Thunder of Time

James F. David

Forge Books

Chapter One
 
NORTH QUILT
 
While there are those who would play politics even in this time of unprecedented crisis, my decision to seal the break in time with a nuclear detonation on American soil was the only viable option. While we cannot bring back the family and friends we have lost, or send the dinosaurs back to their own time, we have stopped the time disruption once and for all.
 
—Scot McIntyre, President of the United States
 
Western Alaska, October,
Ten Years After The Time Quilt
 
“Hike!” Eilene Stromki shouted to her dogs, urging the team on.
 
There was little need to shout, no need to crack a whip. Her huskies lived to run, winning the Iditarod two of the last three years since it had been resumed. Sixteen miles out from her ranch, they were climbing a six percent grade. The dogs were laboring, breaths deep but steady, each dog steaming like a locomotive. Eilene knew her dogs like family; their personalities, their likes and dislikes, what spooked them and what motivated each.
 
Kamiak ran in the lead, a position he was bred for. Another lead dog, Max, was back at her compound and was almost as good as Kamiak, but there wasn’t another dog in Alaska with Kamiak’s nose for the trail. Bacardi and Tecumsah ran second in line as swing dogs, both strong and quick to answer to Eilene’s commands to “Gee!” and “Haw!” turning the sled right and left. Wemme and Roscoe ran next in line, perfectly matched in strength, stamina, and heart. Blacky and Nellie were mid team, followed by Draco and Monty, good natured, steady and strong. Lindy and Wanda came last, running as wheel dogs just in front of the sled. It would be Lindy’s last Iditarod. Reliable, and a peacemaker in the pack, she had run seven races with Eilene, and she would retire her reluctantly. Like a grand dame reaching middle age, Lindy clung to her youth, even as the trail aged her prematurely. Sensing her retirement, Lindy pushed herself hard, never holding the others back. The team would sense no weakness in Lindy’s last run.
 
“Hike, Kamiak!” Eilene shouted, encouraging her powerful lead dog to keep a steady pace.
 
Eilene’s teams seldom won sprints, but the Iditarod was 1,100 miles of treacherous terrain and fickle weather. Victory went to the strongest, not the swiftest. With legs as powerful as pistons, a broad chest, and the heart of a champion, Kamiak was the key to Eilene’s victories. With a blaze of white on his chest, the wolf-gray husky punched through the thin frozen crust to firm footing underneath. The lead dog had to be the strongest to set the pace and break the trail. The swing dogs, Bacardi and Tecumsah, did a share of the plowing, each pair in the rest of the team finding the way easier than the one ahead. Only Kamiak at the lead had no one to compact the snow for him. Eyes busy, the lead dog picked the best footing for the rest as they raced over nearly hidden trails and across frozen lakes. With a preternatural feel for the trail, Kamiak deftly skirted loose snow, polished ice, and crumbling ledges, and he did this in thick fog and howling blizzards.
 
The day was mild; comfortable. At fifteen degrees, slight southerly wind, and thin overcast, Eilene wore only goggles, the hood of her parka thrown back, enjoying the crisp feel of the wind on her permanently weathered face. She loved the silence of the trail, the few forest sounds masked by the constant whooshing of the wind past her ears and the steady thumping rhythm of paws. She’d heard that marathon runners entered a psychological zone somewhere between the sixth and tenth mile, oblivious to their surroundings, totally within themselves, as if running in an alternate dimension, a dimension of one. Sled dog racing was the opposite; the quiet isolation teased the senses into opening wide, like the iris in total darkness, blossoming to its fullest to catch every stray photon. Eilene was more alive on the trail, more aware of nature’s nuances, every scent, sight, and sound. After a long trail run, Eilene came back to civilization more than what she had been when she left.
 
“Gee,” Eilene called, signaling a turn.
 
Kamiak, who knew the trail, had already started into the right turn before the command. As they came to the turn, Eilene leaned into it, then dropped briefly to the ground, holding on to the handlebars, dragging the sled around to complete the turn. Three quick running steps and she was back on, the team straining to bring the sled back to running speed.
 
