The Dinosaur Keeper

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Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Rex stood still, hypnotised by what was in front of him.

His body shook, just momentarily, and he had to tense his muscles ever so slightly, less any trace of fear be given away.

Rupert said nothing, stared straight at Rex, before eventually looking quickly behind him back at the paddock, then returning his gaze back to the quivering Dinosaur Keeper.

His arms still upturned a pulsating mass of Velociraptor, slowly one claw motioned backwards and forward.

Rex fell to his knees, he had hoped to have been made of sterner stuff, but as the thought of his bloody demise flashed quickly through his head, decided it didn’t matter what he looked like now, and maybe some pleading would save his life.

“Please”, he began to wail, “Please don’t kill me! I’ll try harder. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll… I’ll leave, you can pretend I’m dead, I promise I’ll never return! Not ever!”.

Rupert stared intently at Rex before eventually rasping,

“In the house”

His tone had been so forceful that Rex hadn’t even noticed shuffling backwards on his shins, sobbing slightly.

Rupert gently clicked the door shut behind him, silently as if not to bring any attention to himself.

A Velociraptor outside was quite scary, terrifying even, when they ran with arms stretched out like Rupert had done earlier.

But at least there was some kind of scale on the plains, a Diplodocus would make short work, for example, of losing one between their massive legs.

But inside, there was no other word but fearsome.

Brown scaly skin that covered every inch of the beast flickered in the fire light, burning to brilliant orange.

Claws glistened, glowing with menace as Rupert turned to face Rex, placing one hand on the base of his spine and the other right in front of him, centimetres away from Rex’s fearful face, poised for attack.

For the first time, and perhaps it was the close proximity or that the room had suddenly shrunk dwarfed by the creatures frame, Rex really noticed those massive gnashing jaws.

Lined with endless rows of cut-throat, jagged teeth.

With this Rupert pushed the arm at the base of his back down and hurtled his other claw towards the ceiling, Rex just sat and waited for the full force on his body, praying the downward strike would be quick.

But it never came.

“Oh thank Chunker for that!”, Rupert said, following a loud click that was presently echoing around the room.

Rex opened one eye and, slightly puzzled, saw a Velociraptor in front of him wrapped up in complete ecstasy.

Rupert’s eyes were half shut and the broadest of grins casually danced around the previously murderous face.

The top of his head was currently scraping the ceiling, and both legs had broken out into a sort of a jig, hopping eagerly from one side to the other.

At this point Rex decided to stand up, slightly annoyed at his uninvited guest’s supposition that he could come in, frighten the life out of him and then merrily dance in the strangest of ways.

“Excuse me!” started Rex, finding his courage again and ridding himself completely of any kind of compulsion to just run away whilst the opportunity was there.

Rupert was swivelling his hips now in a circular motion and cooing every now and again.

“EXCUSE ME!” Rex shouted for the second time, suddenly being greeted by an intense stare and thinking perhaps he should have ran after all.

They both just stood there for a bit, until Rupert seemed to recall something and needed to immediately hurl it at the other person in the room.

“Kill you? I’m here to help you, you ungrateful Chunkite!”

Rex was quite stunned at this, and rubbed his chin nervously, blushing slightly and wondering what to do next,

“Would you like to sit down?” he said, deciding that it was a bizarre thing to ask, but was struggling for any other kind of thought, this being the first dinosaur to make their way into his front room.

“Thanks you very much” replied Rupert, and promptly sat down on the wooden chair, splintering it into a thousand pieces.

“Perhaps I’ll just stand,” a stunned Rupert said, dusting himself off and pointing to the other vacant armchair, “But you’d better sit”.

The silence returned for a bit, until Rex’s curiosity could be contained no longer,

“If you’re not here to kill me, why were you positioned for attack, all low and to the ground, waving your claws at me?”

Rupert stepped back slightly, looking puzzled, until realisation decided to visit his brain.

“I wasn’t positioned for attacker, you relation of the bad side of Chunker’s family”, he chuckled, “I slept funny last night, and my back sort of seized up. Just managed to click it back then”, he continued repeating his previous motion and exaggerating the stretching of his back.

“And I wasn’t waving my claws, I was motioning for you to get in. I’m not meant to be here, you daft itch on almighty Chunker‘s left buttock.”

