The Dinosaur Keeper

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Chapter 20

Chapter 20

A great head jaggedly appeared through the mist.

Standing to the side of a cluster of trees from where he had been hiding, Bob allowed everyone to see the fullness of his frame.

Every terrifying muscle rippled, every razor sharp tooth glinted.

Two great strides and he was at the edge of the pit, looking down it.

The Dinosaurs matched every step by moving backwards, but none of them ran away, the fear glued their eyes to him, unable to do anything but watch events unfold before them.

“And you expect me to fall down there do you Rex?” said Bob eventually, raising his head to address the group but firing the question directly at Rex.

“It’s not a thoroughly thought out plan is it?” he began, knowing he had the full attention of the every single sole in earshot, “Worst than the cage last time!”

He snorted sharply, signalling utter disgust at the futile attempt and stepped even closer to the edge, curling his toes round the side of the pit, resolute in his confidence of belittling anything Rex did.

The group remained silent and even the Dinosaur Keeper couldn’t find words to respond.

All this time, all this energy, and for what? Absolutely nothing. Although Rex couldn’t formulate any sound, he knew deep inside that Bob had found out about the trap weeks ago and had waited until everybody had toiled long and hard before acknowledging this.

Making his victory a little bit sweeter, disparaging every body in one mass humiliation.

It was a master stroke leaving it until now, thought Rex. Still aching from a month’s hard labour, this would surely break every single one of the Dinosaurs spirit and they would be submissive to the fact that Bob was here to stay, to scare them forever, untouchable by anyone.

But this wasn’t the only resolution of the day, the final piece of the puzzle snapped into place in Rex‘s head and suspicion came into realisation.

He hadn’t found out about the trap, Bob had been told.

Or rather Bob under a different name had known all along, the former leader of the pack, the first Dinosaur to befriend Rex, the first Dinosaur he remembered seeing.

Max.

“Where’s Max when you need him!” Rupert eventually squealed, “Why isn’t he here?”

“He wouldn’t be would he” Rex replied putting together a long thought out mystery into some kind of order,

“Where do you think he is Bob? Or should we call you something else?” the words were full of venom, a life time of frustration and were spat from his pursed lips.

“What on Chunk are you talking about?” the Rogue Creature replied.

“Funny how we never see you and Max at the same time isn’t Bob! Still want me to call you that by the way?”

Rex’s word hit the group hard and his thoughts were now shared by them, a gasp let from every single mouth.

But as triumphant as the Dinosaur Keeper felt, the knowledge offering some kind of solace in a world that had been turned upside down, he suddenly changed expression to that of concern and it slowly etched itself across his face.

When Bob had spoke they had all been so terrified that they could do nothing but listen intently. But remembering the sentence’s back in his head, something struck Rex.

Bob seemed to be slurring his words and on looking into his face, his eyelids flickered every now and again as if he was fighting sleep.

Staring even harder and approaching the Tyrannosaurus, spurred on with curiosity and the safe knowledge that there was a twenty metre deep hole between them, Rex noted the purplish stains in the corner of his mouth.

“Have you been eating Jasmine Berries?” he enquired.

“Never you mind what I have been eating, worry about what I’m going to be eating next!” retorted the Tyrannosaurus menacingly.

With it, he staggered slightly backwards, losing his footing and then correcting himself, readjusting his ferocious composure and curling his toes back round the edge of the pit.

For the first time Rex noticed that the toes were slightly lighter at the tips, as if grasping at the edge rather than displaying any mockery of what the Dinosaurs had created.

However curious he was though, Rex soon thought he should be doing something and looked desperately around, panicked at the thought that he was suppose to be the boss of the herds, the Keeper of his flock.

Some leader he had turned out to be.

All he’d done is bring Bob, or Max, into the heart of his community and with every single Dinosaur here, presented their mortal enemy with nothing short of a running buffet. Even the Stegosaurus’ had been brought to their knees in sheer terror, crouching with the legs fully apart.

But it was then that Rex noticed something, something quite astounding.

The Stegosaurus’ may of looked frightened, their legs stretched as far apart as possible, but they were all staring at him, willing him to do something, something he couldn’t quite work out.

The Diplodocus’ were also staring at him, every muscle in their colossal bodies tensely braced.

