When Jordan opened his eyes, it was still crouching there near the corner.
He had been doing his best impression of a corpse—had been since he woke ten or so minutes ago, half-slung off the bed with one bare leg reaching the floor and the other folded under his crumpled quilt, placid sunlight spilling through the edges of his blinds and an odd trilling ringing throughout his room. That was what had woken him: the trilling. He’d opened his sore eyes to see a massive bird, huddled and preening, resting on an unseen perch some three feet off his bedroom floor.
Given that it hadn’t noticed him thus far, he dared to lift his head, then pulled himself up to a slouch. It was the size of a dog, standing on two legs with wicked feet. Cream-colored plumage on its throat and chest met seal-brown back-feathers, and the undersides of its wings carried a hawk’s brown bands. It purred and then chirped at something he couldn’t hear, opened a black beak full of pointed teeth and strutted forward. Its gait said chicken, but the orange-gold eyes said dragon.
Something snapped in Jordan, and the disbelief gave way to panic. He did the first thing that came to mind: he called Melt.
“Mm,” Melt’s sleep-drugged voice grunted, answering on the first ring.
“What the fuck did you give me last night?”
Melt laughed. “That worn? Go back to sleep, man.”
“Richard, I’m not fucking around,” he said.
When Melt answered again, he sounded awake. Worried.
He hung up the phone and fought a wave of nausea. The animal in his bedroom strutted between his legs as if Jordan himself were the ghost.
Jordan remembered that he was holding his phone and snapped a photo. If he and Melt had taken something laced and he was hallucinating still—well, at least the world would make sense again in a picture. But there, in grainy rendering on his tiny, shitty screen was the lizard-bird.
Somehow, this did not make him feel better.
He fully expected the thing to have ambled off or dematerialized in front of him by the time his friend, Richard Melton, had arrived, but no. He showed Melt into his bedroom, and they both stared at it as it swallowed torn-away bits of carnage. He could not see the victim but could hear: the wet pull of strips of flesh and organs in the jaws of the bird and the sloppy sounds as its jaws snapped into body. The dinosaur was standing half within his trashcan—not half-inside it, but rather the trashcan and the bird occupied partially the same space, as in a video game glitch.
“Well,” Melt said. “Yeah, that’s a dinosaur.”
“What the hell, man,” Jordan said, sliding to the floor and resting his face in his hands.
After a while, the dinosaur fled, startled or pursued by an invisible predator, and it darted through his apartment wall and out of sight.
As it turned out, the anomaly in Jordan’s apartment ran deeper than his one-time encounter with the dinosaur, but it was harmless—interesting, even—in the beginning. He slapped at a mosquito that wasn’t there. A broad-leafed plant shifted languidly from somewhere within his wall, obeying the will of a breeze that existed only for it.
He and Melt sat on his floor, drinking. A cigarette rested in Jordan’s fingers and in the plumes of smoke, a great and dark-shelled thing dived and glided. A skeletal underside and a hard, black segmented shell, never meant to be seen in the pale, domestic daylight of his bedroom.
“In physics, we learned that time is like a fabric. Like a blanket,” Melt said, forming a flat plane with his hands.
“You were paying attention in physics?”
“And that it can kind of bend,” he pressed on.
He held up the edge of his shirt like a shelf, and then dropped his phone onto it. The fabric dipped into an inverse tent, his phone at the center.
“And that’s how gravity works. Or something.”
“Gravity is…your phone, here?”
“Oh, fuck off,” Melt said, grinning. “Okay, I didn’t pay that much attention. Point is, if space and time is like a fabric, maybe you can poke a hole in it. I think time is bleeding here.”
“What could poke a hole then?” Jordan said.
The ridged black shell of the animal swung around, armored tail pumping, as it rose on pelagic currents.
“I don’t know, man,” Melt said. “That’s not my point.”
“I get your point. I’m also not so sure that that’s how time works.”
Jordan lifted a hand and curled his fingers lazily in the air as if to touch the underside of the animal as it glided past once again. It clipped through his fingers, unaware. He was a ghost hundreds of millions of years in the future.
Bleeding time. The creature wheeled and circled under his gaze.
As Jordan lay in the cold glow of his phone screen, following the pull of his insomniac tendencies but still bleary, dull—something walked through his doorway.
Something unusually tall.
And his mind registered the peripheral shape as a person, but before he could turn to it, it darted forward with a hunched gait toward his wardrobe.