The Anatomy of a Dream


Rachel Rodman





1) You love bacon and you love steak.  You’re convinced that, if you could somehow mash pigs and cows together, into one cut of meat, the result would taste amazing. 


2) You think it would be hilarious to make an actual duck-rabbit instead of settling for an optical illusion. 


3) You’re obsessed with griffins, and just wish that, in some way, you could make them real. 


4) You like features.  The more the better.  Power windows and power steering.  Legs and flippers.  Mouse DNA and whale DNA.  Sugar and cream.  If two good things are worth having, they’re also worth piling on top of one another. 


5) When you were a kid, you trapped different creatures, like beetles and grasshoppers, inside the same jar.  But you didn’t hope that they would fight, the way the other kids did.  You just wanted them to make babies. 


6) For you, nothing is sacred.  When confronted with a “sacred cow,” you’re filled with a wild desire to mash it together with a zebra. 


7) You’re concerned that humanity may have lost its emotional connection to the rest of life.  It’s the sort of problem that, you feel, may require aggressive action to correct, like, for example, the surgical attachment of elk horns to the human skull. 


8) You grew up watching Rocky and Bullwinkle.  And you’ve long dreamed of staging your own sequel, featuring the children, Rinkle and Bully, that the two protagonists were never able to have.  “Must merge moose and squirrel . . .” you often say in your best Boris accent. 


9) You see biodiversity as an opportunity for cultural exchange.  Or maybe as a potluck. 


10) You’re tired of settling for medieval paintings, or for My Little Pony figurines.  You want a real unicorn—the sort of thing that you could only get by mashing together a real horse and a real narwhal. 


11) You’re a simple person with simple convictions.  1. Marriage is better than bachelorhood.  2. Cheese omelettes are better than a plain scramble.  3. Horse-chickens are better than normal horses. 


12) You really dislike incest. 

           The idea of a hamster having sex with another, near-identical hamster makes your stomach turn.  You’d feel waaaay more comfortable if that hamster could be persuaded to choose a really different-looking mate, like maybe a rutabaga. 


13) The puritanicalness of the “Conservation” movement upsets you.  If a species is worth “preserving,” then it’s also worth making better. 


14) You crave softness.  Real softness.  

           You intend, therefore, to combine the cuddliest characteristics of mammals and invertebrates.  Outside, your creation will be fluffy, like a kitten.  Inside, it will be equally cuddly: boneless, like a snail. 


15) You’ve always wanted to make a difference.  And by “make a difference,” you just mean “make things really different.” 


16) When confronted with a majestic scene: oak trees, daffodils, and fighting elk, you nod your head, pretending to feel. 

           But secretly you wonder: “Is that all?” 


17) You think of Nature the way you’ve always thought of your romantic partners.  You love it—madly! passionately!  And you want to get your hands all over it. 

           At the same time, though, you also have lots of advice about how to make it better. 


18) You’ve done all the market research.  This is going to be a winner. 

           Like a dog, it will be loving and enthusiastic.  Like a cat, it will be sleek and elegant, and capable of disposing of its own wastes. 

           You’ve picked out a French-sounding (but not too French-sounding) name, calculated to appeal to just the kind of pretentious fashionista most likely to purchase it.  

           You’ll call them “D’ghats.”


19) Nature makes mistakes, just like people do.  And you’re determined to correct them. 


20) You spend most of your time filling out complaint cards, addressed to the local zoo.  You demand fins for the giraffes, tusks for the butterflies, and chlorophyll for the penguins.  

           You rework your handwriting, and invent lots of pseudonyms, to make it seem as if you are a part of a much larger movement. 

           But they never do anything.  


21) You’re a one-stop gardener.  Two stops, max.  One tree should supply all your fruits.  One vine should supply all your vegetables. 

           Really, though—if you listen to your heart—you’d prefer to harvest all your produce off the back of a sheep, in place of wool. 

           Snip, Snip. 


22) Evolutionary trees make you sad.  You fixate on that branch point, 850 million years in the past, when the ancestor of hornets and the ancestor of bullfrogs waved goodbye.  And you see only tragedy. 

           “Goodbyes don’t have to be forever,” you say.  


