They could see the back of it now and charged toward the porch.
As the Total Fruit Tree came into view Rex stared hard, squinting slightly, but was correct with his first impression.
Max was no longer there.
Why wasn’t Max there? He said he would wait for them.
They had managed to escape the snarling jaws of Bob, but only just, by weaving in and out of the more healthy trees on the other side of Bob’s lair.
Before this Rex had amazed himself, poking Bob in the eye with his pencil, gaining a few seconds to race to the bridge.
Clambering down the river’s embankment he had shooed at Pooetesleap, who didn’t need telling twice, pelting towards the forest.
Bob had recovered by then, but still slightly in pain and with only one good eye, had slipped on the side of the river and crashed into the water head first.
Rex darted through the bridge’s tunnel and made his way to edge of the forest, where Pooetesleap waited before spotting Rex and running off again.
For some unknown reason, stupidity or still reeling with pain, Bob had decided to follow Rex’s exact route and had gone under the bridge himself. He was much too big and had been wedged between the brickwork, while Rex went into the dense undergrowth.
It hadn’t been that long a delay though and soon enough the loud vibrating stomp could be heard, thumping a few metres behind them.
One advantage that Rex could see straight away was that these trees were much stronger, unlike the diseased ones that led to Bob’s lair.
He could run straight between the trunks, even if they were close together, but was confident that Bob wouldn’t be able to knock them down and would have to find holes for his massive body to weave in and out.
Rex had been running for a good ten minutes, his heart squeezing the last of the life in his chest, adrenaline surely the only thing keeping him going, when a horrible thought went across his mind.
It had taken hours to get to Bob‘s lair, and there was no way, no matter how much adrenaline he had, that Rex could keep running for that long.
Pooetesleap was waiting for him ahead in what looked like tall grass and it hit him in an instance.
He would have to hide.
With a bit of luck Bob would keep running, they would leave it a couple of hours and sneak home under the cover of twilight.
With this Rex approached the grass and with one final push of energy burst through it.
To his surprise he had come out the other side into an empty space, smoothed with green flat grass and skidded to the floor.
Bob could still be heard, in the distance but gaining with every second and Rex pushed his hands hard to the ground forcing himself up.
Which was how he came to be looking at what he was now.
The back of his house.
Although it was some way away, a good ten minute run, it was definitely there and unfortunately the hastily scribbled map had been right after all.
The forest may be deep, there was no doubting that, but it was also worryingly thin, twisting and turning until he had doubled back on himself. compass would have been useful he mused for a second.
Panting hard with Pooetesleap streaking ahead of him, the thumping of footsteps were joined with a loud crash as Bob broke through the grass a couple of minutes behind them, scattering a tree to the side as he did so.
Making the mistake, if only for a second, of looking behind him, Rex’s colour drained from his very skin.
All the blood he had in the whole of his body rushed to his heart, hoping in some way it could help it beat faster and therefore make the legs move ore quickly.
The porch was only thirty metres away, but so was Bob.
Looking slightly confused and more than a little angry, Bob quickly spotted his prey and with one great leap covered half the distance between them. Rex continued to run as fast as his pounding heart would allow, and although every muscle in his body tried to stop it, he looked over his shoulder again.
He had slipped, slipped!
There was nothing behind but a mound of Tyrannosaurus, a haphazard arrangement of limbs and flesh.
But soon enough Bob was up, shaking his head and refocusing on the task in hand.
Luck was still on there side, or so Rex thought, and as the porch was almost in reach he started to search for the front door key in his trouser pocket.
Panic covered his face this time, not fear, for a split second he wasn’t frightened, more concerned that all this was still in vain.
WHERE WAS THE CHUNKING THING?
It really wasn’t that big a pocket, but as Rex’s fingers prodded and probed every corner, nothing was to be found.
The key had vanished, hidden somewhere as if part of this cruel game and Rex cursed again, settling for either his own stupidity at locking himself out or bad luck that the key and himself had somehow become separated.
Then finally a feeling of jagged metal.
Warm to the touch from his exertion, it now skimmed his fingertips and vanished as quickly as it had appeared, seeming to be forever lost.
He caught it again, between the tips of his middle and index fingers, stilling running at full pelt toward the house.
It wasn’t securely in his grasp yet, he knew this, but slowly it was inched toward his palm, bit by bit knowing that haste could be the one thing that still threatened their lives.
