Monster

Our train punched out of the confines of the tunnel and passed into daylight. We slowed to a stop. The doors slammed open and the cabin lights went out completely. A growling hum I had not even been conscious of quieted to nothing. The silence inside the train car was glaring. Outside, birds called to each other. They sounded exotic, not at all similar to the birds I was used to in the city.

“End of the line,” said the mustached man, and he shouldered past us to get outside. Cody and I followed. We stepped into a dense, hot jungle. I could feel my clothes beginning to stick to my body already. The only color in my vision was a brilliant, emerald green, towering up and folding over itself in the shape of enormous leaves. The train car emptied behind us. Other passengers emerged from cars ahead and behind our own. There were a great many of us.

The stranger, who had still been the only person to speak to Cody and I, set down his briefcase and shucked off his gray jacket. He looked smaller without the shoulder pads. Leaving his belongings on the ground, he gave me a smirk and started off down a path through the brush.

Others followed him without a word. I stood and looked at the belongings he had discarded so carelessly lying there on the ground. They were ominous to me. That a businessman like him would leave those articles of his livelihood behind spoke of what he must expect to face. Cody and I fell in line toward the rear of the group.

We pushed our way through the close brush for a long time. Mosquitoes and other, larger bugs buzzed about and harassed us. All up and down the line it was shuffling, dragging feet and grumbling voices. Then the tall trees fell away from the sides of the path and we walked out into a clearing of grass. We stood there quietly, blinking and huddled together despite the heat. I didn’t realize how much of the sun the jungle blocked out until I stood dazzled, full under its rays again.

“Look,” said a woman nearby. She was in a skirt and barefoot besides her stockings. Her arm and finger pointed somewhat wearily down into the valley below us. The jungle stretched out to the mist-shrouded horizon. At first, it was all that I could see; that endless, emerald canopy. But then I saw what she pointed at. A graceful neck and blunt head poked out over the trees, impossibly tall. Once I saw the first, I saw half a dozen more. Dinosaurs, grazing in the jungle. Our leader pushed back toward us. I got the feeling that he was looking to me as his second in command. He confirmed this when he spoke to me in a hushed voice.

“We’ll have to keep everyone quiet. Who knows what else lives here?”

The group set off again. The hike became quite tense. No one talked, no one even whispered. Adrenaline was flowing through my blood. I listened to the noise of the jungle, trying to detect some clue that a predator stalked through the trees. On, and on we went. I wondered if there was an end to the path. I wondered if the man up front knew where it went. Then my thoughts were broken. A hideous, piercing screech erupted from the jungle behind us. Everyone stopped, everyone held their breath. The screech came again, deafening and horrible. Then the ground began to shake under our feet in repetitive, approaching booms.

“Run!”

The general cry went up and the group fled. Single file  was no longer feasible, and I ran with many others through the brush on the sides of the path. Cody was close by. The heavy steps came on behind us getting louder and more urgent. Whatever it was easily outran us. Women, and even men, began to scream in terror. The booming steps sounded like they were coming from right among us. Trees crashed down at our backs under the bulk of the dinosaur. Then we heard the first inevitable, unmistakable death cry as the animal took one of us from the very back.

“Don’t look back!” Cody shouted to me, and we kept running. The footsteps and the crash of the trees moved out to the side of us and seemed to go on ahead. The trees not twenty feet ahead of Cody and I splintered apart, and a tyrannosaurus rex burst onto the path. It crushed several people under its giant, clawed feet. Its head dipped down as it ran and caught up a woman in its jaws. It plowed on through the trees on the other side of the path and disappeared from sight. Thus our enemy harried us as we ran. It swept back and forth, stomping and gorging. Many were thrown into confusion and panic and were lost to the jungle. But I kept my eyes on the path and kept moving. No one stopped to help those who were injured. There was nothing we could do.

Brutal and hungry, the monster chased and slaughtered us. It was on every side, behind us and looming ahead. At last, the jungle began to give away before us and we saw the hint of some old structures. The path widened, turned to gravel, and then pavement. We ran past crumbling and half-overgrown buildings on both sides. Ahead, we saw clearly the wide concrete pavilion of a platform. A train with several cars awaited us. Long rails stretched out into the distance.

The dinosaur pursued us all the way. Weak buildings tumbled down when it ran up against them. Several more of us fell victim to its teeth within sight of the train. We mounted the steps and dashed toward the open doors. We dove to safety, piling up inside the train cars until our last living member cast himself onto the heap. The doors closed on their own, and the train left the station.

Next Chapter

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