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Wayne Kyle Spitzer
THUNDER LIZARD ROAD
RAPTORS ON A PLANE
THE DRIVE-IN THAT TIME FORGOT
THE ANK WILLIAMS STORY
AND LET LOOSE THE BEASTS OF PREY
Copyright © 2018 Wayne Kyle Spitzer. All Rights Reserved. Published by Hobb’s End Books, a division of ACME Sprockets & Visions. Cover designs Copyright © 2018 Wayne Kyle Spitzer. Please direct all inquiries to: HobbsEndBooks@yahoo.com
Previously published as “Tales from the Flashback” (2018) and “Lean Season” (2017).
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this book is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
By the time they’d passed Khitomer Butte and were well on their way to Pine Stump Junction, the two beers he’d had at the motel were a distant memory, much less the mescaline from the previous day—at least Sammy thought so until he saw the Tyrannosaurus Rex attacking the big, green tractor combine.
And yet was it the mescaline? Nothing in his field of vision was moving or wiggling, there were no multicolored lines, the sense of euphoria had long since vanished along with the feeling that every cell in his body were somehow orgasming; no, everything seemed perfectly normal to him, from the rumbling of the Harley to the farmland passing by. And yet, there was a tyrannosaur. He could see it just as clear as day through his marginally tinted goggles—even as the thing gnawed upon the combine’s enclosed cab like a dog with a chew toy, holding the tractor fast beneath its tri-clawed foot as the grain stalks waved in the wind and the sun dipped below the horizon. Just keep riding, he told himself. At least until the next rest stop. It’s some kind of after-effect—hadn’t Annie’s friend said not to drive for at least 24 hours? Just keep riding ...
That’s right, came a voice, wan, disinterested, her voice, following him still, as it had followed him since the divorce and the buying of the winning Lotto ticket, as it had followed him since meeting Annie and across the entire country ... just keep riding. After all, that’s what you’re good for, Sammy. Riding and driving away.
“Wow,” said Annie, her arms tightening around his waist. “Are you feeling it too?”
He focused on a dark shape hovering just above the wheat—several dark shapes—like hummingbirds, but big. Something glinted blue-black in the sun. “What do you mean?”
“The mescaline ... I’m still tripping, baby.” Her inner thighs constricted against his hips and he thought of the fantastic shag they’d shared in California—while standing doggie-style amidst the Vasquez Rocks, the famed location of so many westerns—and found the fact that she was hallucinating also reassuring, even if it did mean they were barreling down the Interstate at 74 mph while still under the influence. “Yeah. Me too. I’m going to pull over at the next rest stop until it passes.”
“DJ is expecting us at five. And it isn’t polite to keep the head of a motorcycle gang waiting. They’re my friends, Sammy. This is important to me.”
“God forbid, we miss a party. We’ll make it.”
“Not if we take too long at the rest stop ... Jesus, I’m seeing dinosaurs back here. What the hell did Jackie give us?”
Her voice had dropped a couple octaves and the wind and engine noise were making it difficult to hear her. Not gave, he thought, a little resentfully. Sold. And the money’s starting to run out. “Say again?”
“Dude, I’m literally seeing dinosaurs. There’s, like, a T-Rex back there. Trying to eat a tractor.” She laughed.
He turned and looked over his shoulder, saw the tyrannosaur brushing its massive head against the cab of the combine, attempting to roll it over. There’s no way we can be seeing the same thing. There’s just no way except—
He spun around in time to see a blue-black thing, an insect, a dragonfly, which was at least as long as his forearm, hovering directly in their path—before it smashed against the windshield like a rock and splattered like a cantaloupe, hurling watery green blood and guts everywhere, some of which landed in Sammy’s mouth. And then they were careening out of control in the general direction of the gravel shoulder, and while he didn’t experience anything so dramatic as his life flashing before him, he did revisit, in a kind of time-out from time itself, the months since he’d received the Lotto payout and met Annie—a fast-living spitfire who was 29 to his 39 and whom he had nothing in common with beyond how well they got on sexually—and recognized in himself an increasing dissatisfaction with, well, all of it—the gambling, the drugs, the sex—everything. But then the time-out was over and they were laying on their side near the edge of the road—yet still in it—as the 18-wheeler bore down upon them, close enough so that Sammy could see the driver’s face, and thus knew the man had noticed them too late.
