Eric Willing

 

Daniel Jansen sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, still half asleep. He looked out the window and saw night’s darkness gripping the world. Sighing, he looked at the clock knowing what he’d find. 1:00 AM, the light green, glowing display read. Insomnia had struck again. Daniel climbed out of bed and stretched, now fully awake. The problem was falling asleep again…. and getting the sleep to last. That had been harder to do lately. Daniel decided to go for a walk in the park. That usually helped somewhat. He even fell back asleep occasionally. Daniel lived alone ever since his wife had died three years earlier. Beth Jansen had been an avid painter and enjoyed repainting the house on occasion. When she became hospitalized with the throat cancer that would kill her three months later, the house was a horribly garish bumblebee swirl and quite frankly had turned the house into an eyesore. It was the only time Daniel had ever complained about one of Beth’s repainting jobs. Looking at it now, it wasn’t so bad. Daniel took a shower, dressed, grabbed his keys, and his coat. Before he left, he looked back at the house where he had spent his whole adult life. He felt a twinge of sadness and he wasn’t sure why. Subconsciously though, he knew. He knew he would never see it again.

The short drive to Stegosaurus Park was very quiet, even the birds were asleep. All businesses were silent, locked up until at least 4:00, when the owners would come in and prepare for the day. There were virtually no people out except for drunkards, homeless people with nowhere else to go but the dingy comfort of “Mickey’s Pub”. Daniel got to the park  found his usual trail blocked off. It was the only one accepted for walking and led to the clearing where, 50 years earlier, stegosaurus bones had been discovered. Now a small tourist building/ gift shop sat there, supporting the small town of Danson, Oklahoma through the surprisingly large number of tourists who came to see the little “museum” with the bones. Daniel just liked to sit in the clearing and clear his head.

Nevertheless, the museum trail was blocked off so Daniel just walked through the trees and foliage until he saw a trail. These woods were sad and dying. It was clear that the upkeep of the park had been strongly focused in the area around the bones. The foliage was noticeably less green here and many of the trees were dead. There was very little wildlife and the soil was hard and rocky, unlike the soft crumbly dirt that formed the trail to the bones. Daniel walked the trail with sadness gripping his heart. He was suddenly glad to be old. It seemed that the best years of the world were gone. Daniel sat down and closed his eyes. In his mind, the world shifted back sixty million years to the days when stegosauruses had wandered the Earth, before humans had existed, and it had just been gigantic reptiles walking the Earth, caring about nothing but surviving. Nothing to do but walk the Earth, then pristine, not afflicted by human pollution or violence. Daniel opened his eyes and looked around. Yes he was glad to be old. His adventures were over.

Daniel kept walking and decided to go about another mile down the rocky path before he turned around and went back to the car. About fifteen minutes later, Daniel felt extremely tired. It was the most exhausted he had felt in twenty years. He laid down softly on a bed of old leaves, yawning. They crackled as he lay down and broke apart Daniel fell asleep and woke up a minute later when he fell down the rabbit hole, literally. Plummeting at what seemed to be a hundred miles an hour, Daniel screamed. It was like a water slide, terrifying yet thrilling with hundreds of twists and turns, and a swirling pattern on the tunnel walls, faintly similar to his wife’s final repainting job. The tunnel went for an everlasting period of time, seemingly endless in length. Little movies were clearly playing on the walls but Daniel was flying so fast down the slide that he couldn’t see what was going on. Reality bended and Daniel wondered if he was dreaming. He did not feel as if he was any longer on Earth, not even the same dimension. This tunnel seemed to belong to no dimension, an irregularity in the interconnected universe of time and space.

Suddenly the tunnel began to slope, and slowly decline. He could see the end now. The tunnel became brightly lit and showed the end; a solid block of rock. Panicking, sweat pouring down his face, Daniel began to scramble madly at the tunnel walls, trying to slow his speed for at the speed he was going, the impact of hitting that stone would break his legs and possibly kill him. The walls were glass, but they were as slippery as melted butter, and Daniel couldn’t get a grip. Quickly, he stuck out his legs, covered his head with his hands, and prepared for the worst. It seemed like forever to reach the stone and he let out a cry of fear as he did so, sensing the pain before it hit him. Surprisingly, there was no pain. The stone was soft, very crumbly, and Daniel immediately broke through into a five foot drop… and fell into a thorny rose bush. “Ahh!”, he yelped, jumping up. As he jumped, he saw a pile of leaves under the rose bush that looked suspiciously familiar. He bent down and examined them. Although they were soft and a vibrant shade of green, unlike the hard, dark brown crackling leaves he had laid down on, they were the same. Daniel stood up and looked around in amazement at the world he now stood in.

