Dr Polt hatches some eggs. Winner of SCREAMS!!!, 09.30.21.
Write a horror story with a dinosaur in it, they said. And, shades of Jurassic Park, all that occurs is some sort of scientific experiment that goes horribly wrong. Which needs a scientist for a protagonist. Who requires a name. Hang on a moment.
Doctor Werner Arminius Polt. Yes, that’ll do. Which would make him German. Reeks of Dr Frankenstein and his monster, of course, but that may not be a bad thing.
It strikes me that I could write it in a Chairman accent. That would be enormous fun. For me, at least, but probably not for zer reader. Und, anyvay, zer iss no vay to indicate the Chairman R, so deep in zer beck of zer troat. No, not a good idea and perhaps a little non-PC as well. Although that almost makes me change my mind. Perhaps I could do something in a German accent some other time.
Right, so how is Polt going to get hold of a live dinosaur? The DNA thing has been done to death. And the Lost World is almost prehistoric now. Although we could have a variation on that theme. How about a sudden sinkhole in the Black Forest? And Polt gets sent there to discover the cause of this phenomenon. Yes, that has possibilities.
Polt gets lowered to the bottom of the huge hole and starts wandering around in this enormous cavern that’s been opened to the sky. He finds a cluster of dinosaur eggs. Not fossils, you understand. These seem to have been preserved by some atmospheric quality in the cave. He takes one and the others are sent off to various scientific centres for study.
Back in his lab, Polt places the egg in an incubator he uses as a home for his pet lizard, Gunther. Alternative accommodation is found for the lizard. But his home is already set for the perfect temperature for a reptile’s existence, so it’s the obvious place to put the egg.
Does Polt already have some crazy idea of hatching the thing? I think not yet. At first, he’s just concerned that the egg should not deteriorate in today’s atmosphere and temperature. Of course, it’s accidentally the perfect environment for the egg to do what eggs are designed to do and the little dinosaur inside starts to grow. Polt becomes aware of this when the egg starts to move slightly as its contents struggle inside. He gets ready for the birth by setting aside the gym for the baby.
What does a baby dinosaur need? A mother, perhaps. Well, Polt is going to have to fill that role. Then it will probably need more heat than we are accustomed to. Which raises the question of whether it’s feathered or not. On consideration, it’s probably best to go with the classic reptilian look on this one. Feathers make them too birdlike and cuddly, if you ask me. We want something scary, after all.
And that raises the question of type. I know Tyrannosaurus Rex leaps to mind but he’s a bit big. He has to fit inside the gym as he gets older, remember. Which forces us to the Velociraptor route. But that’s really Jurassic Park again. And these days they’re reckoned to have been feathered. So a medium-sized dinosaur that’s as scary as a Velociraptor but not one.
Some research has revealed that the ideal candidate is something called a Deinonychus antirrhopus. It’s about the size of a Great Dane, with a mouthful of nasty teeth and massive claws. The only slight drawback is that it was probably feathered but we can get around the cuddly aspect by giving Polt all the eggs and letting him raise a whole flock. I say “flock” because it seems antirrhopus may have been capable of flight. And that adds to the scariness.
So we’re getting closer to the end of this info dump. All that remains is to allow time to pass so that Polt’s little brood can mature to full size and (inevitably) turn nasty. Let’s throw him into the lion’s den on a normal autumn day at feeding time. The gym has been transformed by large numbers of tropical plants being scattered around in pots, carpets of astroturf covering the floors and the central heating set to an uncomfortable (for Polt) temperature of 90°F. Humidifiers fill the room with a constant hum.
Doctor Werner Arminius Polt rose that morning with a feeling of excitement in his chest. Today was the day his little brood would come of age, being fully mature and ready to face the adventure of outside for the first time. The weather was still warm, predicted to be so all day, and he was afforded the chance to begin the acclimatisation of his babies.
