By Alexis A Hunter
Artwork by Jose Baetas.
Eo’s bones had been drifting, slow revolutions around Earth, for millions of years. His bones were extraordinarily lucky; never once did a stray comet or bit of debris batter away their mass. Instead, the bones pursued each other. Follow the leader. Around and around we go. The serrated teeth of his maxillae wobbled in the lead, trailed quickly by the gentler leaf-shaped teeth peppering his lower jaw. One, two, three, a dozen vertebrae and more. His five-fingered hands with their three claws sliced at the silence of space, a couple yards behind the tail.
Any scrap of muscle or meat or skin had long since fallen away, and so it was that Eo drifted. And drifted. The lulling of the ages, time marked only by the appearance and disappearance of the sun.
Until the explosion. He would remember little of this; he wouldn’t see (from his empty eye-sockets, those hungry little eyes long since evaporated away) the human space shuttle implode. The brief fireball, the shards of twisted, scorched metal flinging across the galaxy (some falling into Earth’s atmosphere like brilliant man-made stars returning home, too shy to speak to their god-made counterparts).
And though Eo couldn’t see all this, he certainly felt it. The shock-wave battered his bones; it drove them back into themselves. If there had been sound, there would have been a great clattering, the cheering of his homecoming. Instead, there were only minute vibrations, the sensation of vertebrae scraping together. His bones were blown back, out of orbit and safely out of Earth’s pull. They drifted as he shook his consciousness from its deep sleep.
Eo began to assemble himself. RE-assemble himself. He thought the bones back into their places with a steadier hand than any paleontologist with their brush. Despite the lack of sinew, the scarcity of muscle, and the pure absence of blood or organs, Eo put the pieces of himself back together (he was not, it seems, Humpty Dumpty) and he remembered his true name -- Eorapter, the dawn-plunderer.
Now upon reawakening, you would expect a dead dinosaur’s first thought to go to hunger. But Eo was not your average dinosaur. No, indeed, his first thought was one of gratitude. He flailed his little arms and his powerful legs until he spotted the slowly spinning carcass of the Earth ship.
Somehow, he knew this had been his savior. So he swam to it (a process that required some time due to his cursed short arms, a thing he’d suffered ridicule for back in his own time). He nudged aside the scorched debris, already cold from the dead-hand of space. He nuzzled through harnesses and bottles, clipboards and the shattered screens of computers.
And then he found the body. One body, in its cocooning spacesuit (what would it metamorphosize into?). It spun away from the ship and Eo swam to it.
He took the body in his arms. It took some fumbling to find its face (he blamed it on the suit, but honestly for a moment, he got ass-end confused with face-end). The glass of its helmet was cracked; its eyes were bugged out and quickly burst as air leaked completely from the suit. The thick viscous liquid plastered Eo’s face and he accidentally tried to lick it off (an impulse he felt shame for--for this truly was his savior). Thankfully, space had already boiled the liquid away and he had no tongue for licking anyway (it was a good thing his wife was dead, too--what good’s a mate without his tongue?).
For a long time, Eo spun in space with his dead human savior and he contemplated all that had passed since he died. He had once been a rather flighty creature, unable to decide if he preferred greenery or meatery and so feasted on both. He had once been a rather savage creature as well. He remembered then what happened to his young and again he felt some shame.
Shame. Odd, these feelings in him. He shrugged his rattling shoulders and blamed it on space. He had drifted for millions of years and, though his brain had long since leaked out, he must surely have learned much in his hibernation.
Eo owed a lot to the human in his arms. He truly owed it his life and so he carefully contemplated what to do with the body. In the end, he decided to return it to its kind. It seemed the only honorable thing to do. A way to say thank you (though the dinosaur word for thank you was much easier to say, he was certain the humans wouldn’t understand its guttural vowels and snorting inflection--thus action sufficed where words would not).
Eo turned himself to Earth and began his swimming again. He held the human to his chest and kicked and flailed for probably an hour before he reached the pull of gravity and then Earth (thankfully) did the rest for him.
Soon they were hurtling through the atmosphere. There was a whistling in Eo’s head that startled him (then he realized it was a whistling through his head, and he relaxed). The edges of his vision (he didn’t bother asking how he could see; asking such a question would only kickstart others, such as how was he living or thinking in the first place?) grew hot red, then white. He became aware of a heat against his sternum and looked down to see the human burning up in his arms.
