The Flight of the Last Pterodactyl
by Kim L. Neidigh

It puts you in mind of endangered species

     The men who found it in the Colorado coal mine knew immediately it was unusual, something special. They very carefully freed the section containing the object from the seam of bituminous coal and had it shipped by helijet to the Crichton Institute in Denver. There the staff patiently removed the egg and reverently placed it in their most advanced, and reliable, incubator. It was a billion-to-one shot but with nothing to lose they took the chance and hoped nature would be kind.

     By the year 2123 nearly one quarter of all North American wildlife had become extinct. Especially hard-hit were the various bird species, which had been devastated by a series of lethal diseases which had left the survivors struggling precariously to hold on to life. These factors made the discovery of the egg even more important.

     After eight anxious days, the egg brought forth a pterodactyl of unknown species, with a snout of needle-point teeth, a barbed tail, and a wingspan of twelve inches. The hatchling was surprisingly accepting of his human caregivers and took to them from the moment of birth. A brief period of experimentation revealed that the infant thrived on a diet of mealworms and crickets. Also, to the astonishment of all, he began to fly in less than a week. Such precociousness should have inspired greater caution.

     They hastily converted a large storage room into a makeshift aviary where the young explorer could test his wings, darting and swooping to his heart’s content. The space was not large enough to meet his developing needs, but would have to do until something more satisfactory could be prepared. Soon a steady routine was adopted and the novelty of the situation began to wear off. People became complacent…and careless. One morning a technician, trying to decide what to have for lunch, was a little slow in closing the door, and, in a flash, the last pterodactyl was out and gone.

     Soaring in the ecstasy of flight, the young pterosaur rode the air currents to the clouds, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his reptilian skin. He swooped and dived, catching succulent insects on the wing while instinctively heading in the direction of the high mountains.

     Searching the pine trees on the lower slopes, he landed on a particularly  comfortable branch and inhaled the wonderful resinous aroma. He finally felt at home. Life was good.

     Life had been good for the lone golden eagle soaring high overhead. Most of the birds and small mammals upon which she usually preyed had long disappeared, leaving only an occasional field mouse or careless bat. There were dreadful days when she returned to her nest with nothing and had to face the plaintive shrieks of her only surviving chick. Now, peering all around her, she spied a movement over in the trees below. It wasn’t very large and was like nothing she had seen before, but, whatever it was, it was the only food she had seen all morning. She dove down upon it and caught it in her talons. It was leathery and repellent, but it would have to do. The creature put up a gallant struggle for such a tiny thing, but one snap of her powerful beak put a finish to it. Clutching it tightly in her claws, she turned back toward home.

     The mother eagle watched as her famished young one greedily devoured her meager offering. It was tough and stringy, but it filled the belly.

     The future might be bleak and uncertain, but at least the last eagle would live one more day.