I am a strange person. Or rather have a strange hobby and this makes me a strange person: I collect and own a collection of... maxillae, yes, maxillae and teeth pertaining to these maxillae, more than a hundred of them, all different, all of one or another ferocious animal, all perfectly preserved.
How did I come to own them is the strangest story you have ever heard, and I will tell you further on. For now suffice to say that I created a relevant museum exposing these maxillae to the public, and being supported both by a flood of curious tourists and by the near-by university it nicely covers my financial needs - not too much and neither too little, just right.
What animals, you ask? Well, let me start with the most impressive of all: a T-Rex exhibit. There are some additional pre-historic exhibits like a smilodon or saber-toothed tiger, a thylacoleo or marsupial lion, a livyathan killer whale, an entelodon killer pig, an allosaurus, a predator x, a quetzalcoatlus... you get the idea. Of course, modern times supplied their own horrors like various crocodiles, a lion, a hyena, a hammerhead shark, payara, black piranha... shall I go on? It is like an inoffensive horrors show, but parents have to sign a responsibility waiver for the museum if they bring in children. Schools as well.
The exhibits are all hung on transparent plastic walls and photos taking is allowed thus joyful teenagers can compose their own nightmarish images: faces showing behind gaping jaws, head stuck between gaping jaws... kids love it.
The other supporting pillar to my story is my girlfriend, Myra (coming from Myriam) who insists on calling me Jojo (coming from Joseph) and who ran away from her Jewish orthodox family in order to embrace ‘universal freedom’ as she calls it. Her father disowned her, but she still maintains a secret link to her mother, thankfully so since she is the source of all those alien Jewish delicacies she keeps feeding me with. When she visits me, that is. She refuses adamantly to live with me in sin, even if she doesn’t mind sinning occasionally. Being of uncertain Armenian origins, her love making is certainly of Elysian origins. “I can prove it to you,” she said, and seeing lechery mounting indecently into my eyes she hastened to add... “my origins, I mean.”
Myra works for Definitely Not Alien, better known as DNA Inc., a small private company who are being subcontracted various... DNA matters of course; they are so good that they are being assigned high profile jobs by governments, academia and also individuals who can afford it. Myra has a small lab at home, providing relevant though slower services also for individuals who cannot afford it. On the Armenian subject she decided however to use HQ resources (didn’t ask permission) and two days later she presented me with the results. Well, supported by a lot of wishful thinking it proved her origins point. And why did I care at all? I didn’t and don’t but for the sake of the Elysian aspects I embraced the results wholeheartedly. And I did collect my prize, hallelujah!
“Your turn now,” she said.
“Yes, now you will stop pretending that you just find these maxillae at your doorstep every full moon’s next morning and tell me the truth, and then we are even.”
And this was exactly the thing I couldn’t do since this was exactly what happened, and actually goes on happening. The doorstep being a figure of speech since they popped in various places around my house, but this was the truth and I never cared about any other truth or about finding the source to my luck. I was happy with my unknown benefactors, their reasons I couldn’t care less for and the resulting unilateral financial benefits were the only factor I cared about.
I was with Myra.... how long now?... two years and three months, my ‘bones’ collection dragged back ten years now, I actually never thought any differently about it.
Myra made a face when I made a face. Then she slapped me hard and it hurt, then she kissed me hard and it hurt even more (she bit me as well) and then took a pair of plyers and – by God, she tore a rear tooth from my T-Rex exhibit and with an unoriginal “I’ll be back,” left the museum. I was too dumbfounded to either protest or ask for an explanation and assuming unoriginally again ‘it is a woman thing’ I let it pass. She’ll probably run a small research on it, return it to me apologizing profusely, and after we’ll both glue it back in place with fast glue she’ll be bound to give me one of those Elysian demonstrations she was so good at.
6a.m. following morning the door bell sounded like third world war had just started. I opened the door, Myra stormed in and slapped me even harder this time, screamed a single “Liar!” my way and sat down on the sofa. She was definitely upset and I was definitely dazed. What was going on here?
I took my time peeing, showering, brushing my teeth, dressing and preparing coffee for both of us, then sat down opposite her and kept staring at her. Her eyes were flooded with liquid rage and hurt, some of it dripping into her coffee.
