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It was a little past noon and we all sat in the living room as we waited for Natasha to come down the stairs. Of course there was a lot to talk about between us now that she was conscious again. Hailey had brewed coffee for me and Vincent and tea for herself. Walter decided to make himself a glass of orange juice.

“Did she seem okay when she woke up?” Vinny asked me, moving his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“I would think so,” I replied, taking a sip of the hot, steaming coffee out of my mug. “When she woke up, she had a bit of energy. But I think we shouldn't rain a lot of questions down on her when she comes down here. She’s been through quite a lot, I imagine.”

“I’m just relieved that she's awake,” Hailey said, lifting her mug by the handle in her hand. “I was worried that she would be out cold for a long while.”

“Well, at least it is safe for us to say that your worry has been misplaced,” Walter said. “But what I can’t say is that we are not concerned about her story. I am still rather curious about how she ended up lying unconscious on the shore of the river.”

“I would really like to know if she knows if there are more survivors,” Vinny said. “If she was not alone before she washed up on the shore.”

That would be something, I thought. If Tash knows any other people that have made it this far, the better our odds of surviving this whole ordeal.

At that moment, there was a soft thumping sound coming from the stairs. The sound of someone coming down the steps. Hailey, Vinny, and Walt looked over me, their expressions on their faces a combination of wonder and surprise. I looked back over my shoulder, and standing there by the foot of the stairs was Tash. She stared at us with a similar expression on her face.

I smiled warmly; it felt great to see her come down to meet the others. Although, she looked rather shy, reluctant even. I knew that it was up to me to break the ice.

So, I stood up from my seat and approached her. “Natasha,” I said, doing my best to demonstrate and speak with hospitality, to let her know she was welcome. I came to a stop just in front of her. “I’m glad you came down here. Please, have a seat.”

That seemed to get Tash over her hesitancy. She smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Toby.”

She then made her way to the living room, with me following close behind her, and took her place on the couch where I once sat. I decided to remain standing beside her. The others were still staring at her, but no longer in silence.

“Wow,” Hailey spoke up. “You’re really beautiful.”

Tash’s cheeks turned a very faint shade of pink, but she smiled. “Thank you.”

I cleared my throat. Tash and the others turned their eyes on me. I placed a hand gently on her shoulder “Everyone, this is Natasha.”

“Hi,” she said, raising her hand a bit.

“Tash,” I said, gesturing to each of my friends, “this is Hailey, Vinny, and Walter.”

“Nice to meet you,” Hailey said, grinning.

“The pleasure is all ours,” Vinny said.

Walt had an odd look in his stare, looking like he had become dumbstruck with ecstasy, a bit of blood coming from his nose. It took me a second before realizing that he was staring at Tash’s breasts. She looked at him, her head tilted and her face full of innocence. When Walt spoke, he sounded dreamy.

“What size are those?” he said. “D cup or double D cup?”

Hailey, who had been sitting next to him, growled fiercely and punched Walt right on the top of his head, smacking him hard enough to make him bend his back forward so his head was between his knees and cry out in pain. “The only cup you need is one to keep your teeth after I knock them out.”

Vinny laughed. “Please, do forgive him. He can come out strong and he is a bit of a creep, but he’s a good person deep down.”

“Who are you calling a creep?!” Walt shouted angrily, glaring at Vinny.

Tash giggled a bit. “It's fine.”

“Anyway,” Hailey said, “welcome to our humble little home. Would you like

anything to eat?”

Tash shook her head. “No thanks. Tobias gave me a pretty big breakfast.”

“Well, how about a drink?” Walt offered. “We have coffee, tea, juice, whatever you prefer.”

“I think I’ll just have some water,” Tash replied.

“I’ll go get you a glass,” Hailey said, standing up off the couch. She turned and made her way to the kitchen. It was right next to the living room with no walls between them. The floor was what appeared to be a shiny bamboo wood. In the center of the room was an island made of light tan wood and a dark gray countertop. It had a wide sink and a tall, curved, silver water faucet poised over the bowl. In the far corner of the room was a tall, shiny gray refrigerator. Along one side of the room was a large, black stove and oven. Hanging above it on the wall was a microwave and numerous wooden cabinets. And between the cabinets and stove was a window, brilliant sunlight filtering through.

Hailey opened the door to one of the cabinets up on the wall, reached inside, and took out a clear glass. She then shut the door and walked to the sink, where she turned on the faucet and filled the glass with water. Seconds later, she turned the water off, walked back into the living room, and presented Tash with the glass full of water.

“Here you go,” Hailey said.

Tash took the glass into her hands, smiling warmly. She then brought it to her lips and took a couple of sips from it. “Thank you,” she said. “That feels so much better.”

