Monday, July 16, 2012
Sheriff Gabby Moores drove his cruiser up the long dirt road that had no official name on any maps; but the locals called it Abner road, after the first resident of the area, who had a house down at the far end. Abner Warren had been dead for over a 100 years, but there were still a couple of houses you could only reach by traveling the narrow road.
The third house down was Moores’ destination, a small bungalow, painted a muted green. A plain metal mailbox on an unpainted post stood at the end of the driveway, a patch of wildflowers growing on one side of the post. The name haphazardly painted on the side of the aluminum mailbox in black paint was Sheenan.
There was no car in the driveway, but that meant nothing, everyone knew that Kevin Sheenan owned no car. He also rarely accepted rides from anyone, except of course from Gabby Moores. The two had been friends since the 9th grade, the longest friendship either of them seemed to be able to hold on to.
Sheriff Moores stepped out of his cruiser, but did not close the door behind him. He did not plan to stay long. He walked up the pavestone walkway to the front door, admiring the view off to his left of Grunig Lake and the town bearing its name. Between him and it was acre after acre of unspoiled woodland.
He knocked on the door, hard, knowing that Kevin was most likely in his basement, working out or working on his research. He waited a minute, then knocked again. He waited another minute, then turned to walk around the back of the small house. Kevin Sheenan’s backyard was modest by the standards of his neighbors.
He had allowed the forest to reclaim all but a few square yards of land. There was only an unpainted picnic table and a small fire pit. Sheriff Moores looked at the fire pit, it had been used recently. A pile of notebooks stood beside the pit, and in the center of pit there was a twisted pile of metal rings. Clearly he had been burning his notes. The thought left an uneasy feeling in the pit of the sheriff’s stomach.
He turned back toward the house and peered in through the sliding glass door into the small kitchen. There were no signs of life. He grabbed up the unburned notebooks and walked back to the waiting cruiser.
He was pulling the door shut when he heard it. A soft growl. He dropped the notebooks on the passenger seat and made sure his door was shut tight. It could have been a growl, but it seemed larger. He scanned the surrounding forest for a sign of a bear, but saw none. A cold sweat ran down his back as the sound came again, even from inside his car he could hear it. He scanned the woods again, this time looking higher.
He saw what he was looking for about 18 feet from the ground. It was a head, long and square, deep red in color. It was split across the middle by a horrible gash of a mouth, lined with a row of teeth big enough to be seen clearly even from his vantage point 26 yards away. They curved back toward the back of its head, resembling a series of small sickles. Two beady yellow eyes scanned the area from beneath bony ridges.
Slowly, as if nervous, the head moved from side to side. All at once the eyes fixed on Sheriff Moore’s cruiser and the creature stepped out into the open.
It open and closed its enormous jaw, which rested right above a powerful, thick red neck. It’s body was pebbled and long, leading to a powerful tail that gave the animal a total length of about 42 feet, Sheriff Moore guessed. It walked on two legs, bent at the hips, each leg powerful and twitching.
Slowly Sheriff Moore slid the cruiser into reverse. He recognized this beast, though it was entirely impossible. What clinched it in his mind were the two, tiny arms; he was looking at a tyrannosaurus rex! He slammed his foot down on the accelerator, sending his cruiser flying backwards over an uneven driveway. The tyrannosaurus opened its jaws and let out a fearsome roar, then lunged forward, giving chase.
* * *
Kevin went first down the hallway. Roxanne waited behind with the now 5 students and peered around the corner as he approached the double doors. Their windows were made opaque by a layer of dried blood. A pool of blood congealed on the floor in front of the doors.
He approached cautiously, not even daring to breathe, and gave the doors a little push. They opened to the late afternoon air, the smell of decay heavy in the air. He stood in the doorway, listening. There was a roar, fierce and terrifying, but it seemed to be coming from far away, to the East. He turned, motioned for the others to come forward, and saw that Topher Carman had already come up to where he was.
Topher was still caked in blood, the blood of Georgina Heath, only now it had dried and was cracking in places. “Is it safe,” he asked Kevin. Kevin just shrugged. It seemed safe enough. He couldn’t see or hear anything, and aside from the smell of what he was sure now was rotting meat, there didn’t appear to be anything dangerous. The others came up to the doorway, not saying a word, until the other girl Genette Eason began to scream. At first Kevin could not tell why, but motioned the kids back inside anyway. Then he saw it.
No more than a dozen feet from the doors, laying in twisted pile, was what appeared to be Georgina from the waist down. Her torso was torn raggedly from her lower half, leaving behind a bloody mess. “Ok,” Kevin spoke in a calm, even voice, “Whatever did this is long gone now. Moved off to the East. So I want you all to walk in an orderly fashion toward your car. Go with someone else if you didn’t drive this morning.”