“Myra, girl mine, what’s the matter?”
She shoved my way a small plastic box with the extracted tooth and a thick sheaf of paper prints which told me absolutely nothing. I stared at them then stared back at her, my bovine expression softening her face.
“This tooth is supposed to be more than sixty million years old. I do not know if it is even ten years old, my instruments cannot measure its age but it is definitely young. Jojo, if you lie to me now I am out of your life forever. Do you use a 3D printer to create your exhibits?”
I stood up, then sat down again, then stood up again choking on words that refused to combine to sentences that made any sense, then sat finally down gulping the rest of the coffee in one go. It seared my throat. I surely did not possess any 3D printer but maybe my so called benefactor?... no, it did not make any sense, there was no reason for a farce to be perpetrated for such a long period, to what end? Why? How? The accuracy, the feel of real bone... sure, until now I never had any of the exhibits analyzed, my museum was just that – a show and impress and measure museum, and a have fun too.
I stood up again and kneeled in front of Myra, taking her hands in mine.
“Myra, I swear to you that what you know is what I know and there’s nothing more to it. Listen, take some more samples, analyze them, do whatever with them and let’s talk again afterwards, OK?”
I think she believed me. She got up, took out the small plyers from her pocket and a few plastic boxes and made a random collection from around the exhibits. Then she kissed me perfunctorily on the cheek and left. Three days later she returned, her face chalk white, and without entering my place just commanded... “Jojo, spit on my hand!” which I did and she carefully wiped it with a clean hanky and left with no further word. It did not take more than one day this time.
She entered my place, carefully deposited all samples she took on a table then asked me to sit across from her. She was more frightening in her composed state than in her angry one.
“Jojo, are you an alien?”
I fainted. For the first time in my life I fainted.
I woke up with a large band-aid across my nose and with a worried looking Myra watching over the band-aid. I guess watching over me as well..
OK, I was adopted, that I knew, and like any other adopted child I hoped to have fallen to Earth from Krypton and be some kind of superman. Several schoolyard brawls and bleeding noses later I knew I was none such. I was and grew up to be just the ordinary kid I feared growing up into, and fantasy was relegated to Fantasialand while I learned the hard way how to care for myself after my parents passed away. Thus I wasn’t prepared for the bombshell Myra dropped on me.
“Jojo, I investigated all the samples I took from here and they are definitely of organic source. However the T-Rex DNA is nothing like a T-Rex DNA and the hyena DNA is nothing like a hyena DNA and so the rest of them. Worse still, they are all... “ she looked up at me imploringly... “they are all the same DNA. And when I say the same I mean exactly the same. Even more so than twin brothers, a kind of weird impossible six-helix DNA that I don’t find its similar construct anywhere in our data base.” She kept fixating me and took a deep breath. “And there are more bad news,” she finally continued, handing me a photocopy of the previous DNA symbolic presentation. “This is not a photocopy of the previous sheets, Jojo, this is your DNA and it is exactly the same as your T-Rex’s DNA. Jojo, what goes on here?”
“You mean I do am Superman?” I tried to joke but it came out hollow.
“I mean either my instruments are completely fucked up or someone is playing a horribly bad joke on me or...” she took hold of my hand and it started hurting “...or you do are of alien origin. And your weird exhibits turn it all into a gigantic cosmic joke. How are you linked to them at all? And I am about to become hysterical.”
She took a few deep breaths and I did the same. I couldn’t care less for the scientific data she threw at me, I felt human, behaved human, what the hell? I was human.
“Myra... maybe, maybe I somehow developed along another evolutionary path, and there are more like me in the world and...” I tried some logic, well, I was certainly wasting my breath as she pointed to my exhibits room turning any pseudo-scientific explanation I had in mind to moot.
“Jojo, you are a different and until now undefined kind of creature, sorry for using the word, and this still does not explain all these maxillae on the walls. I’d have preferred that they carried a Made in China sticker,” and we both exploded in a hysterical laughter that ended with her sitting on my lap and crushing my neck and I hugging her and crushing her ribs. “Shall I involve professor Moriarty?” she whispered.