“Of course,” Hailey said, sitting back down

“I take it you were rather thirsty?” Vinny asked.

“Mmm-hmm,” Tash responded, nodding before she started to drink again.

As I stood there, I felt glad that Tash was getting along so well with everybody else. In fact, she looked completely peaceful, rather than being nervous or timid. It seemed that she had started to become comfortable being around us. And in a short amount of time, no less.

Which begs the question, was she just comfortable enough at that time to tell us how she wound up on the riverbank unconscious? Obviously, that's the mystery everyone wanted to solve. It's what everyone wants to know. We definitely knew who and perhaps where, but not when or why. Of course, on the one hand, we could ask her now, but I felt that if we did she would grow uncomfortable or feel like we were asking her to do too much after risking her life by being carried by the rushing water and, just a few moments after waking up, coming downstairs to a room full of strangers. But on the other hand, we could ask her and she would be totally okay with explaining everything. As I said before, she did look like she was comfortable around us. So maybe she wouldn't mind being questioned.

However, on the foot (is that even a thing?) if we do not ask her, she could very well tell us all about it without having to be asked. Granted it would probably take a long while, but she could eventually speak up. Yet, on the other foot, if we don’t ask her, she would not say anything.

That last one didn't really work at all, now that I had thought of it, but the other three had pretty much the same odds. Whichever choice sounded like the best idea would most definitely be the way to go. Choosing one would have to be a delicate thought process. But either way, we had to know the story. So, after a brief but careful consideration, I found myself leaning towards asking her. I thought that the sooner we hear her story, the sooner we could figure out if she needed any of our assistance. I just hoped she wouldn't grow upset or unsettled.

So, I silently cleared my throat, squatted down until I was eye level with Tash, and looked at her. I spoke gently and carefully. “Tash, I know you’ve just woken up and you hardly know us, but we need to know how you ended up on the shore of the river.”

Tash took the glass from her lips and looked back at me. Her smile had been turned into a look of curiosity. Quickly, her expression became more negative, like she was either sad or lonely. She lowered her head, staring down at the glass she held.

“Of course, you don’t have to tell us now,” I heard Hailey add. “You can take as much time as you want.”

“It's okay...” Natasha said, placing her glass of water on the table in front of her, not lifting her head back up. The way her voice sounded was much different. It sounded quieter, less bright. “I think I’m okay with telling you all about it.”

“Take as much time as you need to tell us,” Vinny said. “You can even stop and take some time to yourself if you get uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, Vinny,” Tash said. “But I think I’ll be fine.”

She then took a deep, silent breath, and exhaled sharply. She still looked down, but the sad expression on her face was mixed with thought. “Although, I’m not sure where to begin…”

“Why don't you start with what you were doing that day?” Walt asked.

Tash nodded, still not looking up. “Well, me and my friends were walking in the forest--”

“Friends?!” Vinny said quickly enough to make everyone jump. Even Tash looked up from her lap to see him. “You mean you weren’t alone? There are other survivors?”

She nodded. “I was with two others, Joshua and Jessica.”

Even more humans who survived, I thought with a bit of glee. This is getting better and better.

“Incredible,” Hailey said. “What are the chances? We just keep finding more and more people alive.”

It was at that point when I decided that we were starting to get off topic, so I cleared my throat loud enough for everyone to hear. They all turned their heads to me, four pairs of eyes stared at me. I looked back at Tash.

“You were saying, Tash?” I said. “You and your friends were in the forest?”

Tash nodded. “Yes. Josh said that he had found a grocery store not far away from where we were as he was searching for food. We had been walking for a long time before we finally made it. So we went inside and got as much food as we could fit in our packs. We were about to leave when…”

Tash grew silent, as if she was reluctant to keep talking. As if she was haunted by what had happened next. I wasn't going to say anything, but Walt did.

“When what?” he asked.

Tash took another breath before speaking again. “When a dinosaur attacked us… I think Jessie called it a Ceratosaurus.”

At the moment I heard the dinosaur’s name, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and opened the Dinopedia app. I typed the name into the search bar and a blue, holographic projection of a scaled down dinosaur hovered above the screen. It seemed to be walking on an non-existent treadmill, moving on its bird-like hind limbs. It’s scaly back looked something like that of a crocodile’s, covered in rows of keels. Its short arms had four fingered hands. Above its eyes were two tiny horns, while a larger one rested on top of its snout. Its jaws were lined with small, sharp teeth.

On the screen was the written entry:

 

Ceratosaurs

SER-AT-OH-SORE-US

“Horned Lizard”

Late Jurassic

The horns of this theropod was most likely used for visual display since they were too delicate to be used in battle. Although it was smaller in size, this dinosaur had teeth bigger than those of its neighboring carnivore, Allosaurus.

