A Cretaceous Carol

Part Four 
"The Last Spirit" 

Eban, the old pachyrhinosaur who had yet to learn the true value of life itself, stood before the mysterious entity. This creature, shrouded in what looked like a heavy gray cloud, said not one word. Instead it stood motionless as Eban addressed it.
"So," said Eban as he surveyed this creature, "you must the Ghost of Nesting Grounds Future." The creature only nodded, saying nothing. Eban, in his characteristic impatient tone, disdainfully snorted, "You are to show me the shadows of things yet to come. Well, let's be done with it!" 

The Spirit, still silent, pointed what looked like a hand in the direction of the old lakebed. Eban said, "Humph! So we're heading back to the Nesting Grounds via the old lake? Whatever, pray tell, shall I see there?" 


At the lakebed....
It was the same old lakebed, the same situated on the other side of the desert. The same lake which, in the year of the Fireball, simply dried up. Eban remembered that, and that was when Kron led the Herd to the Nesting Grounds for the last time.

And then he showed up and changed everything!

Now, months later, the lake had been replenished with water. Not a lot of water, though, but there was enough to slake the thirst of a few animals. And there were a few animals doing just that: quenching their thirst after a long trek north. Two of these creatures, a gallimimus and a triceratops, chatted about the previous day's events. One event in particular dominated the conversation; yet, oddly enough, the tone of the confab was rather bland, even humorous in spots.

 "Say," began the triceratops, "that was quite an awful way to go..." 
"Yes, yes," rejoined the gallimimus. "But that is expected when one does not stay with the Herd. Yes, that was a horrific fate, but..." 

The triceratops grinned as the gallimimus quipped, "I doubt he'll receive a proper sendoff...If anything, we should have a party to celebrate!" And with that, the two old dinosaurs shared a hearty belly laugh. Soon they were joined by others who equally ribbed a recently departed Herd member. 

Eban and the Spirit stood not far from this scene, and old Eban couldn't believe his ears. He turned to the mysterious Spirit and commented, "So, they speak ill of the dead, do they? I wonder what happened to the poor soul?" 
The Spirit said nothing as it led Eban to another scene. This time the old ceratopsian found himself back in familiar territory – And what a sight greeted him upon arrival. 


The Nesting Grounds...
It was unusually quiet this afternoon as the Nesting Grounds leading citizens gathered around the lake. There was the usual circle of dinosaur and lemur. The grande dames, Eema and Baylene; Aladar and Neera; Url. The lemur clan, usually the liveliest of the group, seemed somewhat subdued. It was Baylene who broke the silence. 

"Oh dear, my eyes don't focus as they should." Was that a tear in her eye? Was there a slight crack in the elderly brachiosaur's voice? To this Yar asked, "Are you feeling all right, Baylene? You don't seem yourself today." 
She replied, "Oh, it's nothing. Just that I'm so apt to brood these days. It's Aladar we should worry about." "Yes," said Suri, the little lemur sprite. "I see Aladar walk by that place everyday, but now he walks slower than usual." 
She broke into smiles and giggles as she recollected how, "Aladar would have Timor on his back..." 
"And," rejoined Tim's sister Harmonie, "Tim would play 'Catch me if you can'. Of course, we'd always catch him, what with him having that limp. But it was so much fun, and Tim never complained." 

Neera listened to this reminisce then shifted her attention to Aladar's commanding figure. Yes, he still carried himself with the usual quiet dignity mixed with youthful mischief, but these days Aladar's gait slowed. His eyes no longer had the same sparkle, his entire demeanor subdued. The spunk and bounce were still there to be sure, but it wasn't the same...

 "Aladar, so...," began Neera as her eyes retraced her mate's footprints. After a brief pause, she finally said, "You went there again." 
The iguanodon glanced back, nodded, and said in a barely audible voice, "Yes, Neera...I wanted to see them, the flowers that is. You know, they sprang up quite mysteriously so soon after..." 
His voice cracked; he was so overcome with grief. "Oh my little Timor! My little son...How much everyone loved him..." 

Neera comforted Aladar as Eema and Plio sized up the situation. "You know, Eema," said Plio, "Aladar is right, for those flowers did seem to spring up overnight..." 
Eema nodded as she sadly said, "Yes, honey. And they are so beautiful..." 
"As if," rejoined an equally heartbroken Baylene, "Timor left a part of himself behind." 

By now they all gathered around the place that once served as little Tim's favorite sleeping spot. That was where he died; and, in that same place, a clump of brightly hued flowers grew. They were tall and stately, with deep red and purple blossoms and lush foliage. In a way, they reminded everyone of Timor, that is if he had regained his health and strength. 

"This is what might have been," said Yar solemnly. "Life will go on, although Tim will be sadly missed." 
He turned to Aladar, saying, "Son, I know it hurts but in time, the pain will soften. Tim is part of everyone here, and he touched so many lives. Don't forget his little siblings -- your children. They are grieving as well and will need their mama and papa to help them get through this time of loss..." 


Eban, standing with the Phantom Spirit, witnessed this sad spectacle, and said, "Spirit, tell me this didn't happen! Oh, the painful anguish of the parents. If only I hadn't..." 

Eban stopped himself, only to regain his composure, then, "Well, it had to happen sooner or later. What if the boy survived to adulthood, then he'd be fodder for the meat-eaters. I say, it's a good thing for him to die so young. At least with him out of the way, the Herd has lost one debilitating weight..." 

The Phantom seemed to loom larger as Eban finished his biting commentary. Within seconds, Eban found himself back in familiar surroundings. But what he saw...


