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“Welcome to prehistoric tours, Mr. Taylor. I’m Allan Quaterson—your time travel agent.” Quaterson gave the new client a hearty handshake and a plastic smile.
“Call me Buzz. I’d like to try the full day in the Cretaceous period,” said Buzz. His eyes were not on the travel agent. His attention was fixated on the colorful series of blown up photographs on the walls of the small room. Surrounding him on all sides were images of beautiful prehistoric landscapes and close up shots of noble-looking dinosaurs. The knowledge that the photos were authentic excited him. This was going to be worth it. He was glad he flew across the country to the Nevada office.
“Would you like to see the presentation of that period?”
“No need. I’ve read you brochure and I’m ready to go for a full day.” He was not in the mood to hear the cheap sales pitch. Buzz could tell the safari hat the travel agent was wearing was a cheap fake. He wondered if Quaterson’s British accent was faked as part of the travel company’s sales presentation. It didn’t matter. The photos were real.
“I’ve seen your application and I’m impressed.”
“Ten years ago, I summated Mt Everest,” said Buzz. “Since then I’ve skydived from earth orbit, deep sea dived the Andrea Doria wreck, and went sight seeing on Saturn’s moons. Basically I’m a thrill seeker and I’ve done everything. Now I’m looking for the ultimate vacation. ”
“You’ll love prehistoric time travel. Going that far back is like visiting another world. However are you sure you want to stay for a full day? Most people go back for only an hour—two hours max.” A strange look of concern came over the salesman’s face.
“No. I can handle myself in a full 9 to 6 day. I’m a middle aged guy, but I’m in a lot better shape than Fred Flintstone.”
“Very well. Will that be check or charge?”
Buzz calmly handed the salesman a check for $50,000.
“We have you scheduled for a time skip at 9:00 AM tomorrow. The setting is 65,000,000 BC. That is the late Cretaceous period.”
“See you tomorrow.”
At 8:58 AM, Buzz stepped on the time pad. He slung his small pack over his back.
“You’re missing a rifle,” said Quaterson.
“It’s OK. I have a .45 in my pack.
“Listen mate—the time skip is almost here and I’m not sure you realize what you’re getting into.” The travel agent had a warped look on his face like he knew a secret. Earlier when Quaterson was checking the time machine’s settings, Buzz thought he heard the travel agent give a little mad scientist-like laugh. It seemed odd.
The white coated technician standing next to Quaterson had a worried look on her face. The pretty woman ran over to a storage rack and returned with a large Antiproton Beam rifle. She handed it to Buzz.
“I guess it couldn’t hurt to take this,” said Buzz.
“We’ll just add it to your bill,” said Quaterson. “The animal rights activists are trying to get us to stop using Antiproton rifles. But it’s still legal and we have to do something to ensure our clients don’t get eaten.”
“This is going to be fun,” said Buzz. “I’m looking forward to…”
The flash of light momentarily blinded and startled Buzz. He looked around in wonderment at the barren, exotic landscape that was before him. He was standing on a plain several meters from a dense forest. He looked down at the ground and was surprised to see he was standing on several layers of volcanic ash. In the distance were several volcanic mountains that appeared dormant. It was an unusually hot day. The air smelled acidic and unnatural. He speculated that the volcanic activity of the period had affected the atmosphere.
He shook his head in amazement at the change in scenery. Even though he knew that time travel did not change geographic location, his mind found it hard to accept the reality that he was still standing in Nevada—close to Reno.
He turned around and saw a rocky ocean shore in the distance. He had done research on the Cretaceous period to prepare for this adventure. He realized that he was looking at the Western Interior Seaway. In this time period, the North American west from Nevada to Kansas was a salt water sea. Far in the distance, a flying reptile was patrolling the coastal skies. Seeing his first live dinosaur excited him.
He traveled to this era for the thrill of seeing live dinosaurs. While wondering whether he should hike along the shore, he spotted a herd of dinosaurs on the plain. He decided to head in the direction of the dinosaur herd. After walking for five minutes, the day’s heat started to make him feel unusually lethargic. He looked at his watch. It was only 9:30, but he was already feeling the day’s heat of the period’s warmer climate.
As he approached the large herd, Buzz recognized the species as Torasaurs. This was what he came for! Torasuars, which is a species very similar to Triceratops, are noble-looking four legged herbivores. The dinosaurs looked just like their fossilized museum skeletons. The dinosaurs had giant heads with two large horns and a raised boney protective hood. Looking like a formation of lumbering tanks, the armored, bulky beasts were grazing on the grassy vegetation near the forest.
