The Dodo, the Balance, and the Bee

By J.T. Robertson

Jeremy looked down at the pistol in his hand and pondered the implications of extinction. He imagined a sort of standoff between the last Dodo bird and a hunter with an archaic rifle, staring each other down across a small clearing.  If the man had known, would he have pulled the trigger? If the doomed bird had known, would it have run away? He pressed his forehead against the cool, protective glass of the climate-controlled enclosure. It had to be done to save them. Nothing else would work. He was the only one who could, the only one with the ability. The pistol was heavy in his hand, heavier than he remembered. He held perfectly still as Greg, the night guard, passed by on the lit asphalt path, the keys on his belt jingling their location with every step. Jeremy waited in the shadow of the enclosure for Greg to get out of range and wondered what his life could have been. None of it was really his fault. He’d always had the best of intentions.

The greatest thing in Jeremy’s life was Sarah, his girlfriend for the past three years. She was really the only person who understood his predicament. They’d met when he was working as a cab driver. It had been a good gig for someone with his condition. If things were shifting too far in one direction he’d just run through a deep, grimy puddle and soak someone walking down the sidewalk. If things were going downhill quickly, he’d take all the right shortcuts or turn off the meter for a while. It worked really well, at least until the cab company was bombarded with complaints. They’d let him go after that, but that was okay because he’d moved in with Sarah. That meant he was able to look for work without worrying about being on the street again. He would have just stayed in a shelter, but he’d been banned from most of the local ones years ago for starting fights.

Sarah was fairly well-known in the local art scene, particularly for her paintings of what she called “selfless people.”  They were all done in crimson and burnt orange oils and featured the great martyrs and self-sacrificing saints of history. Once she told Jeremy she thought there was no greater way to die than in the act of saving others. He figured it had something to do with her dad, who had been a firefighter. One night their house caught fire while he was on duty at the station. He got Sarah to safety, but succumbed while trying to rescue her mom, who also died in the blaze. Sarah had made paintings of her parents surrounded with fire, but refused to show those to anyone but Jeremy. He didn’t know why…