 

I showed the hologram on my phone to Tash. “You mean this one?”

Tash took one look at the miniature dinosaur and nodded. “That's the one.”

“Okay,” I said, turning the phone off and putting it back in my pocket. “So, the Ceratosaurus attacked you. What happened next?”

“It started to chase us,” Tash continued. “We ran away, and it followed us. And as we tried to get away, I tripped. My bowb, arrows, and all the bags I had fell off of me in the fall. The dinosaur saw me, and it came at me. I ran away, but in the process I got separated from my friends. It chased me and chased me until I ended up at a waterfall. I was trapped between the rushing water and a predator. I had no choice.”

“So you jumped into the river?” Hailey asked.

“Yes,” Tash replied. “I jumped into the river, hoping the Ceratosaurus wouldn't follow. And it worked; the dinosaur didn’t try to swim after me. It gave up and left. But then I found out I couldn't get out of the water. The river was too strong and it was moving too fast. I tried to escape, but I banged my head on something. Then I blacked out.”

“And after that, you ended up washed up on the shore,” Vinny said.

Tash nodded again. “I honestly thought I was dead. But I probably would have been if you and Toby hadn’t found me when you did.”

I smiled at her. “Of course. We’re survivors; we need to look after each other.”

So that was the story. At last, everything we had been wondering about had been told to us. Not only that, but now we know that somewhere, out in the forest, there are more survivors. Not a big number of them, but still enough to be able to avoid extinction. The question was where were they?

“Tash,” I said, “do you know where your friends could be?”

Tash shook her head, looking down. Her hands, which rested on her lap, turned into tightly made fists. Her expression was full of sadness and worry. It may have been my imagination, but I could’ve sworn I saw her eyes grow wet with tears. “I don’t even know if they’re alive… For all I know… they’re probably dead.”

We all grew silent, but our expressions said enough. I saw the looks on my friends’ faces. They all had looks of sympathy and concern. It was as if Tash’s words had flooded us with whatever she was feeling. And I think it was a feeling and a situation we could all relate to. We have lost so much of our families and loved ones within the last five years of the dinosaurs reclaiming the planet as their own. And I knew the feeling of losing someone without being able to do something to prevent their deaths all too well. It still haunted me. She still haunted me.

But one thing was for sure: I was not going to allow my friends and I to give up hope. If there was any chance that Josh and Jessie were still alive, we should spend whatever time we have to find them.

So, I stood up and placed a hand on Tash’s shoulder. Her eyes popped open and she looked up at me, a look of sudden curiosity on her face. “We’ll find them,” I said. “They’re survivors. And like I said, we need to look out for each other.”

Tash’s eyes widened ever so slightly. And in her eyes, I saw not only surprise. I saw the faint flicker of the flame called hope.

“Toby, hold on,” Walt said. “We don't even know where to look. And besides, we are all kind of tied down with perfecting the contact lenses and searching for the Coelophysis nest.”

“We’ll have to make some room for more time then,” I said. “If there is any chance the human race can no longer fear extinction, we need to stick together. Finding other survivors and taking them in is the only way to do it. Every survivor we find makes the odds better in our favor. And I’m willing to bet anything those two souls out there are worried sick about Natasha. I bet that right this very moment, they are searching for her now, hoping and praying that she is alive and safe. They're looking for their lost friend, so our job now is to find and reunite them. I don't know about you guys, but I’m not leaving a fellow survivor behind.”

Everyone in the room stared at me as they let the words I said sink in. Their faces looked as if they were astounded, as if they were moved by my words. Then, in seconds, their expressions changed into determination, into agreement.

“You’ll help me?” Tash asked, looking right at me, innocent, tearful hope in her eyes. “You’ll really help me? Do you really mean it?”

I smiled at her a nodded. “I promise we’ll find them. You will see your friends again.”

A huge smile splitted Tash’s face just before she cheered, shot up and threw her arms around my neck, holding me in a tight embrace. I felt myself grow rigid; I didn't expect this. I could feel her face bury into my shoulder as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Thank you!” she cried. “Thank you so much!”

I didn't know what to say. I was at a complete loss for words. So, instead of saying anything, I relaxed and wrapped Tash in my arms, gently holding her as she let loose tears of joy.


Submitted: October 24, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Tyrannos Senpai. All rights reserved.

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Sylvermyst

An amazing chapter. Toby is really sweet and hopeful Natasha will see her friends soonish.

Thu, February 6th, 2020 1:03am

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Glad to hear that!

Thu, March 12th, 2020 6:15pm

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