THERE WAS A SINGLE sharp drum beat followed by a fanfare of trumpets—which always reminded Carina of the opening credits to that old show, The Love Boat—as the huge spiral waterslide was activated (marking the beginning of the YMCA’s After-school All-swim), and she launched herself into the sluice.
The loudspeakers blared: Young man, there’s no need to feel down / I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground ...
And then she was sliding and careening down, a little faster than she would have liked, wondering if she would crash headlong into Alex before she even reached the bottom—a thought that was dispelled as she plunged into the four feet of water at the base of the slide ... and surfaced, gasping and disoriented.
“Boo,” said Alex, startling her from behind, and laughed.
“Oh ... you!” she said, and splashed water at him.
He splashed her back, his eyes dancing mischievously behind his goggles, before diving beneath the surface and grabbing her ankles—something he’d been doing with annoying regularity lately, ever since her mother had sewn the quilted patch into the crotch of her swimsuit. Indeed, his behavior in general, the behavior of all the boys in the Water Crew, which was what they called their after-school swimming gang, had become annoying: it was as though time stood still for them; they all still acted as though they were in 6th grade and had not moved onto junior high school at all.
She kicked him away and moved toward the edge of the pool, feeling hungry and eager to join the others in the rec room, but he only surfaced and pleaded with her to go down the slide with him one more time.
“Once more,” she said, exasperated. “Then I’m out, seriously. I’m hungry.”
She couldn’t help but to think, as they climbed the stairs to the top: How many times can you splash down the same stupid slide before it finally loses its appeal?
I don’t know, she asked herself, as Alex launched himself into the jet stream. How many times can your mother fall in love with the same type of guy?
She sat down on the slide carefully and eased herself off. The type of guy who is all presents and attention at first but then disappears like the wind?
She blew down the slide, rocking between the berms alarmingly in spite of her attempt to take it slow, and had a sudden vision of a great white shark waiting for her at the bottom—its spiny-toothed maw opened wide as a manhole, its pink palate gleaming. Then she exploded out the slide and was beneath the water again—waving her arms and legs for balance desperately—and when she surfaced, fully expecting Alex to pounce upon her immediately, she was surprised to find him nowhere in sight.
And that was odd, considering she’d gone immediately after him. She scanned the water around her even as the late afternoon sun, which had been pouring in through the windows, seemed to disappear completely. She peered outside and saw clouds stacking up in what had been a pure azure dome. Ah, she thought, it’s dipped behind a cloud. It’ll be back, unlike your long line of stepdads.
That’s when she noticed the blood beginning to spread in the water all around her ... and was gripped with terror.
Omigod, just ... no.
And such was her terror and embarrassment at starting her first period in public that she nearly fainted—but instead backed toward the edge of the pool, groping for the concrete while thinking, How could there be so much? How could all that possibly be coming from me?
Her fingers touched a face—Alex, of course; he’d been under the water after all—Omigod, omigod, what would he say? Would he tell the others? Would it be all over school the very next day?
And that’s when she realized his head was no longer connected to his body. That it had been completely severed and was bobbing in the intake filter. And then there were screams—others as well as her own—and she turned in time to see someone yanked below the surface not twenty feet away, as well as a fin, black as an orca’s, which rolled like a log in the deep end of the pool. And she screamed until her voice went raw even as she started to climb from the water—until she saw the velociraptor crouched on the wet concrete with its eyes rolled back in its skull (Mr. Stiller said that predators did that right before striking, to protect their eyes) and its sickle-clawed toes tapping, and knew there would be no escape for her.
LUCAS TURNED HIS OPEN textbook vertical long enough to flip the page of his comic book, then lay the math-text horizontal and continued reading Spiderman. He’d been held after school for not paying attention, yet there he was, lost in his own thoughts, not understanding anything the teacher was saying and already thinking of the excuses he could give his mother as to why he was so late getting home. It was bullies, he decided. Never mind that most his bullies were right there in the same room, doing penance just as he was. And never mind that his mother had heard it all before, or that, at this rate, he almost certainly wouldn’t be graduating 6th grade. The ugly truth was that the numbers on the chalkboard—having failed to engage his imagination—were as good as invisible to him. And so he read Spiderman, which had color and texture, danger, stakes—until the sun passed behind a cloud and directed his attention through the louvered windows: where he saw a flock of seagulls erupt from the playground, beyond which and across the street lay the YMCA, and realized, or perhaps only imagined, that they had scattered before a stampeding triceratops, which was itself being pursued by a Tyrannosaurs rex, which he watched until the creature had disappeared around the edge of the building.