More Intriguingly the Velociraptors had discreetly wrapped there arms around some nearby vines.

Rupert was even leaning against a tree, signalling to Rex with one of his massive eyelids and nodding his head to one side.

A slight breeze whistled by, a mere rustling of the trees, and Rex eventually caught on, slowly securing his hand on Pooetesleap’s collar, the other gently positioned around a nearby bush’s roots, finally understanding what to do.

The Nus nudged its way slightly into view above one of the hills, as it may have been Christmas but the evening was always it’s alone.

“Why have you gone so quiet?” asked the terrifying Tyrannosaurus suspiciously, “Wondering which one I’m going to devour first?” he chortled.

Then it happened.

Whoosh, went the air.

Slam, went the trees.

And bang, the ground shook.

You see even on Christmas day, when the snow and the half light have claimed their yearly prize, still the planet has to turn.

Daytime had turned to dusk and with it Bob firstly teetered.

Then he visibly wobbled.

The wobble turned into certain shakiness.

Tiny arms went above his head, flailing to find something to hold on to, but nothing was within reach.

Finally, smack! As feet lost there grip and a face showed the acceptance of inevitability, he fell down the mouth of the hole and with a deafening thud landed at the bottom.

Every single being present stood still.

They had all overcompensated for the turning of Chunk, and so without so much as an after turn wobble, every one of them just stood there staring at the hole.

Seconds spilled into minutes and still nobody spoke.

“Do you think he’s alright?” enquired Rex eventually, to nobody in particular.

“Who cares!” screamed Rupert, “Did you hear him, he was deciding who to kill first! And who would have guessed, it was, well you know who all along!”

The group roared its agreement and the adrenaline slowly began to return Rex’s veins, as he mulled over what Rupert had said.

The murmur of a frenzy started to emanate from the rest of the Dinosaurs and he could feel the hatred of Bob, Max or who ever it was that had terrified them for all these years brimming over, as they continued just to look at the pit’s mouth where the dinosaur had once stood.

Anger was starting to fill his stomach, yet Rex had to ask again, fearful that he really wouldn’t care about an answer unless the question was posed now,

“But, do you think, you know, he’s still alive?”

Nobody replied, and for a group that had been toiling for a month to catch the creature, concern started to weigh heavy on them.

“He’s fine”, replied Max, breaking through the nearby undergrowth, bringing the silent crowd into more uncertainty.

“I saw him earlier. He didn’t eat too many of the Berries just enough to make him woozy”, he continued “Probably helped stop any pain from the fall.”

Rex was stunned, it was the only word suitable.

Shock would have meant he could change expression and presently his face was exactly the same as it was a moment ago.

Puzzlement had decided to pay a visit to the rest of the herds and Henry for one wasn’t entirely convinced that his head wouldn’t explode, such was the sight before him.

“Max?” Rex eventually said, “But I thought you were? And he was?” not finishing the sentence and merely pointing at the hole, then to Max and back again.

“What, that I was Bob?” Max chortled, “Definitely not! It’s impossible for one very good reason that would take too long to explain now”.

Rex might have been shocked, he was definitely this now being able to change his expression to convey it, but he was also the angriest he had ever been in his life. This anger started to peak and Rex’s arms bulged with their new found power. Face reddening, rage was spitting from his lips, to think of what Bob had done to them all over these years, and to think at the last moment he had doubted the first friend he could ever remember having. Slight shame filled his still reddening cheeks, but thoughts passed back to Bob who had made them all fear for their safety, ruining an otherwise idyllic land. To think that recently, just a few weeks ago, he had felt sorry for him, being genuinely distressed at this animals suffering as the boulders hit him one by one. He had let him go! That bow that he had done, mocking him! Mocking him for his compassion, for wanting no creature to feel pain, no matter who they were.

Having every emotion run through him today Rex was just about to scream this at Max but was stopped at the last minute.

“Good job you did this now isn’t it Rex, left it right to the last minute didn’t you”, Bob suddenly shouted from the bottom of the pit, “Time‘s running out! Tick tock!”

“Shut up Bob!” Max retorted, in a tone that Rex thought was usually reserved for him and he was stunned for the second time in as many minutes.

Max had gone from coy, to the frankest talk he had ever heard.