Professor Moriarty – yes, this was his registered name – was considered the absolute authority at Definitely Not Alien in all that had to do with dating and DNA identification, a middle aged gentleman of British origin, doubtful morality and an almost Nobel prize winner. He was as intelligent as snide and I hated him from moment one when we were presented by Myra, as he seemed to hug her in a more than friendly way. But he was rumored to be able to identify similar DNA just by looking at the samples, certainly an exaggeration, and his scientific credentials and achievements were extraordinary. As, by the way, was his salary at DNA Inc.
“No way!” and I pulled my hand from inside her shirt, there were better suitable times for finding Elysium and I wasn’t going to abuse Myra’s momentary fragility. I pushed her softly on the sofa next to me and returned the eyeglasses to her nose pedestal...quite Jewish this one, I smirked to myself.
“What in hell did you find to smirk about?” she queried.
“I love you,” I let the bomb explode in her ears and explode it did, alongside with our clothes and the rest of our bodies.
She did not cover herself and I sat there, leaning on the bedhead in mute admiration, still panting and smiling stupidly.
“You are more beautiful than Liz Taylor when she was beautiful,” and she understood perfectly what I was saying. “In five days it is full moon, let’s do it.”
She bolted to an upright position, pulled the bed sheet to her chin and opened eyes the size of almost saucers.
Yes, I meant it. There was one single absolute no-no in our relationship, and this was trying in whichever way to find my mysterious benefactor who granted me the objects of my collection the day after a full moon, in irregular fashion but always the day after. The house was built next to a small thicket I inherited as well, all surrounded by a low wall much older than even my parents would have been if alive, all of it quite secluded from my neighbors and from the world. The museum was a new, modern construction that I was still paying the mortgage on, and at night I let my three Dobermans roam the entire enclosure scaring off any eventual human or animal intruder. Yeah, as big and as frightening as cuddly my doggies, but no one knew about it except for Myra.
“And the dogs?”
“Locked away in the museum, as I always do on these days. And I will turn on the surveillance cameras and we will both watch to see what happens. Which I never intended to do until the day I die, I did not want to know. My private Santa and I did not, still do not want to see him sliding down the chimney. But now that you bend my hand and it is about to break...”
The just finished sexual experience left behind a kind of stubborn hollow in my mood that I did not want to let spill over to her. But she sensed it, oh Myra my wonderful woman, and pulled my head between her breasts. I felt like a child, I felt protected, I felt like crying and, damn it, I started crying.
“You don’t have to do it love, you don’t have to do it. Let’s forget it.” She started humming a nondescript song rocking her upper body forward and backward, forward and backward, forward...
Nothing happened the first full moon. We finished the whole bowl of popcorn I prepared and Myra fell asleep cuddled against me. Soon after I fell asleep as well. The dogs were quiet. Following day we played the video recordings, there was nothing there to be seen and I found no ‘gift’ on the grounds as much as I searched.
Nothing happened the second full moon either. I knew from the past that the ‘gifts’ cycle was irregular, so I waited for the next full moon cycle. This time I let the dogs out and sat on the sofa, half an eye watching a stupid movie and the other half watching the cameras monitor. Myra huddled against me as usual and the dogs outside yapping from time to time as they were chasing an imaginary or real squirrel.
I stood up gently... “I’m going to help the dogs chase that squirrel,” I smiled and pulled a blanket over Myra’s feet. “Back in a jiffy.”
I went out and the dogs greeted me enthusiastically then started chasing each other. Damn wait. I looked up at the moon.
I opened my eyes. I didn’t remember falling asleep but it felt like waking up from a dreamless sleep. I was naked, on the floor, covered with a blanket and Myra was seated at the other end of the room with the three dogs at her feet. It was their first time inside and I was afraid they will start peeing everywhere. I had absolutely no recollection of whatever happened.
“Why did you bring the dogs in, are you afraid of something?”
“I have no idea, should I be afraid of something?” She caressed the three heads all of which were pushing for attention in her lap and all four kept looking at me, barely blinking. “What do you remember of last night, Jojo?” Her voice was steady so either nothing special happened or she was beyond caring what happened.
I sat up on my behind, leaned against the sofa and returned her stare. My mind was a complete blank, starting...
