Abu Ya’la checks the instrumentation of the plane.
He is a pilot in the place that was called Chicago. He is preparing to take his jet across the world to Europe.
And he thinks, as he flips the switches and adjusts the levers of his plane:
Long ago, there was a land far to the west called Valinor.
And it sent to us the people of the scale,
The thunder lizards.
And they reigned over this world for the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous periods.
But as the Cretaceous period came to an end
The people of the scale heard the call.
They had only to see the shore of the sea
Or catch the smell of sea-salt in the wind
And it would seize their hearts forever.
So one by one they went west
First the ichthyosaur
Then the stegosaur
Then even the brachiosaurs and the tyrannosaurs went west across the sea.
Most of them drowned.
They did not have boats
And those that did, sank them.
Many of them were eaten by a shark
Or devoured by whales—
Who were not so picky in their diet then
As they are now.
A few returned to Valinor
Where the Valar greatly celebrated them
And said, “Lo, you are fine.”
Now they are gone.
It is a lesser age that we live in.
The K-T event has taken them from us.
The songs of the thunder lizards are no longer on the wind.
We do not find them in their forests.
We do not see their footprints on the ground
And in the sky above us they are gone.
This is what he says in his mind; though aloud, he speaks only his praise to Allah.
The engine of the great jet comes to life. He leads it forward. It races down the runway towards the sky and his heart leaps, like it always does, when the mechanical wonder that is his plane climbs off the ground.
“Lo,” he says. “It has been made to fly.”
But there is a noise. It is a strange hollow booming of metal. And the face of Abu Ya’la goes white, because he knows what that sound must be.
There is a Baz upon the wing.
No words can explain the Baz to those who have not seen them: to call them apes, to call them monsters, to call them beasts is an injustice. They are twelve feet in height and broad of chest and they are remarkable—it is with religious awe that one sees them, with primal terror, with gaping wonder. The first people of this land had called them Nyew-Nene, beast gods, and sacrificed to them. A shaman with a Nyew-Nene totem was a man commanding infinite respect. The second people of this land had called them Kongs and locked them away in the great sanctuaries beneath Chicago, in those savage lands of exile where they had remained until Allah’s soldiers—all unknowing of the truth—had broken down the doors that held them back.
The third people called them Baz and said that a man eaten by a Baz would never find his way to Heaven.
Something in the airplanes draws the Baz. Abu Ya’la does not know what it is. Some suggest that the smell of airline fuel attracts them. Others that it is location: that the airport is above an ancient mating or burial ground for their kind. It is the belief of Abu Ya’la that, like men, the great Baz yearn to fly.
Whatever the reason, something in the airplanes draws the Baz. That is why Abu Ya’la recognizes the sound even though he has never heard it before. It is a sound he dreads on every flight to hear.
There is a twelve-foot ape on the wing of Abu Ya’la’s plane.
If he were a religious man, then Abu Ya’la would pray to Allah now. He would ask his God to sit by him, to take his side against the winds of fate. But he is not. His faith is, as it has always been, for show.
Abu Ya’la believes in nothing save, perhaps, the dinosaurs that once upon a time did grace the world.
They were the stegosaur, armored, heavy, and spiked. The diplodocus, long and cunning. The anklyosaur, with its tail club. The tyrannosaur, savior and king, in whose stomach Sauron twisted for three thousand years before the lizard’s death released him. The velociraptor. The pleiosaur. The pterodactyl.
Them, and all their scaled kin.
Abu Ya’la thinks of them, but they are far away.
The Baz is ripping off his wing.
The passengers are screaming, but Abu Ya’la ignores them. One light on his panel, the light that indicates an ape tearing off the plane’s wing, blinks a slow and steady red.
“Please,” thinks Abu Ya’la to the cosmos. “Please. I have a son.”
And the cosmos answers.
This is a story of the day that dinosaurs come back into the world; the day when the pterodactyl comes soaring over the plane of Abu Ya’la with a velociraptor gripped within its claws.
As a brightness surges in Abu Ya’la’s soul; as he stands up, burning with the realization of it, the steering wheel of the plane slipping from his hands; as the tears begin to pour out from his eyes, the velociraptor falls onto the wing.
With teeth and claws it leaps upon the ape.
There is a light everywhere that Abu Ya’la sees.
There is a glory.
Screaming, roaring, the beasts tumble off the plane and towards the ground. There is blood everywhere.
“Praise Allah,” whispers Abu Ya’la’s co-pilot. “We are saved.”
It is hard to hear him over the music in Abu Ya’la’s soul.
“We are saved,” Abu Ya’la concurs.
In the back of the plane, a screaming steward beats at a two-foot dragonfly with his heavy shoe.