Those velociraptor talons seemed such a good idea at the time. Sure, Mark lost the manual dexterity he’d long taken for granted, but in a world full of body mods, opposable thumbs weren’t the must have item they’d always been.
And damn but he looked cool. The kind of gut-wrenching cool that made grown men jealous. This was what it must have felt like to be Elvis in the early days when he was a bright blazing star across the cultural firmament, not a fat guy passed out in spandex.
The talons came in handy for work. Almost no-one messed with a bouncer who had claws for hands. The police gave him dark looks when unruly drunks turned up screaming and bleeding in the alley by the Kitty Lounge, but they never charged him. Legal definitions of ‘self defence’ and ‘reasonable force’ were murky enough, and it wasn’t clear whether those claws counted as a weapon. Besides, half the cops were glad that the weekends were calmer around the old warehouse clubs, even if it was a tense sort of calm.
Susie left him. He’d always thought that she was only teasing, that she’d like the claws once he got them. Turned out he was wrong. But the claws provided a consolation as well as a cause for the break-up. A certain sort of woman – and man for that matter, though that wasn’t to his taste – liked a guy built for the primeval jungle. It worked better than any of his tattoos, drawing in the kind of pierced, leather-clad women he’d dreamed of in his youth. A succession of death metal t-shirts and black lace panties wound up shredded on his bedroom floor, ripped apart in the heat of passion. He tried things Susie never would have dreamed of. His mind was blown.
Idly surfing the net one morning, waiting for last night’s girl to sober up, he saw a documentary about other dino-punks, as they were now being called. He’d hit the trend early but their numbers were growing. Some of the early adopters had set up an island reserve, a jungle habitat where dino-punks could run free, giving in to their prehistoric instincts. Why would anyone want that when they could be the coolest guy in town? It seemed such a waste.
It was Jimmy, the deputy manager of the Kitty Lounge, who gave him the bad news. There had been an incident with a cybernetically enhanced doorman at the Red Cat. The news sites were up in arms and politicians were taking an interest. The police were cracking down on so-called assaults by bouncers, putting pressure on the clubs to get rid of their more dangerous staff. And while Jimmy knew that Mark wasn’t dangerous, a pile of emergency room reports said otherwise.
They’d have to let him go.
Mark kept his cool, thanked Jimmy, then got drunk and trashed a police car. With his suspended sentence the only job he could get was opening boxes at a supermarket delivery dock. The pay was awful, but his claws proved their worth on the cardboard packaging.
Next time he trashed an empty police car, and they didn’t catch him.
Friday nights were a consolation. He’d hit the heavy metal clubs, get loaded, let the ladies get excited over his arms. The ones he got weren’t as pretty as they’d once been, and no-one came back for seconds, but he wasn’t often lonely.
One night when he couldn’t afford to go out he found himself surfing the internet, one claw hooked through the handle of a specially adapted whiskey glass. He browsed through pictures of himself in his glory days, both before and after the operation. He found some pictures of Susie, got nostalgic and phoned her for the first time in months.
A bloke answered the phone. Mark hung up.
He hadn’t felt this alone in a long time. He found a chat room for other dino-punks, started getting to know his own people. Before long his Friday nights out were Friday nights in with a bottle and a rant about how ordinary sapiens didn’t understand him.
The other dinos understood. They were in this together.
Then one day someone shared a link labelled ‘hope’. It led to the documentary Mark had seen before, the one of that island.
Now Mark lives here with us on Isla Monstruo, with his fellow dinos. And for only $10,000 you can too. Come and join your people. Live where the monsters run free.
* * *
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like my collection of science fiction short stories, Lies We Will Tell Ourselves, available now as a Kindle ebook.