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John Lee Schneider


Copyright 2021 by John Lee Schneider

β€œIt was surely well for man that he came late in the order of creation.  There were powers abroad in earlier days which no courage and no mechanism of his could have met.  What could his sling, his throwing-stick, or his arrow avail him against such forces as have been loose tonight?  Even with a modern rifle, it would be all odds on the monster.”

The Lost World

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Chapter 1

Jonah and Naomi had been traveling the mountains for three weeks when they saw the military chopper passing above.

The sudden roar of rotor blades was like the shriek of some giant predatory bird.   Naomi's hand instinctively dropped to the pistol at her hip.

That was the thing about living post-apocalypse – even once-familiar sights became fearful and threatening.

β€œHe's coming in low,” Naomi said.  β€œIt looks like he's landing.”

It was not the first chopper they'd seen.  The two of them had been following the path of military transit, sticking to the highland passes.  These days it was the safest way to travel.

When you lived in Tyrannosaurus territory, you learned to mind your surroundings.

Jonah quite vividly remembered the first time he'd wandered out of the general store to find a T. rex waiting in the parking lot.

He had seen all the old movies – everything from stop-motion animation, to rubber suits and animatronics, to fancy CGI – but instead, he'd discovered tyrannosaurs were really more like giant road-runners – he'd barely out-distanced the thing in his pick-up on a paved mountain road – and both of those were luxuries you couldn't expect anymore.

Not since the end of the world.

In a purely detached way, it was remarkable how quickly the world of humankind had receded.  Although, when you thought about it, ninety-percent of people lived – had lived – in major population centers, which had been the hardest hit.

At first, there had been lingering radio reports of varying credibility, wild speculations involving everything from genetic experiments gone wrong to beasts and dragons from the Pit.

Personally, Jonah doubted he would ever live to know.  He had lived like a hermit before the end of the world – a rustic cabin high in the mountains – and if he hadn't come into town after fishing that day, he might have missed it.

That was one of the more subtle, yet jarring differences, Jonah thought – the end of the flow of information.  There was no news anymore.  The Internet and cellphones had been replaced by CBs and walkie-talkies, and a lot of wide-open space in-between.

All Jonah really knew was that, one day, monsters had just walked out of the woods, right into the cities and towns, as if they'd been out there waiting all along.

On the ground, it didn't matter whether that day had come because of Biblical judgment, or all-too-human bio-genetic-buggery – either one got you there.

And either way, Jonah had found himself running ever since.

Naomi had been running right beside him – neither by choice or plan – only the simple happenstance of walking out into that same general store parking lot, and escaping with him in his truck, just as a prehistoric beast that had no business being there, bore down on them like a train-engine with teeth.

Their old lives had been torn away in an instant as they fled the apocalypse together.

Naomi had been the wife of a fighter pilot – one of those genuine American heroes.

Lieutenant Lucas Walker had died fighting the apocalypse.  In his final breath, he had delivered a nuclear payload that likely preserved what remained of human life in the majority of the western states, releasing his missiles even as the winged beasts in the air, as terrible as T. rex on the ground, finally chased him down.

Naomi had watched his fighter destroyed, exploding in the jaws of a giant flying dragon.

Jonah, ten years divorced from a woman who had traded-up without looking back, could only imagine the grief of losing a genuine soulmate.

He also knew he was a poor substitute – a reclusive, backwater guide pilot, who flew rust-bucket choppers and propeller planes, but preferred traveling by boat.  It was perhaps understandable that Naomi might be a bit indignant at the fates for saddling her in his company.  She had certainly not been shy about saying so.

Still, the end of the world was a bonding experience, especially after an ill-fated jaunt in Jonah's rusty, tin-bucket chopper.  Hoping to find their way to Naomi's husband's Navy base, they had instead discovered pterosaurs would go right after a chopper.

They'd crashed in the mountains along the Oregon/California border, and were forced to travel cross-land, walking through the Apocalypse on foot.

But in the end, they'd made it back to Jonah's cabin, which remained miraculously untouched, and really not looking much different than before the world ended.

Naomi, of course, had set about putting a change to that.  As was her way, she settled in, and in short order, began making the place her own.

A woman's touch on the rustic cabin was undeniable.  Jonah was reminded of college – the sorority palaces and the fraternity dives, often sharing a fence, right next door to each other.

The cabin was also high in the mountains, which made it relatively safe.

Funny thing about the Mesozoic-era – it was an oxygen-rich, fertile-world, quite unlike the arid climate of modern Earth.  A Cretaceous creature like T. rex didn't like the thin air in the mountains.

So the beasts didn't bother them, and they settled into a routine – hunting, fishing – Naomi started up a garden.

It had seemed a strange interlude, perhaps even a reward.

Jonah had thought so, right up until their one night together.

To speak the truth and shame the Devil, Jonah had been in love with her almost from the moment they'd met.  Naomi, naturally, was perfectly aware, and fine with it, as long as he clearly understood that, even as the last man on Earth, she was still out of his league.

Jonah, for

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