Ah! A glorious morning for the Herd's annual games. And what kind of games? Traditionally, every winter in the southern lands, the Herd gathered for sports testing each other's strength and endurance. There were many events: races, tree climbing, bellowing contests, wrestling matches. The winner of all events would be, by tradition, be the Herd's next leader.
All bets were on Kron, with Bruton and Zuno as close rivals. Seriousness aside, it was all in good fun, and the Herd looked forward to a day of fellowship and entertainment. It was one of the few times they could relax and revel before setting out to Gotoma's Nesting Grounds the following spring.
At the appointed hour, in the open grassy field, safe from the hungry eyes of predators, the contestants emerged to the delighted cheers of the Herd. Odds were that the crowd favorite, Kron, would win easily; thus he received the most cheering and adulation. At Kron's side were, of course, kid sister Neera, and the vagabond female dinosaurs: Among them were the sister hadrosaurs, Merci and Fraci, with Carmen the most prominent. Carmen had never before looked more lovely, more alluring. Of course, in Carmen's mind it was because she finally found a male worthy of her love.
That was what Kron told her, and she believed the bad omen read in the crystals the day before might not come to past. In fact, she had expressed to her friends that she was not afraid of Joey. In her mind Joey's so called "love" was not love at all, just some silly adolescent crush that he surely would soon get over. Besides, word came that Joey left with Mica to be with his dying mother. To be sure, Carmen felt somewhat sorry for Joey in wake of his mother's death, but she felt nothing for him. Perhaps it was all for the best. Perhaps he can make up with Mica, forget his stupid pride, and settle down.
Fraci and Merci, on the other hand, were deeply concerned that Joey, who had been seen in the crowd earlier, would try something desperate. They warned Carmen of just that, but Carmen wasn't worried. She merely shrugged and said, "He wouldn't dare try anything foolish, not in this crowd, in front of witnesses."
So the games went on as planned, with Kron leading his closest rivals Bruton and Zuno by a narrow margin. The latter two gave it their all, but it was clear that Kron outclassed them. In all events, Kron won hands down, but it was during the final wrestling match that Kron faced a worthy opponent in Bruton, since Zuno finally dropped out the games, exhausted and knowing he could never match Kron's strength and stamina. Naturally Kron really liked Bruton for his no-nonsense attitude and deep devotion to duty and honor. It would be a tough match, a hard match, but both iguanodons faced the challenges like champions.
The match began, with Fraci and Merci cheering loudly for Kron. Carmen, herself not an avid fan of brute sport, excused herself from her company, explaining that she had to "get some air."
"Be careful, Carmen," warning Fraci. "You know Joey is in this crowd somewhere. He could corner you, and then what?" "Yes," rejoined Merci. "You should not wander too far. There have been reports of carnotaur sightings in the deep forest. Not that we are in any danger here, but if you wander too far, and with most of the Herd's Guard attending the games, there may not be anyone nearby to protect you in case..."
Carmen, growing impatient and agitated, replied, "Will you two stop worrying about me. I won't go too far, just near the pond, if that's a comfort." She smiled, adding, "I will be fine. If Joey finds me, I'll tell him to buzz off then I'll return."
She excused herself, then quietly made her way towards the forest's edge. She just needed some time to herself. In a way, she wished Joey would follow her, just so she could give him a sound piece of her mind.
At the edge of the forest, Carmen stood far enough away from the crowd so she could still hear the progress of the match. Apparently, from the cheers of the Herd, Kron was winning. She smiled that she found someone so strong, so brave, so unlike that Joey. Soon she would be at Kron's side, sharing in his triumph. What a boon for her if Kron indeed becomes the Herd's leader, then all those animals who looked down on her would have to show some respect. Yes, she thought, being Kron's mate would definitely have its rewards and privileges. She would have first choice in everything: food, water, a nice place to sleep, a prominent spot for her nest, always at the head of Herd during migrations. A charmed life of privilege and power. Carmen literally salivated over her good fortune. Yes, there was an outside chance the crystal was wrong, and she would spend the rest of her days in contentment and comfort.
All those dreams, however, began to shatter the moment a familiar figure approached her: Joey. He appeared not the gallant, fresh-faced corporal, but a bedraggled, disheveled, shell of himself. He was thinner; his eyes, bloodshot and sunken, gleamed with an awful, hateful fire. His mouth was set in a permanent scowl. In the short span of a few days, Joey transformed from the eager, attentive officer into a dinosaur obsessed. Yes, he allowed his "love" for Carmen to eat away at his very being.