Then it was gone again, and his mind screamed in frustration.
This anger made his little finger catch the key, as if magnetised and flip it into the middle of his hand, where he grabbed flustered, as if squeezing out its very life.
The euphoria enveloped every square centimetre, and allowed him a second for the day to fizz back into focus, and marvel at his own stupidity.
What had he been thinking?
Yes, his boots were shiny.
Yes, his uniform was freshly pressed.
Yes, his underpants were clean.
No, he hadn’t thought at all what he was going to do when he came face to face with Bob.
No, he hadn’t thought of what he was going to do when Bob came face to face with him!
The front door was near now, a few seconds away, so Rex brushed all thought aside concentrating on how quickly he would be able to open the door.
Although one other notion did make it to his head, albeit briefly.
Max hadn’t asked what he was going to do when he found Bob either.
There was no time for this, and the redness of the door seemed to be merging with Rex‘s hand, closer and closer.
As the steps were a mere few strides away, Bob’s head snapped into focus, blocking the path between them and their destination.
He had run round the other side of the house, brushing passed the Total Fruit Tree and was now standing between them and sanctuary.
In an instance, and without much thought, Rex swerved passed the massive head and leapt toward the wooden railing that surrounded the porch, slipping slightly on take off.
The air swirled passed his ears and looking down the Tyrannosaurus’ great jaws snapped beneath him.
Rex’s fingernails tingled sharply as he brushed the smooth wood of the porch with the very tip of his hand.
Then his foot slipped again, ricocheting off the top step.
The jump was too short.
Rex bounced off the railings, as they cracked in response, and landed in his favourite position, flat on his back.
Head swimming, slightly concussed, the predicament suddenly flooded back as he looked straight at Bob.
He was doing nothing, just staring hard at Rex, the trace of accomplishment in the corner of his mouth, frothing with a hint of joy but concentrating most of his energy in giving that cold, unflinching look.
Pooetesleap had somehow managed to jump over Bob’s neck and presently found himself squarely at the front door.
Fear rose to Rex’s throat and panic shook his very body, as Bob now allowed himself a full smile and slowly advanced toward him.
Panic started to shake every part of Rex’s body, thoughts racing, but not able to settle on anything. He knew that his lack of ability to focus would be his undoing, but this just made him go to pieces even more, trying to think of a way out of this predicament, as well as cursing his failure to logically think the situation through.
Eventually settling on thrashing his limbs around manically, grasping around, trying to reach anything, anything at all that he could stop Bob with, Rex concluded there was nothing and he could now smell the rotting flesh of Bob’s breath.
A few metres away, the great tyrannosaurus blocked the very sunlight out, so that the only picture to be seen was that of scales and teeth, with just a hint of razor sharp claws.
Again Rex thrashed around trying to reach an invisible stick or stone, knowing nothing would appear.
A faint tap could be heard.
Then there was a clunk.
A clunk, coupled with a noise of something rolling.
Slowly the noise increased until it was pounding near Rex’s head.
He turned and saw Pooetesleap without a trace of fear looking straight at him and wagging his tail expectantly.
Then from the corner of his eye he noticed it, a few centimetres away and gaining speed.
It was the jar of lemons.
Left on the porch at the weekend and still warm from the Sun, gloopy with sludgy yellow content, now smothered tightly in Rex’s hand.
For a second he felt the smoothness of the glass and his shaking stopped.
With no further thought he hurled it in the general direction of Bob.
Everything slowed as it twisted and turned through the air, taking something that must have been a split second, a lifetime.
Its metal clasp glistened, rotating in the Sunlight, smooth edges twisting, propelled with a purpose in mind.
Tumbling round and round and round, gaining speed with the flecks of yellow inside glinting against a background of green scales.
Then smash! The jar hit Bob in the centre of his forehead.
The astonishment jolted him backwards, his face snapping into shock, cracking the jar first in two, as bone met glass at vicious speeds, until thousands of shards rushed out from either side.
Bob screamed out in pain, a small cut had appeared from where the jar had hit, a trickle of blood ran down his nose.
But the scream was nothing of what was to follow.
As the jar had split and glass flew away from his head, the contents had decided to directly go towards his face.
The lemons and salt, that had spent the day pickling in the sunlight, were now firmly implanted in Bob’s eyes.