“What does he mean?” Rex asked, quizzically looking at Max, still with blackened thoughts of slaughtering Bob right there and then running through his mind.

“Never mind Rex, we haven’t got time for this now, what’s next?”

A pause rattled through Rex’s brain, he was genuinely at a loss at what to do, so much rage was building in his tiny frame, sure that if satisfaction didn’t pass this way soon that his head would pop clean off his shoulders, like a pressure cooker left too long to stew.

The first words from the herds were whispered, singular and from an unknown mouth,

“Kill him!” spurted forth, and were soon picked up by every single creature.

Building slightly as each second passed, before shouting a resonating chant,

“Kill him, kill him, Kill him!” they continued getting louder and louder in his ears, all the Dinosaurs staring at Rex, willing him on.

Rex’s head span, turning from left to right, confusion visibly flooding every thought, but the hatred swelling in his chest.

Why not kill the chunking chunkite?

The years that had passed, the little bow all those weeks ago, just to come back and try and finish them all off.

Rex was certain now, positive that if the situation had been reversed and Bob had the opportunity now to put any of them in a pit and slowly torture them, he would have grasped it with both hands, gleefully savouring every bloody moment.

Rage burst out and Rex turned toward the house, covering some distance quickly, his mind fixed on the large axe that was kept in the shed.

The huge, razor sharp axe.

He was just about to pass the Velociraptors who were whooping with delight, patting him on the back and imagining the axe above his head like a newly won trophy, when it happened.

The loudest roar ever to have been heard anywhere on Chunk.

Splitting everyone’s ears, forcing Rex to spin round, and hands clamped to the side of his head, fearful that Bob had somehow escaped, a dreamed axe clattering to the ground.

But the only Tyrannosaurus present was Max, and his lungs were burning from the force at which he had just made his last sound.

All the herds were still gathered round in a circle, but none of their voices were uttering a single sound.

No murmurs now, no chants, no singing chorus’, it was all they could do but look straight at Max, to be greeted with a reply of absolute disgust.

Slowly Rex edged back towards him, until he was but a few feet away, Max lowering his head, nostrils flaring, hot breath felt on Rex’s cheek.

A minute passed and Max didn’t break eye contact with him once, choosing to use the time to adjust himself, regain composure and plan the following words carefully.

“What are you doing Rex?” he asked softly.

But Rex couldn’t reply. Disgracefully the stare was broken and he looked at the toes of his boots, thoroughly ashamed of what had just ran through his mind.

What had he been thinking?

“This isn’t like you Rex”, Max continued and Rex managed a quiet,

“I know”

“You honestly thought that the best solution to the problem of Bob was to kill him?”, and Max’s tone was just as soft, with concern peppered through every word,

“What have you been working towards these last four weeks? What have you been frightened of all these years? All of you?”

Max raised his head and passed an eye over the rest of the group, all returning Rex’s shameful stare, before finally resting again on his gaze alone.

Rex couldn’t reply and he half thought that he wasn’t meant to, Max continuing a few short moments later,

“You’ve been frightened for your life and you think the way to resolve this is to take Bob’s away? To reduce yourself to his level?”

Not believing it himself, Rex recounted what he was thinking of doing, what he would have done if Max hadn’t of been here, and the vision of Bob in pain, crushed under the weight of the boulders returned. This time his expressions played through Rex’s mind as more genuine, more real and his stomach became icily empty.

Again he could do nothing but look at his toes, the shame still running through every part of his body.

Knowing that this was enough, that he had made his point clear, Max thought of another approach, one that would sooth his human friend.

“What’s the only Rule of the Dinosaur keeper?”

Feeling slightly better, the shame soothed by a few choice words, Rex raised his head to meet Max’s face and smiled slightly before replying solemnly,

“The Dinosaur Keeper must look after the Dinosaurs”

His respect for the Tyrannosaurus returned sharply, something that had been sadly missing for the past few weeks,

“Exactly!” said Max bringing himself to the full height and addressing the groups as a whole, “Not a dinosaur, not some of the dinosaurs, not favoured dinosaurs but the Dinosaurs, all of them! Of which I think Bob is one”,

He strode over to the pit and peered down, just about making out the top of the trapped animal’s head.

“You alright down there Bob?” he shouted into the blackness,

“Oh yeah! Peachy!” was the reply, echoing around the deep walls before finally escaping from the ditch’s mouth.

