Dolsen’s Dream Comes True
By Christopher Iacono
Ever since his mother had read him Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran the Zoo as a boy, Josh Dolsen wanted to be world-famous. He had already opened a successful zoo in the northeastern United States, but even though it had made him rich, he despised the fact it was more renowned than its owner. Never one to sit on his laurels, he was working to change that perception. Not only was he making his zoo bigger and better, but he was setting out to capture the creature Dr. Seuss had introduced him to so many years ago, the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, or the Cuculus draconem, as it was known to scientists.
As he was sitting in his private jet, waiting for it to takeoff, he gazed at the only photo ever taken of the elusive creature. The real-life version didn’t look anything like Seuss’s wacky amalgam of animal parts: It looked more like a winged dragon, except its body was covered mostly gray feathers instead of scales, and it had bird-like feet underneath its white belly with black stripes.
Besides giving an inaccurate description, the famous author and illustrator also got the location of the creature wrong. It didn’t live on the Island of Gwark but in a mountain cave on the island of Crete. Finally, the monster didn’t eat pine trees and spit out the bark, as Seuss had written; it feasted on sheep, goats, and any other animal that wandered near – or into –its cave.
Despite the errors in his favorite children’s book, though, Dolsen could relate to Young Gerald McGrew, who, like him, refused to stop until he had the creature in his zoo. After the photograph appeared a few years ago, Dolsen committed millions to building its future home, a full-scale reproduction of the creature’s natural habitat. Because he wanted to keep his special project a secret, he made each of his employees sign a confidentiality agreement.
But as he continued to stare at the photo over the roar of the jet leaving the runway, he thought, “Soon, I will finally be able to reveal my greatest accomplishment to the world.”
His partners in the zoo were nervous about this venture, but Dolsen didn’t care. He had plenty of money that he was all too willing to spend on anyone who could help, from crooked politicians to the squad of twelve workers accompanying him on this journey. As far as the possible dangers, he told his partners, “The only thing that’s going to stop me is death.”
After he and the workers arrived on the island, they passed through customs and then took several vehicles to the mountain, including a flatbed truck and a crane. Fortunately, the opening of the cave was near the bottom, so they didn’t need hiking equipment. Instead, they brought plenty of rope, a canvas tarp large enough to cover the creature’s body, and an arsenal of tranquilizer guns. The plan was to subdue the creature, load it onto the flatbed using the crane, wrap the tarp over it, tie it down, and transport it to a cargo ship that will be waiting for them at a nearby port.
After Dolsen and the workers parked the vehicles, they followed a guide to the opening in the mountain. Standing in front of the mouth of the cave, Dolsen was filled with a youthful exuberance. He rubbed his hands together and smiled. “Let’s do this.”
They entered the cave. Because the creature supposedly had excellent hearing, they crept in as slowly and quietly as possible; however, they didn’t have to walk too far. The creature was only about a hundred feet away, sitting inside a nest made of giant stones. Its eyes were closed, and its head was burrowed into its fluffed-up plumage.
While Dolsen was staring at it in total disbelief, one of the workers was making what would be a grave error in judgment. He took a selfie with the creature prominently in the background. As soon as another worker heard the whirring sound from the phone, he slapped the first one and whispered, “What the hell are you doing?”
The creature opened its eyes.
But as the workers were pointing their tranquilizer guns, the creature rose to the ceiling. Drowning in its large shadow, they started firing at it. A few of the tranquilizer darts pierced its belly, but it just shook them off. “Oh shit,” Dolsen thought. Then it dove toward one of the workers before chomping off its upper body, leaving just the legs. Everyone else but Dolsen tried fleeing from the scene. Some were able to make it out, but others were crushed in the creature’s talons, squashed under its belly, or eaten alive.
Dolsen reached for a rope and made a loop in it. “It’s now or never,” he thought, twirling it above his head and then tossing it toward the right foot. He managed to lasso one of the talons. The creature turned to him and screeched before it glided out of the cave and soared a few hundred feet above a village. Dolsen held on, his hands burning as they were slowly slipping down. As he looked at the people gawking at him and the creature, he thought, “At last, I’m famous.”
***Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. Besides writing fiction and poetry, he has written book reviews for Three Percent and the Neglected Books Page. When he is not writing, he copy-edits and proofreads marketing materials. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ciacono1973 ***