My ticket reads: Admit One to Dr. Mintaka’s Galactic Game Exhibit. As I’m about to enter the hall, a T-shirt-clad, bubble-gum chomping lad with a delinquent demeanor pushes past me. I look back to see mouthed apologies from a harried looking couple.
The exhibit will be on loan to this museum for two months. Expectations are that 200,000 will pay to view this one-of-a-kind exhibit of creatures taken from across the Milky Way Galaxy. Each stuffed and mounted creature is displayed in their natural planetary setting along with a smaller critter that occupies a lower step on their food chain. The pièce de résistance, the exhibit finale, heretofore unseen, is the beast known as “Invisibilis Ante Demise.”
I have visions of how the renowned huntsman, Dr. Mintaka, will appear; no doubt with a muscular physique, a full mane of hair, and a gait that rivals a panther stalking its prey.
A small crowd gathers near the first exhibit. Great! Immediately to my left is Bubblegum Boy with the harried couple in tow. Then my nostrils tell me I’m directly down-wind from a superfluous splasher of eau-de-cologne. I see her, to my right, wearing a polyester dress and platform shoes. She appears as someone who just walked out of a 1970’s era museum of fashion.
The curator approaches wearing solar camouflage—navy blue with an overlapping, random pattern of stars and planets. After his welcome-to-the-museum speech, he describes hunting in desert conditions on a Class H planet in the Rigel system. The stuffed creature he indicates resembles something that scientists might slot into Earth’s Paleozoic Era—the massive tail, jagged teeth, scales. But where the similarities end, the bizarreness begins; there are mammoth pastel plumes that adorn both ends of this beast, at the apex of the head and the tip of the tail. The beast appears to be chasing a rodent-sized, chartreuse, squat-looking animal. While the curator drones on about “tonnage and mass,” Bubblegum Boy removes his gum and stretches it into a long string, as lengthy as his arm reach allows, then stuffs it back into his mouth. Ms. Polyester et Platform Shoes watches, severe disapproval etched on her face.
As the curator leads us to the next exhibit, I notice his pronounced limp. Then while we follow, I get the feeling we’re being observed by someone—or something. I sense the curator has the same awareness. He appears to sidestep nothingness. Sweat beads on his balding head; he glances back over his shoulder. I do the same.
The next exhibit has an unusual head-to-body ratio and resembles a cross between and platypus and a wooly mammoth. The curator mentions “furbearing” and “cosmic quadruped.” The beast is native to an asteroid in the Capella star system and is prized for its massive triple-horn that tops its miniature head. This creature must be vegetarian as it is displayed eating plant life.
Before we reach the final specimen, the actual hunting weapon used by Dr. Mintaka is on display. It is a Cosmic Pulsar Carbine. Scratches and gouges, notches of honor, abound on the weapon.
Finally, we reach the Invisibilis Ante Demise, an animal that is unseen until the moment of its death. I’m perplexed; just how in the galaxy was it hunted and killed? I hear, “tracked the animal across six star systems within Ursa Major, the Big Bear Constellation.” The great beast has a severed human leg held fast between its canine teeth. This seems to fascinate Bubblegum Boy, while Ms. Polyester et Platform Shoes turns an interesting shade of khaki green. My thoughts are: Somebody invaded this guy’s space and he wasn’t amused. The curator expounds, “Invisibilis Ante Demise migrate in pairs and are inseparable from their mates.” I shudder involuntarily.
I thank the curator as I read his name-tag: Dr. Valente Mintaka—Galactic Game Hunter. The synapses connect in my brain, and I’m thinking, nah, couldn’t be. I watch as Dr. Mintaka takes a second look at the leg-toting creature, then he hobbles away, all the while, gazing over his shoulder.
Near the exit, as eau de cologne once again reaches my olfactory organ, I smirk. Ms. Polyester et Platform Shoes is balancing on one, while scrapping bubblegum from the other. I shake my head. What manner of personage will the next fraction of the 200,000 represent?
As I exit, I take a final glance over my shoulder.
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