Eilene was using her racing sled today. Built out of lightweight wood, the sled carried most of the required gear: axe, sleeping bag, snowshoes, spare booties for the dogs, food for both her and the dogs, spare boots and clothes for her, and a rifle. The rifle wasn’t required under the rules, but Eilene began carrying one after a moose had gotten into her team, killing two of her best dogs.
 
Another mile and she slowed the team to a walk. The dogs, with their tongues lolling and legs still strong, were ready to run on command. They crested a small ridge, then started down a gentle slope. Eilene gently applied the brake to keep the sled from sliding into her dogs. The crest was rocky, but as they came down the slope the soil improved and the forest thickened with old growth firs. Three months a year there was a hiking trail here, now buried under a month’s snow. The trail led to a small lake, loaded with trout. It would be a snow meadow by now, the surface frozen a foot thick, covered in a deep blanket of snow.
 
There was a fork in the trail now and Kamiak automatically veered right. They hadn’t taken the left fork since the government stole more of the land and fenced it off. Now it was restricted, with no hunting, fishing, or sledding. Eilene had run the perimeter many times, curious about what went on inside, but there was little to see. The base was built in a small valley known locally as Fox Valley, named by the trappers who had worked the area up until the last section of fence went up, cutting them off from their livelihood. Eilene resented being cut off from land she had hunted and fished since childhood, but the fence worked two ways. It kept her out, but it kept the government people in.
 
The lake was just ahead, a bright white oval ringed by ancient protecting forest giants. Coming through the last of the trees, Eilene let Kamiak lead them into the center where she stopped the team and set the brake. As one, the dog team lay down to rest, panting to control their body temperature. Their thick fur protected them from the cold of the snow.
 
While the dogs rested, Eilene would check their condition, examining each paw, each limb, chest, and muzzle, looking for wounds, wear, or bruising. She also noted how long it took them to recover, an indicator of their physical condition. Sled dogs were as finely conditioned as Olympic athletes, and the dogs would soon be up and prancing, anxious to resume the run.
 
Unzipping the sled bag, Eilene dug out “honeyballs” and tossed the snacks to the dogs. Sled dogs could burn up to ten thousand calories a day and the baseball-sized honeyballs were loaded with the fuel and nutrients the dogs needed. Made from beef, powdered eggs, brewer’s yeast, vegetable oil, multivitamins, and honey, they were relished by the dogs. Tossing the last honeyball to Lindy, Eilene leaned against the sled munching on honeyball crumbs, enjoying the feel of the bright sun on her weathered face.
 
Suddenly there was a peal of thunder, followed by a bright flash and a warm blast of air. The dogs yelped in surprise, jumping to their feet and jerking the sled. Eilene stumbled and fell, confused. The blast of heat told her that the lightning had struck nearby.
 
Getting to her feet Eilene searched the sky for the storm. Being at the center of the lake gave her a 360-degree view and there was nothing but thin overcast. Eilene could still feel the warmth from the lightning strike and briefly worried that it had started a forest fire. Then through the trees to the east she saw a ribbon of bright green—not the forest green of the north woods, but bright variegated greens. With a splat, a large mass of snow dropped from a fir bordering the lake. With her finely tuned senses, Eilene heard the forest begin to play the symphony of spring; the steady drip, drip, plop sounds of the spring thaw. Her dogs were standing, ears pointed, listening to the sounds of spring in winter.
 
“Let’s go take a look, Kamiak,” Eilene called, releasing the brake. “Hike,” she shouted, the dogs straining against their harnesses, breaking the sled free. Guiding the team toward the peculiar colors in the forest, she kept the dogs to a walk, letting Kamiak pick his way through the trees. Eilene was amazed by what she saw. She knew these woods; a long march of trees, interrupted only by the occasional lake, natural meadow, or forest road. The closest logging was six miles south. Yet, now the forest ended abruptly and at its edge was vegetation like she had only seen in movies. Most of the foliage was knee high, but there were taller shrubs and, in the distance, towering palms. Instead of needles, leaves were broad, flat, and glossy and a riot of green.
 
