I started to write this story more than two years ago. It started with a silly, funny story I wrote for a colleague named Isabel.
I finished it today, after talking about dinosaurs with my friends’ children in the South of France.
Isabel Swan and the Evil Reed
Isabel was standing by a still pond. In the windless morning, the water was truly unmoving and grey. She couldn’t recollect how she had arrived here, only that she had felt compelled to stop by.
Something was missing but she couldn’t wrap her mind around it. It kept on eluding her – something in the corner of her eye, a nagging feeling that… what?
She tried to calm down and explore her surroundings, trying to find clues in the icily beautiful landscape in front of her. It looked off – too cold, too dead, yes…
The pond, as wide as a small lake, mirrored the unbroken sky. Nothing was stirring in the liquid expanse overhead, not even a… ah, the thought had left again.
The dark water was still calm, but if she stared long enough she could make out darker shapes, big, dangerous fish lurking underneath, undisturbed by… by nothing, really.
The reed bordering the edge looked inconspicuous and safe. She slowly walked around the pond, embracing the mountains far away and the slowly setting sun. She tried to sharpen her senses. All she could hear was the chirping of… no, the bristling sound of the trees and the fluttering of bat wings. Wings. Interesting. She thought of… butterflies, exactly.
The reed was everywhere on the shore, perfectly nice and clean and out of the way. A bit incongruous. It was clearly trying to elude her attention but it looked much too calm to be true.
“Isabel…” she forced the thought… “Isabel Swan… You can remember… You can do it… Isabel Swan, that’s my name, a swan is… is something you’d find here… It’s not a swamp, no… like, swooning maybe? Or… swimming?” A sweet swearing word escaped her.
At last, she could see… a long neck… an ivory, sometimes ebony, soft beauty with a beak and…
Sixty-six million years ago. The sentient reed couldn’t stand them anymore. Those huge, hungry beasts were either trying to gulp it down or to devour each other. If only they had managed. Instead, they would trample flat every reed they would not eat. The clever plant had to do something to get rid of them.
So it created a spell – because the self-conscious reed was also able to make magic, quite frankly the only species on Earth – to curse the dinosaurs and all their descendants.
It made itself poisonous so they would die when they ate some reed, or something that had eaten some.
The dinosaurs disappeared in the snapping of a straw.
And now, you might remember, the birds were the dinosaurs’ children. In the reed’s parallel reality, they never existed because of the curse.
Was Isabel from a different world? Why did she know about the birds? She snapped reality back to where it should have been and gave life to the birds again.
They now roam the Earth as they were supposed to. They grace our skies with feathers and flock dances, our lands with eggs and songs.
The reed seems to have gone silent. But the dinosaurs aren’t back yet…