NINE

OF DINOSAURS AND MEN

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Sammy doubled over, hands on knees. A stitch bit into her side and she closed her eyes while she took a moment to breathe. She wobbled, and locked her arms to brace her legs. A flutter behind sent her wheeling around. Just a bird. No need to get spooked. She’d lost the monster, although she wasn’t sure when because the heat had subsided some time ago. She’d kept going though, just in case. Now the forest was still. The only sounds coming from birds and insects flitting around and buzzing under the mushrooms.

She’d been properly petrified though. She couldn’t deny it this time. Even her dad would have legged it from whatever that was. But what was it? She couldn’t bring herself to think about it.

She should keep moving. She straightened up and tottered on her feet. She needed water. She dropped her head forward, back between her knees, and waited until the tattoo in her skull finished drumming.

And now she was hearing things. Faint splashing and gurgling. She poked her index fingers in her ears, wiggled them, and took them out again. Still there. She surged forth, dragging her leaden legs onwards and down an incline. She scrambled through mushrooms, creepers and scratchy bushes, towards the sublime sloshing and burbling noise. She staggered to a halt in view of a stream, and gulped down a sob.

The stream snaked along the bottom of a barren and shallow gulley, its circuitous course winding through boulders on its banks. As she got close to the river, the soil took on a coarser texture and the shingle transitioned into prickly pebbles that had her performing an oo-ah hotstep to the closest smooth boulder. From there, she used other boulders as stepping stones to reach a rock in the middle of the river. She rolled up both pyjama trouser legs, sat down and dipped her feet in the water. The first electric tingle of icy water whooshed up her legs; freezing and painful, but exquisite too. Sammy slipped her hands into the water, pausing to savour the anticipation and left her hands submerged as the crystalline liquid flowed in and around her fingers. She pulled her cupped hands up into the air and let the water rain down over her face and neck. She shivered. Bliss.

Then she drank. Water had never tasted so good. She drank heavily until her thirst had been satisfied, then took her feet from the water and sat cross-legged on the rock.

 

Page 24

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