The dead, withered, brown trees of Stegosaurus Park had grown in stature and color, the leaves a cheerful mix of colors just as a rainbow shines after a session of heavy rain. The trees stood proud and tall, towering over Daniel, and the world. It was hard to believe these were the same trees Daniel had gazed upon just five (was it five?) minutes ago; and yet, he knew they were the same. Daniel had a strong sense of geography, and he knew the trees were in exactly the same spot as they had been when he “left”. They also still had the same general shape; they just looked like bodybuilders instead of an orphanage. The trees and landscape were not the only thing that had changed though. Wildlife flooded the small clearing where Daniel had fallen. Birds of various shapes and sizes flew through the jungle, exotic birds with fiery red beaks and feathers as yellow as bananas. Daniel had been an avid birdwatcher since he was nine, but these were unlike anything he had ever seen. On the ground, small rodents and reptiles sped around the ground, scurrying and yelping as they fled from the birds pursuing them. Daniel watched in amazement for an unknown period of time. Where was he? This exotic jungle was clearly part of Stegosaurus Park, and at the same time it was definitely not. He had never seen anything like the vibrant, colorful, plants that surrounded him, nor the animals. Was it possible he had been transported back in time? Being the avid science fiction fan he was, this was the explanation he wanted to believe, however impossible. Still, it was impossible. Science (nonfiction) had proved that. What was going o-. His train of thought was immediately interrupted by a stupendously loud growl.

The trees shook, sending their leaves cascading to the ground. Every single little creature fled in terror, into the woods and the safety of their hiding places. Thumping footsteps made the ground tremble. Heavy grunts and phlegmy snorts came from the nose of whatever creature was approaching. Daniel stood transfixed in fear, unable to move. This had gone from jungle vacation to Hell’s amusement park in under 20 seconds! Suddenly, the monster appeared. Daniel recognized it immediately. He had seen it in diagrams and museums hundreds of times over the years. Before now, he had never seen a real one. No doubt remained about where he was now. He was in the Cretaceous period, roughly 65 million years ago. In front of him stood, the most infamous of all dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Daniel’s eyes flew out of his head, like a perverse pair of goggles. The T-Rex was at least 30 feet tall with green scaly skin, the color of bile. It’s razor sharp teeth began to bite ferociously at the air, hungry for something besides brontosaurus. Tiny arms waved hysterically at the gigantic reptile’s sides, itching to grab and pull apart something other than the occasional sleeping monkey. In any other circumstance, the sight would’ve been hilarious. Daniel might have been eaten right then and there if the beast had not growled at him and covered his face with a barrage of green mucus and saliva. As he wiped his face, he saw the T-Rex slowly turning towards him and getting ready to run. Thinking fast, Daniel sprinted to the one place the T-Rex couldn’t get him; under its legs. The arms could not possibly reach far enough to get him, and it was already committed to running at him. The gargantuan sprinted at the same time, and Daniel did a barrel roll under its legs, barely avoiding a collision with the dinosaurs tail. Those morning jogs had paid off. The tail…. That gave him an idea. Daniel grabbed a large tree branch and jumped up, running at the T-Rex, specifically its tail. He stabbed the tail as hard as he could with the tree branch, driving and twisting the branch in as far as he could. The T-Rex howled in pain at the wound that was now bleeding large amounts of black blood. Using the branch to pull himself, he began his ascent. The dinosaur was immobilized for about 20 seconds, but it was enough. Daniel was on its head, preparing to drive the branch into its brain. He lifted the stick and drove it in. Pus and blood squirted out, and chunks of dark, grainy brain came flying out. The dinosaur let out a death screech and began to fall to the ground. Daniel swung on to its right side so as to not be crushed by the humongous weight of the T-Rex’s scaly, green body. The gargantuan carnivore, crashed into the Earth, shaking the trees and soil. It let out one last piercing scream, coughed up more blood, and died. Daniel slid off the neck, panting, realizing how tired he was. Adrenaline had flowed through his body when the T-Rex had spit on on him, giving his body an amount of energy he hadn’t seen in twenty years or more. Now he was tired. He wanted nothing more than to just find a safe place to sleep, with no prehistoric reptiles interrupting him. As if on cue, he heard footsteps, heavy thundering footsteps just like the T-Rex. This time though, it wasn’t one dinosaur. This sounded like a stampede. Daniel suddenly realized that the T-Rex’s last scream was a desperate cry for help. Grunts and roars filled the air, as the stampede drew closer. This time there was no paralysis; some of the adrenaline had returned. Daniel ran.