Rex really did go scarlet this time, partly for being so stupid as not to recognise what Rupert was doing and also remembering his early pitiful pleas.

“Look I’ll have to be quick, if the others know I’m here, well I’ll not be here for much longer, let’s put it that way”, Rupert continued looking nervously out of the window.

“They’d kill you?” asked a concerned Rex.

“No you Chunkon!” Rupert snapped, “Why the sudden fascination with death. Let’s just say you probably wouldn’t see me again”

Rex was more confused than ever, but let it pass, finally noting that his newly acquired chum was in a bit of a hurry.

“Look I’ve spoken to Henry,” Rupert carried on, “and he’ll get the rest of the Diplodocus’ on side, to help you”

“Help me what?” Rex asked almost immediately.

“Look I just haven’t got the time Rex, just listen and understand”, ordered a slightly sterner Rupert, “We know you tried to capture Bob, and you’re the fir..” suddenly coming to a halt.

The silence was back and Rupert was biting his bottom lip, which wasn’t advisable for someone with teeth that sharp.

He also looked like he needed to continue, but also as if he had upset Rex. In turn Rex registered the comment and filed it away, realising that Rupert had limited time, and more importantly was growing intrigued be his newly recognised friend.

“Anyway, anyway”, came out of the once feared lips, “I can’t vouch for the Pterodons, the rest of my pack or the Stegosaurus’, snooty Chunkites! But I thought if you sort of gave a talk, you know motivationally like, then everybody could pitch in, what do you think?”,

Rex was puzzled, bemused and more than a little confused, but he did manage, after much thought, the following imaginative sentence,

“Sorry?”

Exacerbated, Rupert stepped to one side and promptly smashed his head on a low beam, the house shaking almost as much as his newly damaged skull.

Rex’s heart sank and finally he managed a coherent sentence,

“Look I’m sorry Rupert,” standing on his tiptoes and rubbing the Velociraptors forehead tenderly,

“Why don’t you just spell it out for me, eh?”

Rupert seemed quite pleased with this and responded quickly,

“Right I, and a couple of the others, know you attempted to catch Bob. Were grateful, it’s brilliant! But you can’t do it by yourself. Your last trap was rubbish, sorry, but it was. But I know you have it in you. Come down to the plains and explain your idea, and Henry and I will try and convince the rest to help, in a subversive kind of a way.”

Rex was stunned and it was a feeling he was getting use to, but still he had one more question before entirely convinced of his new allies intent,

“How do you know I have another plan?” unable to suppress a beaming grin on his face.

“Oh you have Rex, I know you have” came the self assured reply.

With this Rupert stopped and took in a massive gulp of air, not having paused once in the previous sentence.

Quickly he snorted and blew the lounges fie right out, turning and doing the same to the rest of the candles. With two massive steps he was at the front door and already opening it, the Nuslight streamed in and making out the rough frame of a quickly exiting animal.

“Sorry about that, but nobody can see me leave, and I pray nobody saw me enter,”

With this Rex raced to the open door bracing himself in the frame,

“When should I speak to them? And why can’t you come to see me?” came the muffled half shout.

“Speak to them now Rex, now. And they can’t see me enter or leave for the same reason that I like you but shouldn’t”, Rupert turned towards the Velociraptor paddock.

“Shouldn’t?” quizzed Rex.

“Not supposed to, rather”, came the reply, but no further talking would take place, Rupert had hurtled towards his home and the Nuslight soon reduced him to but a shadow.

Rex clicked the door shut and rummaged around the mantelpiece, finding the small cardboard box and lighting a candle with one of the matches.

So that’s why he had stalked up the path earlier, thought Rex. He was coming to help me, and bravely so in the middle of the day, without any darkness to cover him.

Panting in and out Rex finally settled on one of the thoughts currently racing through his mind at a million miles an hour.

He had to talk to the rest of the Dinosaurs and now!

This time it wouldn’t be about the fact that Bob was now clear of the plains and shouldn‘t bother them again for a while, or that there had been a recent outbreak of Flu in the Velociraptor paddock, so take care to cover your mouth when sneezing. Or even, could they try and hold in a bit of the dung that they had, every now and again, as he thought a mile and a half square of compost heap was a bit excessive!

