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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2262045-The-Confidence-of-Cowards
Rated: E · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2262045
Jimmy can save everything…if he can survive the dinosaurs and snag the gems…

           Eight-year-old Jimmy Tylathan crouched in the shade of the canopy, the deciduous forest having shed the weakest leaves before the healthiest ones morphed colors. The soft breeze danced, tickling his skin while his labradoodle, Cookie Dough, panted beside him. The woods were saturated with the snarls from packs of Deinonychuses migrating for autumn, and though this activity was expected, the season had encroached earlier than previous years.
 
           He stood and waited for the blood to rush back to his head. The river was ahead, and then the clearing was just beyond. The property required fortifying, but today another task took precedence. His mother had advised against this adventure, but when he’d return with the gems from the ruined temple, she’d hoist him on her shoulders, valor and honor his to squeeze in triumph. He would be her hero, and it would serve her right for ruining this Halloween.
 
           Cookie Dough stretched and yawned, a piercing whine as she clapped her jaws. Jimmy glared at her and brought his index finger to his lips. He started again through the bushes and smaller trees, and she sprang after him as if she was a lithe puppy instead of an old dog.
 
           In the distance were growls and hisses, the discord of a pack of Deinonychuses communicating to one another. These smaller dinosaurs were as tall as Jimmy, emblazoning confidence relative to those in attendance. The resulting was an organized frenzy as they entrapped their prey, shredding skin, exposing organs with claws sharp and explicit. They’d jump the blind-sided animal, crimson streams merging to pool around the pitiful victim. As the predators worked to digest what they could chew away from the body, their meal was always braying in thick defeat.
 
           The two circled the pack, careful of the ivies and vines, thin and curled: crispy corpses while summer withered. Without the insulation of emerald leaves, the grunts from the dinosaurs were louder, and, under Jimmy’s feet, were the tremors of impatience; hungry stomping. The light was dimming now, weak, golden rays spattering the trunks and the crunchy grass. He frowned. There wasn't much time left, but this adventure was one he could master.
 
           At least, that's what he'd told himself.
 
           There, finally, was the river, shallow and wide. It meandered around the brush-yoked banks and curved south, beyond his imagination. Jimmy and Cookie Dough looked to each other before stepping into the current, an apathetic, muddy concoction. He endeavored, plodding through the sludge while avoiding splashes so as not to attract the attention of the monsters.
 
           Jimmy glanced behind him, but all he spied were trees. The growls were muffled as the two moved further away. He toiled against the quagmire now with less caution of being noticed. His companion paddled to the bank just ahead.
 
           They could still make it to the ruins!
 
           As the panting duo neared the shore, the sound of breaking leaves snatched Jimmy's focus, an alert they were no longer alone. He cocked his head. The melodies of birds and clicking of insects ceased. He looked to Cookie Dough, but she was already sniffing tree bases on the dry land. Did she not understand they were in danger?
 
           He twisted once more, and this time, he saw movement. After a few seconds, a bobbing snout poked out from behind a trunk as it sniffed. Then, an eye as the creature stepped from obsurity, and it turned its head, snorting at Jimmy. Its leg tendons tightened, and then it barked yelps into the air, short and intense like an angry chicken calling the day. Its tiny and strong forearms waved and clicked claws. Jimmy froze.
 
           It was calling to the whole pack.
 
           He turned, his breath no longer controlled as he yanked his feet from the mud, straining his arms, reaching for grass or tree roots, anything to free himself from the last few steps of sediment and slop. Behind him, as the Deinonychus was sounding its alert, the bushes rustled. Jimmy stared ahead. He didn't need visual confirmation; the predators were accumulating.
 
           He was almost liberated, would be able to run in less than a minute, but one of the animals ran into the water, splashing, and this time, Jimmy did turn. He estimated a dozen of them as hey snapped at each other, hissing and growling. Hoping in the water, there were three, and now four of them in the swelling frenzy, pushing forward, and though they fought the same current and mud as had Jimmy, they were cutting through with astounding stealth and efficiency.
 
           The ruins were just a little further. It would be easier to shake them at the clearing.
 
           He strained against the water for his next step. His calves were sore, his breathing was hitched, but there was hope as he climbed onto the firmer bank.
 
           Already, the lead animal was crossing the halfway point with a secondary pack in tow, and the symphony of their hunger, their desire to destroy, echoed through him, a reverberation of the most ancient fundamentals. He turned, sped into the woods, and, as the gap between Jimmy and the feral throng grew, their calls fell onto his heels.
 
           The joyful, brazen light had been replaced by an eerie blue-purple shade. It was easy for his young eyes to define the shapes in front of him, the trunks of trees, the mounds of rising dirt, but time was jogging at its own pace. The ruins would be dark, but thankfully, he wouldn't need to go inside and risk waking The Guardian. Oh, God…he’d forgotten that edificial terror.
 