Howling as his tiny arms and knuckles tried to rid himself of this, the contents were merely smothered into his lids and sockets.
The over zealous thrashing of limbs had caused more damage, lemon juice seeping into every pore, until eventually he stood completely still, trying to force his eyes to open though the salty pain.
Now the murder in his face was replaced by redness of the eyes and tears streaming down his each cheek.
Frozen, a statue of salt and citrus juice, he could do nothing but hope that somehow the pain would stop and the mixture on his face would be washed away.
Propping himself up slightly, Rex still confused about what to do next, thought about letting him and Pooetesleap in and then maybe throwing a bucket of water over Bob, to ease his pain. From the safety of the porch of course and then locking himself securely inside until the beast was gone.
A twig snapped as Bob stepped back, stumbling blindly, and Rex remembered where he was in an instance.
Get yourself safe, he thought, quickly.
Get yourself and Pooetesleap safe and then worry about being the concerned citizen.
Helping the enemy can be seen as noble, but only up to the point where concern turns to foolishness.
With this Rex braced his arms and was just about to push downwards, to stand tall and help himself and his dog.
But events decided enough time had passed and Rex was not the only one that had an idea.
Pooetesleap saw that Bob’s terror was waning and leapt between him and Rex, barking as loud as he could.
Rex’s sorrowful gaze was replaced by that of venom and dismay.
He wanted to leap to his feet and scream at the dog to get out the way, but the ties of fear strapped him to the ground.
Pooetesleap had made a fatal mistake, as a four ton animal is a formidable being.
A four ton animal angry at the stinging in his eyes may be temporarily blinded, but is no less deadly.
Bob stopped still for a split second, craning his massive neck, while Pooetesleap kept on barking.
Slowly, but with purpose, the tyrannosaurus turned his head toward the sound.
The ginger mutt finally realised what he had done and froze in silence, nothing but a small whimper of realisation left, but it was too late.
The pace at which the next event occurred was so rapid, that Rex would later question if it had happened at all. His hope would try to trick his own mind, before being brushed away by the fact of an empty basket and companionless evening.
With one swish of his mighty neck, Bob scooped up Pooetesleap in his terrifying jaws and carried him toward the forest.
Rex was aghast, and still his legs would not move, cemented to the ground, his voice silenced with an invisible gag.
Watching as Pooetesleap looked back at him, his brown crumpled 67 tag swaying at Bobs quickening pace, eyes full of fear as he was taken toward the forest.
Carried away between the jaws of the Rogue Creature, never to be seen again.
Rex knew it was over, his fate had been sealed the moment Pooetesleap had let out the slightest noise and moved toward Bob.
Left with nothing but the shame of loosing another ally and sitting motionless for a few moments, Rex felt sick at the thought of his friends fate.
The sickness was containable and Rex struggled through this before trying to brush aside thoughts of Pooetesleap altogether.
But as he swept his lost companion away, trying to think of anything to give him some kind of solace, his eyes pinched together as he thought of Bob, his teeth, his strength, and tears started to trickle gently down Rex’s reddened cheeks.
This outlet of emotion at least stopped the retching in his stomach and as he screamed out loud to try and rid himself of the dagger stabbing at his heart, comfort washed over him, albeit the saddest veil of a thinning sentiment that is solace only offered to the replacement of self pity.
Slightly comforted by the change in emotion the sobbing stopped and thoughts of his lost companion led him to a place that was too soon to visit.
Rex now knew where Bob lived.
It was terrifyingly close, and this new reflection, although it had initially started to abate his giddiness, now tensed the very knot in his stomach.
Pooetesleap’s fate was probably over already.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Rex leaned to his side and was sick, violently, crouched now with an arm over his knee.
He stayed like this for some time, convinced that he would never move again, the trauma of the days events surely too much for one person.
As sure as he was that he would stay in this position until the day he died, Chunk turned to dusk and snapped him out of his self pity.
The house was now in his gaze, and slowly he stood up, taking in where he presently was.
The key slipped into his hand easily now, as if not burdened with time anymore.
A few steps later, slowly he made his way up the creaking porch steps and clicked the key reassuringly in the doors lock.
Swinging it open the lounge was greyer than he remembered, a little colder, as his boots echoed around the room.
The shock of the days turning events had brought new details to Rex and as he looked at his home for a second, he gazed back out the open door to the plains. Finally he slammed the door shut and pounded his fist into the wood, tears springing up again in his eyes.
