Airman First Class Charlotte “Charlie Horse” Ripley pressed her gloved hand to the windscreen of the Accipiter as she looked at this surreal, new landscape. She took it in for a only a moment before turning hastily to her radio.
“Raptor Group,” she said urgently. “Come in, Raptor Group, this is Raptor Nova. Sarge, this is Charlie Horse, do you copy?”
The radio remained silent for a long moment, then crackled to life. “Raptor Group,” said an unfamiliar, grinding voice. “Come in, Raptor Group, this is Raptor Nova.”
Horse stared out of the cockpit, her breath coming in short, tight gasps as she listened to her own transmission repeated back to her in someone else’s voice. A chill ran up her spine, but not because of the eerie message.
The pounding that had been gently vibrating the plane since Horse regained consciousness grew steadily nearer and more intense until a huge figure covered in scales and coarse feathers emerged from the trees ahead of her.
As a child, Horse had been fascinated by dinosaurs. She did not immediately recognize the gigantic Lythronax by name, but she did know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this carnivorous T-Rex relative meant bad news. The dinosaur stood at the far edge of the clearing, tipping its head like a bird as it listened then lifting its nose to sniff the air. It parted its jaws, revealing its long, saber-like teeth before turning and moving off among the towering trees.
“Sarge, this is Charlie Horse,” her radio repeated in that strange, forbidding voice. “Do you copy?”
“Charlie don’t surf….” said Horse, recalling Dusty’s words from what seemed like only moments ago.
She threw open the cockpit and leaped to the ground, crouching in the cover of the Accipter while she took stock of her surroundings. Then, standing up cautiously, she started off in the direction that the Lythronax had taken. There was little that she could learn stuck in the downed jet, so she saw little choice but to follow the hulking predator and see where it lead her. She was not disappointed.
The forest of ancient, Cretaceous trees probably stretched on for many hundreds of kilometers behind her, she surmised, but she had landed near the edge of it. After only half a kilometer, the trees thinned onto a wide, rolling savannah. A hundred meters or so ahead of her, the Lythronax stood on a hill overlooking what Horse at first thought was a pond, but which she realized was a bubbling, oozing tar pit.
To Horse’s supreme amazement, a mastodon stood mired in the tar, struggling feebly to escape its hot, stinking clutches. Lythronax surveyed the helpless herbivore, then tried to step into the tar to feed upon the dying animal. Instead, the dinosaur tripped and fell muzzle first into the pit, dooming itself. Not far from the mastodon and its new companion, an immense, tentacled create was also stuck in the tar.
Like Lythronax, it had evidently come to feast upon the beleaguered mastodon. One of its tentacles was curled around the big, wooly elephant’s mid-section. Its others were sinking into the tar or waving about in the air above its large, round body. A gaping hole full of long, needle teeth and big grinding molars yawned open in the center of its body.
As the baffled and horrified Horse scanned the savannah, she began to pick out other bizarre wildlife. Some of the animals she recognized. Herds of antelope and zebra lazed across the grassland. On a far hill, a pride of lions reclined. They were not alone, however. From a rock crevice at the limit of her vision, Horse watched an enormous, cephalopodic monster emerge, wrap its body around a startled zebra, and drag the screaming animal back into its cave. She shuddered; this was clearly not a safe place for a Horse.
A movement above her caught her attention, and she turned to see a flock of what looked like fuzzy balloons pass overhead. The creatures were green and covered with what almost appeared to be blades of grass as their bloated gas bladders carried them peacefully through the sky. She paid them only fleeting attention as she stared at the sight beyond.
The afternoon was clear, with only one, large thunderhead in the middle distance. Past that, however, she did not see the blue of the sky she was expecting. Instead, a vast dome of stars arched above her. It was crisscrossed by silvery filaments, which she correctly assumed supported a towering bubble of atmosphere capping off the enclosure in which she now found herself. It had to be at least thirty-five thousand meters tall, she thought in amazement, having trouble imagining any structure built on such a fabulously grand scale. What she had believed to be sunlight, she now realized, was somehow being projected onto the place artificially.
“Sarge,” said the grinding voice from her radio, “this is Charlie Horse.”
Horse froze. The voice wasn’t coming from her radio anymore. It was right behind her.
“Do you copy?” it said.
What happens next?
What happens next is up to you! I have joined the writers at Story Wars.net, a site that allows writers to create stories collaboratively through miniature writing contest. Writers submit and vote on chapters, working together and competitively to build stories. It’s a very cool idea and I’m super excited to be a part of it!
(Roggen Wulf, 2014)