Michael Crichton only *wishes* he could have done it this well... :)
“Why do I let you talk me into this hiking crap?” Mina grumbled, whacking a Cedar branch out of her way, only to have it snap back, slapping her in the forehead with an audible *thwack*.
“Ugh!” she cried, rubbing the reddening mark on her forehead. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing.
“You know you love it,” I shot back, unable to avoid letting a grin slip, knowing full well that it would only egg my sister on.
“Love it?” she asked, whipping around to give me an incredulous glare. “Love it?! You’re a complete masochist, you know that?”
This time, I did laugh, my reaction causing the blossoming redness of Mina’s cheeks to intensify to a robust crimson. “Come on. Only four more miles to go. We’ve got to hurry, though. The way to our camp is only accessible at low tide.”
Mina growled in frustration, turned, and began to stomp forward as if determined to take out every ounce of her exasperation on the trail. We were hiking the Olympic coastline, having reserved a camp site that was cut off from the trail during high tide each day. I’d been looking for a private getaway where I could do some bonding with my sister in the wake of our recent breakups with long-term boyfriends. This was what I’d chosen. Yeah. Poor choice. I know.
“I can’t believe that you and Jake used to do this all the time. Backpacking is seriously fucking miserable, Lana.”
“I kinda like it,” I shrugged.
“You would,” she seethed, slapping a mosquito that had begun to feast on her lower thigh. “You always did have a self-destructive streak.”
With that, she lapsed into silence. The quiet felt tense at first, but grew more relaxed with each rolling wave that washed onto the beach just beyond the trees. The soothing sounds seemed to have an effect on Mina as well, her emphatic footfalls growing less energetic with each passing minute, until she was striding along as if nothing had happened. We didn’t stop until we had covered all four miles to our campsite.
“Is this it?” Mina blinked in surprise, spotting the small clearing with a sign bearing the telltale triangle of a campsite.
I nodded, unbuckling my pack and slinging it to the ground. Mina didn’t help setup camp, choosing instead to sit on a log, rub her feet, and begin an incessant stream of complaining that didn’t end the entire time I set up camp. Myself. Without a drop of assistance from my sister.
I had finished erecting the tent and was setting up the stove to make dinner, when I heard her grumbling end with a gasp.
I looked up from the stove. “What is it, Meens?”
“Nothing.” Her voice was distant as she gazed toward the ocean.
That got my attention. It wasn’t like Mina not to share whatever was on her mind. She was more the stream-of-consciousness type. Curious, I rose to my feet and joined her at the log near the edge of the trees a few feet from the beach. I scanned the horizon, at first seeing nothing but sand and open water, the vastness of the picturesque scene broken only by the occasional jutting, tree-topped outcropping of rock. The view was stunning, but Mina had never been one to be awestruck by nature. Her reaction had more along the lines of what she did when seeing a hot guy.
As my eyes continued to sweep from left to right, they landed on what I instantly recognized as the object of Lana’s interest…
...a hot guy.
I couldn’t be certain, but he appeared to be Native American, his long raven-black hair brushing the tops of round, sculpted shoulders. His entire upper was bare, chiseled muscles clenching into delicious definition as he hopped and swooped in a circular dance about a strange totem. The carved wooden pole stood in the center of a ring of fire, sinuous smoke strangely gathering about the strange man rather than being directed toward the trees by the stiff ocean breeze.
I’d always been more of a Team Edward gal, but damn. Team Jacob was looking pretty freaking appealing right now. I might have to rethink my whole stance on the Twilight saga after this bit of eye-opening eye candy.
Mina cast a sidelong glance in my direction as I gaped at Mr. Muscles. “I saw him first.”
Her words snapped me out of my admiring ogle, and I blinked several times as I turned to her. “So?”
“So? I saw him first!”
“You said that already.”
“Okay, first. What makes you think I want him? Second, why do you think he’ll want you? Third, are you seriously going to try to pick up a guy with stringy, sweaty hair, wearing a grody tank top?”
Mina looked down at her sweat-soaked top, her hand shooting upward to probe at her damp, matted hair, her expression becoming distinctly uncertain. When her eyes returned to meet mine, however, they flashed with impetuous defiance. “First, because you always want whatever I do.”
She ignored me, continuing as if I hadn’t interrupted. “Second, because I’m way prettier than you.
I rolled my eyes. “Please. Prettier than me? We’re identical twins, genius.”
Again, she ignored me. “Third, yes, I am going after him.”
Before I had a chance to dissect her annoying comments any further, Mina swept around the log, stormed through the underbrush at the edge of our camp, and burst onto the beach. She rolled her hips in an exaggerated sway as she strolled in the stranger’s direction. Good Lord. Did she seriously think that was going to help her with Mr. Muscles?