“Well I’m sure we can do something to make you more comfy soon”

Max returned to where Rex was stood and spoke to him solely,

“You see Rex. The rule is simple, very much so. But the simplest of things can be the hardest to apply in situations you don’t like”

A small wink came from his right eye, and a friendly snort from his left nostril gave the boost that Rex needed to reply,

“I know,” Rex began, “But it was just the momentum, the energy of the group, I’m sure I wouldn’t of actually done it. Kill him I mean.”

“I know you wouldn’t of Rex”, Max confirmed, assuring his troubled friend of his strength of character, knowing there was something in him that would always protect the Dinosaurs, no matter who they were.

The toes of his boots seemed less interesting now, and Rex did wonder what kind of comfort was meant to be drawn from them. Pretty sure he would never take solace in shiny black leather again, Rex decided to be braver and look at Max straight in the eye, any future conflict resolved through words, not by waiting for sympathy.

“So what next?” asked Max

Rex felt as blank as a cheque held by a millionaire in front of an overpriced painting.

“Sorry I don’t quite…” he started to say trailing off at the end.

“Come on Rex, stop being a kidder.” Max felt the urge to say, chortling slightly and encouraging everyone else to join in,

“One you build, two you trap, three you? What are we going to do with him now? After he’s gone into the hole. What do we do next, where do we put him? It‘s far to small for him to live there forever, what‘s the next part of the plan?”, this time Max was doing the trailing off, but he looked confidently around at the others, allowing himself the luxury of a small snort, to reassure everyone involved.

“Yes, what are you doing next?” came a voice from the pit, “Not known for thinking things through are you Rex”.

“Shut up you!” Rupert exclaimed at the surprise to himself more than anyone, “Rex knows exactly what he’s doing, don’t you”, in more of a statement than a query towards his recently acquired friend.

It was about this time that everybody observed, not for the first time that day, Rex’s new found fondness of staring intently at his shoes.

His toes had become attractive again and his face burned a worrying scarlet.

All agreed that this seemed to have started after Rupert’s recent assertion.

Rex began with his left foot and quickly went to stare at his right, all the time never breaking the gaze of his toes or looking at another soul, determined to keep up this obsession for as long as he could.

“Don’t you?” Rupert asked again, unfortunately turning a previous testimony into a concerned enquiry.

*****

“So that’s that really” stated Number 1.

“Is it?” enquired Number 2, still slightly annoyed at being the same rank as when this story began.

“Well obviously! It’s an end of sorts isn’t it?”

Number 1 adjusted his smock and began to think if it was wise to change the colour to navy. It was a bit of a crazy idea in his opinion, he much preferred the traditional orange and brown, you could always trust brown. But as long as it meant that Number 2 would stop going on about promotion for a bit, it was worth giving in to him on a minor point.

“But there is quite a lot left unanswered, isn’t there?” Number 2 stated, brushing his hand lovingly over the cotton poly mix of a much cherished jacket sleeve.

“Of course there is!” stated a perturbed Number 1, “But you have to end one bit, to start another, don’t you! All questions will be answered in the end.”

With this Number 1 turned round in his supposed existence and walked through an imaginary door, which had appeared out of nowhere.

“Think of this end actually being the beginning of something much bigger” beckoning at his friend to follow.

Number 2 was more than a little confused, he knew what was to come next just as well as Number 1, but thought that more of the mysteries would be answered for Rex.

Recognising this Number 1 sighed slightly and then added,

“Come, come my learned friend, the answers will be found, you can’t tie up everything nicely straightaway. No matter how much you want to!”

A more relaxed Number 2, gave way to a little relief and followed his chum through the door, clicking its supposed existence firmly behind him.

“Custard Cream?” he asked

“Splendid!” replied Number 1, “We’ll certainly need the energy. Much to do now that an end has started our beginning”, and quickly turned into a corridor that wasn’t there reminding Number 2 to turn off the lights that didn’t exist.

So there we have it.

A man whose understanding of nothing of his past, little of others and even less by the end of our tale, stood a tad more confused than when he began.

But still, as ever, Chunk would continue to turn, the Dinosaur Keeper would continue to tend and I’m sure one day, just maybe, he will reach a more resolute end.

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