But indeed, he had not imagined it, for some of the other children gasped and rose from their seats, rushing toward the windows even as Mr. Headley shouted at them bewilderedly; at which moment there was screaming in the hallway and Lucas saw the teacher freeze and turn white as a ghost—before fumbling beneath his suitcoat and pulling forth a pistol.
“Everyone get on the floor, now,” he shouted, sprinting for the open door faster than Lucas would have thought him capable, while yelling at the kids running down the hall to get into the room and take cover, although few heeded him in their blind panic. He peered around the jamb as someone or something barked in the corridor—then pulled a student into the room by her arm and shut the door quickly.
He was standing with his back pressed against it, breathing heavily, gripping the gun in both hands, when Sally Meyers asked, “Who is it, Mr. Headley? Is it ... an ‘active shooter?’”
His breath came and went in ragged gasps. “I—I don’t know what’s going on, honey. I ... just saw a blur. Just ... stay put.”
The big IBM clock on the wall ticked as an eerie silence set in, and nobody moved. At last Mr. Headley turned to face the door and gripped the handle.
“Don’t, Mr. Headley, please,” said Sally.
“Yeah, let’s wait for help,” said Thomas.
Mr. Headley eased the door open just enough to peek through, and Lucas tensed ... but breathed a huge sigh of relief when the teacher turned to face them and said, “I can’t see much, but I think it’s clear. Everyone stay put. I’m going to try to—”
And something grabbed him by his ankles—a pair of clawed hands—and yanked, dropping him to the floor on his stomach and causing him to release his grip on the pistol. Then he was being lifted, high enough so that his head struck the top of the doorframe, and nearly everyone, including Lucas, went rushing to help him. But they couldn’t even reach him, much less help, as he gripped the jamb desperately and began to scream, until finally he was torn away completely, although not before grabbing the door handle in a final act of heroism and pulling the entryway shut.
And then there was only the sound, the sounds, of something being eaten or otherwise torn apart—moist sounds, cracking sounds—as a dark pool of blood spread slowly out from the door—flowing around the pistol, congealing around Lucas’ tennis shoes—and he’d hardly had time to process this when something barked inside the classroom.
And when he looked toward the noise he saw that a pair of velociraptors (as well as a cycad tree) had materialized in the middle of the nearest wall—just materialized, out of thin air—and were jerking and struggling, trying to free themselves from the sheetrock.
Trying ... and succeeding.
SAMMY COULD LITERALLY see the individual insects stuck in the grill of the Peterbilt when it simply vanished—pow, like that. As though it had never existed.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said, struggling to get out from under the bike, while Annie did likewise and scrambled to her feet. They both flipped up their visors.
“I think we need help,” she said, and, contrary to her character, began crying. “Where’s your cellphone? We need to call DJ.”
“This is no mescaline trip, Annie,” he snapped, grunting as he righted the bike, then tore off his coat and began cleaning the bug guts off the windshield. “Look at this shit. This is real.”
She moved to respond then paused, staring off down the highway, first north, then south. “Where is everybody? Where are all the other cars?”
He dusted himself off and followed her gaze. “Just vanished, I reckon. Like that truck.”
She looked at the sky forlornly. “Jesus ... look at it.”
He did so, watching as the clouds boiled and spiraled slowly and what appeared to be heat lightning flickered in the distance. But it wasn’t just the otherworldly weather that struck him and filled him with terror, it was the strange lights that seemed to bleed in and out of each other, lights that were of a color he had never seen, and which hurt his mind to behold. “The party is on hold, we need to stop at Pine Stump Junction,” he said, and seated himself on the bike. “They’ll be cops there, radios. Guns.” He looked at Annie, who continued to gaze at the sky. “People are going to need our help.”
“Guns,” she whispered absently. “But we have a gun ... right there in the saddlebag. And DJ is expecting us ...”
“Annie, please.” He held out a gloved hand.
At last she climbed on behind him and he kicked it into gear.