Dodo and Friends
"‘May I see the bird you look for?’ he asked, intrigued.
‘Of course,’ I replied, quickly turning to the page which was bookmarked with a jay’s feather. ‘This is the great auk, which man in his foolishness has made extinct.’
Under the pale flickering light of the lantern, I offered him the illustration. A single bird, the size of a goose, pictured on a ledge of dark rock, with squat legs and wide paddled feet, a stout neck and large spear-shaped bill.
Simao studied the picture for a long time. ‘It is a great bird, sir,’ he said, eventually.
‘Yes, Simao,’ I replied. ‘It was.’
‘Will we find it?’
‘No, almost certainly not. We are too late.’
He nodded respectfully, and moved back to the galley. I returned to the engraving, drawn to something I felt I might have previously missed. Something curious and intangible that I might have overlooked. The solitary bird faced me, inaccurately drawn and implausible, sketched from a collection of rare sightings and unreliable reconstructions, yet at that second, in that flickering lantern light, appearing to move in increments on the page. A trick of the light, yet for a brief moment it was as if the bird was alive."
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