Two nearly identical fossils await in a cold room beneath the museum, in an exhibit long forgotten. Each slab of stone contains the imprint of some six-winged avian with a long, barbed tail, and no head. Both are longer than any human has ever been tall.
Beneath the glass display is a plaque, which reads as follows:
There was never a creature known as the Nihilopteryx, as some have previously claimed. The stone seen here solidified during the Archaean epoch, long before the appearance of any kind of macroscopic life. The geological process that caused this uncanny rock formation is known as ‘igneous feathering,’ which resulted from pockets of primordial nitrogen escaping during the planet’s cooling period. While not entirely a hoax as previously believed, the controversy surrounding these specimens serves as a reminder as to the danger of ignoring the scientific method in favor of unsubstantiated speculation.
Another plaque, this one from ten years prior, is also preserved inside the glass as though it were a trophy, or a specimen in and of itself. What it lacks in certainty, it makes up for in curiosity:
Discovered in 1929, the Nihilopteryx is an enigma. Its lack of orifices, or any apparent digestive system, suggests a complete lack of viability. Further, the Greenlandic stone from which these fossils were cut dates back to the Archean Eon, a period long before any lifeforms of its size could be found anywhere else on Earth. The first specimen was believed to be a fabrication until 1953, when a second, nearly identical Nihilopteryx fossil was found thirty miles to the north. There is no known ecosystem that could have supported its existence, suggesting that a significant error has taken place.
Our Institute has not yet come to a consensus as to what this discovery means, but numerous pseudoscientists have attempted to weigh in over time. In a recent interview, Dr. Roland Mondragon of the University Beneath Chicago elegantly summarized the hysteria surrounding this specimen: “If the Nihilopteryx ever existed at all, then it has always been extinct. Unless the scientific community regains its sanity, we will have no choice but to conclude that death altogether predates life, and has evolved independently from it.”
Of course, there is no such thing as “igneous feathering.” Then again, there’s no such thing as the University Beneath Chicago either. The Nihilopteryx never needed to exist at all to carve a hole through consensus reality.