May 25th, 1882
I write this on a train to Cheyenne, watching the world go by through the windows. We left Saint Joseph half an hour ago, and the Union Pacific Railroad Line is as uncomfortable as ever. At least my employers have provided good accommodations for my trip west.
Othniel Charles Marsh. He's more megalomaniac than paleontologist at this point. His petty rivalry with Edward Cope threatens to bleed these beds dry, whether through their digging, or through sheer sabotage. They break their own findings so the other doesn't discover them; it is absolute madness. My father worked with Gideon Mantell and Mary Anning, who are surely rolling in their graves with enough force to burrow though the planet.
And neither of them have any idea what they're standing on. Regardless, Marsh is the more competent one by far. The Messrs have chosen me for this task.
I feel sorry for Reed and Carlin, having to work under Cope. Within a century, he'll be forgotten.
Found myself a room in Cheyenne. Marsh has posted a notice in the newspaper advertising positions on his dig team. A few have met with unfortunate accidents, leaving positions open.
I had an interview with the man himself, and upon seeing my demeanor, as well as a few more esoteric aides, he hired me instantly. I informed him I knew how to swing a pick, brush a brush, dig with a trowel.
Despite my best attempts to emulate an accent from Connecticut, he did not comment on it. All that effort, a month of training my voice, for naught.
We set off for the Como Bluff quarry in two days time.
We've set out. It's a two-day walk to the bluffs, but there is a settlement between the two points, if it can even be called that; it's a trading post with an inn by it.
It seems that several of the men know Marsh's reputation. His rivalry with Cope has brought sensation to the area, and with it, yellow journalism— though there's a grain of truth to it. The Times in New York reported that Marsh and Cope have started taking riflemen with them, and I certainly see a few muzzles sticking out from the supply packs. One of the alleged rifleman, who is named Anderson , claims that they're for hunting game by the site, as meat is hard to keep in the desert, and even trail rations begin to fester after two-week digs. Another man, Silcox, informed me that they usually leave the rotting rations near the edge of the site as a deterrent for Cope's men. All that will do is attract coyotes and god only knows what else.
There is no telegraph service at the trading post. It exists, but unlucky lightning strikes seem to have destroyed the wires. With apologies to the Messrs, I will be unable to contact them.
We have arrived at the quarry, and I have inspected the map that Messr. D created with help from the navigational apparatus. I will attempt to persuade Marsh to dig in the designated location, which I am informed is distinct.
I believe I have found it. An outcropping of rock, shaped like a rook. It is half a mile away from where we are planning to dig. Marsh will not be easily persuaded to move after such a long trek. Thankfully, if he believes Mr. Cope is involved, Mr. Marsh will attempt to overtake the area.
Tonight, I will report to Mr. Marsh that I saw men at the outcropping, who fled once they took notice of me. In addition, I have repurposed Mssr. D's map as a facsimile of one that Cope's men use and planted it at the location, hidden under a rock. He will jump at the chance to usurp Cope, and I imagine that Reed and Carlin are doing much of the same with him.
Excavation has begun! Marsh himself broke ground, and almost instantly found fossilized ferns in the rock. Though I do not know what the Messrs. have sent me to search for, I will know it when it is seen.
Men have reported hearing shifting sounds from underground, and Marsh fears that animals have made their home in the strata, destroying fossils. I wonder if it is this, or something more.
Marsh's fears seem to have been founded. We found a family of mice within some form of ribcage, all dead. We do not know what killed them, so we have burned them. Some expressed a wish for eating them. I do not understand Americans.
Some of the specimens here are fragile; twice we have found, for lack of a better term, bubbles in the rock, and twice they have been broken simply by touching them, as if they were eggshell. They have the texture of rock, but are brittle; one of Marsh's assistants hypothesizes it to be a strange shale formation.
I believe these are what I am looking for.
I awoke from sleep to hear gunshots, and believed I was found out, but instead, it was Anderson shooting at a man fleeing from our camp, a bag of small fossils slung over his shoulder. Inspecting his belongings shows a blatant letter from Cope, which was left as a slight against us.
The camp is not getting sleep tonight, and nobody is being allowed near the dig.
Marsh is demanding daily inspections after the events of last night. My journal will reveal me if they see the contents, and as such, I have hidden it in the lining of my pillow.
We found what appears to be part of a carnivore's jawbone today. Fascinating to most, but not what I am looking for, unless the Messrs. deployed me for the sake of obtaining new inlays for fork handles.
Overturning a rock has found an entire outcropping of the bubbles. Our photographer came to capture it, but the idiot used the flash lamp in the daylight. One of the diggers was blinded, and fell onto the bubbles, crushing them all. Marsh has fired them both, and forced them to march back to Cheyenne alone.
I've not seen a man so angry before. Even the tirades that happen at the club are nothing compared to Marsh. He threw a trowel at his tent wall so hard that it cut through. He was convinced that the bubbles were worth something, either scientifically or monetarily, and I can't help but wonder if he knows something I don't.
What esoteric properties do these things have?
I spied Marsh's notebook as he worked outside his tent He was making notes on the bubbles- the words "egg shells" were written underneath an illustration of them. He had one on his desk, and I managed to snatch a glance of the inside. There was something inside it; an embryo, which had been alive mere hours ago.
This is it. Dinosaur eggs, spared from the horrors of time and extinction, underneath the Morrison formation. And these idiots are wantonly destroying them.
I hate Americans.
