This Mortal Coil’s Pigeon Poem Decoded

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So, those of you who’ve read Emily Suvada’s This Mortal Coil will remember the pigeon poem that Catarina finds by taking a section of genehacked DNA from extinct, now artificially recreated passenger pigeons and translating the base pairs into binary, then using ASCII to find their corresponding English letters.

Flip to the back of the book and you can find the full text of the coded message for your own puzzle-solving pleasure: four straight pages of nothing but GTCAs arranged in a seemingly spontaneous order.

Maybe you’re just as confused as I was by how this was supposed to transform into binary and then actual letters and words. (Or maybe you’re a better cryptographer than me and have already coded your own program to translate it.)

I wish I could say I decoded the pigeon poem myself with a snazzy JS or C++ program, but we all know that didn’t happen. What I did do was go onto the author’s website and co-opt the encoding/decoding tool she wrote just for this purpose. If you’d like to try it out yourself, it’s here–great for sending cryptic messages to your nerdy friends. If you just want to solve the pigeon poem yourself (or at least run it through the ready-made program so you can feel like you did it), that’s here.

But without further ado, here is the plaintext message so that you don’t have to do a bit of copy-pasting into the decoding engine:

My body is a prison for my mind;
A cage of bone and sinew for my soul.
This double-helix is a chain that binds My will,
Forcing me under its control.
I live in flesh, in suffering and toil,
Dreaming of higher things, yearning to fly;
To wrench my spirit from this mortal coil
And soar, unfetter
I was surprised that it wasn’t an existing semi-famous poem but rather one Suvada wrote herself, which is quite fitting when I realise that there’s no shout-out towards the chilling and perfect title anywhere else in the book, as far as I remember. Not a terrible easter egg as far as they go.

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