Everything he ever wanted and hoped for – His love for Mica, his promise to his mother, his future with the Herd – was gone forever. All he could think about was Carmen. All he ever felt was an obsessive dangerous love for a female who really never said she loved him. Now the turning point: Carmen would have see things his way. Forget the past and start anew. They could run away together, join the vagabonds and spend the rest of their lives on the road, answering to no one. They could be free to do what they pleased. No Herd, no Guard, no Kron.
"That's what I want, Carmen," he said to her. "For you to love me as I love you. Forgive me. Say you love me, and we can build a life for ourselves, just the two of us."
Carmen couldn't believe this! But she remained calm as she told him
a few truths. "Joey, it is over between us. We could never be as you say,
a loving couple. I belong to no one male. I was born free and will die
Joey was incensed. "But you give yourself to Kron! Do you hear the crowd? Kron is winning the games. Tradition says he's to be the new leader. And you! Throwing yourself at him just to have the power and prestige..."
"So what?," Carmen calmly replied as she tried to get away from Joey. She wanted to rejoin her friends but Joey was edging her deeper into the forest. Now she became frightened.
"Joey! We can't go into the forest alone! Don't you know? There may be a carnotaur somewhere in there. It is too dangerous. Now, let me pass."
"No! Not until you say you love me!"
Carmen was thunderstruck. This fool would dare force her deeper into the forest, endanger both their lives, all for his blinding passion. Ooh, Bruton was right! Joey is weak, soft in the head...
Joey espied a magnolia tree with its pretty fragrant white blossoms. He reached up and plucked a single flower with his teeth then laid it before Carmen. With a wild expression in his eyes, he said, "Do you remember the flower you tossed at me those many days ago? Here, I'm returning the favor. May this flower remind you of our love. Now, Carmen, say you love me."
At this point, Carmen finally lost her temper. No way would this idiot force her into an unwanted relationship. It was over, and he would simply have to accept that fact. With her forepaw, Carmen crushed the delicate bloom into the ground, saying angrily, "This is what I think of your so called love! I don't want you, Joey! Now! Let me pass! Let me return to my friends, to Kron!"
Those dark clouds in Joey's mind grew heavier, more threatening. His eyes rained fire and rage as he lunged for Carmen, his sharp thumb spike aimed squarely at the jugular. The spike tore through Carmen's skin, straight to the bone, ripping her aorta. Carmen fell to the ground, weltering and convulsing as the blood gushed from her wound. Surely she is bleeding to death, thought Joey, and the predators, if reports were true, would pick up on the scent for fresh blood. He couldn't believe what he had just done. He killed the love of his life, the one female who drove him to such extremes. Now he had nothing. He lost everything: his mother, Mica, his self-respect, his honor, his future. It was only a matter of time before the Herd discovered what he did. Joey could hear the approaching voices of Merci and Fraci.
"Carmen! Carmen! You missed it! You missed the match! Kron beat Bruton in a close match. It was wonderful. Where are you?"
All Joey could do, his hands dripping with Carmen's blood, was to run deep into the forest. It was out of shame and guilt, but mostly out of grief, for he had killed his love. As he ran, he could hear the screams of the girls as they found Carmen's body. He could hear other voices: Zuno, Moreau, Bruton, and the rest of the Herd.
No, must not face them ever again. I couldn't. It is all over for me. Must run away, far away...
"My Carmen! My love!," he bellowed as he stumbled through the dark, thick forest, not knowing or caring where he was going. Then something made him stop. Perhaps there was a shred of honor left. Maybe if he owned to the crime, Zuno and Moreau would go easy on him. However, it would not be a pleasant fate; Joey would be scorned and shunned the rest of his days.
"Yes, go back, confess to murder. Then take my punishment..."
Joey turned back towards the scene of the crime, not noticing a dark figure lurking amid the tall trees. He didn't pick up on a presence until it was too late. All he remembered was a sharp, excruciating pain to his neck. Teeth – long razor-sharp teeth – tearing into his flesh. Joey felt himself picked up then shaken violently.
Joey, an idealistic iguanodon who allowed obsession and desperation to overtake his life, finally accepted his fate, as did Carmen.
Copyright©2003 by PRP ("Sarama")