“I’ve got to get a picture of this!” he said to himself. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out an expensive, professional level camera. He jogged closer to the head to get a better shot. Buzz was able to snap off four excellent pictures before one of the dinosaurs turned and noticed him. The horned dinosaur snorted angrily. The agitated dinosaur pawed the ground like a Rhino, and charged in Buzz’s direction. A second Torasaur turned and charged also.
Facing death charging at him, Buzz dropped the camera and raised the Antiproton rifle. With expert marksmanship, he squeezed of an antiproton blast at the lead animal. It was a perfect shot. The powerful blast ripped a huge hole in the armored head. The dead beast fell to the ground in a cloud of dust. The second beast now confused--slowed its charge. Buzz fired two more shots into the ground between him and the second Torasaur. Spooked and confused, the dinosaur turned and ran back to the protection of the heard. Buzz realized why animal rights people were against the rifle on time trips. He had just arrived in this era and it disgusted him that he was already forced to kill a huge dinosaur. He wasn’t used to killing an animal for reasons other than food
Buzz moved back from the herd in slow deliberate steps. He didn’t want to frighten the herd again. He nervously checked the Plasma rifle. The rifle held 10 charges. He had only seven shots left. It was only 9:45 AM. The 6 shots and the .45 handgun in his pack would have to be enough to protect him until the time skip back at 6:00 PM.
When he appeared to be at a safe distance, a second thought came to him. A herd this size would attract predators. Looking beyond the Torasaur herd, he saw movement of what might be a Tyrannosaurs Rex. Encountering a hungry two legged carnivore like a Tyrannosaurs Rex would be the worst case scenario of this time travel trip. He decided play it safe and move on before he was spotted. It would be less dangerous if he wasn’t out in the open. As large predatory animals have a hard time moving around in the thick forest, he broke into a light jog and headed for the forest.
The jogging added to the day’s heat. As Buzz took off his shirt, several insects started to buzz around and menace him. He became concerned as he did not recognize this type of insect. He had limited his studies to reptiles, birds and mammals of the era. Still he came prepared and when he sprayed himself with strong repellant, the exotic prehistoric insects retreated.
At the forest edge, a group of huge dinosaurs with unusual duck-like mouths were munching on the tops of trees. He recognized the species as Anatatitan-a large herbivore. One of the giants glanced at Buzz and then resumed destroying the tops of trees in giant sized bites. The other giants ignored Buzz. To the massive plant eaters, something as small as a human was insignificant and not a threat.
Buzz reached in his backpack for his camera and realized he neglected to pick it up after the dinosaur attack. He cursed his clumsiness and his nervousness. He looked back at the plain and momentarily considered the risks of going back to an area proven to be dangerous. It was an expensive camera and he wanted to take pictures of this adventure, but it would require 15 minutes to jog back and pick it up. Somewhere from the dark primal section of his mind, the basic emotions of survival and raw fear told him not to go back, but to keep moving ahead.
Buzz turned and boldly plunged into the forest. He quickly found it was more of a jungle than a forest. Because of the dense plant life, it was hard to move quickly or see where you were going. Some of the broadleaf trees or ground plants looked somewhat familiar to him. But, even with his expertise on North American foliage, he could not identify any of the plant species. All the plants appeared to be ancestors of the species he knew. He realized that the crazy time travel agent was right. This was like visiting another world. Even though he knew that he was where Nevada will be 65 million years from now, the strange alien plants and the giant reptiles were not from the planet earth that he knew.
He came to a large tree and sat down with his back to the tree trunk. He hoped that being deep in the forest, he would be safe. To keep his energy level up he decided to eat several power bars and drank a small amount of his water from his canteen.
After 45 minutes of resting, Buzz heard a rustling in the brush to his right. Without getting up, he raised the rifle. A small predator poked its head out of the bushes. The predatory dinosaur opened its mouth in what looked like a smile in time to take the full blast of the antiproton rifle. The blast tore the head off the little dinosaur. Buzz got up and walked over to the lifeless body. In the bushes was the body of a two-legged dinosaur that was about half as tall as a man. It was a Dromiosuar—a two legged Raptor-like scavenger/hunter.
Buzz turned away in disgust walked back to the tree. As soon as he sat down, he heard rustling in the brush to his right again. He suspected more trouble and picked up his rifle and pack. He decided to keep moving and try to lose the hunters. Soon he heard rustling sounds like animals running on both the left and right sides.
