The rain pounded the broad leaves. Trillions of gallons fell forth and pelted all in it’s path. Through the jungle Oliver pushed aside the branches and tried to see through the wall of water.
“Am I even going the right way?” he asked.
“Yup,” replied Persephone over the communicator. “Just under a mile and you will be at the clearing.”
Oliver was dropped off yesterday at the edge of the dense jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula by the local guide, Yocute. The Paladins had received a message from a local minister who had forwarded cell phone footage to his deacon, the footage bounced through five more hands before it reached Melissa. The footage showed what looked like a ghoul in traditional Mayan dress.
Having never been to any Mayan ruins, Oliver jumped at the chance and volunteered to go investigate.
So far, the trip was less then enjoyable.
His outfit of a traditional full brimmed hat and overcoat could easily handle the rains and weather of Utah. It was ill suited for the torrent of wetness that penetrated his body. Everywhere was wet. His skin chaffed with each movement. Each breeze chilled his marrow. Of special concern were his Webley Fosbury custom revolvers. He had placed them in zip lock bags, but feared even the air-tight seal was no match for the deluge.
I am going to have so much rust I need to clean off.
Oliver pressed forward through the branches and leaves and prayed for respite from the water.
If it be your will, end this storm.
I am here in your name for your glory and could use your aide
Glory to your name
The monsoon did not abate.
Oliver continued on.
He finally reached a clearing and could see the ruins. Its weathered stone walls rose against the encroaching jungle, adorned with intricate carvings depicting long-forgotten stories. Moss and vines clung to the temple's surface, as if God wanted the jungle itself to reclaim what was now an unholy place.
At the base of stairs leading up the face of the temple, two figures accompanied by animals flanked the entrance. Oliver could not see them clearly through the curtain of wetness.
“Hello,” he called out. “I am looking for some people.”
The figures did not move. Oliver surmised they could not hear him over the reverberation of the rain. He moved closer. As he neared he saw the figures where clothed in traditional Mayan garb and had gray shriveled skin. The animals at their sides where Jaguars, their pelts missing patches with bone and sinew exposed.
The jaguars leaped and charged at Oliver.
Oliver reached for his guns and drew, he had forgotten about the plastic bags. His hands fumbled to ready the hammers through the plastic. He pre-saw the Jaguars leap and dove to roll out of their paths. He turned and had readied his revolvers, two shots rang out and both Jaguars dropped to stillness, matching holes in their skulls.
A spear embeds it self in the ground in front of Oliver as pain shot through his leg. The spear had sliced his calf. Oliver rolls to his back and sees the two Mayan dressed ghouls advancing. The far one throws his spear but his aim is off. Oliver fires twice from each revolver, the ghouls collapse to the ground with holes in their heads and chests.
“I found some ghouls,” said Oliver to the communicator. “This confirms demons are here.”
“What did they look like?” asked Persephone.
“Two were dressed in native clothing,” answered Oliver. “The other two where jaguars.”
“Oh cool,” said Persephone. “Get some photos if you can.”
“The missing people first,” returned Oliver. “Can you pull any data on this temple?”
“Sure thing,” said Persephone. “Give me a min.”
Oliver continued to the base of the temple, his boots squished with the encroaching water.
I miss my desert.
Oliver’s lamentations are interrupted by a woman screaming. He charged up the steps, his feet slipping on the wet mossy stone. Three times he has to catch himself as he climbed. He nears the top and see torch light flickering from the alter room.
“Ayuda,” cries a woman’s voice.
Oliver stepped into the chamber, his eyes widening as he took in the scene before him. The air was heavy with the acrid scent of blood, and the flickering torchlight cast eerie shadows on the walls, accentuating the ominous atmosphere. In the center of the chamber, he saw a large stone altar, adorned with intricate carvings that seemed to writhe and pulse with an otherworldly energy.
Three menacing demons stood around the altar, their grotesque forms towering over the captives who were bound and helpless. Two lifeless bodies lay discarded on the ground, their blood pooling beneath them, while the third captive trembled in fear, her eyes pleading for mercy.
The first demon towered over the others, its form a blend of human and animal features. Its skin was a sickly shade of gray, mottled and textured like decaying flesh. Sharp, jagged horns protruded from its forehead, curving backward and gleaming with a malevolent aura. Its eyes glowed with a fiery intensity, burning with a hunger for power and suffering. The demon's mouth stretched wide into a twisted grin, revealing rows of razor-sharp teeth that seemed to glisten with anticipation.
