The drums are deafening, beating in rythm with the frantic spinning of the world. I think I'm sitting at a bon fire, but everything is moving, dancing from side to side in a blur pierced only by the hot yellow light of the fire.
The pendulum effect of the world makes it so that the trail left by the fire is like a mouth filled with sharp fangs, smiling at me.
The men and women around me begin their song, which I recognize as the tribal chanting appropriate for a boy's rite of passage into adulthood.
I'm twenty, guys, it's a little late…
For some reason, I can't talk, can't move and can't think straight… One 'peace calumet' too many, maybe?
"You do not use drugs," a soft, educated voice speaks to my right, "you never do, you never will," This last one sounded more like an order. I try to look at the man speaking, but only see a red-brown spot the size of a large dog. Somehow, it is not affected by the swinging of the world, instead shaking furiously on the spot like a junkie sitting on a dryer. "Your cunnings are the only advantage you possess; you do not have the luxury to loose them."
I try to ask him who he is and what's going on, but it seems the guy can read my mind.
"Do not be ridiculous, you know exactly what is going on." He seems disappointed in my complete genre blindness, "You were injected with some extinct animal's venom and now your body is fighting it, making you delirious. This my friend, is your own, fortuitous vision quest…"
A vision quest is a turning point in Naskapi children life, before puberty, to find one's intended spiritual and life direction. When an older child is ready, he will go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness after a period of fasting. This usually lasts for days while the kid is tuned in with the spirit world.
Usually, a Guardian animal will come in a vision or dream, and the child's life direction will appear at some point. The child returns to the tribe, and once he has grown, will pursue that direction in life.
Nowadays, we just call it career orientation.
In any event, I hope mine will include getting dressed in the morning and, you know, not getting undressed as part of the day's work.
The red thing chuckles, "I'm afraid you will have to bear with budget cuts and let me sum up the situation." What? Aw come on! This is supposed to be a point in my life where I talk with my totem animal and find out what I'm good at, could they at least add some fireworks or something?
"No," the man answers, "there is too little time and too much for you to accomplish…"
So, what, I'm going to be some sort of hero? Save mankind from evil giant chickens?
That makes my interlocutor laugh, "Not quite, no, but if you want to survive, then you need to kick yourself into overdrive, as your earlier behavior was utterly pathetic." That was uncalled for! I'm still alive, right? Right? "One more such mistake and this is a state of being that won't last, now, let me tell you the plan…"
Oh, my Guardian animal has a plan! I feel so much better now!
"Yes, it seems your subconscious had to come up with an answer as your lucid self is too stupid to do it."
Subconscious? Well, I expected something more cryptic, like spirit world or something… Then again, that version makes more sense than an animal spirit visiting me in my hallucinations while I'm sitting on the passenger seat of a Ford pickup.
"No, you're really just talking to yourself," The voice explains, in a more friendly tone, "now, the plan is as follow; Do what the guy says, he is borderline insane; kept talking to himself ever since he found you about nonsense ranging from cavemen to the shape of your skull, but he knows things you will probably need and has good knowledge of the animals that attacked you."
How do I even know that?
"You are delirious, not dead."
Point taken, what now?
The animal, which I now identify as a very small wolf or, more likely, a coyote, bares its teeth in a vicious smile.
"Now you wake up and smell the ashes."
"…Did you know chimps have the same muscle structure as humans, yet can pull almost five times as much weight as we can?"
Uh? Where am I?
I see medical equipment around; vials, blood samples with different colored caps, schemas showing human evolution, a male human's bone and muscle structures and, right between these two posters, a skin-less depiction of some kind of monkey, all three of them hung on bleached white walls.
My throat feels raw and dry, like it was stuffed full of paper, and the beakers filled with clear liquids are very tempting.
"That is because we humans spend much more energy on brain power, making us much smarter, yet unable to physically best any of the creatures that now roam the Earth…"
The room I'm in is long and thin, the layout reminiscent of a camping car, or boat, with space economy and bumpy rides in mind. I'm all the way back, looking at the front of the thing.
The presence of a windshield confirms my theory that I am in a camping car, but the road beyond just makes no sense; it's a fucking jungle.
I live about five hours from the Canadian arctic, there are no palm trees in a couple thousands of kilometers around where I live, yet the path we are now on is flanked by tall, mossy palm trees.
An hand appears as whoever's talking gesticulates to emphasize his point.
I sit up and listen:
"…But modifying the proteins that way would cause brain atrophy! So I though of a gene-therapy inspired by that of Peter Weyand; using myostatin inhibition I could double the muscle power of any human being, I would also have to enhance tendons and bones resistance, but this is quite simply done. Of course, some safety measures will have to be bypassed for the good of all and some synergetic effects, both beneficial and nefarious are to be expected…"
Normally, increase in human performances is the kind of things that fascinate me, but right now, my arm is hurting just as much as my chest and I can see at least four small red dots on my elbow, so I don't feel very safe.
"Do you have any water?" Is the first sentence that comes to mind and the result is not what I expected; the guy brakes, hard. So hard I am thrown off the bed face first and land on the gray carpet covering the floor.
If he did make me stronger, he sure a heck didn't make me tougher or anything, and I feel the skin on my face and hands burn.