“I went out to the dogs and then I must have fallen asleep or something. Why, did something happen?” Suddenly I was interested and crawled up on the sofa, dragging the blanket with me. I was far from prude around Myra but this situation was kind of unusual. She didn’t answer, just pointed to the lamp-table next to the sofa. I followed her finger and gasped. Upon it lay a beautiful, shining, clean, white pair of maxillae and at my first superficial regard it looked like belonging to some kind of grazing animal. “Goat?” I asked and she pulled up her shoulders. “A ferocious goat?” Then she shuddered and repeated her question.
“What do you remember of last night, Jojo?” and seeing my mystified expression she got up, sat next to me without flinching in the least and pushed the play button on the video recorder. The TV came to life, and I guess she chose the camera providing the best view.
There I was, opening the door to go outside, there were the dogs running all around me, there I was raising my head to look upwards... “Huh?” luckily she had presence of mind to slap me on the back, otherwise I would have probably choked to death then and there. “Huh?”
I saw a frozen Jojo, a whitish substance starting to emanate from the exposed body parts while the clothes seemed to melt into it until the image was like that of a body entirely covered by foam and then deformations started setting in in random fashion but clearly towards some definite final form until a few minutes later Jojo turned into a... “A goat?” I blurted, the horror in my eyes absolute. “What is that word we were toying with?... transmogrified into a goat?”
“And probably on previous occasions into a T-Rex, a lion, a piranha...” she whispered, looking on, fascinated.
“And the leftover maxillae?...” I whispered back, knowing at any moment the wake-up clock will start rattling and I will wake up in a pool of cold sweat. It didn’t rattle but the cold sweat was there.
I watched on. The dogs seemed completely unconcerned with the transformation, as far as they were concerned their ‘papa’ had probably put on a different set of clothing and as long as they could sense it was the same ‘papa’ the transformation did not bother them. The goat, or shall I say I?... took a few hesitating steps, froze into immobility again and while the dogs took turns jumping over it the whitish foam appeared again, deformations started showing up again and finally the foam accumulated next to a new Jojo, I mean the same Jojo, the same I, lying naked on the ground with a goat maxillae starting to surge out from the foam leftovers. Until the image showed a disheveled Myra running outside out and dragging my inert body inside, dogs following, and finally Myra picking up the goat maxillae and entering the house.
I was shivering, Myra was long past the shivering stage.
“How long did it all last?” I asked. Had to ask twice before she understood what my chattering maxillae... ha, maxillae... were asking.
“About two hours, probably less.”
I got dressed. The dogs were out, and we sat in the kitchen chewing pizza leftovers, watching each other and warily watching the new maxillae.
“What now?” I asked.
“There is absolutely no scientific way to explain what just happened. You are some quirk natural evolutionary phenomenon much beyond any other incredible wonder of evolution, say like an octopus would be considered, or a chameleon, or a spider... sorry, I talk nonsense because I cannot talk sense. I honestly think you are alien, Jojo...”
“I would have preferred something like Superman,” I croaked.
“...and even Moriarty would not have any explanation or even half an explanation for this and would give half of his life to be able to study you. And various government departments would give billions to own you and study you. And I do not care. And I will continue to love you...”
“You love me?”
“...even more now that I have to protect you and this will stay our secret until we die. That is... I have no idea if death is something applicable to you. Hey, we could always adopt.”
She landed her bomb with the naturality of a butterfly settling down on a flower. She clearly said adopt, not adapt. My heart was swelling.
“Myra, say, are you not afraid that one night I may go, ahm, werewolf on you?”
“Werewolves are legends, love. We talk here reality.”
She moved in with me, agreeing to live in sin until we legalized the entire sinning aspect. And I agreed to a Jewish wedding ceremony (anyway I was as religious as the next lamppost) mainly because of the food... I may not have been human by human standards but I had a human appetite by same standards. And still have.
Somewhere along the way we adopted two kids, a boy and a girl. We took in a dog from a shelter. A cat without one ear as well. Life is great. Now, if somewhere in the world there is someone like me, please... don’t let me know. I couldn’t care less.
Oh, my collection keeps growing, last addition being a unicorn; just goes to prove to anyone interested that some legends are based on hard facts.