“They must hunt in packs and they have my scent,” he said aloud. The sounds of the dinosaurs in the brush were getting too close to him. He reasoned it was dangerous not to see where a predator was coming from and decided to get out of the thick forest. He turned around and headed back in the direction of the clearing. As he moved quickly through the exotic plant life, he came to the disturbing realization that he had more or less been on the run ever since he arrived in the Cretaceous period. In this strange hostile world of large voracious retiles, human beings were not the king of beasts or anywhere near the top of the food chain. In this prehistoric era, slow-moving, non-armored man was merely regarded as a fast food lunch.
Buzz stepped out of the thick forest and into a small clearing. He turned and waited to see if any of the stalking dromisaur pack would show themselves. There were brief rustling sounds from his unseen foes. Then the forest became strangely silent.
The sudden silence confused Buzz until he heard a sharp stomping sound directly behind him. He was horrified to see a full grown Tyrannosaurs Rex running directly at him. A jolt of adrenalin pumped into Buzz’s veins, as he faced the biggest nightmare of the late Cretaceous period. The monster reached down and lunged at Buzz with open tooth filled grinning jaws.
On reflex and in one motion, he whirled around and raised the rifle. Squeezing off one long panicked shot, the blast hit the charging predator a glancing blow. The powerful blast killed the beast, but the momentum of the dinosaur kept coming and fell on top of him. Buzz immediately felt a sharp pain in his leg. He cried out in pain as his knee was twisted at an unnatural angle.
Wincing from the pain in his knee, he managed to pull his leg from under the dead dinosaur. The monster made a few sickening, twitching movements before becoming motionless. He gingerly double-checked to see if it was dead. Even while dead, the thing was intimidating and frightening to stand next to. The teeth in its jaws were as bigger than his hand. He speculated that the hungry two legged carnivore had been hunting on the plain. The prehistoric, killing machine had looked upon him--a small, slow moving human being as easy prey and an easy meal. He limped a few yards away and noticed his arm was bleeding badly. A falling claw or tooth had scraped him and ripped his arm open. He tested his arm. There were no broken bones. With a shaking hand, Buzz tied his shirt around his arm to stop the bleeding.
“I can’t lose too much blood. I need all my strength,” he thought. He took stock of his grim situation. His arm was OK, but his knee was badly sprained. He could walk on it, but he could no longer run at a fast pace or for a long period of time. He checked the Plasma rife and was disgusted to find it empty. The Tyrannosaur had snuck up on him and caught him by surprise, and in his panic, he had discharged the remaining charges into one long shot.
Buzz dropped the useless weapon and pulled his .45 caliber handgun from his backpack. He glanced at his watch. It was 3 o’clock. He realized he had been overconfident and under-estimated the dangers of time travel to this era. His adventure vacation had turned into a fight for survival and he regretted ever walking into Prehistoric Tours travel office. He knew he had to change his strategy if wanted to be alive at the 6 o’clock time skip pick up time.
“I’m only a small, weak human,” he said to himself. “The only advantage I have over the dinosaurs is brain size. I better start using my head.” He thought of his daughter. She was almost a teenager now. He vowed to return to the present and see her again.
With his gun in hand, he started to limp away from the dead monster. Tyrannosaurs Rex’s were territorial. At some point another one would move into this territory, but the danger now was the scavengers that would be arriving soon. He knew he should leave the area. He reasoned that being out in the open was even more dangerous than the forest. If he could lose his scent, the forest would be safer than out in the open.
He turned north and headed for something he thought he noticed earlier. After twenty minutes of walking at a steady pace he came to his destination--an estuary or stream that emptied into the sea. He looked carefully in both directions. He had read about Cretaceous period crocodiles that grew as large a one ton and he had no desire for another close encounter with a hungry mouth full of teeth. He gingerly waded into the brackish stream. The stream had slippery rocks, but the cool water felt refreshing. As he climbed up the rocky shore on the opposite side, he glanced back to see if he was followed. Having crossed water, any predator would have lost his scent.
He wandered through the thick forest for 10 minutes before he found a tree that looked suitable. It was easy climbing. He could reach a safe height and it was close to the water. Putting his weight on his good leg and moving slowly, he reached an overhanging branch where he wedged himself in and was somewhat comfortable.
By 5:00, much of the strength had returned to his knee and the pain in his arm had faded to a dull ache. No predators had wandered by. He could easily stay in the tree until the time skip pulled him back to the present. Buzz felt safe. He spent the next hour making mental notes of the exotic prehistoric vegetation and half humming, half singing the song—“Yankee doodle dandy.” It was a silly enough song to cheer him up.