The 5 students and Roxanne watched with rapt attention. He was cool and collected, taking charge. How anyone could do that was beyond their reckoning. But then, they’d not seen the things he’d seen and done in service to his country.
In a slow single file they walked out into the center of the parking lot. It did indeed seem to be safe. They split up, went to their cars, Genette Eason taking the arm of one of the boys and going along with him to his pick-up truck. Roxanne and Kevin walked hand-in-hand to her car, her grip so tight it hurt Kevin’s hand. He didn’t try to stop her.
She pushed her key into the door lock, then stopped. She heard something, from above. They all had, all eyes turned to the sky. From out of nowhere a small jet shot across the sky, like a bullet from a gun. Kevin shielded his eyes as he looked skyward, but it didn’t seem to matter. This was a plane the likes of which he’d never seen before. It reached the center of town and a door opened at the bottom back end. A small object fell from the jet and plummeted toward the Earth.
* * *
Sheriff Gabby Moore’s cruiser came flying off the dirt road onto the main street at nearly 70 miles an hour. He spun the wheel, the rear end of his car taking out a mile marker, and took off toward the center of town. The tyrannosaur was three paces behind.
* * *
The small, carnivorous dinosaur at the side of the road was now joined by 2 more of its kind. They gathered around their kill in the mossy ravine. The one that had made the killing blow, slashing Cassie Penzack’s stomach open and spilling out her intestines, ducked his head down first, gripping a mouthful of flesh from her rear end and tearing it clear off the bone. The others followed suit, gorging themselves on the fresh kill.
* * *
“Inside! Run! Now!” Kevin Sheenan waved his arms, grabbing Roxanne by the arm and pulling her back into the school building with him. The other students followed, not sure of why, just knowing they didn’t want to be separated from the adults.
* * *
Staff Sergeant Oliver Parish, Retired, watched with his back straight as the jet passed overhead. His eyes, still keen from years of sniper training, tracked the beacon that dropped from the rear of the jet. He watched with some unease as its small parachute opened and it came to a soft landing in the middle of the road the ran by the beach. Everyone turned from whatever mystery they were currently puzzling over to examine the new object.
The two middle-aged women who were looking after a now awake and semi-alert Gabriella Ayers called to the Staff Sergeant, “Mr. Parish, what is it?” His years as a Marine Corps sniper and an MP had taught him many survival skills, and many skills that helped him thrive in his business after retirement, but he’d never learned tact. “It’s a beacon,” he called back down the beach, “It sends a signal to the plane that allows it to aim its payload properly.”
“What planes? What payload?” This time the asker was young man in red trunks and grey t-shirt with the words “F#CK IT” written across it. Oliver Parish turned to face the young man, the stiffness gone out of his posture, he slouched for the first time in 30 years.
“It’s a military beacon, so military planes would be my guess. As to the payload, I couldn’t say for certain, but I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my lifetime that the payload wasn’t a bomb of some sort.” With this he walked down the beach, toward the water and dropped onto the sand. He stretched out his legs and cooled his feet in the lake’s cold water.
* * *
The students and Roxanne followed Kevin as he ran through the halls of Grunig Lake High School. He went back the way they came, but kept running past the library. He stopped outside the swinging double doors to the kitchen. He turned to the boys in the group as they came running up to catch him. “Ok, boys, I’m going to need your muscles now,” he patted them each on the shoulder, “We have to move the appliances away from the west wall.” He pointed toward the their left. “In the floor, there is a square panel. Under that panel is a bomb shelter.”
A questioning look from the group told him that no one knew about it. It didn’t surprise him in the least. The bomb shelter was built in the late 1950s for fear the Communists would attack the town to destroy the research labs that were being built in the nearby mountains. It had never been used, tested only once, and it was most likely that the kitchen staff themselves was unaware of the door. But Kevin had studied the blueprints of every municipal building in town. He knew exactly where it was and how many people it could hold.
“How do you know about this bomb shelter,” asked Roxanne, her lower lip trembling.
“I studied this building’s layouts. It’s all there in my notes.”
“You mean the notes you told me your burned?”
He gave her a dismissive wave of his hand. She could hate him for now, but there was no time to argue, they all had to get into that shelter, and fast. There would be plenty of time to explain everything to her afterwards. He motioned the boys through the swinging doors and they began pulling the industrial size refrigerator away from the wall.