I awoke to the sound of something in the desert, some form of animal. Coyotes, most likely, stalking around camp. I'm wondering if this is the alleged Cope deterrent working.
Someone hid my journal within the camp. I only found it this afternoon, under a pile of rocks. I'd be lost without this. I found it with a cock drawn on the inside front cover. Americans!
Two of our camp went for supplies yesterday, and have yet to return. have returned, running like madmen, water and food on their backs. They claim to have found the bodies of the two men fired by Marsh on Tuesday the 6th, five miles outside of camp, horribly mauled. I went to investigate along with five others.
Their faces were gone. Whether they were slashed off, or bitten, I do not know. No man did this. A wolf, perhaps. But it is a wolf that has claws the size of a Bowie knife. And something else was amiss as well- no-one wanted to bury them, and no-one could recall their names. I looked at the roster, my journal… no record of them. I knew they were part of the expedition, but even then, I did not know who they were.
Marsh has been shaken by the events. He's announced that he's taking a small party of three back to the trading post to send a telegram asking for aid. They will be back tomorrow morning, and until then, we are to continue digging.
Finally heard from the agents in Cope's camp, via courier; Carlin says that his workers are being more careful with the specimens. The agents intend to take them and be on the first train back east. Carlin's made the excuse of starting his own company with a third party, intending to sell fossils to the highest bidder. Not technically incorrect.
Cope thinks the specimens are just igneous formations, thanks to prodding from both of them, useless to the forward study of paleontology. Marsh, unfortunately, will be less easy to convince. No matter; a stab from a syringe on the way out will cause him to forget.
Marsh has not returned. We left a trail to our camp with stakes, so it would be difficult for him to become lost. The men are worried.
His second-in-command has begun rationing water to us; another reason Marsh left. We are down to the last barrel, and our food is almost gone.
The thermometer in Marsh's tent shows almost one-hundred Fahrenheit. The men are taking longer breaks, but I and two others continue to work. I managed to find a nest of the eggs, and quickly packed and prepared them. None of them are damaged.
There appears to be, for lack of a better term, a vein of them, much like a vein of ore in a mine, stretching far beneath the ground. The men are being more careful with them now, at least.
I should be able to make off with the crate they intend to send back to Cheyenne for transport. I just need to change the destination from Peabody to New York.
Marsh returned this morning, bearing water and rations. He was pleased that we had found more of the eggs, and swore us to secrecy on the contents, before having one of his assistants break one open, revealing an embryo within.
At the moment he did this, there was an enormous bellow from over the bluff, and a rumbling sound, as if a herd of bison were stampeding. Nothing came of it, but the camp is shaken. Marsh has given us permission to take two days off and spend time around the trading post.
It was larger than any man in the camp, completely silent, covered in quills barbs feathers, like a giant bird. Its mouth was full of one-hundred teeth, and it leapt from the tops of the tents, descending on the man. It was not solid; at one point, I saw it walk through the wall of a tent without disturbing it. And it seemed angry.
There was no mistaking it: it was a dinosaur, some unknown species. The man it came upon shot at it, but the bullet rocketed through the night, doing nothing other than rouse the camp. The claws on its feet were like sickles, and they sliced through one man's throat, before- it cannot be called "feeding". No further harm came to his flesh, but his soul… I saw parts of his soul be ripped out, wisps of being rended from his gut, into its flesh, and then it went for the eyes.
I displaced some rock as I observed it, and it saw me. It had no hatred in its eyes, just simple curiosity. It did not want to hurt me, specifically. Then, with a cry that has not been heard in millennia upon millennia, it vanished. I can not bring myself to approach the body, nor can I remember the man's name. I wrote it in my journal- he was one of the riflemen- but now, when I look at it, I do not see it.
I have told no-one of this. I will make this clear in my missive to the Messrs: the eggs ARE NOT TO BE DESTROYED. The men who have destroyed the eggs have all ended up dead, forgotten, and now, I almost fear for Marsh.
I shall be returning
One of them attacked the camp today, in broad daylight. I write this at the telegraph station, having sent a missive to London. We were scattered, but only one has died. I believe Marsh to be alive.
A worker got in an argument with Marsh over pay, saying that he should be paid more if they were at risk of death— the idiot failed to read the contract. He struck Marsh, which led to a scuffle, and then, he took up one of the eggs and threw it at Marsh. As the embryo slid down the paleontologist's face, chaos erupted.
A small pack of the ghastly dinosaurs had erupted from the ground, their silvery, half-solid forms almost impossible to see in the blinding western sun. They leapt upon the man, a multitude, and their forms did nothing to obscure the carnage. His soul was removed from his body, and devoured. I heard his final scream as he faded into nothingness, and this sound will remain with me forever.
In the confusion, I managed to pilfer a case of eggs and flee the camp, after injecting Marsh with some of the serum, and pouring the rest into the water. Carlin has met me in the trading post, as we intend to hire a mail cart to send them back to Cheyenne, and from there, by train, to New York, and to London by boat.
In New York, about to board a ship. Lost the journal on the train, have only now found it in my luggage. The shipment is also on board.
The Messrs have instructed me to dispose of this journal when my report is complete, which it is, tucked in my case. I have left it in the care of Sam Williston, a cousin of mine and another agent, with the instructions to take care of it.
Samuel, I know that Marsh is a close friend of yours, even with your duties, but I beg you: observe him more closely. If you, he, or anyone else find any of the eggs, stop them from being destroyed. Ship them to somewhere safe. I do not know if their influence extends outside of Wyoming, nor do I care to find out.