The warm breeze plays xylophone along his exposed ribcage. He stretches, finally able to roll his back in one long motion, sinuous without sinew, the vertebrae clicking to the tip of his tail. Ahead, the neon glow of the tube station and London’s boulevards beckon. Behind, the grand Victorian façade of the museum he has called home. He’s been upstaged.
He has stood, through governments, right wing, left wing, through fuel shortages, economic booms and busts, mods, rockers, through World Wars and the Cold War, the IRA, shoulder pads, Tamagotchis, heatwave summers and snowed-in winters. He endured lonely years sheltering in the basement, while German bombs smashed into London. It was a relief to be released, arranged and eventually re-arranged, in the airy chamber of the palatial entrance hall. He took it upon himself to be the guardian of the visitors, some returning year upon year, watching them grow up. He always tried to look large and imperious in their photos, to live up to his reputation. He’s the background of hundreds of grainy family videos. He’s starred in films. Once, someone spilled Coke on his foot and he had to keep a straight face while the bubbles fizzed and tickled his toes.
He gazes up at the July night sky. The moon reflects off the blunt bare bone of his head. Impulsively, in an action born of a different age, a newer Earth, he rips a leafy branch from a tall tree.
He lifts an immense leg, taking a first, lumbering step of freedom.