A Survivor's Guide to the Dinosaur Apocalypse, Episode Five: "Elegy"
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That's when I heard the strange sound: a kind of forlorn mewing, like the note of a horn being drug out too long, coming from just around the corner, just beyond the liquor store-and paused, holding up my hand.
"What? What's going on?"
I waved her into silence, dropping the rein, then hustled to the edge of the building-where, after peeking around the corner, I saw a juvenile sauropod of the Diplodocus family (meaning it was the size of a typical school bus) collapsed in the middle of the street-its right front leg stuck in a manhole.
"What is it? What do you see?"
I looked from the sauropod to the corner of a nearby building, where something had moved, then across the street to an overgrown alley. Yes, I thought. There. And there. Between the tattoo parlor and the marijuana dispensary …
"Allosaurs," I said, gravely. "An entire pack of them. In desert camouflage. They-they've got something trapped."
"Omigod. It-it's not your dog, is it?"
I returned and picked up the rein, began leading Blucifer forward, into the intersection. "No."
"Wait … what are you-"
"We're going through," I said.
"But what if those things-"
"They don't care about us; they want the bigger game. For now. Just hold on."
The horse's hooves went clip-clop, clip-clop as we passed, the bluish-gray sauropod coming into full view ...
A moment later she said, "It-it's stuck. In the manhole. Do you see that?"
I eyed the predators warily, continuing to lead. "There's nothing we can do about it."
"But she'll be helpless against-"
"That is the way of it," I insisted. "The way of the-"
"Look, would you stop with the Indian clap-trap? I'm not even sure-"
There was a thwomp as the allosaur by the building leapt into the road-not by us but about fifty feet away, near the sauropod.
"Jesus, can't you do anything? What about your bow?"
"And risk bringing them down on us?" I intensified our pace, sprinting toward the Stratosphere. "No!"
And then they were coming-the allosaurs from across the street-passing so close we could smell the meat on their breath; closing in on the frightened herbivore … until we passed the scene completely and sought refuge in a nearby gas station (its storefront had long since collapsed) and gathered there trembling as the sauropod cried out-for it wouldn't be long now until they fell upon her.
"Jesus," said Essie, listening. "What a world."
"Yes," I said, remembering. "My father used to say it had a demonic sublime; every tree and every rock, every animal, including man, down to the lowest insect." I listened as the sauropod moaned, seeming already to give up, to resign its fate. "And yet."
"What do you mean?"
"You said, 'and yet.' What did you mean?"
I un-shouldered the compound bow-rubbing my aching deltoid, stretching my arm. "Nothing. It's just that … maybe it doesn't have to be this way."
When she didn't respond I looked at her-found her already looking at me: calmly, meditatively, her eyes seeming to glimmer. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"I mean … that I could end it. Her confusion and terror. That I-could prevent her from suffering." I looked at the bow and the dark, poisoned bolts attached to it. "That it's in my hands to do so."