The Other Side of the Partition
When I was growing up in Toronto in the 1970s and ‘80s, one of my favourite haunts was the Royal Ontario Museum. My favourite exhibit was the dinosaurs. I’d walk through a doorway into a darkened passage which would lead past moody dioramas featuring a fossil T-rex, reconstructed Stegosaurus and Triceratops, all nestled within large-leafed plastic plants while at least one Pterodactyl hovered overhead. My little brother and I would amble and gape; imagine sneaking past the barriers – that thin partition between our world and that of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, parental supervision always prevented that kind of fun. The exhibit was small, old fashioned, and I absolutely loved it. (It stirred my imagination far more than I can imagine the museum’s current dinos-in-a-crystal exhibit could.)
When I was offered the opportunity of writing a dinosaur story for Rhonda’s D is for Dinosaur anthology, I was thrilled. It was a chance to return to a childhood escape, to dive in there, to cross the partition. But when I started, I had no idea how to do it. For a while I brainstormed, but everything I wrote seemed either trite or like rehashed b-horror. So I stepped back from it for a while, and that’s when another memory of Toronto from years back surfaced.
There was a local eccentric who had turned his Victorian mansion into a museum – an oversized cabinet of curiosities – filling it with masks and totems, shrunken heads, the bones and skulls of exotic animals, a live python and Galapagos Island tortoise. I was invited to it once by someone who knew him. It was a magical place. Here was someone who had turned his home into a living exhibit; someone living on the other side of the partition. That experience, however brief, stayed with me. It was only much later that I would read that he’d been charged with, and convicted of, abusing some of the young men he’d offered shelter to over the years.
And that all got me thinking; weaving things together: fact and fiction; inspiration and imagination; an image here, a thought there. I scribbled and eventually the story happened. A dinosaur story.
And, in one of those serendipitous events which so often happen to writers, after having written the story – actually in the course of writing this blog post – I found that one of the displays I hadn’t seen in the home-museum of way-back-when was fossilized elephant-bird eggs. The relevance of which will come to light to any who read the story.
Lynn Hardaker is a Canadian writer and artist currently living in Regensburg, Germany. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Mythic Delirium, Not One of Us, Scheherezade’s Bequest, The Ghastling, and other journals. She’s currently doing the final round of edits on her YA historical fantasy novel set in a slightly alternative eighteenth century London.
D IS FOR DINOSAUR is available now!