So there I stood, out in the middle of an open glade, daring a ravenous, annoyed dinosaur to step into the ring and have a go at me.
Birds sang around the water, dipping down and grabbing insects, but quite a few still came at me. I slapped them away and snarled, waiting for the next step in this crazy journey. How had I gotten into this mess? Oh, I knew the basics. But still. . . .
This was insane. I was so ready to be done with this entire Alice down the Rabbit Hole stuff.
There was that moment when I thought about how I'd gotten here -- from killing Tommy Creston (who had, literally, become a monster) to running for the border to Elsewhere where I met up with Maggie, a cousin who had crossed the border long before me. Of course, at least now I knew my father was a High Elf and not Japanese, like my mother had always said. Now I was a sanctioned protector, too -- and that did mean something to me. I even had a little magic, which hadn't helped much yet, ut I had hope for it in the future.
Providing I survived.
Maggie had told me to come to Elsewhere. Maybe I should have blamed her for all this insanity. After all, she's the one who introduced me to Edmond, a small black talking cat.
Yeah. Edmond the talking cat was the reason I was standing here looking at the creature that prowled around the far edge of the opening. He wasn't as big as Job, the friendly dino. The herbivore dino. But you know, size is relative, though. He might not have been as large as a house, like Job. Garage sized, maybe.
I saw his yellow eyes staring out of the darker shadows. The dino moved, shifting left and right. His head was on a longish neck, though not some long as Job's neck. I saw the flash of teeth and I could tell they were sharp, even though he hadn't come out into the open.
Canny. Wise enough to study the situation rather than race in for me. That was unfortunate, but not unexpected. It's just that sometimes you'd like something to go the easy way.
"So, do you talk, too?"
"Not with dinner."
That told me two things I really didn't want to hear. First, of course, was that he had every intention of having me for a nice light meal. The second, the one that bothered me more at the moment, was that he was a thinking animal. Job hadn't been certain. It's harder to trick a thinking creature than it is to lead something driven by instincts.
The ground shifted slightly beneath me. I looked to the right and saw another huge snake moving along with a soft undulating whip of his body. Another one followed and then one to the left of me as well. Did the snakes talk, too? I didn't stop to try and have a conversation with them.
This was Edmond's plan, me standing out here all alone. No, I'm not certain why I agreed to it. Maybe it even made some sense when he told it to me, but actually standing here --
The Garage Dino stepped out into the light. Yeah, he was far larger than I could fight. I brought up my hands, though, and even managed to call some fitful magic to my fingers. It wasn't easy. Magic and I were only newly acquainted.
"You think you can take me down with that?" he said with a contemptuous toss of his head.
Great. Dinosaur with attitude. Probably should have featured him in Jerk Ass Park.
"I know that's a swamp," he said. He stood on four legs and his tail twitched. Why did I think I had met the ancestor of all cats? But they had to be mammals, right? Well, maybe they borrowed the attitude. "I'm not going to step out there and dragged down to my doom. So I guess I just walk around until I find the spot you used to get out to the stone.
I watched him for a moment. He moved carefully along the edges. He'd find the solid part without much trouble. I wanted out of here as quickly as possible, so I took a step that way. Garage Dino bounded that way with a sneer -- dinos can sneer really well, it turns out -- and took two leaps along the solid path.
On the third leap he sunk hip deep into the muck. The snakes were already turning his way.
"What --" He looked at me with absolute shock.
"Move slowly backwards and you should get free. I don't think the snakes will be much of a match for you."
"How --" He flailed for a bit, looking panicked. "You can't have --"
"Calm down and move slowly," he said again. "And I didn't walk across. Job?"
The other dinosaur ambled over from the other side of this patch of swamp. Edmond sat on his head -- yeah, highest spot -- and they both grinned. Job leaned down like a giant, living crane. I climbed up on his neck. He stepped back.
Garage Dino stared in shock, but at least he'd stopped flailing.
"You know, I've met smarter dogs, " Edmond said as he looked back.
"You shouldn't insult an enemy when they're defeated, Edmond," I said.
"What? Am I supposed to insult them before they're defeated? What kind of idiocy is that? It's a wonder humans ever survived."
I started to say something, but you know -- he kind of had a point.
"Move slowly. You'll get free. Don't try to come after us again."
So we walked away.
To Be Continued. . . .