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When Lydia Becomes a Dinosaur

Rachael K. Jones grew up in various cities across Europe and North America, picked up (and mostly forgot) six languages, an addiction to running, and a couple degrees. Now she writes speculative fiction in Athens, Georgia, where she lives with her husband. A winner of Writers of the Future, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in many venues, including Shimmer, Lightspeed, Accessing the Future, Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Crossed Genres, Diabolical Plots, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, The Drabblecast, and Daily Science Fiction. She is the co-editor of PodCastle, a SFWA member, and a secret android. Follow her on Twitter @RachaelKJones.

The truth is, try as we might to fight it, some little girls will grow up to be dinosaurs. Denying it doesn't make it any easier, but still. It's hard. They'll shoot up like sauropods. Their skin will segment into mosaic scales, or if they're of a scientific mind, feather plumes. They'll give their friends tyrannosaurus-back rides around the park, faster and faster until they all collapse giggling into a dizzy heap, the child-voices like flutes, the dino-voices like guitars. They'll pin their big brothers for a bout of revenge-tickling, and only go on a little bit after the boys gasp and yell Stop.
At first we'll write it off as normal, just another phase on the way to adulthood. We won't believe Lydia could be anything other than an ordinary little girl. When she springs up like a beanpole almost overnight, we'll say, "She's tall for her age," and "It's just a growth spurt." We'll say she's got short arms like her dad at that age. We'll say she's a picky eater, and that she has ADHD, and a thousand other things to explain it away. But when she outgrows the ballet flats, we'll quietly buy her some dinosaur shoes that fit perfectly--in hot pink, of course, because after all, she's still Lydia.
The truth is, dinosaurs are everywhere. They're in our malls, getting their enormous nails painted with hearts and stars and pirate flags. They're in our churches, synagogues, and mosques, disputing about the bones of Moses. They make our laws and write our beat poetry and fly at least half of our helicopters.
And they had to come from somewhere.
Lydia tried to tell us in a thousand ways, but we weren't listening, or maybe we just didn't want to notice. There were the costumes at Halloween, the ones we helped her make. We took her to the craft store, and let her pick out felt in olive green and hot pink, and an enormous tub of rainbow glitter, and when we stitched the last foam spike to the feet, she slipped on that outfit, and it all looked so right: how she stood tall and proud, chin up, elbows akimbo, eyes shining with a Jurassic gleam as she tilted back her head and roared.
The truth is, maybe she has always been a dinosaur, and never was a little girl at all. As a toddler, she bolted from our laps during story time and rampaged around her room, pulling down toy bins and flinging blocks with reckless abandon. She has been auditioning her roar since day one. She never liked wearing shoes, and oh how she runs barefoot through the grass, pitched forward like she knows her tail should be there, and one day will be.
Become a dinosaur, Lydia. Be predatory. Be olive green and hot pink and wear glitter down your back. Be dangerous and unlovely, awkward, stubby arms counterbalanced by your huge, magnificent tail. Smell of ocean tang and bloodshed and your enemies' fear. Be obnoxious. Be a nuisance. Break things. Be unconquered, loud, and unashamed.
Be Lydia.
Someday, let's all become dinosaurs too.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Author Comments

One of my best friends has a toddler--my goddaughter--who loves to put on pink, frilly dresses and then go stomping around in the rain and mud. My friend mentioned how often she has to stop herself from saying, "Don't get your dress dirty!" because little girls are so often asked to suppress their wilder natures in order to maintain their appearance. I wanted to write a story celebrating that wild and unruly side, the one that all toddlers have, because our dinosaur natures walk side by side with our gentler ones, sometimes in tyrannosaurus-sized pink ballet flats.

- Rachael K. Jones
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