Calling for a stop, Eilene left the sled in the trees, her team alert, curious, sniffing the unfamiliar. Humid heat washed her, flowing through the trees, past her team to dissipate in the vastness of the north. Stopping at the edge of the forest she stared dumbstruck.
 
Eilene wasn’t a traveler, if you didn’t count the long sled races, and she rarely left Alaska. She had never been farther south than Seattle and no farther east than Calgary, so she had never experienced tropical vegetation. She looked at it now with the same childish wonder of Dorothy, stepping from her fallen house into Munchkinland. A fern at the edge of the clearing tilted toward Eilene, its tip barely over the crude line that marked the beginning of the harsh conditions of a northern coniferous forest, as if to taste this new environment. Eilene kicked the fern, the only plant she could identify. It was real, giving way as she tapped it back and forth.
 
“Kamiak,” Eilene said, loud enough for her team to hear. “I heard about these but I never saw one except on TV.”
 
The heat of the jungle warmed the forest and Eilene unzipped her parka. Taking two steps into the vegetation, she sniffed air flavored with foreign perfumes and the stink of rot. Every nuance of the jungle smelled as fresh to her as a baby’s first tastes of food. Behind her, more sensitive noses were busy with canine curiosity. With even less experience than Eilene, the dogs could not tell harmless plants from predator animals and missed the olfactory warning.
 
“It’s a time quilt,” Eilene announced, talking to the dogs. “They got something like this down where Portland used to be, except I heard most of the original plants are dead now. Damn foolish city folks turned it into a park.”
 
Suddenly, thirty yards away, a head appeared in the chest-high foliage, stared right at Eilene, then dropped down again. The head was triangular, earless, the skin reptilian green. Cursing her stupidity, Eilene remembered that the Portland time quilt hadn’t just brought plants to the future. Eilene hurried back to the team.
 
“Trouble coming, Kamiak,” Eilene announced.
 
Sensing her fear, the team paced and whined in their harnesses, anxious for action, flight or fight. The trees were raining now, the snow melting at a dangerous pace. As the water dripped from higher boughs to lower, the burden on the limbs increased, the lower boughs bending, threatening to break. Under a steady shower, Eilene pulled Kamiak around 180 degrees and started back the way they had come. The runners cut deep into the wet snow now and Eilene ran behind the sled, pushing to help get the sled up to speed. Risking a look behind, she saw the dinosaur standing at the edge of the forest, head down, sniffing the snow. Then its head came up and it sniffed the air. It stood on two feet, counterbalanced with a long tail. It had two long arms ending in clawed hands, its head carried on a long neck. When it finished sniffing the air it looked at Eilene and her team retreating through the woods, then at the snow again. Then it raised its head, let out a screech as sharp and as penetrating as a chainsaw hitting a tree spike. A few seconds’ later two more of the creatures came out of the jungle foliage, heads down, sniffing the snow.
 
“Hike, Kamiak, hike!” Eilene shouted.
 
Risking another look back, she could see all three of the creatures had their heads up now, pointed at Eilene. Then the first creature, slightly bigger than the other two, raised its head and bugled long and loud. Then all three charged into the woods. Quickly, Eilene estimated the speed of the predators—she wouldn’t make it across the lake.
 
“Haw! Kamiak, haw!” Eilene shouted.
 
At Eilene’s command, Kamiak executed a sharp turn, and like a train of Conestoga wagons circling to repel an attack, the dogs came around. The dogs barked and yelped, snapping at each other in confusion. Eilene threw the sled to its side, and then dug in her sled bag for her rifle. With the rifle in one hand, Eilene commanded her dogs to lie down and drew her knife, running along the line of dogs, cutting them free. Then she threw herself behind the sled, slapping the rifle on the side, taking aim down the open sights.
 