Nope, this was to rally the troops in order to work towards the common good.

To rally the hostile troops for the common good, that Max normally made Rex do by himself.

To rally the troops, that couldn’t stand him, for the common good, which would be seen as really his job alone and would be easily refused by the rest of them.

With this Rex slid down the wall he was leaning on and slumped into a protective crouch.

Rocking from side to side with the cool wall soothing him, Rex was a moment later in the bedroom snatching at his jeans, trainers and red t-shirt.

In his head he was convinced that a more casual approach would be appreciated, when talking to the Dinosaurs, and reassured himself of this as he slipped one leg into his jeans.

Pulling the t-shirt over his head, taking a moment to run his fingers over the rubberised numbers, seconds later he was out the front door.

A cold bead of sweat ran the length of his arm, eventually resting at the tip of an even colder finger.

Pooetesleap licked at this, and rather than shock, Rex felt soothed at the sudden appearance of a friend that, although freshly gained this morning, was steeped in the history of his predecessors.

Wrenching his head from the gaze of the four legged companion, for the first time he looked on to the plains and noticed that the perimeter fires were burning brightly.

“Thought you would need a bit of light after your visitor left”, came the familiar tones and Rex turned to his side to see the accustomed shape of Max.

His Tyrannosaurus friend didn’t turn to meet his stare, but rather gazed toward the plains as if transfixed by nature itself.

Rex gulped as the words stopped swimming around his head, and finally snapped into some meaning,

“He’s not in trouble is he?” eventually the words effortlessly springing out of his mouth.

“No he’s not in trouble, quite the reverse, maybe this should have happened a long time ago”, Max said every word slow, carefully pronouncing each syllable deliberately and leaving them to hang in the air for just the right amount of time.

“It was quite brave really,” Rex stated, more relaxed by his friends reply, “I mean, I know that the other Dinosaurs don’t like me, well not very much, so they wouldn’t want one of them talking to me”.

Max gradually turned his head, and Rex noticed that the burning orange in them had died to a sad mottled blue, the Nuslight abating any kind of menace,

“It’s not that they don’t like you, it’s just they‘re not…”, and with this Max decided not to finish. It was familiar this stopping just as a salient point was to be made. But for the first time ever the great Tyrannosaurus’ eyes looked like they wanted to go on, but at the final fence had fallen, tripped by a sense of duty.

Instead Max just motioned for him to walk passed, stepping to one side.

Rex was going to ask if he was coming with him but he knew the answer already, and as he patted Max tenderly on the side of his leg was greeted by absolute stillness and steely resolve.

The plains were in front of him and as the grass squeaked under the rubber of his soles, newly dampened by the night rain, they seemed to rush toward him, eager to hear his voice.

Rubbing his shoulder Rex wondered if the aches had returned, not quite ready for the outside world and a quick walk in the dark, but was quickly greeted by the strap of his satchel. Vaguely he remembered he had put it on just before opening the front door, and another sliver of a memory came back to him as he unbuckled the strap, and saw that his plans for trapping Bob were resting inside on top of the Dinosaur Keepers Manual.

The weight he was bearing didn’t seem so much now, not nearly as heavy as the satchel he had dragged down here a few days and so his stride lengthened, determined to show not the slightest trace of anxiety or fear.

As the fires drew near the gulping returned and over and over again Rex kept telling himself that he just needed to state his case and hope for the best. Sure they could say no, but that would mean he would just start the task alone, which is what he would have to do anyway.

Walking passed the first of the fires, Pooetesleap gently ran into the side of his legs and was rewarded with a firm pat, a little heavier than Rex had intended but he had overcompensated in order to show his hairy friend that nothing would stop him now. Pooetesleap appreciated this and barked quietly, following it with a growl that Rex took as support, patting him once more.

A few more metres later and the walking ground to a halt, long before either brain had told its legs to stop moving.

Turning back toward the house Rex noticed that the position was perfect, the Velociraptor paddock was but a couple of metres away, the woods housed the sheltering Stegosaurus’ just in front and the Pterodons with their heads tucked under a wing were above them.

Directly behind him were the Diplodocus’ some distance away, unfortunately bottoms were facing him, but they were considerable creatures and once they had turned their heads would be within speaking distance.

