If you date it from the first fatality, it started 23 days ago.
But if you reckon it really started with the smell (which I do), that began exactly a month ago tomorrow.
I think. Haven’t seen a calendar in awhile.
I wish I could tell you where I was when I heard that they cloned a dinosaur, but that nugget of information did not make a major impression on me. I was in high school, and really not an avid consumer of non-Xbox-related news. Besides, it wasn’t really even a dinosaur, since they used half dinosaur DNA from a fossil, and half elephant DNA from an elephant. A dinophant, or an elesaur—it never forgets it wants to eat you, Jay Leno observed one night. He’s dead now.
So me and everybody else in America basically forgot about it in a week, when the news cycle had moved on to other things, like the governor of New Jersey getting a DUI (blew a .14) and Rihanna having a baby (“Hornet”—actually a cool name). But the scientists who made the dinophant, they kept at it. They spliced more dinosaur DNA from the fossil with DNA from the dinophant to create something that was thusly 25% elephant and 75% dinosaur; I’m not sure what they called that one. But as I said, they kept at it, and in a few years had a bunch of dinophants with very little elephant blood. So, essentially, dinosaurs.
I used to smoke a lot of dope. Now when I say “used to”, don’t think there was any dramatic moment of clarity when I stopped or anything—I just don’t have access to weed right now in my current predicament. If I could lay my hands on some, believe me, I’d be smoking like a chimney. But back in the day, I was an obvious stoner, I stunk of it, dreads, the whole thing, so when I got out of grad school, the world was not exactly beating a path to my door. So I took a job shoveling dinosaur shit at a rescue ranch up in Montana.
Well, I used a backhoe, not an actual shovel. If you’ve ever seen, like, a rhino take a dump, times that by… you get the picture. And if you’re shocked that they’d let a devoted ganjacologist such as myself work with dinosaurs, don’t be; it just wasn’t a big deal at that point. When they first trotted the dinophants out for everyone to see, they were tended to by MIT guys in white lab coats, with machines hooked up to monitor the dinos’ heart rate and brain waves and whatnot. It was a Big Thing; the President gave a speech; the Dow went up 400 points; everybody blogged about how “the world would never be the same”.
But they said the same thing after man walked on the moon. We kind of got used to seeing dinosaurs around. It sounds nuts, in retrospect, but that’s how scientific breakthroughs are. They discover a way to create life in a test tube, everybody oohs and aahs and sheds a tear, then, a few years later—Octomom! They develop a way to switch genders, freeing men and women from a lifetime of imprisonment in a physical body of the wrong gender, then, a few years later—chicks with dicks! That’s how it was with dinosaurs: all solemn and high-brow and are-we-playing-God? to start, but then you’d see ‘em in the big zoos, then not-so-big zoos, then drug dealers having them as pets, kids birthday parties, sad-looking triceratops on the 11 o’clock news, knee-deep in its own shit, chained in a field behind some nutjob’s mobile home. Rich lady sees this, writes a check, soon there’s a 1000 acre rescue ranch up in Montana for abused and neglected dinosaurs.
Most of the excrement removal crew were not overly fond of the dinos, given the nature of the work. But I kind of liked certain ones, especially Randy, a one-armed tyrannosaurus rescued from a bankrupt petting zoo in Delaware. We weren’t buddy-buddy or anything—dinosaurs ain’t like that—but Randy was a survivor and I appreciated that. And I thought I saw him give me a respectful nod once when I finished cleaning up one of his more substantial morning dumps. But I can’t be 100% sure—as I said, I smoked a lot of dope back then.
The rest of the crew got to calling me and Randy “Shaggy and Scooby Doo”. So when I came in to work one morning and saw a note on my locker—“Scooby’s sick”—I knew to head straight down to Sector 9A. Randy was there, lying on his side, breathing funny, his sleeping-bag-sized tongue hanging out. He looked at me like, “Can you believe this shit, man?” I thought maybe I should go over and stroke his head or something, but I didn’t want him to roll over and squish me, so I just nodded like I understood. He closed his eyes, and died about two minutes before the vet got there.
So just like that, we had six tons of dinosaur to bury. But everyone pitched in, even our supervisor, Zack, and we had poor old Randy twenty feet under before nightfall.
In retrospect, the involvement of a voodoo priest was a bad idea.