Eilene and her team were near the middle of the lake, the surface slushy from the jungle heat. The heat was dissipating quickly; however, the ice surface was still protected by two feet of wet, insulating snow.
 
The attacking dinosaurs came out of the woods, a surreal spectacle of long-extinct predators, emerging from a winter wonderland forest, their three-toed feet digging deep into the snow for traction with six-inch serrated claws. Driven by hunting lust, they came on, oblivious to the unfamiliar surface or the rapidly falling temperature.
 
The dinosaurs spread out as they came. Lining up her sights on the chest of the big dinosaur in the lead, Eilene’s finger tightened on the trigger. She took her time, making sure of the shot. She only carried six rounds. Then the dinosaur slipped, wobbled, and went down, skidding through the mush on the surface. Her target now lost in a spray of snow, she turned to the left, finding this dinosaur swinging wide as if to circle and come in behind. Her dogs were all up now, barking and posturing. Then with the bravery of youth, reckless Tecumsah charged the dinosaur Eilene was taking aim on, Roscoe and Wemme right behind. Eilene fired over the heads of her attacking dogs, the report of the rifle triggering a new level of aggressiveness in the dogs, their knife-sharp barks echoing off a distant ridge. The slug hit behind the dinosaur’s right shoulder. The beast stumbled, slipped, and skidded, spraying pink snow. Tecumsah, Roscoe, and Wemme charged the wounded predator. There was no time to confirm the kill.
 
A flanking dinosaur came from behind Eilene’s right shoulder. She pulled the bolt back, ejecting the spent shell, and then shoved the bolt forward and down, setting another round in the chamber. Turning, she saw the dinosaur behind her leap. The dinosaur jumped with power evolved for bigger prey. The dinosaur flew at her, clawed feet extended. She fired from the hip, the bullet burying in the belly of the beast. The expanding lead slug tore through soft tissues, ripping open vital organs, but nothing could stop the physics of the attack. Reflexively, Eilene turned, curling into a fetal position. As she cringed, a gray blur flew over her head, crashing into the onrushing dinosaur.
 
Still trailing the remnant of his harness, Kamiak flew at the dinosaur. The dinosaur twisted in midair at the threat. That motion saved Eilene’s life, as claws as sharp as surgical instruments missed her by inches. The dinosaur landed next to her, its tail driving her into the wet snow. Kamiak was at its throat and the dinosaur ignored Eilene, fending off Kamiak. Two more dogs came over the sled, indistinguishable blurs joining the fight.
 
Dodging the flailing tail, Eilene searched for her rifle, buried somewhere in the slushy surface of the snow. But with each whip of the powerful tail the gun was driven deeper. Now Bacardi and Lindy jumped the sled, joining the fight. The dinosaur struggled to its feet, Kamiak hanging from its neck. With a swipe of its clawed hands, it knocked Kamiak free. The dog tumbled across the snow, then rolled to his feet, three long bloody gashes in his gray side. Kamiak staggered a few steps and then collapsed. With two more quick swipes, Draco and Wanda were tossed aside, landing with a splash of blood.
 
Gut-shot, the dinosaur stood, staggering in a circle, blood pumping from a hole in its midsection. There was a gash on its neck, streaming more blood. Barcardi and Lindy were circling, just out of the reach of its long arms, keeping the dinosaur’s attention. The dogs only had to stay out of the dinosaur’s reach to win the fight. The dinosaur was slowly bleeding to death.
 
Behind her, Eilene heard another fight erupt as her remaining dogs took on the big dinosaur, quickly losing the fight. Like Custer surrounded by his faithful men, Eilene watched her side slowly lose the battle. With a final painful yelp, the fight behind her was over, the big dinosaur coming around to help mop up the rest of her dogs.
 