* * *
Sirens blaring and laying on the horn, Sheriff Gabby Moores careened into the center of town, finally losing control of the vehicle and crashing into the store front of Abner’s General Store. The cruiser skidded to a halt amidst a hail of canned goods and fishing lures. He kicked open his door and ran around to the trunk, finding the key easily and throwing it open. He pulled the shotgun from its case and had time to load one round before the tyrannosaur was upon him.
The few townsfolk that weren’t at the beach discussing the day’s mystery fled in terror as the great beast descended on the store front and snapped it’s powerful jaws down on the sheriff’s torso.
* * *
“Why would the army be bombing us?”
Roxanne was standing her ground, not stepping past the threshold of the school’s kitchen. They had gotten the giant refrigerator moved enough to open up the hatch in the floor. All the students had climbed down the surprisingly sturdy ladder, now it was time for the adults to follow them, but Roxanne refused to believe Kevin.
“Please,” he begged, “We don’t have time to discuss this right now. Just come with us into the bomb shelter and I’ll explain everything afterwards.”
“Did you really burn all of your notebooks,” she looked him in the eye, tears forming in hers.
Kevin’s shoulders fell, and she had her answer. He didn’t bother to explain that he’d meant to, that he’d simply lost track of the time and his mind wandered off; but he didn’t bother. She’d made up her mind already. “Ok, hate me, but please get into the shelter.”
“No. I don’t believe anything’s going to happen. I’ll be in the library, sorting books.” Kevin could not believe what he was hearing. He knew she could be stubborn when she was angry, but this was beyond that.
“What about Georgina? Something tore that poor girl in half! You can’t just ignore that!”
She slapped him hard, right across the face. “Don’t you dare tell me what to believe. You and your crazy fucking conspiracy theories!” She stormed off then, past the cafeteria and through the double doors of the library.
He chased her down the hall, running hard into the library doors. She had locked them from the inside. He searched for something to help him break down the double-thick doors, but then he knew it was too late, he could hear planes approaching.
* * *
Sheriff Moores pushed with his one free hand to try and free his body from the tyrannosaur’s jaws, but it was no use. His one arm was nowhere near strong enough to move it. He tried to move his other arm, inside the dinosaur’s mouth and it was then he realized he was still gripping the shotgun. The tyrannosaur bit down harder, piercing his internal organs, but not before he was able to pull the trigger.
There was a muted explosion and the tyrannosaur’s right eye exploded from its skull. It’s grip on Sheriff Moore loosened and the great beast fell across the general store. The sheriff felt his body thrown clear of the building, landing on a grassy patch of land near a propane tank. He lay on his back, staring at the beautiful summer sky, fully aware of the fact that he was going to die. Someone came running to his side, yelling his name, and in the background he heard the sound of airplanes approaching. “Help,” he managed before breathing his last breath.
* * *
The crowd on the beach, even Gabriella Ayers, had wandered back toward the center of town, drawn by the sounds of what must have been a great battle. Staff Sergeant Oliver Parish continued to sit on the beach. He had now removed his shoes and socks and was wiggling his toes in the cool water. He took in a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air, and reached into his back pocket.
His wallet was there, old, worn, and now waterlogged, but still sturdy. He opened up the trifold and pulled from it a picture he always kept tucked in the main pocket. It was a picture of a much younger Oliver Parish on the day he proposed to his wife. It had been another beautiful summer day, like this day; it had even happened on this very beach, 36 years ago. He studied the picture a moment more, then like he always did, he brought it to his lips and kissed it. “Abby, honey,” he wiped a tear from his cheek, “I miss you. I’ll be seeing you soon.” He dropped the picture in the sand. He no longer needed it. He looked up into the summer sky as the sound of airplanes filled the sky.
* * *
Even without being maintained for all those decades, the locking mechanism on the bomb shelter door worked smoothly as Kevin closed it behind himself. He climbed carefully down the ladder, aware of the confused and frightened gazes of the children waiting for him. The room was larger than he’d imagined, nearly half the length of football field, and just as wide. A row of 12 bunk beds lined the walls on either side. The air smelled surprisingly fresh, which was good, because he wasn’t sure how long they’d be down here.
He gathered the children around him and told them everything was going to be ok. It was all he could do to keep from bursting in to tears. There would be time for that, but not now. These kids needed him to be strong. He assigned them each a job: inventory food, make up the beds, check the water, look for flashlights, find a radio.
It was busy work, something to take their minds off what was going to happen.
And then it happened.
* * *
Oliver Parish did not see any of the bombs drop, he was not looking for them. He did however see the white flash of light. That would have been impossible to miss, no matter where you looked. He not at all surprised to find that he felt no pain at all.