Dinosaur Puncher August 31st, 2020
There were so many, many questions.
Hands shot up across the entire auditorium. His cheeks moved up the side of his face in his best facsimile of a human smile. It was a genuine feeling. If he had lips instead of a bill the result would be far less sinister.
“Yes you there, in the t-shirt what part of quadraphonic magic is giving you trouble? Believe me you are not the first student and won’t be the last to trip over some of the initial concepts. Once you learn to count 4th dimension-ally you will see-
“Are you like a, magical duck?”
The auditorium as a whole made a sharp intake of breath. The auditorium was packed and the unfortunate souls sitting next to T-shirt leaned away. They desperately made up mock conversations with their neighbor. As if any student had been sitting in HIS class gossiping for the last half hour. It was indeed a desperate plea to be endowed with instantaneous invisibility. His beady black eyes grew beadier as he flipped them from one invisible student to the next. They were frightened. Why?
He looked down at His left hand casually flipping a fireball back and forth across his knuckles like a street performer down at the trade-and-try-on. Oh. That is why. It had sprung up automatically. He thought back to his first few years of teaching, when he had incinerated a student with that fireball. The dean had not been impressed. He had re-materialized the poor lad later on no harm done. It was just a disintegrating fireball, not liquid fire.
The story had spread across the campus as fast as paper footballs could be flicked. After that incident, Students had shown up on time for his class. They were more attentive to his lectures and as a result, retained more of what he was trying to teach them. He won scholarly awards as a gifted instructor. More of his students went on to famous, important careers. The waiting list to get into his 300 seat auditorium started when children were in the womb. He was respected, but it had come at a cost. He was feared.
He had wanted to be the cool hip professor the students invited for a pint after class. He would good naturedly decline of course, well not always but on most occasions. Shouts of ‘Professor Platypus’ from across the quad would alert him to do a back flip while catching the flying disk in the air one handed and toss it back to adoring students. Even now these many years later, a wistful yearning to change his persona made his blue furred skin ripple. It was a longing to change not who he was, but how he was perceived. The Disintegration Fireball now clutched pensively in his hand, began to drip on the Linoleum floor, sending a smokeless smell of burning textiles wafting around the auditorium.
The smell of Human fear, at least to his bill, overpowered the stench of burning linoleum. Before he had incinerated that kid those many years ago, he had struggled to forge a connection with students. They were inevitably more fascinated by what he was than what he could show them. To the humans it appeared as if he floated in mid air. But it was no ancient magic trick of strings and pulleys. He could just see and stand on the rails of magic. They floated like cut logs in a stream. He simply hopped from one to the other without thought. He only did it now in the auditorium. The humans found it unnerving outside of class. In the auditorium, it was just another tool in his war chest of dispensing knowledge. He had embraced his power to dispense knowledge as its own reward. He thought about his existence. Lost in thought the disintegrating fireball had continued to drip and cool on the linoleum. It now made a swirling cocktail of speckle flecked marble and lime green colored soup that bubbled beneath his ‘floating’ feet.
Several minutes had passed yet no one dare move. T-shirt still watched him, an inquisitive, almost introspective look on his face. Brave lad indeed. The Platypus The Feared had been carved into one campus rock or another yet T-Shirt merely inspected. rapt, earnest without animosity.
He had minted many captains of industry in his very, very long career. Apparently 202 years was a long time to humans. He could remember his awakening in the lab as if it was yesterday.
He had been to one of those captains funerals yesterday. Humans had such short weak and pathetic lifetimes that if he allowed himself to dwell on it, he would become overcome with emotions.
At the funeral he had nibbled a sweet gherkin in a super slow motion that mimicked human chewing rather than vibrating it to shreds with his bill. He had given the same eulogy he had given for the last 115 years at these gatherings.
“Very sorry for your loss. When he/she was a student he/she was one of my most clever students. He/she will be missed. Was it me who inspired him/her? Or was it him/her that inspired me?”
Surprisingly, this one vanilla sentence brought the loved ones of the deceased such comfort that The Platypus found his ‘dance card’ quite full. It wasn’t quite pints with the lads at the pub, but it was as close as he expected to get. Humans were constantly lining up to shuffle off as if it was the only option in the world. He tried to explain it to them once. They just couldn’t grasp an idea so outside their frame. So as he wathed each one pass, he felt a little stab of self inflicted guilt. He took personal responsibility for each and every one of their stupid deaths. He had failed to teach humanity to conquer death, and his self inflicted punishment was to go to all of their death celebrations and pull helplessly at his own fur. A hundred years ago he had attended them feeling indignant and bitter. But time lets no thing pass unpunished, not even immortals. Now he attended them as a self imposed penance to witness his greatest failure as a teacher.
When his first student grew old and died, he invented quadraphonic magic as a bridge to the fourth dimension. Humans irrationally see in only three dimensions. He invented the magic just to open human minds to the possibilities. In 177 years of teaching not one student had gotten it. No student had yet figured it out. He expected to go at least 150 more years give or take if his roommate’s calculations could be trusted. That was at least 150 more years without a ‘teacher’s assistant.’ UGH. parish the thought.
Graduates of The Platypus’s class became very very good at inhabiting the three dimensions they could see, touch, taste and feel. His students became sharper than other humans. Smarter. Stronger, enjoyed longer lives. They understood the magic around them in a way that they never would have if they didn’t at least try to understand quadraphonic magic. His best most gifted students still died.