Circling around the sled, the beast came on slowly, as wary of its footing as of the circling dogs. Bacardi and Lindy parted, letting the big dinosaur through. The beast went directly to its mate, sniffing at its wounds. The gut-shot dinosaur snapped at the big one but did not bite. A deep whimper emanated from the big dinosaur. Then it hissed at Eilene. Pulling her knife, Eilene backed away, inching around the sled and the little protection it afforded. If the dogs could draw the dinosaurs away from the sled, she could dig for the rifle. But Bacardi and Lindy were no match for two dinosaurs, even if one was wounded.
 
Blacky, Nellie, Draco, Monty, Wanda, and Kamiak were all dead or dying. Risking a look, she saw Tecumsah, Roscoe, and Wemme savaging the body of the first dinosaur she had shot. The beast was still moving, but lying on its side, ineffectually swiping at the dogs. Putting her fingers in her mouth, she whistled for the rest of the team. Tecumsah, Roscoe, and Wemme came running. Her whistle surprised the remaining dinosaurs and both heads snapped around to look at her, then at the oncoming dogs.
 
Bacardi didn’t wait for reinforcements; darting inside the reach of the big dinosaur, he snapped at a leg, then leaped back. Bacardi was too slow. With a jabbing swipe, Barcardi was impaled in the neck, his head nearly severed as the dinosaur finished the sweep. With a triumphant roar, the dinosaur bellowed at Lindy, challenging the canine. Growling, wise Lindy held her distance, dancing out of reach.
 
Now Tecumsah, Roscoe, and Wemme arrived, jaws bloody, snapping at the wounded dinosaur from behind. The dinosaur turned to face the dogs, but the capacity for whipcrack turns was being lost with each drop of blood. As the dinosaur turned, Tecumsah charged inside its reach, taking a piece of one leg. Weak, pain clouding its judgment, the dinosaur jabbed at Tecumsah who dodged the strike, and then clamped his jaws behind the dinosaur’s claws. With a screech the dinosaur jerked free, half lifting Tecumsah off the ground before a clawed finger was torn from its hand. Off balance, the beast staggered backward, tail flailing, slapping the sled into Eilene who tumbled back, skidding across the surface of the lake. The wounded dinosaur went down, Roscoe and Wemme charging. Violently shaking the trophy finger, Tecumsah dropped it, going for another piece of the fallen dinosaur.
 
With their backs to the big dinosaur, the dogs did not see it turn away from Lindy, enraged by the screams of its wounded mate. Lindy charged when it turned, the big dinosaur sensing the attack and snapping back around like a bent limb suddenly released. Four claws caught the leaping dog in the head, her skull crushed from the blow, her eyes, nose, ears skinned from her head. Then the dinosaur turned toward its beleaguered mate. Eilene shouted a warning, but the dogs could not hear over their blood lust.
 
With two quick steps, the dinosaur was within reach, swiping at Wemme, catching the husky in the side, knocking him off the wounded dinosaur. Wemme landed, rolled, yelping in pain, a cry so pitiful it would echo in Eilene’s mind forever. Wemme’s cry saved Roscoe, who dodged the next blow. Brave, reckless, Tecumsah attacked the big dinosaur, ripping a hunk from its calf, and then darting aside. But the big dinosaur was not gut-shot, its throat had not been torn open, and it was strong and quick. It caught Tecumsah with a back swipe that ripped his haunch, sending Tecumsah tumbling across the snow.
 
Seeing a chance, Eilene got up and ran for the fallen dinosaur, now struggling to roll over and get to its feet. Eilene buried the eight-inch blade in its neck, sawing furiously. Reflexively, the dinosaur raised its clawed foot, swiping at Eilene who jumped back, falling into the snow. With the knife in its throat, the beast could only whimper now, trying to dislodge the weapon. Turning, the big dinosaur saw its mate take its last gurgling breaths, lying in a bed of pink snow. Now it looked at the bloody mound where Tecumsah, Roscoe, and Wemme had finished off the first dinosaur Eilene had shot, and then back at the dinosaur with Eilene’s knife in its mate’s neck. Then it whimpered: a sad mournful sound. When the whimper died, the animal was silent. The big dinosaur was alone in an environment beyond its experience, as foreign to the beast as the surface of Mars would be to Eilene. However, it did not retreat to the deepness of the forest where it had the advantage. Instead, it raised its head, staring at Eilene, not with the hunting eyes she had seen before, but with malevolence.
 