Antirrhopus. He rolled the delicious word around in his mouth as he savoured the thought of his labour of love revealed at last to the world. For the first time in over a hundred million years, the dinosaur named Deinonychus Antirrhopus would walk the earth again. This time there would be only one photographer to record the event but, in time, the world would know of his amazing success in raising living dinosaurs from the egg.
It was risky, he knew, but Polt was sure that the five Antirrhopus were imprinted on him as their mother and would follow him wherever he led. He was the one who fed them, only he had taught them all they knew of the world and on him they depended. They would be afraid of the great open spaces of the outside after the enclosed and hermetic world of the gymnasium and their only point of security would be himself. It made sense that they would stay close on their brief venture forth today.
Breakfast was ready and waiting for him, prepared by his valet, Walter, in his usual competent and timely style. Polt took his time over the meal, holding his elation under control and conversing quietly with Walter. As they finished, the doorbell rang and the valet hastened to answer it. In moments he was back with the photographer, an earnest young man to whom this incredible assignment was pure manna from heaven. The day’s photographs would ensure his future for a lifetime.
Polt extended a hand. “Welcome Herr Fischer. I trust you are ready for this? You have all the equipment and so on, yes?”
The photographer divested himself of the cameras and cases festooning his body, shook the Professor’s hand and assured him that he was well supplied for the task ahead of him. “Thank you for choosing me for this, Herr Doctor. I will not let you down in the matter. My photographs will make your Antiropers famous worldwide, I assure you.”
”Antirrhopus, Antirrhopus,” muttered Polt. “But never mind, I have prepared some literature for you and you can learn the animal’s species in good time. As well as their personal names, of course.”
“You have named each of them?”
“Oh yes, they are my little babies, you know. And each has its own character and so needed a name. You will get to know them all, I’m sure.” Polt grinned at the thought of the introductions to come.
So there we have a little conversation to spice things up a little. I am not going to take you through every step of the way and I’ll go easy on the descriptions. This is a short story, after all, and we don’t want it to become too pedestrian.
Suffice it to say that Herr Doctor sat with the photographer for an hour while he plied him with literature and details of the plan for the day. Walter kept himself busy by keeping the coffee cups full and wiping imaginary dust off the occasional surface. Polt was enjoying every moment of this, fully aware of Herr Fischer’s eagerness to see the dinos, but making sure to dot every I and cross every T.
We, however, can race forward to that moment when the Doctor inserted his key into the lock of the gymnasium’s door and turned the handle.
The door swung open and Polt, Herr Fischer and Walter entered the room. The gym was enormous, easily large enough to contain a basketball court, but was so full of vegetation that the impression of space was softened. The atmosphere was heavy with humidity and so hot that beads of sweat were already appearing on the foreheads of the Doctor, his valet and his guest. None of them noticed this, however, as, with a rustle of vegetation and a chorus of birdlike cackles, the five Antirrhopus appeared from the undergrowth.
They stopped in their tracks and ceased their excited sounds as they noticed the presence of an unknown human. Five feathered heads were raised up as they surveyed the interloper. Upright like that, they were almost the height of the tallest of the humans, Herr Fischer. But, as Polt started to speak to the largest of them, their heads dropped to waist height.
“Calm down my beauties, this is a friend of mine. He will not harm you. You, Heinrich, step forward and greet Herr Fischer. He is most anxious to meet you and your siblings. Come now, don’t be afraid.”
The largest of them, apparently Heinrich, moved slowly forward until he was within touching distance of the humans. He was feathered brown and tan throughout his body but with longer feathers on his tail and arms. They had to be arms, the legs being those enormously powerful supports of the bipedal dinosaur, great powerhouses that could propel that animal at speed across the earth, whereas the forelimbs never touched ground, being more like wings, folded and tucked into the sides of the body.
His head was the typical shape of a predator dinosaur, long, narrow with a mouth that extended the length of the muzzle. Far back in the head, two forward-facing, circular eyes gazed in orange and black ferocity from below overhanging brows.
“Say hello,” said the Doctor and Heinrich opened his mouth to display rows of razor sharp, triangular teeth. From deep within his belly came a sound like rushing water, tailing off after a few seconds into silence.
Polt clapped the photographer on the shoulder. “He accepts you,” he said.
And so were the introductions made. In turn, Herr Fischer met the other male, Heinz, and then the three females, Ursula, Ilse and Ingrid. As they moved further into the foliage, the Doctor began to feed them live rodents from the cage carried by Walter. They were dropped on the floor and scurried for cover but the dinosaurs were too quick and scooped them up with ease.
Polt saw the expression on Herr Fischer’s face and explained, “They won’t eat dead food. They’re like cats, needing the movement of prey to stimulate them into the chase.”
Herr Fischer nodded and began to take photographs.
Well I promised not too much description and there was a fair bit in that. But you need to understand how impressive these animals are. They are both beautiful and horrifying, predators fierce and the very pinnacle of a species designed for speed and power. Birdlike, thanks to the feathers, but with teeth made to rip and tear, and talons to disembowel.
Now we must move on to the most dangerous part of the exercise, that time when they are released into the outside world with only their relationship with the Doctor to restrain them. We can tut tut and talk of the lessons of Jurassic Park but this is a horror story, after all. Things can hardly go completely smoothly, can they?
Onwards, onwards to disaster!
We join the group in the wide field surrounding the Doctor’s laboratory. They have just emerged from the gymnasium and are walking amidst the Antirrhopus as they chase the rodents released from Walter’s cage. It’s a scene rather like some humans walking their dogs in the bright afternoon, except that the dogs are very large and lope around on their long legs like ostriches.
Contrary to expectations, the Antirrhopus do not seem at all surprised by the vast spaces they are suddenly confronted with; indeed, they are clearly revelling in the freedom to run and leap as they never could in the gymnasium. One has the feeling that, were it not for their ties to the strolling Doctor Polt, these creatures would be off and running through the forest, chasing everything that moves and generally causing consternation amongst any locals hanging about.
Those ties are holding, however, even when the Doctor turns and the group begin to head back to the buildings and the gymnasium. The Antirrhopus, having caught and eaten all the rodents, have closed in about the humans, almost like an honour guard of the fiercest soldiers imaginable. Herr Fischer, at least, is looking about in what seems like nervous apprehension.
And so they arrive back at the door to the gymnasium. Polt opens it and calls to his brood, at the same time making gestures that they should enter. For the first time, there is some sign of reluctance on the part of the Antirrhopus. They hold back while Heinrich advances to peer into the warmth and security of the gym. He is motionless while the Doctor urges him to continue.
And then, without warning, he leaps into the air, wings flapping faster than the mind would expect from so large a creature. He cannot stay up there, his weight is too great and suddenly he stops flapping, to plunge down, legs and talons extended before him, to tear into the form of the Doctor. Polt is thrown to the ground, Heinrich on top and ripping at his belly with his massive claws to send intestines writhing from their ravaged home. The raptor’s mouth arrows down to the Doctor’s throat and tears it away, releasing a flood of life and blood from the jugular.
Walter has dropped the cage in his horror and now tries to run for the entrance, but the female raptors are too quick for him. They pounce and he goes down in a welter of feathers, teeth, claws and blood. The second male, Heinz, has been watching the others without apparent interest. As Walter dies in a screaming mess, Heinz turns and starts loping off towards the forest.
Herr Fischer is standing, knees slightly buckled with the terror of what is happening, unmoving apart from his lips, which are mumbling something about not moving, they’re attracted to movement. He may well be right, for the females have finished with Walter and are now running after Heinz.
Heinrich lifts his bloodied muzzle from the remains of the Doctor to fix Fischer with his golden, staring eye. There is no emotion in that reptilian gaze, no indication of what thoughts, if any, proceed through that cold and pitiless mind. For several frozen seconds, Heinrich and Fischer are held in ghastly contemplation of each other, and then the Antirrhopus turns and goes loping over the field, following the others.
Word Count: 2,513
For Weekly SCREAMS!!!, 09.30.21
Prompt: DINOSAURS. Write me a story containing at least one species of dino.