With a satisfied smirk, I noticed that Mr. Muscles didn’t seem to notice her, continuing his dance as before. As she neared him, however, he finally stopped, raising both hands to the heavens and clapping them together. He seemed slightly distracted, though, his eyes shifting to get a look at Mina as she neared. I was a little distracted, myself. That whole hands-over-the-head action of his did all sorts of interesting things to his torso. Were those abs for real?
My appreciative gaze was short-lived, however, as the late afternoon light suddenly gave way to dusk-like darkness. I looked up to see dark clouds rolling over the beach, their shadows ominous as they expanded over the two figures on the beach.
“Hi there,” said Mina in her best flirty voice, drawing the man’s eyes fully from their skyward direction to stare at her uncomprehendingly.
“Are you a vision? Here to show me what I desire?”
“What you desire?” asked a starry-eyed Mina, smiling wickedly. “Absolutely…”
He smiled warmly. “Then take me to the past. I want to see the origin of my tribe.”
“Past?” Mina’s brows furrowed. “What do you—?”
At that moment, a bolt of lightning crackled from the sky, blasting down with jagged brilliance to strike the small totem from above. The wood exploded into a thousand pieces, splinters of painstakingly chiseled cedar flying in every direction.
I watched my sister fall backward, wooden shards pelting her body until it lay prone on the sand. Shaking away my shock at the sudden turn of events, I sprang into action, leaping over the log and ferns at the edge of the woods and sprinting toward my downed sibling.
I dropped to my knees in the damp sand at Mina’s side. Welcome relief flooded through me as I saw that her eyes, though dazed, were open and moving. I grabbed her hand, gripping it tightly as I drew it to my chest. “Are you okay?”
Before she could answer, an incandescent flash of brilliant white ripped through the billowing clouds that surrounded us, the resonant rumble of thunder rocking the ground below. I could feel my hair standing on end as electricity crackled the ionized air. I sucked the buzzing scent of sizzling ozone into my flaring nostrils.
Another flash burned my retinas, leaving me to blink the splotches of color from my eyes. Before I could fully regain my vision, there was another flash. Then, another. The strikes continued, each coming more quickly than the last, until it seemed as if the world was lost in a hazy ball of phosphorescent electrical current. Eventually, I lost consciousness, falling at my sister’s side.
When I awoke, my skin felt warm. I lay there for a moment, basking in the steamy warmth of the air, the touch of wafting humidity on my face. Opening my eyes, I immediately squinted at the brightness, raising a hand to shield my still-dilated pupils from the sun. The glowing orb was high in the sky, far higher than it had been before the storm. Was it the next day, then? Had I slept through night and morning both?
Recent events came flooding back. Oh my God! Mina!
I shot upward, a spray of sand whipping from my stringy hair across the beach behind me. “Mina?!” I rasped, my voice cracking with urgency as I shook her shoulder.
“What the hell, Lana?” came a groggy response, my sister’s visage crinkling in well-practiced annoyance. I grinned, never happier to see that look on my sister’s face.
As she sat up, I looked behind me, fully expecting to see Mr. Muscles lying on the sand. But he wasn’t. The only evidence that anyone had been there was the half-washed away hills and valleys of recently disturbed ground.
As I turned back around, however, I caught sight of something else—something I had never expected to actually lay eyes on. The head of a massive lizard rose from the edge of the forest, cresting the top of the trees with a heart-stopping rustle of leaves. It’s bulbous eyes scanned the beach, coming to rest on my quivering face. It snorted, as if inhaling our scent to confirm that we were actually prey.
It was a dinosaur. And not just any dinosaur—a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Because… because... of course it was! That was just my sort of bad luck.
For the briefest of moments, I wondered if I were dreaming, even going so far as to pinch myself.
Panic welling in my churning stomach, I turned to my sister. “Run!”
The sound of the disturbed leaves had caught Mina’s attention as well, and she needed no further urging, her eyes already wide with terror.
The two of us leapt to our feet, hearts thundering in our chests before we even began our sprint. I turned to look back, a surge of adrenaline splashing into my pulsing veins as I saw a three-toed foot with talons the size of my leg crash through the trees, digging menacingly into the sand a dozen yards behind us.
The monster turned to look at us as we accelerated in the opposite direction as fast as our tired legs would carry us, his mouth opening to reveal an knee-weakening collection of huge, scary-looking teeth.
I ran faster, Mina struggling to keep pace.
“Should we even... be running... right now?” panted Mina between breaths.
Was she fucking serious? “Um, I’m thinking: fuck yeah!” I shouted back, my hair whipping my back as we sprinted along the edge of the water.
“Don’t you… remember... Jurassic Park?” she wheezed.
I could feel the massive predator gaining on us, the brush-like swishing of claw-skewered sand coming closer by the second. I gulped oxygen as fast as I could to fuel as much speed as I could muster. “Do you… seriously think… this is the time… for a movie discussion?” I puffed.
Glancing to the side, I could see Mina’s face scrunch with displeasure. But she ignored my comment, continuing to her point. “Don’t they… only see you… when you move?”