The second demon possessed a more ethereal presence, its form shimmering with an otherworldly glow. Its body was slender and sinewy, wrapped in tattered, shadow-like tendrils that slithered and twisted around its frame. Its face was an enigma, ever-shifting and morphing, with glowing red eyes that seemed to pierce through the darkness. The demon's hands ended in elongated, claw-like fingers, each tip serrated and razor-edged, ready to rend and tear.
The third demon stood slightly shorter than the others, but no less menacing. Its body was covered in a thick layer of black scales, reflecting the flickering torchlight with an oily sheen. Its limbs were sinewy and muscular, ending in clawed hands and feet that left deep gouges in the stone floor. Its face bore a twisted grin, filled with rows of serrated teeth that dripped with a viscous, black fluid. Glowing red eyes burned with a sadistic intelligence, watching the captives with an insatiable thirst for pain.
Together, the three demons exuded an aura of darkness and malevolence, their mere presence casting a shadow of fear and despair. Their forms were nightmarish amalgamations, a grotesque fusion of human and supernatural, embodying the darkest depths of ancient horrors.
The demons, their twisted features contorted with malice, raised their weapons high, ready to strike the final blow and complete their sacrificial ritual.
Oliver quickly recited Gerin’s prayer.
Lord, make me swift and true.
Guide my hands with yours.
Let your will be my aim.
Oliver drew his revolvers and they announced their presence. The first demon’s head exploded as a round found its mark. The second demon toppled as a wound in his back bursts out with black blood. The third demon spun when a round embedded into its shoulder.
The two surviving demons dove behind the alter, the stone structure shielding them from Oliver’s bullets.
“Can you move?” yelled Oliver to the woman.
Terror had grabbed her and she was frozen.
Blood from the demon that no longer had a head had splattered on the alter. Red, vile energy crackled off the masonry. The third sacrifice had been found, the ritual distorted with wretched demon blood.
The red energy swirled and formed into a vortex, pulling at all around it.
The two cowering demons where the closest to the vortex and were pulled in first. They screamed and howled as they spiraled into the portal.
The woman had been next, she started to slide across the alter. Oliver dove forward and grabbed her, pulling her back. The suction was too great and Oliver and the woman were lifted and sucked in.
Oliver awoke in the jungle. The rain had stopped. He checked his gear, his guns and Bible still in his belt.
What had happened?
He shook more clarity in his head when he heard the sound of a woman moaning. He followed the moans and found the woman he attempted to save from the ritual.
“Are you ok?” asked Oliver.
“Si,” she replied. “Creo que me rompí la pierna.”
“I am sorry,” said Oliver. “My Spanish is not so good. I wish Roland was here.”
Oliver looked around, “I do not see the temple. The jungle is much different. Where are we?”
The woman reached up to Oliver, “Ayuda me.”
Oliver, having understood helped her stand. She was favoring her leg and a dark purple bruise had formed on her calf.
“We need to find you help,” said Oliver. “Persephone,” he said into his communicator.. “Are you there?”
Only static replied.
“Must have broken when we fell,” he said to the woman who only looked up to him in confusion. “Let’s see if we can find some help.”
With the woman leaning on his shoulder they started to walk.
Oliver tried to remember the limited Spanish he picked up in his travels, “Mi nombre es Oliver.”
“Hola Oliver,” said the woman. “Mi nombre es Gabrielle.”
“Hola Gabrielle,” replied Oliver. “And that is about the last of my Spanish.”
“Que?” asked Gabrielle.
“Never mind,” smiled Oliver.
They continued through the leaves and trees, heading to what Oliver assumed was West, following the setting sun. He knew if nothing else he would reach a road eventually.
They neared a clearing and Oliver helped Gabrielle sit to rest on a fallen log.
“I am going to take a quick look,” said Oliver. “You rest for a minute.” He motioned with both hands to stay.
He pressed aside a large leaf and surveyed the valley. His mind froze with confusion.
The river that formed the valley was a watering source for dozens of dinosaurs. Large four legged beasts with long necks trodded along. Small two legged ones with shirt arms skirted between the legs of the larger ones. A set of winged ones flew over the mountains in the distance. He watched in awe.
“The others are not going to believe this,” said Oliver.
As he surveyed the far mountains a flash of red caught his eye. Halfway up the mountain to the south and west he thought he could make out the same red of the portal that had pulled him here.