It was the canyon the Herd travels through every year. Just a few miles ahead lies the great desert, then the lake, then, after a few days march, the Nesting Grounds. But Eban couldn't fathom why the Spirit would bring him here. Then again, thought the old ceratopsian, this whole evening has been nothing more than nonsensical dreams brought on by fitful sleep and an upset digestive system. Yet, this time, something made Eban rethink this entire adventure. He was about to learn a few more things, and the shadows he saw finally shook him to reality. 


In the shadows of the canyon, six velociraptors gathered around a shallow watering hole. What would've been an unsuccessful stalking of the migrating Herd turned out to be a boon for the raptors. How about that? One of their own, falling behind the others, finally collapsed from exhaustion. When this unfortunate animal met it's doom... 

"And we just walked up and ripped into him...He put up no fight, I'll tell you!," said the first raptor still smacking his mouth. Their laughter and humor was coarse, vulgar and unflattering, even for raptors. Eban watched and listened in horrors as these vicious carnivores ribbed each other about their latest victim. 

"Here, I saved a nice fat hind leg for you," said the second to the fourth. He rolled a chubby, freshly severed hindquarter to his friend. "I know it's kind of tough, but it's the best we could do..." 
"And what, pray tell," asked the sixth raptor, "is the story on this one?" 

The first raptor rejoined, "Well, I hear tell he was none too popular with his kind. I bet the Herd is having a rip-roaring party just celebrating his untimely demise." 

With that, they whooped and howled and told more ribald stories about the 'poor victim'. A few stories were decidedly unrepeatable. Eban turned from this scene, imploring the Phantom Spirit to, "Show me the poor beleaguered creature of whom these foul wretches make such light. What happened to the poor soul? And why would so many make such crude commentary?" 

In the darkness, the Spirit guided Eban down the canyon trail, the same trail taken by the Herd. The Spirit stopped just short of the rise overlooking the vastness of the canyon itself. 
"Why are we stopping?," Eban asked. The cloud-clad Spirit, still saying not a word, pointed to a figure shrouded by a rock's dark shadow. Eban didn't want to see, but the Spirit was insistent. It actually commanded Eban to go to that spot. 
"All right," snorted Eban, "I'll see what is so important, but I don't understand what this has to do with me." 

As he neared the rock, Eban turned to the Spirit and asked, "Is this a shadow of my future? Is this something that can be altered?"  Eban's voice soon became edged with his usual sarcasm and impatience. "Or is this something to frighten me, to annoy me?" 
As he approached the object in the rock's shadow, a sudden coldness overtook Eban's very being. Oh, how dreadfully frightened he became as he neared the forbidding object. He once again turned to the cloud-clad entity standing behind him. Eban said in a timid voice, "Spirit, if this is indeed something that may directly affect me, tell me that these shadows to come can be altered..." 

The Spirit, still silent, pointed commandingly at the object in the shadows. Eban could do nothing but obey the mysterious Phantom. Now, drawing closer to this object, Eban felt his heart pounding so hard that he'd thought it would burst through his chest. His breathing became rather ragged and eyes began to glaze over. No, thought the old pachyrhinosaur, my mind must be as sharp as a tack, for surely this holds dire consequences for me. He drew closer; his eyes dropped to the spot. By some divine intervention, the sun illuminated that spot. What Eban saw chilled him to the bones. 

It was the mangled body of a dinosaur -- a pachyrhinosaur to be exact. Eban recognized this carcass right away--AS HIMSELF! 
There is was: the scarred left horn, the result of a childhood injury. Eban shook in his tracks. How can this be? Is this the fate that awaited him in the future? Is there a chance that this will not happen? Finally Eban realized that he had to change his ways -- Now! 

He fell at the Phantom Spirit's feet and implored, "Spirit! I am a changed dinosaur! No longer do I feel the same. I will honor the sick and weak; I will champion those less able than I. No more will I cast aside the lame and poor-in-spirit. I will live in the past, present, and future! O Spirit! Tell me that I may reverse this poor creature's fate!" 

Like clockwork, the sky suddenly darkened. The bright sunshine was replaced by fire and molten rock shooting in all directions. The cloud surrounding the Spirit dissolved, revealing a very enormous, very hungry, carnotaur. For the first time it spoke in a snarling, sinister voice. 
It taunted Eban with, "Oh poor Eban, too old and weak to keep up, eh? Well..." 

And with that, the carnotaur roared with wicked laughter; the raptors joined in the teasing and mocking. Like demons, the raptors danced around Eban with hungry delight. The fiery mountains and flowing lava only added to this nightmarish scene. For the first time in his life, Eban was truly frightened! The raptors and carnotaur danced about Eban while taunting him with his own words. 

"Eban's too old. Throw him to the raptors!"
"Eban, you're too weak and slow." 
"Come Eban, give yourself up. After all, it's for the good of the Herd!" 

They closed in on him. Eban could feel the very ground burning his feet. The carnivores taunted Eban further. 

"Ooh, flame-roasted pachy! Yum Yum!" 

There was no escape. Eban shuddered at the thought of nearly burning to death then being eaten while he was still quite alive. The meat-eaters were now upon him; he could feel their teeth rip into his flesh, the flames searing his hide. 

"Arrrrrrrgh! Nooooo!" 


"Please have mercy on me! Don't eat me! Don't let me burn...!" 

Eban suddenly awoke and realized that he was back in his cave. He looked about cautiously, and to his surprise, no meat-eaters. No raptors, no carnotaur, no fire and brimstone. 

I'm alive! Thanks to the Spirits, I'm alive! 

He ambled his way to the cave's exit. Morning sunlight streamed in and Eban welcomed it. In fact, he sang and pranced and giggled like a young hatchling.
Yes, Eban finally learned his lesson. But what happened once he reached the Nesting Grounds?


The Final Chapter 

Copyright©2000 by "Sarama"

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