“Shit, shit!” Eo cried as they barreled down and down and down to Earth. (Honestly, he may have said another curse, which was probably again dinospeak, but translations are rough, so let the shits suffice). Eo’s tiny arms scrabbled, trying to keep the body close to his chest, fighting to hold it together when all it wanted to do was come apart. Halfway down, one of the human’s arms tore off and before Eo could snatch it out of the air it burned to a crisp and he lost sight of it. (Still, bringing home 90% of a corpse is better than none at all, yes?).
Layers of clouds streamed around him, then he caught a brief glimpse of the broad, stretching savannas of what he thought might be Africa (but honestly, he’d never been good at geography and Earth had kind of changed shapes since he last checked). Eo gave an involuntary cry as the ground rushed up to meet them and he closed his nonexistent eyes, bracing himself.
His impact was thunder, driving a shock-wave of sand and soil and torn plant matter all around him. He was vaguely aware of a hot sensation and looked down to find all his bones singed (yet, somehow, still holding together, somehow still whole--another fact he could not explain, but he was a dinosaur, not a scientist, so he didn’t worry about it).
Eo was halfway through smiling at his safe landing when he realized the human had completely burned up. He cried out another string of dino-curses that would have made his mother blush (or possibly tear the leg off his father, honestly, she always reacted in strange, violent ways. Maybe they all did.).
Mounds of ash sifted through Eo’s claws. He once again scrambled to contain the flighty human remains and was thankful for the momentary lack of wind. A faint hum filled his ears--engines, probably, but he couldn’t be sure.
Eo planted his feet wide on the earth (God, it sure felt good to stand on solid ground again!). He bent awkwardly, feeling a heavy sort of guilt at his failure, and began scraping together the ashes of his savior. (If he kept the ashes together for three days, maybe this fellow would rise from the dead. What? Stranger things had happened--Eo himself was quite evidence of that).
Truth be told, Eo was feeling a little silly and quite flustered, and possibly a little depressed. So many feelings for a creature without a brain, but he felt them nonetheless. He’d only meant to honor the man, he hadn’t meant to burn him up.
The humming grew louder until Eo could not ignore it. He looked up as several humvees screeched to a halt around the crater he had formed in his falling. He peered over the edges at them, having never seen a human moving and alive (honestly, they looked more ungainly than the T-Rexes had and much less powerful to boot!). He waved his tiny arms at them (and yes, he felt somewhat self-conscious--if evolution had done one thing right, it was to give humans the proper length damn arms!).
He would have tried to speak to them, but doubted they could understand (again, with the dinospeak). So instead, he kept waving, then continued compacting and shaping the ashes of the human until they resembled...well...a human. It was a rather dumpy shape, and it leaned to the side as if melting, but Eo thought it was quite good for the thirty seconds of work he put into it (and remember three of his ‘fingers’ were claws--most awkward tools for shaping, definitely better for shredding windpipes).
The humans carried glinting things in their arms and Eo had just a moment to feel a sinking doubt before fire exploded from the muzzles. Bullets peppered his chest, sliding between the notches of his ribs and pecking the sand harmlessly behind him.
For a brief moment, anger flared in Eo and he remembered his heritage of violence. He thought about tearing them to pieces (and honestly, he kind of wanted to), but then he changed his mind.
If they pricked him, he would not bleed. (Duh)
If they tickled him, he would not laugh (Also, duh, but honestly, he’d appreciate the gesture).
If they poisoned him, he would not die. (He rattles his bones to clarify).
But if they wronged him (and they most certainly had)... No. Revenge is for the living; anger is the echo of every heartbeat. (They were good lines. He didn’t know where he’d thought them up, but he remembered dreams of poison and young lovers and a guy who liked to shake his spear--don’t forget, he learned a lot while he was orbiting the world for a millennium).
So if they wronged him (and they had, remember), he would not revenganate them. Nope, he would not. He signified this goodwill with a flashing of his bright teeth, then recalled an old memory and followed the outlines of its ghost.
He had launched himself from earth with a great kick of his mighty legs. His father said it wasn’t possible; his wife said it was possible, but it was stupid. Maybe it was both, but probably it was neither because he had escaped the end of their days and didn’t get buried under ten tons of earth. He just revolved around it.
And he intended to revolve around it a while longer.
At least until the humans came around to the whole undead dinosaur thing (was it really so much to ask?).