Fall – A Shorty

It has been over forty years since the last time a storm like this shook the Western Interior Seaway — winds howling, water capped white, shores battered.

A flash.

A bang.

A man falling through the rain and wind, tumbling to the sea below. Providence that he wasn’t so far up that he’d die on impact but high enough to crack pain on the awkward arrival to the surface.

The man’s plunge into the dark and tumultuous waters shocked him, only natural instinct pulled him up, thanks to a flash of lightning to guide which way to go. The swells were no friend as they pounded him again and again. He was aware enough to catch his breath in the lull. Try as he may, the current pulled him away from his heading, thankfully. Disoriented, he chose to swim away from shore but God was with him as the waves drove him ashore regardless.

Crashing on sand and coughing up water — exhausted from the struggle, he climbed into a haven of fallen trees and passed out.

Jack, the man, opened his eyes as a beam of light moved through the fallen tree’s limbs. While he was wet, he was very warm and comfortable.

Until he started to move.
His neck hurt, a product of the fall. Muscles and joints hurt, products of making it to shore. His head hurt, dehydration.

Jack cursed. A number of times. Kingsley was the target of his ire. He knew who put him here. He just didn’t know how. More cursing.

Jack climbed out of the trees to see what was before him. The hot sun overhead blazed the morning air. The sea before him was calm, gently lapping the shore. Birds high above rode the air quietly. The scene behind was a dense and lively conifer forest. The air, humid, thick, and floral. An air of paradise.

More cursing.

Jack sat on one of the branches, not knowing where to go from here. He was certainly thirsty, that would be his first priority. Next is to get a gauge on where he’s at.

Water was easy, some of the large ferns nearby pooled fresh rain from the storm. Check.

Jack trained early in his career in OODA loop — observe, orient, decide, act; essential for situational agility. Now, this was a situation.

Observe - Salty sea shoreline, hot temperatures, humid, wilderness. Ok, feedforward.

Orient - No injuries but fatigued. No food or shelter, weapon check – pistol secure, phone – soggy. Ok, feedforward.

Decide - Need more input, where is he? Any nearby settlements or landmarks? Looks like inland slopes upward. Need to scout and get a lay of the land. Feedforward.

Act - Time to move.

Jack began inland through the forest. He wondered where he was. Looked like northwest US or west coast Canada with a variety of conifers and ferns. But it was hot and humid. Maybe ninety degrees, plus. Not sure what to make of it, he needed more input. Every chance he had to drink stable rainwater he took it.

It wasn’t long before the ground began to incline, Jack kept a determined pace. He was mad at himself for losing his cool back on the beach. Jack knew his target had got to him first, he just didn’t know how. Whatever Kingsley was doing, he had used it on Jack. Whatever this is.

It was time for a break as he made the ascent to a long plateau. Jack was working hard through the damn forest. The bugs were gnarly. He had never seen dragonflies or mosquitoes like this. His watch had stopped working correctly, but it was an hour since he had left the beach.

A mist had crept into the forest, a still quiet fell upon him as he knelt catching his breath. The lively forest chatter had ceased. Running through the OODA loop’s observation, he could see the sea through a gap in the trees. Not so helpful yet but he could see the ground start up again in about fifty yards.

He scanned around the vertical lines of trees and a horizontal figure subtly caught his eye. Large figure — bipedal. Partially shrouded in mist, and colored to match the trees was a long and tall statue of a theropod. While its still tail and torso were a stark broadside presence, it was the long and slender head that was most curious — pointed in his direction, as if it were looking right at him.

It was looking right at him. Jack was frozen, squinting to see better when he noticed also that there were slight movements; the chest expanded and the eyes blinked. This thing was alive. It dawned on him that Jack had interrupted its course, wherever it was headed, it was now locked onto him.

Jack had been in many tough situations in the course of his life, well seasoned. He had never thought he would lay eyes on such a creature. Carefully he unholstered his firearm and slowly stood up. The beast was maybe twenty yards, still and locked on.

Jack didn’t have confidence in his 9mm to dispatch this forty-foot-long beast. The creature just stared with unrelenting eyes for what seemed like an eternity in the frozen moment.

All at once in a space out of sight in the forest, a crash of excitement and loud horns and yelps — a stampede of alarm, crashing through trees and brush away from the center of gravity between Jack and the theropod.

The gig was up, the carnivore was had and noticed. The surprise failed. The stalk was over. The predator stiffened up as it turned its head toward the hullabaloo.

Time to act, Jack turned and ran toward a tree he had observed that he would be able to climb quickly. This was the moment while the disappointed creature was distracted. He didn’t want to wait until it took its ire out on him for losing a meal.

He had sprinted fifteen yards and earnestly began to climb. Heart pounded in his chest and ears. He could feel his borrowed time and didn’t waste it looking over his shoulder. Sap from the conifer tacked his fingers as he climbed. Just a couple minutes into his sprint and climb he was already up high, he thought. Before he finished his thought a jolting snap just below his feet forced his eyes down to see the theropod’s snout inches from his foot. He didn’t even hear it coming.

The weight of the monster shook the tree as it slammed upon it, forelimbs scratching in frustration on the bark. An extra stretch and bite caught on the branches as Jack braced for death. Seeing he was still alive as the branches quickly failed around him under the pressure of its incredible bite force, Jack scrambled higher — slipping out of reach as its jaws closed tight. He could feel its hot breath blow up his shirt.

For the first time, he heard the stealthy theropod with a screeching roar that pierced his soul. Jack wet himself and cursed as he climbed higher out of reach. The pale white and shaken Jack was still alive. The frustrated theropod was still meal less and eventually gave up.

Jack realized he had dug his grave with his investigation. This wasn’t teleportation. This was time travel.

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