           His legs worked, punching into the ground with the power of pistons before launching him a few feet, his pliable body resilient enough to land and keep pressing forward. Not … much ... further ….
 
           As the mob of miscreants gained ground, their attitudes of this hunt surged, and his heart vibrated as if the supporting percussion in a song. The clearing would provide safety from the smaller pack, but it posed danger on a greater scale, an area so dangerous not even a Deinonychus would tread. But wasn’t that something a hero did without considering the results?
 
           His shoes heavy with mud and water, he slowed. He limped from the buffer of trees into the clearing, a terrestrial bowl surrounded by mountains to his left and trees ahead. Between him and the far trees rested the shoulders of an ancient building, a broken temple to gods forsaken in antiquity. Only a few heaps of rocks and the main temple existed, a high-reaching chapel reminiscent of a large skeleton, holes in between supporting beams of stone ribs. And within, just behind the veil of shadows hiding the monstrous door was a demon with teeth, an insatiable force on two powerful legs of hard muscles with the demeanor to substantiate its power.
 
           The clicking and chirping closed in, and his fear disappeared like an eraser on paper, leaving only the ghosted fragments of previous creation. He breathed in, hunched his body over, and then he lurched into the middle of the clearing only seconds before the lead Deinonychus popped from the foliage.
 
           Next to the temple, lying on the ground next to the darkened doorway, was the bag he had come for, the gems he needed.
 
           There was a movement within the temple, unmistakable sounds of something large, something with claws and teeth, and, no doubt, it would be hungry. Jimmy skidded to a stop as The Guardian emerged from the decay of the building, a creature reaching no less than twenty feet tall. It bent as it crossed into the open air, a behemoth of strength and pointy ends as it stood sniffing the air. It gaped its mouth as it towered them all, and then it let out a moan, a low sound evolving into a blasting bellow as The Guardian hunched over. The pack of smaller dinosaurs extinguished their threats and stepped back into the tree line.
 
           Cookie Dough looked to the right, and then she sprinted off, leaving Jimmy to face these nightmares. The Guardian poised it head once more, the small, ineffectual forearms waving in the air, and Jimmy glanced behind him. The pack was bobbing, chittering to one another as they watched.
 
           Jimmy turned back as The Guardian sent a scream into the air, and as it bent down to resound its warning, the boy inhaled, his hands sweaty. He bolted against The Guardian's roaring exhale, the putrid breath of carrion and failure. Jimmy closed his eyes, his knees pumping with explosions, his feet creating an inferno and propelling him. This was it, no stopping now.
 
           He reached the animal and stared at the heavy muscles as he passed, the dark, leathery skin barely discernible in what light was left. His eyes locked onto the satchel, and it was closer now, he was closer, so close to solving all their problems. He raced, and, throwing his hand out, he snagged the bag of treasure before pivoting to hide behind one of the mounds of rock to watch the dinosaurs.
 
           The larger biped was staring at the smaller ones. A few of the Deinonychuses would be no match for the giant, but a pack of them? Jimmy bent over to catch his breath. The ground shook as The Guardian stomped and kicked at the dirt, and the pack responded with shrieks, screaming at the threat. They lowered their heads as they grumbled to each other. Without warning, they leaped forward, their determination overpowering their fear. The Guardian detonated its final warning. A vanguard of voracity, the first Deinonychus shot from the ground and landed on the bohemeth, tearing and shredding the skin with their sickle claws and chomping into the meat. The Guardian stumbled, but as it caught its balance, it came up with three of its attackers in its mouth, blood spattering to the ground.
 
           “Jimmy! Jimmy!” from his left. He turned toward the house, to the back-lit silhouette of his mother standing next to Cookie Dough on the porch. “You’ve been playing dinosaurs all day! I’ve been watching you for the last fifteen minutes playing around the gravel for the driveway!”
 
           The entangled beasts growled. The pack stopped slashing and biting, each falling to the ground as they regrouped and moseyed back into the woods. The Guardian hunkered down, tail bent, and retreated into the temple, passing Jimmy without notice. The boy dropped the bag, marbles emerging from inside and rolling a few inches away. His feet scuffed through the parched, dead grass, raking the dirt, each step resisting the call to come in. It was cooling down, and the sun was gone. On this Halloween, when his mom said he couldn’t go Trick-or-Treating, Jimmy blinked, the characters of his imagination fading into the night.
 
           “Come on!” his mother yelled. “You have school tomorrow, and then you can stay up as late as you want through the weekend, I promise.” Cookie Dough whined and ran inside the house.
 
           “I was 'bout to save us,” Jimmy said as looked up from the bottom of the steps to face his mama.
 
           “I know, baby, but I’ll be just as happy to be saved tomorrow. And, maybe next year, Red Water will let us go Trick-or-Treating. I do have some chocolate I found at the store if you wanna come in. Wait, were you playing in that nasty creek?” As he opened his mouth, he heard whimpers from the temple. Cookie Dough barked from the kitchen.
 
           WC:1927
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