“It’s all I have to go on,” Oliver turned to Gabrielle. “You can’t make that trek with that leg.”
Oliver pulled his Wymiss dagger from his boot and went to work on the trees. He quickly made a make-shift gurney from vines and branches and helped Gabrielle onto it.
“It may not be a smooth ride,” Oliver quipped. “But we can move a little faster with this.” He settled down on one knee, looked her in the eye, and calmed his voice, “don’t scream. But there are dinosaurs.”
“Dinosaurio?” she said,
“Si,” replied Oliver. “Dinosaurios.”
He pulled the gurney to the clearing and let her peak through.
“Madre di Dios,” she said and crossed her chest.
“Amen,” replied Oliver. He pointed to the far mountain and the red glow. “I think that may be our way home.”
She followed his point and nodded.
Oliver pulls her into the clearing and they head towards the mountain. As he walks he takes stock of his situation.
I have forty-eight more rounds, my knife, and my Bible. I have no food or water. It will take us about two days to walk to and then climb up, to the portal. I have to risk going to the river and hunting for some food. Hopefully gunfire scares any threats.
He began to pull the gurney down the valley towards the river.
Most of the dinosaurs paid him no attention. He was nothing more then a strange monkey, no threat to these herbivores. Oliver tried to recall the books he read about dinosaurs.
I only need to worry about the big carnivores.
From what he could see, only herbivores and small scavengers inhabited this valley. He veered of his path and headed to a clearing along the river. He stops on the shore and pull his canteen off his belt. He kneels dips his canteen in, filling with the cool water. He takes a deep swig as the hydration relaxes his body. He dipped the canteen back in and then offers it to Gabrielle.
“Gracias,” she replies and chugged the water, it splashed down the sides of her face.
Oliver pulls a few snack bars Issac had prepared for him and offers one to Gabrielle who takes it and chomps it down.
“It’s good to stay strong,” says Oliver. “We have far to go. What I wouldn’t give for a horse.” He turns to Gabrielle, “The river does not look to deep. I think the gurney will float and we can wade across.
Oliver secures his canteen and readies the gurney. He removed his belts and handed them to Gabrielle, “Keep these dry.”
He slowly pulls Gabrielle into the water, as he had guessed, it does float. The river is never deeper then his waist. Gabrielle holds his belts high as they cross. Oliver turns and pulls the gurney backwards to keep it level in the water.
Gabrielle screams and points. As they near the far beach a viscous looking two legged dinosaur glares over and eyes Oliver. Oliver stops and assesses the situation.
That looks like a meat eater.
Oliver turns to Gabrielle and whispers, “throw my guns to me.”
Gabrielle has frozen in fear.
Oliver turns to the dinosaur who is now slowly walking towards them in the water. It is taller than Oliver with a large mouth, sharp teeth, and a feathered tail. In waist deep water and no weapons Oliver doubts he would win this fight. In desperation he reached into his pocket in search of ideas and found hope. He pulled out one of Issac’s snack bars and unwrapped it. He offers the high protein snack in a gesture of offering. The dinosaur, who is now just out of biting range, sniffs as it inches forward. The creatures tongue reaches out and tests the snack. Not wishing to loose a finger, Oliver tosses the snack into the open mouth. The dinosaur munches and bites at the treat. Oliver quickly grabs another and unwraps it and offers again. The creature moves closer and gingerly takes the bar from Oliver’s hand.
“Easy girl,” says Oliver as he slowly presses an open hand on the dinosaurs snout. “Your not so bad huh? I think I met a horse like you once.”
Wild fantasy runs through Oliver’s mind. Could I mount this? Oliver pulls out another bar, opened it, and fed the dinosaur as he continued to pet it.
Oliver pulled Gabrielle to dry land and the dinosaur followed. Once he had the gurney on the beach the dinosaur nudged Oliver asking for more treats. Oliver fished one out of his pocket to find he only had three left.
Hopefully I can get us home before we starve.
Oliver opened the bar and offered it to his new friend. As it munched he pulled another out, with his left hand he continued to pet the creature as he worked around to its side. He slowly reached around the creature and lifted his right leg up and over its back. He slid on to the back and as his weight settled the dinosaur turned and looked back at him. Oliver pressed the snack bar into its mouth. It happily chewed as Oliver settled on the animal.
“This might work,” said Oliver. “Shall we go for a walk.”
Oliver squeezed his heels into the side of the creature and it took off in a trot.