"Oh! My… I apologize, I did not know…" Looking up I see some guy looking half like an escaped madman, half like some genius scientist. Einstein with a beard, essentially…
He offers me a hand, but I don't take it, rising to my knee and looking down at my chest.
The lacerations have started healing and the bleed slightly, thanks to my short flight.
I guess this part of my memory was correct… How much of what happened yesterday was real, then?
The man hands me a bottle of mineral water and I quickly unscrew the cap to drink from it. I'm not stupid, I know I should drink slowly, so I stop myself after the first gulp and look at the man, despite my body screaming for more drinking and less talking.
"What did you inject me with?" I ask, pointing to my forearm.
I was too confused earlier, but I now realize I'm only wearing my cargo pants and a look around doesn't reveal much about where the rest of my stuff is.
Einstein seems to make the link between my question and his previous rambling, since he smiles reassuringly.
"Saline solutions, to keep you from dehydrating while your body fought the parasite."
Keep me from dehydrating? "How long…"
The man stands and turn around, "No time, Audré will answer any question once we get to the lab. We must leave now." With that, he sits back in the driver seat and I resume drinking.
So, let's sum things up; I'm in a mobile lab with some crazy scientist who's obsessed with improving human performances, was attacked by what I am almost certain were some sort of Raptor-like dinosaurs, maybe Troodons or Velociraptor, the tundra has somehow changed into a jungle before my eyes and I got… uh…
A quick inventory of the pant's pockets allow me to spot my Zippo and pocket knife, while a look at my belt confirms I still have my diving knife.
Well, I got some defensive options, at least.
Trough the windshield, I can see the bright green and lush forest trough the parallel walls of naked tree trunks surrounding the road. Something's not right, it looks like a bulldozer cleared a path and took great care to remove any single bit of greenery from its immediate vicinity.
I would say some king of flamethrower could clear a place like that, but that wouldn't explain the fallen trees littering the floor or the fact the trunks themselves were left intact.
Whatever happened here, I got a feeling the answer is very obvious, just not in my current mind set.
It's like trying to do math when you just woke up, no matter how smart you are, it won't make any sense until your first cup of coffee.
The bottle is empty, so I drop it in the sink, to my left, and begin exploring the place, looking for information on my new insane pal.
Trying and failing to open the doors at eye level, I decide all cabinets are locked and move on. There's a ring binder on the counter, right next to the sink.
I open it and frown at the first of many pages in contains:
"Aardonyx (Afrikaans aard, "earth" + Greek onux, "nail, claw") is a genus of prosauropod dinosaur. It is known from the type species Aardonyx celestae found from the Lower Jurassic Elliot Formation of South Africa. A. celestae was named after Celeste Yates, who prepared much of the first known fossil material of the species. It has arm features that are intermediate between prosauropods and sauropods."
The text goes on, talking about weaknesses, predators and behavior, but I just look at the three pictures glued to the page. They show something halfway between a giraffe and a lizard, walking upright with its massive legs under its body, not to the sides like reptiles.
These gotta be reconstructions or something! But they're Polaroid pictures and I heard those are extremely hard to falsify.
I flip trough the two pages of description and find another file:
"Acrocanthosaurus (ak-rə-kan-thə-sor-əs; meaning "high-spined lizard") is a genus of theropod dinosaur that existed in what is now North America during the Aptian and early Albian stages of the Early Cretaceous. Like most dinosaur genera, Acrocanthosaurus contains only a single species, A. atokensis. Its fossil remains are found mainly in the U.S. states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, although teeth attributed to Acrocanthosaurus have been found as far east as Maryland."
Only one picture on that one and it's taken from afar. All I can see is some kind of blue T-Rex with a long snout and a row of spikes on its back, one feet on a Leopard tank's turret while its mouth is twisting the cannon out of shape.
Dinosaurs; my childhood dreams coming back to haunt the fuck out of me.
I feel us stopping and look trough the window, just over the sink.
A band of sauropods, ranging from elephant sized Apatosaurus to building sized Brachiosaurs, are walking around in a lake I know very well, the Lac au Dorés.
We're parked on a beach, a dozen kilometers east of my family's hunting camp, facing a scene that shouldn't exist.
On the floating island where I learned camping, two sheep sized, thick skulled, bipedal creatures are ramming each others and flashing their brightly colored throats in between impacts.
Just a bit further, on that peek where I caught my first fish, two small crested theropods –T-Rex like creatures, recognizable by their bipedal walk, large hind legs and tiny arms-, barely bigger than cows, diving their head in the water in sometime fructuous attempts to catch small fishes.
On the other side of the lake, I see things, halfway between buffalos and elephants move around lazily, stopping from time to time to do something I can't quite see all the way out here.
This whole scene is unnaturally quiet, with no ground shaking steps or chorus of chants from the animals, although I see them open their mouths from time to time.
I unlatch the window and push it outward. Indeed, as soon as the glass is out of the way, I feel more than I hear the kind of song you'd expect from such behemoths; a low and reassuring vibrations with more variations than my ears can identify, interrupted only by the squeals of annoyance the theropods emit when they miss their preys.
The thick heads emit almost mechanical sounds before each impact, and I can almost feel the power of each slam from the clap they make, close to that of coconuts banging together, but louder.