But we didn’t know Jean Pierre was a voodoo priest. We just thought he was a cool guy from Haiti. He was pretty fat, and drove around on an old Yamaha dirt bike. If you’ve ever seen a fat guy riding a dirt bike, you’ll know that it’s a crazy funny image, so I was always laughing when Jean-Pierre drove up. I don’t think he knew I was laughing at him—he just thought I was a happy guy. So he gave me some funky fruits and veggies that he grew in his little garden behind the pole barn. A few of the guys had gardens because the dino manure was such an amazing fertilizer, especially for tomatoes, but Jean-Pierre grew mostly weirdo Haiti stuff I’d never heard of. One Friday, he gave me a little baggie of herbs and told me to smoke it; I spent the whole weekend lying on my lawn, trying to grab clouds and eat them.
I think Jean-Pierre was on something when Randy died. When he hugged me and told me he knew how much I cared about Randy, his eyes were all blood-shot, his hands were shaking and he smelt like wet hay. While we were digging the trench, he was taking Hefty bags of various plants out of his garden and dumping them down Randy’s mouth. Zack told him to cut it out, but, whatever. Jean-Pierre wasn’t even supposed to be working that day. Let him do his thing.
When the job was finally done, we were standing around the mound. Zack asked me to say a few words. As I said, I liked Randy, but at that point, I just wanted a beer and a shower, so I took a pass. But Jean-Pierre started singing this song in Haitian. We were laughing at first, but he was totally into it. It was kind of a spooky song, too. When he broke into a little shuffling reggae dance, I started worrying that maybe Jean-Pierre had gone off to the dark side of the moon on us. But then it was over. He smiled, got on his dirt bike and left. I laughed as I watched him ride off. Fat guy on dirt bike. Gets me every time.
You might think that a guy that smells nothing but backhoe exhaust and dinosaur poop ten hours a day might have a deadened sense of smell—and you’d be thinking exactly right. But I sure as hell smelt it as I drove up on Monday—with the windows up. Rotting dino flesh, yeah, but something else. Rotting dino flesh with chipotle sauce. Or cayenne pepper. It was like Emeril stumbled on a brontosaurus carcass and decided to “kick it up a notch”.
I figured it couldn’t be Randy—he’s under 20 feet of dirt. One of the megalosauruses must have chewed off its own foot again, and someone on the weekend staff left it for us to deal with. But no, it was Randy. You could barely get within 50 yards of his grave without feeling nauseous. And on Tuesday it was worse. The vets and administrators who worked inside were mad as hell at us; they said we didn’t bury Randy deep enough. Assholes.
Jean-Pierre was pretty grumpy that week. He was definitely off whatever high he had been on. He took off an hour early on Thursday, and I never saw him again. Chopped down every plant in his garden before he left. When I asked what he was doing, he told me to go fuck myself. Nice.
Friday, the suits finally called a meeting. I didn’t mind hanging indoors for an hour, even if it was to basically get yelled at. But Zack, to his credit, yelled back, saying we had followed the burial protocol to a T. Still, there was the smell. One of the vet assistants, Carole, an overly tanned redhead, claimed she actually saw green smoke coming up from the ground where we buried Randy. Now Carole was as dumb as a bag of hammers, but I believed her. You would too if you had smelled it. Zack said, alright, fine, we’ll rebury Randy—if they get us hazmat suits and gas masks.
The suits called his bluff. And we’d have to do it on Saturday. Nicely played, Zack.
That Saturday was the worst day of my whole life, bar none. I got woken up at 4:30 by the smoke detector; it started chirping once a minute as a helpful reminder that the battery was getting low. Chirp!... Chirp!... Chirp! Of course, I didn’t have any nine volts, so I tried taking the battery out to disable the chirp and the fucking thing went off for real. My ears were still ringing when I went outside and saw that I had left the windows on my Cherokee open; the driver’s seat was soaked. Great. So I stole my neighbor’s newspaper and covered the seat, but still some leaked through, and my ass was damp as I pulled off the highway toward work. On a Saturday.
I decided the first order of business would be to steal a nine volt from the supply room. But I decided that would be the second order of business when I saw the gigantic pile of dirt beside Randy’s grave. Had Zack started early? Or had the dinosaur-grave-digging fairies visited during the night? Knowing Zack, I figured the latter was more likely.
Then I smelled it: nothing. Clean wet Montana air. The grave was open, and the smell was gone: does not compute. The early morning breeze sent a chill through my wet shorts to my damp ass as I walked toward the grave.
Randy’s grave was empty. I was wondering where you might put a rotting six-ton tyrannosaurus when I saw Carole. She was lying on her stomach, palms down on the grass, like she had tripped and was trying to push her overly-tanned self up off the ground. But, try as she might, she was never getting off the ground without her head, which had been ripped clean off.