Which is when the first problem struck him, they were all fast asleep. For some reason Rex had, in his head, foreseen them all attentively watching him walk down the path, wondering what he was doing, before assiduously crowding round him. He had also had the fanciful notion of them agreeing with every word he spoke, before spontaneously bursting into a round of applause as Rex took a well deserved bow.

But at the present moment he had to accept the spontaneous round of snores.

“Excuse me”, Rex started and was greeting by a chorus of exactly nothing, apart from the occasional snort of one of the animals half registering his voice before falling back to sleep.

“EXCUSE ME!” he shouted just above his normal speaking voice, as he scanned round for some kind of reaction.

“OI!” Rex finally decided on, screaming at the top of his voice, finally stirring some kind of reaction.

Slowly one by one the Dinosaurs came round and registered the presence of one solitary Dinosaur Keeper, up well passed his bedtime and disturbing theirs.

“BOB!!!” screamed one of the Pterodons and instantly took flight.

Absolute mayhem ensued.

The Dinosaurs had previously had an inkling, somehow when Bob was going to make a visit and had took the time to brace the herd, gathering themselves in the tried and trusted formation of protecting everyone, in a loose kind of a way, finally tightening it up on sight. Strangely enough they never had the foresight to warn Rex, leaving it until the last minute, and sometimes after he had gone to charge up to the house and ask for assistance.

So with this surprise, supposed attack, Dinosaurs were charging everywhere. A Velociraptor leg here, a Stegosaurus tail there, with a smattering of Pterodon droppings over the branches, obviously more startled at the attack than they had previously let on.

With this Rex noted Rupert shaking his head and trying to suppress a smirk, before turning toward Rex and nodding at him ferociously with one eyebrow arched.

“Oh, right,” said Rex quietly, finally remembering that he was there for a purpose.

Cupping his hands and hoping that he could be heard over the ruckus.

“THERE IS NO BOB!”, he bellowed, “I REPEAT I HAVE NOT COME DOWN HERE BECAUSE OF BOB. WELL NO, I HAVE, BUT NOT FOR THE REASON YOU THINK”.

With this every single animal suddenly came to a standstill, some of them not realising in time and colliding with the one in front.

As the fires flickered, one by one they looked at Rex and not in a pleasant way at all.

Rex noticed that he was smiling, and thought this was probably not the best pose to adopt, quickly changing it to a more placid, serious expression.

“Well why on Chunk are you waking us up?” said one of the Velociraptors, in the vilest manner possible.

“Well,” continued Rex before stopping as quickly as he had started.

He looked round and scanned every one of them, absolute disgust covering his face,

“Who’s making that noise”, he spat out hearing the low rumble in his ears.

The Dinosaurs looked straight at him and genuine concern was in each staring pair of eyes, fear even, which just enraged Rex even more.

“Come on,” he continued, hands on his hips the words rasping their way out, “I haven’t come down here in the middle of the night to be greeted by some spiteful Chunkite making rude noises,”

With this the whole of the animals in front of him took in a sharp intake of air, the occasional shocked ‘oo’, emanating from hushed tones.

Rex had forgotten that the Dinosaurs very seldom swore, only in extreme circumstances in fact, Max had often pulled him up quite often on his over reliance of expletives. Which explained Rupert’s use of them earlier, he must have been really worried about being in the house.

Eventually and much to the surprise of Rex a shaky voice broke through,

“PPPPPlease, MMMMr DDDDinosaur KKKKeeper,”

He span round and became even more shocked, as he noticed it was a Stegosaurus, and tried desperately to remember if he had ever heard one speak before, which he hadn’t.

Unfortunately his brain was quite a way behind this notion and he rather unkindly barked,

“WHAT!?”, at the unfortunate creature that was presently trying to help.

“Oh he shouted at me, HE SHOUTED AT ME!” came the reply, “why would he be so mean, OH WHY?”,

And with this, what Rex now saw as a more juvenile Stegosaurus, trotted round the back of a larger one, peering round its legs before ducking back to the safety of cover just as quickly again.

“NNNNow LLLLLook HHHere”, started the Stegosaurus that was currently sheltering the younger one “TTTThere’s no nnneed for that kkkind of tttone, is there?”