Weaponless, Eilene backed away, the dinosaur studying her moves, judging her as an adversary. Slogging through wet snow, Eilene looked as helpless as she was. The big dinosaur was smart, calculating. Then, without warning—no hiss, no screech, no call—the dinosaur leaped over the sled, landing ten feet away, eyes fixed on Eilene, who continued to back across the lake. The dinosaur took a step toward Eilene when Roscoe ran to a position between Eilene and the dinosaur. The dinosaur paused, studying the dog. Now Tecumsah circled the beast, taking position next to Roscoe. Tecumsah was bleeding, his left haunch and tail soaked in blood.
 
Like most sled dogs, Eilene’s were a mixed breed of malamute, Siberian husky, and wolf. The dogs were bred for stamina, not aggressiveness, but the dinosaurs had awakened a gene that brought out the wolf in her dogs. Eilene’s heart cheered for her brave dogs, but two dogs were no match for the dinosaur.
 
The dinosaur’s eyes were busy, studying the dogs and Eilene, assessing the threat, planning the attack. Then there was movement to the beast’s left, and its head cocked. Eilene looked to see Kamiak coming through the snow, fur matted with black blood. He came in an arc, leaving a trail of bloody pawprints in the snow, red polka dots marking the path from where he had been thrown, to Eilene. Then Kamiak pushed between Tecumsah and Roscoe, taking a position a half body ahead of the other dogs. Once again Kamiak was in the lead.
 
With the return of the heart of the team, the dogs had new courage and it welled up in Eilene too.
 
“Go back to where you came from, or you’ll end up dead just like the others!” Eilene shouted.
 
The dinosaur’s head cocked sideways but it held its ground, replying with a defiant scream that crossed the roar of a lion with the shriek of an eagle. The dogs responded with guttural growls, heads low to the ground. Then the dinosaur lowered its head, eyes locked on Kamiak. With a bark Kamiak charged and with a hunting instinct called from their genetic memories, Roscoe and Tecumsah ran left and right, circling the dinosaur. The dinosaur took a swipe at Kamiak, but the dog’s attack was a feint, the badly wounded dog skidding to a stop, prehistoric claws slicing air. Now Tecumsah darted in from behind; the dinosaur turned to fend off the new attack. As he did, Roscoe attacked. Taking turns, watching for openings, the dogs circled, wolflike, patient. Eilene ran for the rifle.
 
Circling wide, she briefly distracted the dinosaur, letting Kamiak draw first blood, ripping open the calf of the dinosaur and escaping the murderous blow aimed at his head. Tecumsah struck next, then Roscoe, each timing the attack and getting out safely. The wounds were mere nicks but they were accumulating, slowly weakening the beast, slowing its response.
 
Eilene reached the far side of the sled, and dug. Her knife was still in the neck of the dinosaur so she dug with her hands. The melted snow had refrozen, and her nails broke, her fingers dripped blood. Jumping up, she threw herself over the sled, fishing her axe out of the sled bag. Chopping frantically, she broke the ice up, then threw handfuls to the side—there was the butt of the gun. Now she chopped along the length of the rifle. On the other side of the sled the dogs continued to circle, attack, run, feint. Kamiak was the slowest, feigning attacks to protect the other dogs. Tecumsah was reckless, taking the most chances, doing the most damage. Working as a pack, the dogs were holding their own, but the nips and bites were annoying, not debilitating.
 
With a quickness and power the dogs could not match, the dinosaur leaped over the attacking Tecumsah, landing outside the circling dogs. With a sweep of its tail it knocked the legs out from under Tecumsah, who tumbled through a spray of snow. With another leap, the dinosaur attacked Roscoe, claws cutting deep into his side. Roscoe was swept up, the dinosaur clamping down on the dog’s neck. There was a yelp, and the sharp crack of vertebrae breaking. With a shake of its head, Roscoe was thrown into the snow.
 