I thought about that. For about a second, practically feeling the beast’s steaming breath on the back of my neck at this point. “You seriously think... we should stop right now?”
She looked back, her eyes widening in terror as she saw how close our pursuer now was. “Good point.”
Mina’s frantic eyes looking to me for guidance, I nodded toward the trees. I wanted to get off this beach. At least the woods would provide a bit more cover from the giant lizard. I veered to the side, Mina on my heels, crashing through the ferns and plantlife to slip between a pair of trees.
A massive roar of frustration reverberated through my chest as my sister and I darted between trees. I heard a *crack*, followed by a violent *boom*. Had the dinosaur just knocked down a freaking tree? Giddy with excess adrenaline, I almost called out, “Timber!” Thankfully, I had the good sense not to. In the woods, we seemed to be putting distance between ourselves and the dinosaur. The last thing I needed to do was give it a point in our direction.
Mina and I proceeded through the woods a good mile further, the sound of the dinosaur receding into the distance. He must have tired of plowing through trees in an effort to get to us. Praise Jesus!
As we slowed, my sister finally turned, placing her hands on her hips. “Okay, Lana. What the fuck is going on?”
My brows furrowed, an angry retort on the verge of flying from my lips, when a male voice came from the trees nearby. “You disturbed my ritual. That’s what’s going on.”
I turned to the source of the sound. It was Mr. Muscles.
“Huh?” Mina voiced what I was thinking.
He stepped forward into the small clearing, an angry expression etched on his gorgeous features. “My ritual. You distracted me just as I was completing it. I meant to go back a thousand years. Instead, we went back closer to 65 million years.”
“Huh?” Mina said again, her mind reeling either from our recent scare or the sight of his glistening muscles. My money was on the latter.
“So you’re saying you did this?” I said, my fists rising to my hips, deciding to take the offensive. I didn’t like his accusatory tone. “You nearly got us killed by sending us back in time and leaving us to fend off dinosaurs by ourselves?”
Had I really just said that? God, that sounded like dialog from a really bad Syfy channel movie!
“I… well, I wouldn’t have done it if you two hadn’t interfered!” he stammered.
“You two? What the hell did I do?!”
“You were with her!” He pointed a finger at my sister.
“Hey!” Mina replied, finally catching up to the conversation. “I was just trying to strike up a conversation!”
“Well, we’re talking now. Surrounded by hungry dinosaurs. In the woods. Alone.” I included a healthy dose of sarcasm, pulling my cracked phone from my pocket to point at it. “With no cell reception.”
“So you’re blaming me for all of this?” Mina huffed. “It’s this stupid guy’s fault!” She jabbed a finger back at Mr. Muscles as she glared at me
I turned to look at our new “friend”, only to see him draw a knife. “What’s that for, Muscles?”
He seemed momentarily amused by my nickname before his features hardened into seriousness once again. “I need to perform another ritual to return home.”
I heard the rustle of leaves in the distance, followed by the cracking of more tree trunks. The dinosaur must be on the move again. As I shuddered at the thought of another close encounter with the monster, heavy rain began pouring down, instantly soaking our clothes.
“So what? You need an animal sacrifice to do this ritual thingie of yours or something?” I said to Mr. Muscles.
“Something like that…” he agreed, eyes gleaming wickedly.
As I considered what he meant, he sprang forward like a leaping panther, wrapping a strong arm around Mina before slashing the knife across her throat. Mina’s eyes widened in surprise as she opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Only blood.
I stood there for a long moment, stunned. I was horrified beyond my ability to process.
Mr. Muscles threw Mina to the ground, taking a confident step toward me, his blade flashing as it dripped scarlet.
“So, um,” I started, my voice quavering. “I assume you need two ‘sacrifices’ for this ritual?”
He nodded, his dark eyes never leaving mine.
I took a step back, tears beginning to roll down my cheeks. “So who’d you kill last time?”
He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“I guess not. I just tend to babble about whatever’s on my mind when I’m nervous.”
“No need to be anxious,” he said, shaking back his rain-soaked hair. “This will be over before you know it.”
“You know, you’re not really helping the anxiety, dude,” I said shakily, casting a glance at my sister’s lifeless body as I backpedaled, the sight causing an involuntary sob to erupt from my trembling lips.
“That’s not really my problem now, is—?” he replied, suddenly stopping as his eyes rose and widened.
My back slammed into something hard. And scaly.
I knew exactly what I had just run into. The rain must have masked the sound of its approach.
Before I could move, a massive head arced downward before me, jaws the size of a small car enveloping Mr. Muscles beautiful torso. Jagged teeth clamped together, jerking one half of Muscles’ body from the other in a spectacular spray of blood.
I ran, sprinting into the woods until I collapsed, my body exhausted, emotions whirling out of control. I lay in the ferns, my limp body wracked with desperate sobs. I was in a world full of dinosaurs. Completely alone. For the rest of my days.