Size / / /

He stopped at Hadley's to get her dates

(because she liked the Medjools, although tray after tray

piled, crystallized, in the refrigerator)

and made it to the aisle before he remembered.

Drove on the service street

past the tribal-owned Denny's,

past the casino, sprouting like a strange neon flower,

to Cabazon, where the world cracks open,

and concrete dinosaurs guard the alluvial plain,

while the bunch-backed clouds, thick with rain and apocalyptic promise,

brim over San Gorgonio

trapping the light of a dying sun.

He stopped at Hadley's to get her licorice

(before he remembered that she was gone),

chopped into red cubes, too sweet to chew,

but sucked until your mouth is raw.

The brontosaurus was pink in the dusk,

and now he saw its eyes glowed yellow with discontent,

while the T. rex's were ruby,

with a jolly, predatory look.

He stopped at Hadley's to get her pistachios,

shells opened, begging like the beaks of baby birds

(before he remembered that she was gone, forever),

she'd crack them in her mouth.

The alien was leaning

against the Northeast leg; he walked by without acknowledgement

(nowhere else to go) and climbed inside the tail

to the tiny store where they sold plastic dinosaurs,

fossilized dinosaur dung,

and postcards.

It smelled, as he remembered, of old, cold concrete,

and a sign reminded him that it was,

in actuality,

an apatosaurus.

The heads, rough-sculpted in the bumpy walls,

of early man still looked down,

like grisly trophies,

looking, as always, faintly reproachful.

(The Tyrannosaurus's name is Mr. Rex, he read on a flyspecked card,

but he'd always called him "Bob" in bedtime stories,

Bob, and his improbably apatosaurus mother,

who lived in a little house behind the bushes

behind the back garden,

behind her bedroom.)

"Rickets," said the concrete Neanderthal. "Lack of sun, hence Vitamin D,

due to climactic conditions,

resulting from the Deluge. That is all: no bowed legs,

no brow ridges,

deny it as you will, brother."

"Seeding," said Peking Man. "Extraterrestrial seeding."

(Outside the alien shifts his weight and smiles.)

"Angels brought us in spaceships, and taught us masonry and geometry,

demons live in the Hollow Earth."

Lucy's big ape eyes brimmed,

and he leaned close to hear her whisper:

I know what's it's like, Mr. Man; I have lost one too.

And he remembered, PBS blaring in the background,

the phrase: the female's footprints,

deeply indented on one side, indicate she carried a burden on her hip,

perhaps a small child.

The alien was leaning against the Southeast leg.

"Of course she's not dead," he said, under an avuncular fedora (aliens

always wear fedoras like Bogart). "We took her, for purposes beyond your mortal ken.

We always do: no one dies. Not here, not your daughter,

not your mother,

not your wife. We will return her, one day,

when she has served her purpose. Even now, as the sun explodes,

rest assured we will scoop you up;

your Anasazi roommate

will tell you wonderful stories."

The apatosaurus was watching them

with disappointed, yellow eyes.

"Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook?" it said.

"Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?

Wilt thou play with him as with a bird?

Or will thou bind him for thy maidens?"

"Wouldn't dream of it," he said.

"You've been practicing that for a while, haven't you?" said the alien.

But the dinosaur was sulking.

He drove east, towards the false waterfalls of the Cities of the Plain.

Behind him rain, before him fire,

dates, licorice, and pistachios on the passenger seat,

to seed the new, clean-burned land.




Samantha Henderson lives in Southern California. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Realms of Fantasy, The Lovecraft eZine, Goblin Fruit and Weird Tales, and reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Science Fiction, the Nebula Awards Showcase, Steampunk Revolutions, and The Mammoth Book of Steampunk. She's the author of the Forgotten Realms novels Heaven's Bones and Dawnbringer.
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