Eilene chopped the last of the ice from the barrel, took it in both hands, then braced her feet and pulled. The rifle came free, Eilene falling back, gun in her hands. Working the bolt, she loaded a new round, then turned and rested the rifle on the sled. Kamiak and Tecumsah attacked as one now, Kamiak from the front, Tecumsah behind. Aiming high, Eilene fired just as the dinosaur spun, ignoring Kamiak, swiping at Tecumsah. The young male sled dog was struck on the shoulder, thrown across the lake, silently skidding into a drift. Only Kamiak was left now.
 
The bullet found prehistoric flesh, disappearing deep into the green hide. The dinosaur grunted, but did not go down. Turning back, it tried to catch Kamiak inside its reach, but the wily sled dog was already bounding back. Eilene fired again, hitting the dinosaur in the lower left haunch. This time it yelped, spun, and tried to leap at Eilene, but its wounded leg failed and it came down short, head slapping the snow.
 
Eilene loaded another round—only two left. Eyes on Eilene, the dinosaur quickly got to its feet. Eilene fired point-blank into its chest. At the impact the beast rocked but made no sound. Eilene worked her last bullet into the chamber. Gathering itself, the dinosaur flexed its legs, ready to leap again. Eilene held her ground, rifle ready. She had only one round left—where to put it? The head was swaying and too small a target. Then Kamiak attacked, leaping at the dinosaur, coming inside its reach, tearing at the wounded side and then darting out. Coming out of its squat, the beast swiped ineffectually at the dog, then turned toward Eilene who backed up a step, rifle ready. The dinosaur stepped closer, the sled still between it and Eilene. Then it took another step and another, stopping just short of the sled. Blood was streaming from the three bullet wounds and a dozen other nicks and bites. Reaching for the sled, the dinosaur started to push it aside, then wobbled and fell forward, its long neck flopping across the sled, its eyes closed.
 
Eilene held her position, the head barely an arm’s length from her. Kamiak charged in, tearing off a piece of flesh. The beast opened its eyes then, still filled with hate. Suddenly it opened its mouth and screeched that metal-tearing sound that tested Eilene’s nerve. Before it ended its defiant roar, Eilene stepped forward and jammed her rifle in its mouth.
 
“Eat this!” Eilene said and pulled the trigger.
 
The back of the dinosaur’s head blew out, the jaws clamping on the rifle. Eilene tried pulling the gun out but it was held firm in a death grip. She left it. She had no bullets anyway. Kamiak came to stand next to her, both dog and mistress watching the dinosaur for signs of life. When a leg twitched, Kamiak attacked it, shredding the muscle. While Kamiak worked over the carcass, Eilene checked her other dogs. All were dead, two of them in pieces. She checked Tecumsah last. His eyes were open, as lifeless as the glass eyes in a taxidermist’s drawer.
 
Kamiak came back now, slowly, limping, spent. Plopping down by Eilene, he settled into the snow, lying on his good side, his gray fur matted and black with blood. Eilene checked the wounds. He needed stitches.
 
“I won’t lose you too, Kamiak!” Eilene vowed.
 
With one leg against the shoulder of the dinosaur, Eilene freed her sled from under the fallen dinosaur, and then emptied her sled bag. Wrapping Kamiak in bandages, she gently eased him inside the bag, leaving only his head exposed. Next she put on her snowshoes, cut the harness short, and rigged it to loop over her shoulders. Then she pulled her sled toward home.
 
“This wasn’t supposed to happen anymore, Kamiak,” Eilene muttered. “They told us it was safe again. Someone’s got to do something or none of us will ever be safe.”
 
Behind her, zipped snug in the sled bag, Kamiak whimpered agreement.
 
Copyright © 2006 by James F. David