another explanation for what was happening. Instead of making my dreams real, maybe I was just plain old dreaming. This was an incredibly realistic dream, true enough, complete with strong smells and stinging pain. Yet, it seemed the most logical answer.

On the news this evening, the pterodactyl is all the newspeople can talk about. No one knows where the thing came from or where it went. The pterodactyl appeared and then it disappeared. Most “experts” (though how there can be an expert on such a thing is beyond me) are calling it a hoax, even though dozens of observers have taken clear photographs and motion pictures. Besides, there are two human fatalities and a dead horse to explain.

I’m increasingly convinced that my guess about the the dream is right. This just has to be one, even though hours have passed and nothing I do is waking me up. I’m thinking that if I fall asleep in this dream, maybe I’ll wake up in real life. So, I’ll put on a movie to relax. This time of night I always doze off in front of the TV.

I see The Howling is on HBO. I’ve always enjoyed werewolf movies.

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