“Easy boy,” said Oliver and held onto the sides.
Oliver rode the dinosaur a few laps to the tree line and back to Gabrielle before he found the rhythm he needed. He returned to Gabrielle who was wide eyed in wonder.
“I think I formed a bond,” said Oliver as he dismounted and per the dinosaur. “Hopefully he is fed for now.”
Oliver loosened some of the vines on the gurney and used them to make a reigns for his dinosaur who in his head he had named Rick. He fastened the gurney to Rick and stepped back to observe. He knew no one would believe him when he returned to tell the tale.
“Now we should make great time,” said Oliver as he mounted Rick. “Let’s go find that portal.”
They set off past the treeline slowly. To much speed caused the gurney to bounce and threaten to dump Gabrielle. They reached the base of the mountain and the portal was in clear view now. Oliver eyed a path up that he felt Rick and the gurney could make and started to guide it up.
The last of the sun's light pierced above the mountains and Oliver knew he only had an hour of daylight. He went to task making camp. Near a fallen log he made a circle of stones and a pyramid of twigs. He took a bullet from his belt and pressed the round against a rock, popping the bullet out. He poured the gunpowder onto the twigs and some on one of the stones. With another rock he struck the powder and in a flash the twigs were ablaze.
Oliver removed the gurney from Rick and helped Gabrielle sit on the log near the fire. The strange light had started to attract small animals. Oliver drew and fired on the nearest one. The rest ran at the sound.
Rick ran and grabbed the slain animal in its happy jaws and munched it down. Oliver spotted an animal on a branch and fired again. The animal fell to the ground. Rick again ran to the prize. This time he brought it back and dropped it at Oliver's feet.
Oliver petted Rick, "good boy Rick."
Rick ran to the tree line and lowered its head in a playful manner.
Oliver spotted another animal and fired. It fell to the ground and Rick fetched it and gulped it down.
Rick and Oliver played the game as the last of the sunlight faded.
Gabrielle and Oliver enjoyed a meal of campfire cooked dinosaur. They slept by the fire under the virgin sky. Before he slipped into sleep Oliver recited a prayer Gerin had taught him.
Sleep sweet within this room,
Whoe'er thou art,
And let not dreams of yesterday
Disturb thy heart,
Nor let tomorrow,
With its fear of coming ill.
Thy Maker is thy changeless friend;
His love surrounds thee still.
The stars are watching overhead,
Put out each earth-born light.
Sleep sweet, good night, good night.
Oliver was up early the next day. The fire had died during the night and was peacefully smoldering. The rising sun cast a warm glow across the valley. Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes were drinking the water of the azure blue water.
After enjoying the view for a moment he fastened the gurney to Rick and helped Gabrielle on. Her leg was more swollen and she was sweating with a fever.
"We need a doctor for that leg," he said.
Oliver mounted Rick and started up the mountain path.
Piloting a dinosaur up a steep mountain path pulling a handmade gurney carrying a wounded Mexican damsel was not an experience Oliver had dreamed of in his wildest fantasies.
The day passed slowly. Gabrielle's condition worsening with each hour.
Near midday, Oliver halted Rick.
"I think I heard something," he said as he dismounted. "Stay Rick."
Oliver peeked around the bend and saw the portal. It swirled and flashed with unholy energies. Flanking the portal were the two demons from the ceremony.
"...we ended up here," said the smaller one.
"We don't know where this will send us," said the ethereal one.
"Then what idea do you have? How do we get back?" asked the smaller one.
Oliver stepped around with his revolvers drawn, "how about a trip back to Hell." He fired from both revolvers and the demons fell to the ground dead.
Oliver returned to Rick and Gabrielle and guided Rick to the portal.
Gabrielle had deteriorated and was unresponsive.
Oliver loosened the gurney and vines off of Rick. He pulled the last snack bar from his pocket and offered it to Rick.
"This is where we part ways, friend," said Oliver as he pet Rick. "No place for dinosaurs in the 21st century."
Rick munched the bar happily.
Oliver lifted Gabrielle and helped her wrap her arms around his neck. He approached the portal and stopped when he saw Rick following.
"You need to stay," said Oliver. "Stay."
Rick moved closer.
Oliver shifted Gabrielle and drew a revolver. He fired into the trees and a creature fell to the ground. Rick took off to fetch.
"I put my faith in you lord," said Oliver as he stepped into the portal.
Rick had returned with his prize but Oliver, Gabrielle, and the portal were all gone.