The boat jolted.
Anne awoke, rubbing her eyes. She sat up, looking around. The boat was still drifting downstream, and all around her there was jungle. “Oh God,” she said, stretching. “How long have I been asleep?”
She rolled her head, stretching her neck. The sun beat down through open patches in the overhanging trees. It was like some odd paradise.
“It’s beautiful here.”
She heard a splash, as the boat turned slowly around a bend in the river. She heard a snort, and then more splashing.
She looked around the boat, grabbing the oar. She gripped the handle, ready to swing.
Come on girl, get a grip. You know this oar won’t hurt anything.
She couldn’t help but smile, after her thought. But she continued to grip the oar, ready to swing.
The boat came around the bend, and Anne set down the oar. On both sides of the river ahead, she saw a group of two-legged dinosaurs, drinking and playing. Anne counted around twenty in all, but she couldn’t be sure.
The image of these dinosaurs flashed in her mind. She had seen the picture of one back at the Lab. It had a long, weird name. “Pachy, um, Pachy-something.”
The dinosaurs she was looking at were Pachycephalosaurus. The first thing Anne noticed were the domed skulls, with little knobby horns around the edge of them. The domes seemed menacing, but just looking at the animals excited Anne.
Most of them were smaller, around ten feet, but several stood out, standing on the shores, watching the others. These ones were, Anne guessed, around fifteen feet long. Anne watched as the boat drew closer, at the animals in the water: their heads bobbing up and down as they swam.
They were making grunting noises, and on the shores, several smaller ones were rolling. “It’s like a dinosaur daycare center.”
One of the larger ones shifted, turning towards the water, and Anne could see that it was eating. Around it, two younger dinosaurs were playing, waving their short, little arms.
The adult snorted, backing away, but the babies just followed.
Anne laughed, and realized she was only a few yards away. She heard a grunt, and looked up in time to see an adult beginning to grunt again. It was looking intently at the boat.
She slid herself down, hoping to get out of view. Around her she heard splashing, as the animals in the water ran up the shore, turning around to stop and look at the boat.
She heard something start into the water, and looked over the edge, as the boat jolted sideways. She yelled, watching as one of the dinosaur’s heads popped up from the water alongside the boat. It snorted, starting to move back to shore.
It had hit the boat.
Anne cursed, as the dinosaurs snorted, waiting for the boat to go by.
Anne watched another dinosaur, one of the adults, start into the water, towards the boat. Anne fumbled for the oar, trying to reach it under the wood, but stopped, as the dinosaur began returning to the shore.
The boat drifted on, towards another bend, and Anne listened to the fading snorts, as the dinosaurs began to leave the river.
Anne watched as leaves from the overhanging trees fluttered down in the breeze, landing softly on the water, without a sound. Several slowly made their way down into the boat.
The boat had begun to curve around another bend, and Anne could see that the river ahead was entirely enclosed in shade, running about six more yards before bending out to the left.
Anne stared into the jungle around her, waiting for the boat to hit the next curve. As it did, Anne could see the shade begin to lessen, as the sun once again filtered through the trees.
The boat rounded the second curve. The jungle ahead stopped; the river widening. As the boat moved on, Anne saw that on both sides of the river was grass.
When the boat passed the edge of the jungle, Anne’s jaw dropped. The river was passing through vast plains, and all around, Anne could see different species of dinosaur herds.
“Wow,” she mouthed.
While keeping her head up, she reached down for the oar. On the left she saw a line of Stegosaurs; their necks craning down to the water. They looked up at Anne, reminding her of cows, as they watched silently.
In the distance, she saw a group of Brachiosaurs moving in her direction, towards the river. She gazed left, at a crop of odd boulders. She smiled. It was a herd of the creatures Marquez and herself had seen in the woods, at the nest.
“They must be sleeping,” she whispered. Farther down the river, on the right side of the boat, she saw a small grouping of the one-horned dinosaurs. “Parasaurs,” she smiled. “I got it now.”
They honked softly, rising up and down to take drinks. One splashed across the river to the other side, turning and honking. It spun around in a circle, and then returned to the others. One slowly raised its head, gently nuzzling the one that had crossed the river.