He noted the sun was lower on the horizon and causally glanced at his watch. It was 6:10.
The time skip pick up time was 6:00! Was something wrong with the time machine? A growing wave of anxiety rose from within. Was that idiot Quaterson purposely stranding him here in this primitive, prehistoric era?
“Easy…easy,” Buzz said. In order to calm himself, he summoned up the logical part of his mind. He had once been lost in the Amazon jungle. Only by not panicking and exercising good judgment, he survived and eventually found his back to civilization. He still had his ample survival skills. He reasoned that the agency’s time machine was probably just temporally down. Maybe the computer crashed. He speculated that he only had to survive a few hours. Still, he decided to be conservative and plan to survive several days back here. If he used his head and jungle cunning, he could stay out of dinosaur mouths until Prehistoric Tours got the time machine up and running again.
He eased himself down to the ground. The ground was not safe, but he estimated he had about an hour to 2 hours until a predator came along. He quickly selected several large branches. Taking a rope from his pack, he hoisted them up to his tree perch.
While on the ground, he set a deadfall trap—a large rock was held up and balanced by a stick. The trap was baited with several pieces of a power bar. If a small animal took the trap bait, the rock would fall on the prey.
Moving to a section of the forest that appeared to be a small trail, he selected a young tree and bent it to the ground. Using a length of rope, he constructed a spring pole snare. Any small animal that wandered along the trail would walk into the snare, be flipped into the air and held above the ground. Then he retreated to his tree hideout. Using expert knots, he soon constructed a small, crude platform in the tree.
“Home Sweet Home,” he said to himself. He knew the platform was very weak, but it would have to serve for tonight. He could reinforce and expand the platform tomorrow. The goal for tonight was to not fall out of the tree during the night.
He leaned back against the tree truck and spent the rest of the daylight hours by carving several wooden tool-items and leisurely watching the brilliant sunset. It was the most intense sunset he had ever seen. He knew the intense vivid colors were caused by excess volcanic gases in the atmosphere, but the rare beauty of this savage, primitive world revived his spirits. Sundown took the edge of the intense heat of the day and Buzz could relax in the safety of his tree. For the first time since he arrived in this crazy pre-stone age world, he felt comfortable and safe. Soon a full moon rose in the darkening sky. The moon appeared the same as it did in modern times. Like a rock in the flowing stream of time, the moon was unchanged. Buzz smiled. He had an instinctual feeling that he was going to do well in this time period.
“Is he still back there? I was worried and wanted to check before I head home,” the technician asked.
“Oh yeah,” said Quaterson. It was late all the lights were out except the glow of the monitors.
“Is he alive?” she said hopefully.
“Oh yeah—this guy is unbelievable.”
In the morning, Buzz awoke well rested. He had cat-napped throughout the night. Several times during the night, he had heard nocturnal creatures scampering around beneath his tree. He speculated that they were mammals. In this prehistoric era ruled by giant reptiles, the smaller mammals could only survive by living under the shroud of night.
"It's time to get up and start the age of the mammals," he thought.
With renewed strength in attitude and in his injured knee, he climbed down from the safety of his tree. He always felt strangely confident in a primitive, survival situation. When human comfort and trivial things are removed from the life equation, the necessities of water, food, and survival become the only things that matter and living and dying are reduced to simple logical decisions. Buzz always felt at home trusting his judgment on the logical, basic survival decisions.
His first task was to start a fire without matches. Yesterday he could only stay on the ground for short periods. He reasoned that a fire might frighten away any predatory dinosaurs and allow him more time on the ground. Picking up his newly made bow drill, he dropped to one knee. He then placed the wooden drill into a socket in a second piece of dry wood. He then vigorously moved the bow back and forth while pressing the drill into the socket on the wood piece.
Soon the friction from the wooden drill in the socket generated heat. Then there was black dust... then smoke...then a spark. He quickly added dry tinder and began to blow on the spark. His efforts were rewarded as the small pile began to glow and slowly grow into a campfire. It was the first artificially made fire the prehistoric forest had ever seen.
Even though he had water left in his canteen and he might be able to obtain fresh water from the stream, he made the decision to conserve his water supply. He decided to use an old survival trick for getting water. By mopping the morning dew off the plants with his shirt and wringing it out in a small plastic bag, he was able to gather enough water for the morning.