Rex started to soften up slightly and scanned the rest of the Dinosaurs, until he noticed what had happened.

The whole of the herds were stood still, transfixed, waiting for his next comment, and Rex knew it.

He seized this new environment of authority and decided to run with it, a flood of power racing through his heart, adrenalin flowing through every square centimetre of his body.

“I’m afraid there is”, he bellowed, trembling to start before realising he must be strong, as this could be the only way he could convince them to help, if he just sort of ordered them to.

“Now whose making that infernal racket?” he continued “and why are you so frightened? You’re twice the size of me”,

Rex realised he had let his guard down a bit, asking about the welfare of someone he was meant to be confrontational with, but decided he would recover by shouting the next sentence as loud as he could.

Before this could prise its way passed his lips though he was greeted by the same shaky voice again.

“I, I, I, I, am nnnot frightened!” came the reply, “Well I am a bbbit, you’re not normally as llloud as this, bbbbut, I’m afraid uuuuus stegosss, stegosssss, stegossssss” and with this he promptly stopped.

“My kind,” eventually was sounded, recovering some kind of composure, “ssstammer sssslightly, and so ddddon’t talk very often”.

Rex felt absolutely awful and really wanted to say how sorry he was, but was determined to keep stony faced, convinced that this was the best tact in order to get his way.

“The Diplodocus’ are still asleep”, a voice that could only be described as shrill stated, which explained what the noise was, diplodocus snores.

But that small sentance pierced the very ear drums of Rex, convincing him they would surely burst, or at least slowly bleed to a bloody slush. He twirled round to where he thought the noise was coming from, and saw one of the Pterodons beaks clack to a halt.

“Don’t ever do that again!” demanded Rex, realising that he was shouting again and feeling like he was back in control.

“Sorry”, came the whispered reply, and even this small word wrapped in hushed tones, caused Rex to grimace.

Turning towards the Diplodocus’, he shouted at them to wake up.

“Wh, wh, what?” came the reply.

“Wake up and listen to me”, Rex commanded again, “I have something to tell you”.

With this the Diplodocus directly in front of him turned his head round slightly, so that only Rex could see his colossal left eye.

It winked, quickly but it was definitely there. It was Henry and Rex thought he saw the hint of a smile before his mouth returned to the normal indifferent look.

“I’ll just turn round”, came his reply and the whole herd started to move sideways, slowly edging and inching their way anticlockwise.

Rex was a patient man, more than most, as his years of virtual solitude had meant that the only thing he waited for usually was himself and he was never in a rush to do anything. But he knew that it was important to keep the momentum, and if he stopped talking for too long they may start to question his leadership, and Rex wasn’t convinced that once it was lost it would easily be regained.

“Right we may as well start,” he began, “We’ll bring them up to speed later”.

With this the Dinosaurs snapped back into attention, not one of them daring to take their eyes off Rex, in case with his newfound shouting he had also inherited a meaner, nastier streak, the consequences of which wouldn’t bear thinking about.

Rex undid his satchel and unravelled the parchment on which he had drawn his plans. Looking down at them he recognized that they were much too small to show to the rest of the Dinosaurs and cursed his stupidity.

Looking up from the plan, an idea struck him. He held the paper at arms length in front of his face, squinted, as if measuring something up, and sharply goose-stepped directly forward, carefully pacing steps, counting as he went.

The Dinosaurs in front of him parted to let him through, and closed up again, turning round so they could see exactly what he was doing.

Now stood at the side of the compost heap, Rex reached up an arm, grabbed one of its rippled sides and drew himself close.

Looking to the left and then the right, he marvelled at the vastness of it. How on Chunk did it get so big! He was sure it was smaller when he arrived, but it can’t have been, he’d never lengthened it in his whole time here!

He noticed that the Dinosaurs were still transfixed in his every action, but some of his composure had been lost, as he looked up at the height of the sides of the compost heap which seemed to go on forever. As fast as he could he blanked his face again and marched at a forty five degree angle from the smelly container, making the gathered Dinosaurs shuffle back slightly in case they were crushed in his path.

Stamping a foot he proclaimed,

“Here!”, and looked around at the puzzled faces, noting that the Diplodocus’ in the background had barely moved an inch.