Anne finally gripped the oar, and stuck it in the water, paddling over to the shore, slightly downstream of the Stegosaurs. The current was slow, and it was easy for her to maneuver over, and slide the boat into a tuft of grass. The boat stayed, and she set the oar back down.
She climbed out, taking a slight leap over some water, and landed on the soft grass. It rose up several inches, and her hands seemed to disappear beneath it. She crawled up the small little hillside along the shore, and crouched down. To her left were the stegosaurs, and she looked up to see that the Brachiosaurs were getting closer.
The ground shook, even from where she was, as the Brachiosaurs moved closer to the river. Behind her, she heard a grunt, and looked over at the Ankylosaurs.
Several began to uncurl, like the ones at the nest. They slowly rose, their tails making short little swings back and forth.
Two of them began walking towards the river, their short, stubby legs partially hidden beneath the grass cover. “This is amazing,” Anne said. She put a hand out, wiping it gently across the tips of the grass blades, which were swaying gently.
The stegosaur herd began to move away from the river, spreading out slightly into the plains. Several stayed behind, along the river, and as Anne watched, some of the herd that was moving off began to close in against each other, and lie on the ground.
She returned her gaze to the Brachiosaurs, who were now close to the water’s edge. She looked back down the rise to the boat, which was slowly wobbling back and forth in the current.
The two Ankylosaurs that had made their way to the river were now noisily lapping up the water, snorting. Their tongues lolled out, pulling up. She smiled.
From downstream, one of the parasaurs honked. She looked up, as more began to join in. They were backing away from the river, gazing past the brachiosaurs.
Anne turned to see what they were looking at.
One of the tyrannosaurs.
It roared back, realizing it had been seen. Anne saw the stegosaurs beginning to rise, and across the shore several Ankylosaurs began to uncurl. The parasaurs continued to honk, while the brachiosaurs stopped at the river.
Anne got up, as the rex cut across the plains. It moved around some of the stegosaurs, which turned in her direction, beginning to group together.
She ducked down the hill, starting to get in her boat. She looked up to the parasaurs beginning to run in the opposite direction, when an explosive roar erupted from the jungle. They honked again, veering back along the river, as the second rex cut them off.
Anne turned around, to see the first rex getting close. It snapped at a stegosaur, which swung its tail once as the rex passed. It roared, and turned towards her.
She put her hands on the bow, pushing off into the water. She jumped in, pushing aside the oar. She looked downstream, where the group of Brachiosaurs was beginning to cross. The parasaurs honked madly, struggling to stay together to evade the second rex. They were starting to cross the river, when the first rex roared, and the veered off, only to be caught by the second rex.
Anne started up the engine, the rudder beginning to swat back and forth in the water. She gripped it, turning the boat to face downstream.
The stegosaurs were already leaving; the rexes ignoring them. The ankylosaurs began grouping back, as the two that had ventured to the river began waddling back.
There was a loud, wailing honk, and Anne looked up to see a parasaur drop dead in the grass. The second rex swung low, ripping a piece of flesh off. The other parasaurs turned, daring to try another cross over the river.
The boat veered forward, carried slightly downstream. A roar came from her left, and Anne looked back.
The first rex had come to the shore, following her as the boat rumbled downstream. It roared, and in one horrifying moment, it ran out into the river. It crashed forward, missing the boat by several feet. It roared, passing through the river to the opposite shore.
Anne looked straight, and screamed. The second rex was moving to cut her off, already crossing the river. It snapped, swinging its head low. Anne veered the boat right, as the rex passed to the left. The boat darted around its legs, and Anne glanced back to see it turn around on the shore, roaring.
The boat continued downstream, closely pursued on either side on the shores by each rex. Ahead the parasaur herd turned, honking, splitting up as the boat neared. The rexes roared, and they flocked away. Past the herd, she saw that the Brachiosaurs were still crossing.
There’s no way I’ll be able to get past them in time!
She watched the massive legs of the Brachiosaurs crashing through the water, creating white froth on the surface. Small waves began to lap up against the boat, as it pushed forward.
Anne looked back. Both rexes were pulling alongside the boat.
The distance was getting smaller between the boat and the Brachiosaurs.
“This is it Anne,” she whispered.
The boat was within a few yards of the legs, and closing in. She looked back to her right, as the rex began moving into the river. She let go of the engine, which began to slow down, yet still move forward.
Anne stood up, as the rex on the opposite shore crashed into the water.
Anne kicked off, diving into the water. As she landed, she heard a mix of crunching and cracking as one of the rexes’ swung its head down, immediately splintering the wood boat.
Anne swum low, frog-swimming towards the Brachiosaurs. Within seconds, she was swimming through the legs, which crashed down on either side of her. She could barely see through the water, as a massive foot came within inches of her legs.
She needed air, but she knew she couldn’t stop. Her body began to feel like lead.
Then the splashing was behind her, and she rose to the surface. She took in the air, wiping water out of her eyes. She turned around; her body drifting downstream. The last of the brachiosaurs was crossing, and she could see the rexes sticking their snouts in the water, searching for her.
Several pieces of wood drifted past her, and she saw the lower half of the oar stop in the grass on the shore. Her body slowly moved down the river, passing into more jungle.
She heard the roar of one of the tyrannosaurs, as she was carried around a bend. She looked around, at the jungle above and around the river. The current was picking up.
Anne saw several shadows darting across the shore to her right. The bushes shook slightly as they moved in and out of the jungle.
One came into view, stopping at the river. It bobbed up and down as it walked, and Anne could see it had greenish-brown skin. It had a small, pointed little head, attached to a thin neck.
It jumped once, squeaking. Several more joined it on shore a few moments later, and as Anne drifted by, they followed alongside. They watched and squeaked, jumping every once in awhile.
Anne laughed. She cupped a hand, and hit the water. The creatures darted, as Anne splashed them. They disappeared into the bushes, not returning.
“I should get on shore,” she said.
After several moments of contemplation, she decided to just let the river carry her.
It was warm; warmer than it had been earlier. Every few seconds, Anne would lightly kick, but now she stopped, because the current was picking up.
Anne could see that the river bent abruptly ahead, and felt her body tug sideways as she turned the curve.
She spun herself forward, and said, “Wow.”
Ahead of her was a large domed structure, rising high from view. It was built into the canyon on either side of the river, and Anne realized she was moving toward it.
The river, she could see, passed underneath the dome, and Anne tried to swim away. It was too late.
The current was faster now, and Anne’s body was quickly moved towards the dome. As she drew closer, she saw that the entire dome was made up of countless struts, with small gaps in the odd angles they were formed to make up.
Ahead, the river passed under the dome; the surface just an inch or so under a bar. Anne reaches out, grabbing one of the supports.
Come on Anne, pull yourself over to shore.
Her fingers try and find a good hold on the bar, but they slip. She ducks under the dome as she’s carried, and spins up quickly. She thrusts out, grabbing the bar behind her. Her fingers wrap around it, and she gets a hold.
Anne is inside the structure. Still holding the inside of the structure, she looks around. On either side of the river are cliffs, with small, rocky shores. In the higher half of the structure is a thick cloud of fog, and she can see faint shadows of something running across the top, like a bridge.
She looks back around her. On one of the canyon walls she can see a massive waterfall running down into the river. She looks on the shores, passing her gaze away from the waterfall.
Slowly, she starts to move across the river, gripping each new bar as she can. After several minutes of pushing against the current to get her way across, Anne pulls herself onto the shore.
Anne gets up, looking around at the dome’s surroundings from her new vantage. There are patches of grass growing on the muddy shore she is standing on, and behind her is another, yet smaller, waterfall. “There’s no way I can get back out that way,” she says, looking out through the dome, at the river she had just come down.
She turns around, her back to the dome wall, and looks around on her side of the river. Something catches her eye.
She walks toward it, turning around a wet boulder, pushed near the waterfall. As she nears it, she hears an odd, faint cawing noise somewhere above. She shrugs it off, hearing nothing more.
Anne walks over the mud, to the base of a set of stairs. They are built into the cliff face, disappearing into darkness. Anne can see that they begin to spiral up. “They must lead to the top.”
She backs away, looking up the wall. The fog above blocks out her view. “Well,” she says, entering the caved stairwell. “No way to go but up.”
As she walks up the stairwell in near-perfect darkness, Anne hears nothing, but the shuffle of each step she takes in her ascent.