While gathering water, he noticed a lot of a familiar looking plant species. This ground plant looked like Glacier Lily—an edible species. Assuming that the plant was an ancient ancestor of the Violet species, he dug out several bulbs. The roots tasted good, but Buzz risked eating only one mouthful. He wanted to experiment with this snack. If the root-bulbs did not make him sick today, in the days ahead he would make many meals of this plant root.
His next task was to check his traps. His deadfall trap had been sprung. However the animal that sprung the trap was not under the rock. Whatever sprung the trap was too big to be caught by a small rock.
Buzz walked a few yards away to his Spring Pole trap and found an angry, snared Dromisaur. Hanging 6 feet off the ground, the helpless creature twisted and snapped its jaws at the air.
"You wanted me for dinner yesterday. I'll invite you to breakfast this morning!” said Buzz. The angry dinosaur answered with a viscous, hissing sound.
Buzz pulled out his gun and then stopped. He decided to conserve bullets and dispatch the dinosaur with the wooden spear he had made the night before.
“You just hang around until I get back,” said Buzz. Leaving the helpless dinosaur hanging and twisting from the tree snare, Buzz headed back to camp to retrieve his spear. He wondered how one cooks a dinosaur. In Africa when there was nothing else, he had eaten snakes. He was very hungry now and decided that he would find a way to cook and eat a reptile again.
When he returned to camp, he found his fire was smoldering. As he stoked the fire back into a blaze and picked up his spear, a sound to his left interrupted his morning culinary thoughts. A juvenile Tyrannosaurs Rex was 50 yards away staring at Buzz. As the dinosaur was not yet fully grown, it was able to move through the forest. Like a watched child wanting to get at the cookie jar, the beast eyed Buzz with hungry eyes. But it was dared not get any closer to the fire. The fire had become the much needed equalizer for Buzz.
"Hey Pal--afraid of a little fire?" taunted Buzz. "There's a new sheriff in town! I'm the new king of...
"Welcome back Mr. Taylor," said travel agent Quaterson. His hand was on the main engage lever.
Buzz was startled at the quick change to the present and looked around. He was back in the present and standing on the time platform. His safe tree, his fire, his wooden tools, his dinosaur adversaries had been dust for millions of years. The only thing that still remained from the unreal prehistoric experience was his vivid memories and his charged emotions.
"You were doing so well I decided to give you some extra time--free of charge. We usually have to pull people back after a few hours or else they would be eaten.”
"You idiot! I could have been killed!" Buzz had to fight off the intense impulse to immediately start strangling Quaterson.
"You were safe. I was watching you on the monitor the whole time. The machine is so sensitive we could pull you back the instant before you were about to be killed. You were quite entertaining."
“I was worried I was stranded back in time!" Buzz had been unaware that his time skip had been monitored. He realized the entire terrifying experience was some kind of warped game for the travel agent creep.
"But you have the record!" Quaterson protested. "You did the best of anyone so far! You lasted a full 24 hours."
Buzz held back mountains of colorful words and descriptive phrases as a new devious course of action suddenly dawned on him. Oh yes. This would be just right. It took a superhuman effort to hold back the telltale smirk on his face.
"I keep hearing a knocking sound on this side of the time platform. I don't know if that's important," Buzz said quietly.
"That could be serious. Let me look at that." Quaterson stepped onto platform to investigate.
With athletic coordination, Buzz leapt off of the time pad and lunged for the engage lever. There was a blinding flash of light. When Buzz's vision returned a half second later, time travel agent Allan Quaterson was gone.
The white coated technician stepped into the room. "The main computer shows a time skip. Is everything OK?"
"Yeah- Quaterson wanted to experience the thrill of living close up with dinosaurs."
"Hmmm--Quaterson stranded me in the Jurassic period and then mocked me because I only lasted two hours.” The edges of the technician’s mouth curled into knowing smile. As she moved over to main controls, she quickly turned on the monitor.
“He’s never been back there. It’s probably best not to bring him back immediately,” she added.
“No. It’s probably best not to bring him back too soon,” said Buzz dryly. “I really want to see the look on his face when he sees a hungry T Rex mouth close up."
The two calmly pulled up chairs and sat down in front of the time monitor. The monitor screen showed Quaterson standing on a barren, exotic plain 65 million years ago. The time travel agent looked confused. As he was wildly looking around for predatory dinosaurs and at the same time trying to decide if he could make a run for the forest, he inadvertently stepped in a small pile of dinosaur manure.
Buzz calmly adjusted the focus on the time monitor and leaned back in his chair.
"I wish we had popcorn," he said.
Great story! Look forward to reading more from this author!
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|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson