Tag Archives: Dinosaur

Medical Microfiction: Pleura

Tar Pit: A Love Story

This is a love story about a tree and its hole.

From the beginning they seemed made for each other. They hugged each other’s curves, matching bend for bend — a union which grew more perfect with each passing year.

It came to a sudden end one day when a ravenous Apatosaurus tore up the whole tree by its roots and devoured it.

The hole doesn’t forget, though. Far from it. Nursing its vendetta, it gapes wide, deepens, and fills its heart with black tar. It waits for that murderous, leaf-stuffed bastard to return.

Given time, it can devour things too.

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Apatosaurus Louisae, Carnegie Museum.
Apatosaurus: the longest murderer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pleura are two very thin membranes that shrink-wrap your lungs, walling them off from the rest of your body. The visceral pleura wraps the lungs directly, while the parietal pleura lines your chest cavity. Between them is a small amount of fluid that keeps them from sticking to each other.

English: Left-sided pneumothorax (right side o...
The arrow points to the pleural cavity, in this case formed by air trapped between the layers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s where it gets interesting: in anatomy, we refer to the space between the two membranes as the pleural cavity, but it’s a bit of a misnomer because normally, no such cavity exists. If you’re healthy, those two layers stick close together like a pair of sheets on a well-made bed. The term “pleural cavity” refers to a potential space: it only exists when something’s gone wrong: when air or fluid has leaked between the layers and caused them to separate.

I’m fascinated by this idea of potential spaces, and that in some situations, an absence of something can be a presence. The relationship between the pleura and the pleural cavity is much like the relationship between tree roots and the space they create as they burrow into the soil. The tree’s hole doesn’t really exist until the roots are no longer there, but when the tree is gone, its absence leaves a presence: a hole that remembers embracing a tree once upon a time.

Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa
Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa (Photo credit: dcbaok)

In many ways, presences as absences are also a metaphor for grief. The death of something or someone we love, be it a person, animal, relationship, or even an object, can leave a void that feels like its own presence. Like a stab wound, we feel it. It makes itself known by its wrongness. In my story today, I wanted to explore how grief itself might seek to rectify the injustice caused by the void left when love is gone.

I also wanted to write about dinosaurs. Sue me.

I owe some special thanks to Drabblecast forum member The-hest-of-hale for helping me polish up the language choices in this story. Thank you, friend! Constructive criticism is hard to come by, especially on a story this short, and for your help I am very grateful

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Medical Microfiction: Brachymelia

Pseudosaurus

They’d spent generations cultivating human media to ensure their welcome. When they invaded, the humans would greet them as familiar friends and worship their new tyrants.

First, they introduced the hack novelist who wrote about cloning. Then the Hollywood blockbuster based on his book. That cartoon about the adorable brachiosaurus had been a stroke of genius.

But today’s headline ruined everything: EXPERTS SAY DINOSAURS HAD FEATHERS.

Aboard the mothership, the alien commander fumed. Undone by feathers!

“Orders, sir?” asked his subordinate.

The commander gestured with stumpy arms. “Bring me superglue and a feather pillow. I’ll need help reaching my back.”

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T-Rex
T-Rex (Photo credit: mcdlttx)

Brachymelia means having unusually short arms. Y’know, like a T-rex! Brachymelia explains why the alien commander’s gonna need a little help feathering his back in order to carry out his plot of cultural and actual invasion.

I like to think that even if actual Earth dinosaurs had feathers, somewhere out in the universe there’s got to be another species that resembles the scaly dinosaurs that Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg promised us. Unfortunately, it’s always possible that said aliens have bad intentions, and that our dinosaur-loving media is all just a ploy to lower our defenses against our dinosaur overlords.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.

Humans can have brachymelia too. In particular, it’s associated with achondroplastic dwarfism (also called achondroplasia), a form of dwarfism where a person’s head and torso grow to normal adult proportions, but the person’s limbs are shorter than average. The talented actor Peter Dinklage, who plays the badass Tyrion on Game of Thrones, exhibits achondroplastic dwarfism.

So how does the limb-shortness come about? Achondroplasia literally means “without cartilage development.” Bones (particularly the long bones of the arms and legs) usually grow in length during puberty via a process where cartilage is added to the growth zone of a bone. The cartilage is gradually converted into new bone, resulting in the arms and legs lengthening. People with achondroplasia have a genetic mutation that inhibits this process.

Now on to a more important question. Who would win in a fight between a T-rex and Tyrion Lannister?