I started looking around for Carole’s head, but what I saw was Randy. He was about two hundred yards away, standing with Dudley, a gay stegosaurus. I mean, everyone called him gay, cause he once tried to mount another male stegosaurus, but I think he was just kind of nearsighted, that’s all. Dudley had had a nice chunk of his back bitten off, and I might have wondered how he was still walking around with an injury like that, or what happened to Carole’s head, or why Randy was alive. But I was really just wondering two things: why Randy and Dudley’s eyes were both gleaming bright red, and whether God would take pity on this faithless sinner and make sure neither set of those horrible red hell-holes ever turned his way.
I didn’t have to wonder about that second part long, cause Randy turned and looked right at me. I could tell right away that there wasn’t gonna be any more “Shaggy and Scooby”. He looked kinda like my grandpa did right before he died, in his hospital bed, down to 75 pounds. Only bigger. And deader. But, somehow... hungry.
I might have stared into those giant red peepers all day, but he started moving toward me, limping a little cause most of the flesh on his right leg had already rotted away. Dudley followed, doing that short-legged stegosaurus shuffle, nearsighted no more. I swear it looked like he was smiling.
We got a situation here. Standing out in the middle of a field, wet-assed, mildly buzzed, weaponless and alone, my options were limited. I looked down into the grave and saw that the loose dirt 25 feet below might provide some cover and a relatively soft landing, so I Bruce-Willised right over the edge. Naturally, I broke the living shit out of my leg when I landed. I finally stopped screaming when I saw the dirt shaking from the sides of grave as the dinosaur footfalls grew near.
I kind of rolled toward a log laying beside the wall of the pit, intending to crawl under it. Except it wasn’t a log, it was a chunk of Randy’s rotted leg flesh that he had left behind in his grave. Could this day get any better? I covered myself with it.
The fact that it was crawling with maggots was only the third worst part. Second worst was the smell: imagine someone baking a curried puke casserole and then burning it. But the worst part was that it wasn’t long enough to cover my whole body. The top of my head and my eyes were uncovered. So I saw.
Randy stuck his head in the grave. The skin was mostly peeled away, and I could see his jaw muscles working as he open and shut his mouth. There was still grave dirt on his snout, which turned to mud when it met the blood and snot oozing out of his nostrils. He was making a weird, high-pitched shrieking noise, like he was trying to growl but his throat muscles had decayed. He sniffed around for me, but I’m guessing that chunk of his stinking flesh that I was hiding under masked my scent. I mean, that’s my theory.
Then he looked right at me. There’s no way he could have seen me – his eyes were just bags of blood at this point. But I think he sensed me, and I’d like to think a memory of some happy time we spent together passed through whatever tiny corner of his brain was still working, and made him hesitate.
Or maybe it was just the sound of Zack’s car.
I knew it as soon as I heard it—1993 Dodge Stealth, kind of a douchebag car, but whatever. To Randy, or this thing that used to be Randy, it musta sounded like a dinner bell, cause he whipped his head around and headed off in that direction. I heard Zack jam on the brakes and throw it in reverse, but T-rexes are fast, man, apparently even dead ones. I heard crunching metal as Randy ripped the roof off, the Blink-182 blasting on Zack’s system (see? douchebag), one quick scream then a weird gurgling sound. So I wasn’t all that surprised when Zack’s headless body was flung into the pit.
I was in that grave awhile. Firstly because I was in no particular hurry to get out, and then, later, once I started getting hungry, because I couldn’t climb out. For the first few hours, all I could hear was that high-pitched shrieking of different dinos, but then they all headed south. So it got quiet.
By the time I got out, there wasn’t no more electricity, but I got a radio signal in the Cherokee. When you hear a DJ crying, you know some serious shit has gone down. Apparently, what Randy had was contagious or something, so there were now brain-eating, unkillable dinosaurs everywhere. And that’s basically all she wrote. When I saw a red-eyed ankylosaurus stumbling through the woods, I figured it was best to spend my time indoors from now on. When I heard something big shuffling around in the medical wing, I further figured that perhaps the basement would be an even better base of operations.
So here I am: food to last for years, but only about two months worth of batteries for my flashlights. So it’s gonna get pretty dark down here. But I’m still hopeful. I mean, this couldn’t have spread to Europe and Asia, right? A brontosaurus ain’t gonna buy an airline ticket, or stow away on a cruise ship. So when I hear some Frenchie rescue party upstairs yelling, “Allo! Iz anybody zere?” I’m gonna have one hell of a story to tell them.
I mean, a pterodactyl couldn’t fly over a whole ocean, could it?