He was lauded as a hero of all of humanity. He laughed humorlessly at the irony of being humanities greatest treasure that was simultaneously humanities greatest failing. He lacked the ability to teach them not to die. He chuckled to himself, a despondent sound with no joy. Flecks of disintegrating fireball incinerated a few students notebooks. The students faces below him drained of blood, but they did not leave the auditorium. T-Shirt did not react as predicted. A fleck of disintegrating fireball meant for his elbow was repelled, by the tiniest of tiny shields. It was shaped like an umbrella, and the harmful flecks washed off it leaving T-Shirt’s arm unharmed.
Just passing Professor Platypus class was enough to land you a 15 figure salary. To start. Failing His class landed you a 7 figure salary. For life. Being kicked out of his class meant you got neither of those perks. 270 of these would not make it to first quarter and would reapply every semester hoping to unseal their fates. Doing magic in Platypus class without permission had gotten many a student thrown out of the academy. They had cast spells that looked at others papers or attempted to unlock the test key safe. So The Platypus had expelled them. Rumors had abounded and grown over the last 150 years that magic was forbidden in Platypus class. The Platypus didn’t bother correcting this notion he just adapted. The Platypus had become genuinely surprised that he had to ask, then require, then demand that students do magic in front of him in class. It is why he dropped 270 students at the beginning of every term. He only kept the bold. Let the weak quibble and quake.
T-Shirt’s neighbors were dying in agony. This is not how they imagined their first day going. The Platypus paid them no mind as he began to squeeze the disintegrating fireball in his palm. The desk around the T-shirt began to crack and break and his neighbors stood up, and moved out of the blast. The Platypus briefly recognized that he might be overeating. He had not been asked if he was a duck in about 35 years give or take. He squished the fireball out of existence. He squinched the other students desk and notebooks back into existence. He was an immortal after all, his magic no mere street illusion. The other students began sitting down. They were white with fear. He mused mirthlessly that his legend would grow. He hopped two logs higher then one down to get right in front of T-Shirt.
He turned his immortal beam on T-shirt. Beady black eyes met hazel-blue-green eyes and they drank of his immortal soul. This mortal looked into forever and did not fail. Was this progress? Time would tell. The Platypus placed a smooth, webbed, black and venomous foot on T-Shirts forehead and gently tapped.
“What is your name?”
When the Platypus spoke his voice ricocheted off the walls and seats and chairs sounding hollow. The humans occupying them had become so terrified that their combined terror had made them invisible to sound. The Platypus had been harboring a secret hope that one year, some group of students would toss that disk his way yelling ‘professor catch!’ He surveyed the auditorium looking into the scared faces of his students, and let the fantasy go. His beady black eyes grew beadier. And blacker. And eye-ier. And beadier. And blacker. And eye-ier.
T-Shirt spoke and it was as if The sun had been released from behind a rather silly and dark cloud. His smooth sometimes alto sometimes baritone voice lifted hearts. His voice fucking thrummed like he had been molded by the god of sound himself. It crescendoed off the walls and seats and chairs and reinflated the beings that had been flatten with terror by some sort of magical duck. They breathed again. Color returned to their forms. They glowed as if freshly spawned from the unity.
“I am The Dinosaur Puncher. When there are dinosaurs to punch, I will be there to punch them in the face because it is my destiny. I also had a free class so I figured I would audit and see what the fuss was about.”
Dinosaurs?! Snort! Fuss! What the fuck?! There have been no dinosaurs on earth in the last 65 million years.
It was mortal. The Platypus did not smell divinity on it. But it delivered speeches with the confidence of an immortal god. The Platypus did a head count. Son of a bitch! There were 301 souls in the auditorium. He pulled at some fur while he thought. He should stop tugging his fur, could become a habit. Rubbish. He had a glorious coat that would undoubtedly stay that way. The part of his brain that suffered from obsessive compulsion supposed he would have to kill one. He snapped himself out of his darker humors. He retracted his venom foot from Dinosaur Punchers face and decided to take a new tact.
“Pleased to meet you Dinosaur Puncher. I am The Platypus. Although I appear to be a ‘magical duck’ I am much more. First I am not a duck, I am descended from the house Ornithorhynchidae. My mother was the first of her kind in 4000 years. She was grown in a test tube in a lab. She did not have sentience. She was inseminated with the magic now prevalent in this galaxy and on this earth. I am the only one of my kind and most likely the last of my kind. When I hatched I hatched sentient, and aware. I am Immortal. My mother lived out the normal life span of an Ornithorhynchidae and passed away. When I say I am The Platypus, It is because in all the universe from here to the other stars and back again, I am The Platypus. There is only one of me. There will never again be another Platypus. I am The Platypus.”
He had recaptured the auditorium as all eyes focused on him. He did what must have looked like rather amazing acrobatics as he climbed higher in the air toward his multi chalkboards. He was really just climbing the slow moving rails of magic as one might climb a flight of stairs, but they could not see that of course. He placed thoughts of this Dinosaur Puncher and his bizarre statement in a box inside his head for later analysis.
“This is the most basic quadraphonic magical equation and yes, it will be on the test.”
The Platypus relaxed back into his wheel house as chalk made contact with board. It was gonna be a good year he decided. Maybe year 177 was gonna finally stop the pain of defeat. His fur slipped into a slightly deeper shade of cobalt blue that covered some of the worry patches he had picked as he fully engaged his craft.
“Carry the one add one shoe then go inside times the square root of infinity which is of course the square or pie times the square of the speed of light. Does everyone follow?”
They did not.
None the less they scribbled notes as The Platypus hopped and jumped around trying to bridge the 3rd dimension to the 4th.