Happy that he had them in the palm of his hand, Rex eventually broke the silence.

“This is what I propose”, started Rex, “and if we’re successful, our lives will be just that little more relaxed.”

With this Rex began to wave his hands in all sorts of directions.

Running to the nearby trees, he trotted back impersonating the stride of Bob and causing an all needed bit of hilarity, still managing to keep them grasped tightly in his speech.

He then fell to his knees and turning his hands and arms into giant spades, proceeded to twirl them round in a digging motion, either side of his body like a great steam ship.

The hands turned into pieces of wood and he mimicked scattering them over where he had just dug.

Then taking the palm of his hand to be the patch of land in front of him, Rex upturned two fingers and again pretended to be Bob walking along, until crash! He fell off the end into some great abyss.

Pausing, Rex noticed he was out of breath, this explanation being a bit more physical than anticipated.

Moping a moist brow, and still enjoying the rush of his rousing speech he shouted,

“That’s my plan. WHOSE WITH ME!”, and with it closed his eyes, arms aloft in victory, waiting for a rapturous response.

Silence.

If one pin had dropped on the upper side of Chunk you would have heard it here.

Rex peeked out and opened an eye, and then the other, the green one seeing what the blue had taken in but a moment ago.

All the Dinosaurs stood in front of him completely blank.

“You want to bring Bob to the plains on purpose?” quizzed one Velociraptor, one of three animals with a pleasant enough speaking voice in Rex’s opinion.

“And you want us to help you do this?” asked another.

Rex could feel the authority crumble away from him, and fervidly looked for any signs of a friendly face, to which not one was found.

The Diplodocus’ were still only about two thirds of the way to turning round and so he couldn’t even try and restart Henry’s previously winking face.

“YYYYeah”, came a suddenly familiar stammer, proving to Rex he had lost his control if the most timid of creatures was ready to argue, “WWWhy wwwould we help you dddo ttthat, bbbbesides it’s your jjjob, nnnot ours”.

All was lost.

The trap could still be set, but it would take months, years even, instead of days, as a solitary Dinosaur Keeper dug the massive pit.

“Yeah why should we do that!” came another voice, but this time Rex recognised the tone, a tone he had heard before today.

It was Rupert and Rex couldn’t believe the betrayal, scanning the crowd for his former friend.

Was this all another cruel joke?

He located Rupert and started to fix him with the strictest of stares normally reserved for Pooetesleap when something squishy was felt between his toes in the morning.

But then he saw that Rupert was moving his claws round again, in a circular motion, as if willing Rex to go on.

“Well, erm,” Rex hesitated, “Well it may be my job, to rid the Plains of Bob, but, erm, it’s hardly only my problem”.

Looking round, he was on to something, noticing quickly that they were again paying all their attention to him.

Rupert nodded excitedly at him and increased the speed of his circling claw.

“No indeed”, Rex continued hands on hips again, striding from side to side, “In fact it’s very much not my problem. I have the protection of a secure house, you’re the ones that stand out here unguarded in the night.”

A small squeak came from the juvenile Stegosaurus again and Rex decided that fear was his only true friend in this instance.

“Yes I’m very safe, but still I try and help out, finding the Rogue Creature and trying to ensnare him. And for what? For the one and only time of asking, after I’ve spent years breaking my back looking after you, just to receive snide comments and turned backs, I ask you to help, help yourselves even, and nothing”.

Rex stooped down and picked up his satchel, swinging it on to his back a little too quickly and almost knocking himself over with the weight of it.

“Come on Pooetesleap”, he said and started to walk back to the house.

“I’ll help you!” came a solitary reply, and Rex stopped in his stride with the warmth of Rupert’s now familiar voice.

Silence hurtled back to him as Rupert’s words ebbed away.

“Me too”, eventually came, and to the side of him Max appeared, beaming from ear to ear.

Rex turned to the rest of the herds and looked at them, expressionless faces flickering in the fire light.

One by one they started to nod, the occasional positive murmur banded around.

It wasn’t the cheering, flag waving response Rex had wanted, but they were going to help and it was a welcomed result.

He walked towards them, just as Henry’s massive head swooped in among the group and his lips began to move,

“Did I miss anything?”

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