He ran for at least an hour, gasping for breath, desperate to escape the gargantuan beasts. The jungle went on forever, but Daniel was no longer full of fascination for the exotic plants and animals. He wanted a cave to sleep and (hopefully) go home. Eventually, he could no longer hear the dinosaurs and he slowed to a walk. He had been working for ten minutes when a dart hit him in the neck, and he dropped, finally getting his sleep.

His eyes fluttered awake to a man’s face staring over him. The man grunted at him. He was bald, with cold blue eyes and a dirty rugged face. His nose hung from his face, sharp and crooked and his mouth was curled in a sneer. Daniel looked around. He was in a small, candlelit room, with dirt floors and walls. The room smelled dirty and he realized he was underground. He tried to sit up and couldn’t; scaly straps fastened his body to the table. Looking at them, he realized they were made out of T-Rex skin. Slowly, Daniel looked up. There were about 15 men and women standing around him, smiling greedily. Daniel felt his stomach drop. This didn’t look good. The people (if they were people; Daniel didn’t feel as if he knew anything anymore) were all mostly naked, with patches of dinosaur skin covering their nether regions.  Cryptic designs covered their face, painted red, blue, and green, reminding Daniel of the circus. This was bad. He almost felt like… a sacrifice. His suspicions were confirmed when the circus freaks began to chant, on their knees. They kept repeating the same word, “Zarf!”, and he guessed that was the name of their god. Daniel began to sweat and squirm. He needed to get out of here. The straps were tight but there had to be a way yet. Jerking his body to one side, he managed to tip over the wooden table he was bonded to. The action did nothing but give him a thump on the head. He listened to the chanting, trying not to panic and failing. Eventually, the cult was done praying, and the apparent leader came over to set the table back up. He growled something at Daniel, in a mystical, foreign language. It sounded threatening. The man picked up a knife and grinned. The cult gathered around, still praying. The knife was held high above his heart, the man slowly descending the tip. There was no point struggling. He just began to scream. His goal was to attract a T-Rex to come and break up this party. Daniel would still get killed, by knife or teeth, but at least these freaks would go down with him. The knife was about a foot above his heart, drawing ever nearer. How had he gone back in time in the first place? He would never know. The knife descended faster, the result of impatience. The knife drove into his chest and he screamed with pain. Blood spurted out of his wound, the last thing Daniel saw before he faded away.

He almost immediately woke up again, right where he had fallen asleep in the forest. It had all been a dream! Just a horrible, lucid dream! Also, even though he just woken up, he was tired! The insomnia was gone! Daniel stood up, laughing. The sun was out now, it was a beautiful day, and Daniel felt better than he had in ten years. He began to walk back to his car trying his best to find a way; the trial he had walked out here on looked different. It was a lot harder to see. Stegosaurus Park looked better than ever, the dead, withered trees he had seen on his way in seemed more alive, friendlier. The air felt different, cleaner, easier to breathe. Suddenly, a small animal jumped out of a bush and scattered across the path and up a tree. Daniel observed it with great curiosity. It was unfamiliar to him. The animal was about the size of a bunny rabbit with a rodent’s face, chocolate brown stripes, and eight legs. He had found it strange, but as he looked at it closely, it did look familiar. Where had he seen that thing? He kept walking, the question of what that animal was torturing his brain. After a half mile of walking, he reached the parking lot. At least, he would’ve reached the parking lot if there had been any parking lot there. The parking lot had been replaced by overgrown grass and trees. Suddenly, as if he had been struck by a lightning bolt, he remembered where he had seen the rodent before. Right after he had fallen out of the chute into the prehistoric era, there had been all sorts of exotic creatures running around. The rodent had been one of them. As realization flooded Daniel Jansen’s brain, a Tyrannosaurus Rex roared in the distance.

Advertisements