23) You’re a mixologist at heart.  And, for you, Nature is just another liquor cabinet. 


24) You like the idea of being a real doctor, the kind who invents stuff, instead of setting bones, or removing gallbladders. 

           “I’m going to need some sunflower chloroplasts,” you'll say. “Plus a water buffalo.” 


25) There are too many endangered animals, and too little space.  To you, this is obviously a problem of packaging. 

           We will not be able to secure habitat for both the leatherback turtle and the mountain gorilla.  But if we were, instead, to compress the problem, and build turtle-gorillas, then a little of both species might be saved.  

           It’s not the ideal solution—you acknowledge that.  But it’s the only practical one. 


26) This seems cool.  And you’ve always wanted to be cool. 


27) Nature used to bore you.  Now, it enrages you. 

           You feel, increasingly, that if you ever see a tedious little dog again, something that hasn’t been mashed together with a squirrel, or a goat, or a palm tree, or something to break up the monotony, then you are going to scream.  

           And you don’t want to scream. 


28) Scientists have been pouring research money into “cancer” for years, and people are still getting cancer. 

           So you intend to set your sights on something narrower, like dolphin-radishes. 


29) You have dreams of world domination.  But, to do it right, you’re going to require an exceptional soldier.  Fast like a cheetah; solid like an armadillo. 


30) You want to honor LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, on the occasion of her four-billionth birthday. 

           And you see no better way to do that than by staging a massive family reunion.  So you intend to mash together every organism in existence into one ciliated/waxy/fleshy dumpling. 

           “I love you, LUCA,” you’ll say, wiping your nose on your sleeve. 


31) You value animals.  And you value human intelligence.  These things, in conjunction, give rise to a moral imperative.  

           You must endow animals with human intelligence. 


32) To reinvigorate your sports franchise, you need a new mascot.  Something that’s both intimidating and quirky.  Like a bear-chipmunk.  Or a lion-parakeet. 

           And won’t the fans cheer all the louder when you trot out a real specimen at halftime? 


33) You have a slick white coat already picked out.  At the belt, you’ll store your laboratory instruments, packaged into holsters. 

           Then, once you’ve positioned your targets—1 sea cucumber + 1 prairie vole—you’ll whip out your laboratory stapler gun and shout: “Bam! Bam! Bam!” 


34) So many lives—both human and animal—possess so little meaning.  But if we were, instead, to mash two lives together, then meaning in that one life would be doubled, and the spiritual experience would be concomitantly intensified. 

           And then, maybe then, we would begin to feel. 


35) You cannot be cold when you share your blood with a polar bear.  You cannot feel naked or exposed when a lion’s mane curls protectively over your pudendum. 


36) “Did the Owl and the Pussycat have babies?” you asked when you were little.  But your parents just smiled and closed the storybook and never gave you an answer. 


37) Other commitments are superficial: the sexual partners we chose, the people we marry.  Air gaps divide us, ultimately. 

           If, though, your cells are intermingled with an iguana’s, and together you compose one body?  That is forever. 


38) Nature is a jock, thick-headed and beautiful.   Everyone loves it.  

           Every afternoon, you pump iron, preparing.  One day, when you’re strong enough, you’ll slam it up against its locker and punch it in the face, and shout something withering, like: “Overrated!” 

           Then—cool as anything—you’ll walk away. 


39) In your dreams, you are a mer-person.  Your spine extends into a fish’s tail, and by pumping it, you move powerfully through the water. 

           You have never felt so complete, or so perfect.  

           But then you wake up. 


40) Here’s a letter that you wrote to Aesop the other year, before learning that he was dead:

           “Dear Aesop,

           If we surgically conjoin the tortoise and the hare, then both of them can race as one.” 


41) “Nobody puts the Great Pacific Octopus in the corner,” you say, doing your best Patrick Swayze.  Then you raise the creature to you, in a spill of red, while gently suturing its tentacles to your shoulders, stitch by careful stitch. 

           And then, together, you begin to dance. 









Rachel Rodman writes fairy tales, food poetry and popular science.  Her work has appeared at Fireside Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Expanded Horizons and elsewhere.  Rachel Rodman is online at