A eulogy for Psittacosaurus, devoured by Deinonychus in the Colossal Book of Dinosaurs (Brenden Layte)

I was six when I first saw you. You were eating, your body nestled into a thicket the same color as your emerald skin. You ate deliberately, tearing leaves from branches and swallowing them whole so they could be ground down by the stones I’d just learned were in your stomach. I wonder what you felt in that moment—oblivious to the danger you were in, unaware that you were part of something else’s story, unable to know that the food you ate would never be ground down, never share its nutrients with you, never make you stronger.

When Deinonychus jumped out, I was simply told that “the chase had begun.” Just like that the perspective changed to your pursuer’s. It seemed so casual, so thoughtless. As if you didn’t matter anymore. As if prey is only defined by what eats it. And maybe it is. Maybe, at the end of the day, everyone is only remembered by the things that they’ve conquered. Or the things that have conquered them.

Even after several pages of rooting for Deinonychus, I was shocked by the brutality of the attack, how the five-inch claws plunged in, ripped you open, and tore through your flesh again and again. Your sinew, skin, and muscle barely slowing them down. I looked upon your terrified face, and, when my mother turned the page, your opened-up body, part of your abdomen ceasing to exist.

Looking at the pages now, part of me is jealous of you in a way. Sometimes I wish that something would just come along and rip me open while I’m eating, or watching TV, or typing these pointless things on my computer, or whatever else I do. I’d look up with the fear of death briefly in my eyes and then part of me would stop existing, too. I wonder if I’d reach a moment of acceptance. A moment of exuberance even. The realization that the slow decay was over, that there would just be all this pain all at once and then nothing. Part of me wonders if that would be freeing or terrifying. Part of me wonders what that rustle in the leaves would sound like.

But then I remember the look on your face, the way you fought for life even as it began to fade from you. The shock, not from the pain, but from the realization of your own impermanence. The yearning you had for the facts of existence to be something other than what they are—something less cruel—even as your attacker split your skin and spilled you into the rich Cretaceous soil.

100 million years after the last of your kind perished, I think of the sacrifice you unwittingly made and hope that I might be able to find some other way to offer nourishment. To hope that I can reach a moment of acceptance that you were never given the chance to find. To hope to be seen, not as something that was conquered or destroyed, but as something that lived.


Brenden Layte (he/him) is an editor of educational materials, a linguist, and a writer. His work has previously appeared in places like Entropy, Lost Balloon, Pithead Chapel, and the Forge. He lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and tweets at @b_layted. 


image: Emily Bottomley.