Pooetesleap was gone.
Rex’s stomach lurched again, but this time not to throw the contents out, but rather to mention that there was nothing in.
Stamping to the kitchen he clicked the fridge open.
There lazing in the dull light was the fresh doughy flesh of a Dumdum, and the mildness of its taste had never been so inviting.
Hurriedly Rex stuffed it in his mouth and gulped half of it down with the fridge door still open.
As he turned round, shutting the door behind him, pain struck through the very core of him, an eye lazily observing Pooetesleap’s basket and bowl.
The hurt was very real, he had trapped his little finger in the fridge door as it slammed shut, but at least this little misfortune had let him think of something else for a while, albeit briefly.
Exhausted with the day’s events, Rex dragged himself upstairs, drawing the curtains as he flicked on the light.
He was going to go to bed early, before Chunk turned to night, for the first time in, well, ever.
Wrenching his boots off, Rex inspected them and the rest of his uniform. They weren’t to bad at all, no splatter from the sick as far as he could see, but the urine soaked smell meant they wouldn’t be usable another day.
Hurling them in the corner, he decided to take another from the wardrobe straight away, thinking it would speed up his time in the morning.
He even placed a fresh pair of pants and socks on top, taking his time to ensure they were his most favourite of those available.
He knew why he was doing this, it was obvious to the briefest of observer. Keeping busy, so not to think about anything but the monotonous tasks he was hurriedly in the middle of.
It helped a bit but ultimately the last resort would be jumping into bed and praying that he would somehow fall instantly to sleep, without the dreaded thoughts returning.
Eyes clamped tightly shut, trying to convince himself that he was tired, hours later the still wide awake Rex was approaching relief.
Thinking about ever aspect of the day, each part analysed, and whether he could have changed any of the events, finally he was satisfied that he couldn’t.
Tiredness had finally overtaken him, but sleep was still hiding some miles away.
In the Nus light, Rex looked across the plains and observed the beauty of the Diplodocus’ craning necks.
Rex turned on his side facing the oils of the moustached man.
By Chunker the Nus was bright tonight!
It lit up every ripple and brush stroke, in a silvery glow, the greying vision highlighting the very whiskers on the oily mans chin.
Which is when he saw it, slightly at first, then more pronounced.
Straight away he was up snapping the light back on, his eyes numb by the change in brightness. Still, even with his eyes half closed, Rex couldn’t bring his gaze from a point just over the shoulder of the portrait.
There just to the side of the fire through the kitchen door and just in the corner of the kitchen window, as his eyes frothed into focus, was another pair looking back at him. They were a familiar set of eyes, the ones that he had supposed to be apples a few nights before, the ones that stung tearfully this afternoon.
The Rogue Creature’s.
The pit in his stomach, the one of loss that should have waited until morning, returned in one great whoosh.
But the pit was also partnered by fear, the fear as he looked at the eyes and how close they were to the oily man.
As sorrowful as Rex could be a new fear was deep in his heart.
A ten minute run through the forest, and a further ten minutes on clear grass to the house, was all it had taken to get from Bob’s lair to hear. That means at a steady walk, for a Tyrannosaurus, Bob was less than twenty minutes away from where Rex presently stood.
He began to turn over Max’s persistence at the hunt for Bob. Knowledge, as he had found out on numerous occasions before, did indeed breed a modicum of intelligence. A lot of knowledge sometimes meant some greater understanding of everything.
But this knowledge, the whereabouts of a foe, just filled Rex with dread.
In all these years Rex had presumed that Bob’s occasional appearances had been because he had travelled many, many miles to get here. Hungry, and devoid of any food, Rex had supposed through desperation, Bob had come to try and pinch some Dumdums, or anything to stave his famine.
But this wasn’t the case, Rex had seen the resources Bob had got. A pile as high as a house of Dumdums, more than he could possibly eat before they started to rot away. His enclosure had fresh water, shelter and sunlight for warmth and he had mastered making fires so that even the Nus wouldn’t bother him.
No, Bob came to the Plains for one thing, pleasure.
He would have to be caught.
No more valiant attempts to appease Max, no more pretending to search for something, whilst desperately trying to think of anyway out of the task.
Leaping onto his bed, Rex lay on his front and did something he hadn’t done in months.
He set the alarm.
His purpose had been found.