The Time of the Dinosaurs

It was 65 million B.C. when God visited the dinosaurs for the last time. 

Approaching Creation Rock, the dinosaurs were excited. Previously, a visit from God was big news. Previously, a visit from God held the promise of gifts: sprawling acacia trees with scrumptious leaves, tooth files for the carnivores to pry loose the rotten bits of flesh from between their incisors, digestive pills designed to ease the herbivore’s bowel movements, which were famously obstinate and the size of yet-to-be-invented sports utility vehicles. Previously, God introduced new subspecies that were just like their forebears but slightly different, and if not better, at least more interesting and a source of conversation during the dull moments in the day.

So, when God said, my friends, the time has come, the dinosaurs were a bit stumped.

What time? They thought. Lunchtime? Dinner time? Time for a new game? If so, they had some ideas. Possibilities. Suggestions. Maybe the carnivores and herbivores could switch places, or better yet, devise a system that required less running and chasing and … dying. Perhaps this was time for utopia. A time for rest. A time for the advancement of civilization in more ergonomic, efficient, and reposeful ways.

No, God said. Your time. The time of the dinosaurs. 

What about it? The dinosaurs asked.

I’m afraid it’s at an end, God said.

Well shit, said a pterodactyl, shaking out its leathery wings. It all seems a bit soon, doesn’t it?

Very abbreviated, a stegosaurus mumbled. We only just got here.

The rest of the dinosaurs murmured their assent. This was an unsettling proclamation from God, who had always seemed a fairly pragmatic deity, if a bit obsessed with predestination and forcing certain species to grow a tail where one had not been the day before.

Finally, the diplodocus, whose name was complex but by nature was blunt, said what everyone was thinking: But why?

Okay, God said. I’ll explain. Creation is a tough investment. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? type deal. Frankly, my friends, you are now in the category that financial experts would deem “diminishing returns.”

The dinosaurs were stumped. Diminishing returns? They hadn’t been aware of some sort of reciprocal relationship, an exchanging of goods. God was a purveyor of love and the dinosaurs received that love and redistributed it across the earth by hunting, gathering and making little dinosaurs. Wasn’t that enough?

They thought again, diminishing returns?

Things change, God said. The blooming wheat rises to the top of the chaff. The old regime throws down the new. Or something like that.

New? What’s new?

I’m glad you asked, God said.

God reached out and tore a hole in the sky, unzipping the fabric of reality with one beatific and manicured finger. A great portal formed, brimming with plasma and cracking light. Behold! God said. The future! The dinosaurs looked down the portal and saw a million shimmering faces peering back at them. They saw towering mountains above endless black seas, vast armies of creatures riding in the mouth of strange contraptions which belched fire and smoke and lava. They saw glinting teeth and hungry eyes and the ravenous consumption of all things organic and free.

Confronted with this vision, the dinosaurs were helpless but to return to their base instincts. The tyrannosaurs gnashed their jaws and rolled their necks and bellowed. The pterosaurs flew into the clouds and dive-bombed, shrieking their tea kettle screams. The duck-billed parasaurolophus stomped their feet and pissed in great torrents of terror. The triceratops dug their horns into the earth and went ahhhh!

Only the brontosauruses, renowned for their deep wisdom and restraint, remained calm. The brontosauruses’ capacity for self-defense granted the animals with a longer lifespan than their peers, and something like society, a leader elected by which brontosaur could collect the most leaves and arrange them in alluring patterns across the ground. While the other dinosaurs spat and yelped and spun in mournful circles, the head brontosaur– who years before had positioned leaves in a pattern so beautiful that even a blind sauropod wept– came forward and peered up at God, intent on making some sort of deal for her species.

God. Sir. Creator. Let’s talk about this. You’re a rational man. Let’s see what can be done. Let’s go over the numbers.

I’ll tell you this, God said. The numbers aren’t good. I wouldn’t advise bringing up the numbers, if I were you.

What about some sort of recompense? Perhaps we can pay you back?

Oh no, God said. It’s much too late for that. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of something called an interest rate? Depreciating assets? Profits and liabilities? 

The head brontosaur shook her head. Admittedly, she was not well versed in fiduciary terms or matters of import and export.

Let’s just say we’ve reached the point of no return. Listen, I wish there was something to be done. But my hands are tied. What’s important– as I’ve always said– is living in the moment.

Now, at this point, the head brontosaurus had been around the block a few times. You didn’t get to her position in life by being a dumbass about it. By walking around with your head in the fucking clouds. It seemed to her that God was being rather flippant regarding the matter of their imminent demise. Living in the moment? She thought. There was only one moment. The one that preceded the last. This moment. This moment!

Hold up, the head brontosaur said. I think we got a good thing going here. This doesn’t seem very fair, you know?

Fair? God laughed. Let me tell you about fair. Fair is being put in charge of this enterprise called life. Being made responsible for cutting out– fucking– trimming the fat. Decisions must be made! Sacrifices must be made! Did I ask for this, no! But here’s what I’ve learned! Time is the great revelator …

God continued to talk, but the dinosaurs were no longer listening. They were thinking about the things they’d always wanted to do but never found the time. The velociraptor, for instance, had endeavored to find a way to climb to the highest branches, where he was sure the tasty, less fatty creatures lived. The boney crested pachycephalosaurus grew somber with the realization that he’d never sought therapy for the unabated rage that seized him at the most inconvenient moments during the day, the same rage that caused him to ruin social gatherings by headbutting all objects or dinos within striking distance.  

But it was the lesser-known dinosaurs who despaired most of all, thinking about how their names were so intractable, their physiques too normal, that even the other dinosaurs were taken aback when they said hello at the waterhole. All these years they had been biding their time, waiting for a moment to shine. A chance to show they were worthy of love, attention, a legacy!

Now they knew– they would die nameless and forgotten, their fossils ground up and turned into tinctures or healing potions. One day they would simply disappear, sinking into the great mud puddle of history with a sad sighing noise.

The dinosaurs became aware of a sudden change in the air. An atmospheric warming that made their pebbled skin heat and glow like volcanic rock. With a tremendous clap, the clouds rolled back and the sky was rendered purple and red with farts of methane and lightning. A fiery crack emerged, like a bloody scar across the horizon, and beyond that, a great and unknowable expanse unfurled itself. 

Standing there, with Armageddon knocking at the door, the dinosaurs experienced something close to an epiphany. They looked around and felt a sudden kinship for one another, for what they were together, what they would always be. Perhaps, they thought, they had this whole thing wrong. Perhaps, it wasn’t their marked differences, but their similarities that brought them together. Perhaps, there was something out there– not God or fear, no– but a thing that was stronger than death, stronger than the urge to run, jump, consume–  a tangible thing they could hold together, put their mouths around, a thing to lift above their heads and marvel at in beauty.

They didn’t know what this thing was, what to call it, but sure enough, it was there.

They could feel it.

Without warning, The ozone burnt away in a rippling crescendo, unleashing a thousand waterfalls upon a thousand rocks, a malignant maelstrom of noise, a cacophony of calamity and woe, and in response, the dinosaurs roared back, the strength of their collective roar overpowering God, who covered his ears and looked miffed at this display of defiance, and still, the dinosaurs roared and roared, so that they formed one coordinated creature– backbone, tail, teeth– which swelled outwards and onwards in one last effort, one final decision to face the future together, no matter what was bound to happen next.

Pat Jameson is a writer based in Roanoke, VA. Find him on twitter @jameson_pat

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