Trudging through a seemingly prehistoric landscape wasn’t exactly how I thought I would spend my weekend.
At least, I thought it was the weekend. I’d been in the jungle for so long that I wasn’t 100 percent positive what month it was, much less what day. Well, whatever. Either way, this wasn’t how I planned to spend the weeks following my 27th birthday.
I hiked through the thick underbrush, pushing large ferns and tall grasses out of my way, taking care they didn’t slap me in the face. It was like I was on a prehistoric African Safari, only the beasts I’d seen so far looked much more dangerous than what I imagined a lion or water buffalo might be.
I’d never listened to people when they told me I was being childish and needed to grow up. I didn’t understand that was their way of telling me to stop geeking out about the Jurassic Park movies and the horned dinosaur exhibit at the university’s Natural History Museum of Utah. But that all seemed like so long ago.
All around me, the buzz of mosquitos was present, only slightly less annoying than the sharp prick every time one of the oversized bugs announced its landing on me with another little bite. I’d given up on my fear of prehistoric infection about a month back, since I’d had a new dozen every day and I still seemed to be in a relative picture of health. In fact, aside from the bites and a few new blisters-turned-calluses inside my socks and quickly-wearing hiking shoes, the only thing that made me question my health was wondering if I was crazy or if I’d really been to this ancient jungle.
I’d survived early on by climbing the trees I found myself surrounded by. It was sheer luck the first time, since all I wanted was a better vantage point to see where I was. I was about 50 feet up and still couldn’t see through the canopy when I heard something big rustling the bushes below me. That’s when I saw my first dinosaur. It’s a good thing I had a firm hold on the branches, or I might have fallen right out when I saw the Deinonychus strolling through, its massive raptor-like toe claws clicking against stray stones scattered along the forest floor. I remember watching it sniff around at my unfamiliar scent and the look in its bird-like eyes when it gazed up at my shock-frozen figure. It didn’t take long for it to walk away, apparently apathetic to whatever it thought I was.
All of this I remembered as I walked, halting the musings only when I came to a small clearing so I could check for signs of bigger predators. I wouldn’t say I’ve become an expert since I’ve been here, but I haven’t been eaten, so I guess so far, so good.
There seemed to be a good chatter among the birds — or I guess the creatures I supposed would eventually evolve to become birds — so that told me there wasn’t anything terribly dangerous around. At least, I hoped the natural instincts of birds to be silent when predators were around would still be present in this lost world. With the mindless caws and squawks filling my ears with a sense of probable safety, I allowed myself a glance around.
That’s when I knew. That’s when the realization first hit me of exactly what might have happened. But I’m still not sure I’ve accepted it.
Above the trees, I saw a huge mountain. It was the same color as the volcano on the birthday cake my sister gave me for my 27th birthday.
It couldn’t be possible. It’s not like I believe in magic or whatever, so I must just be imagining the similarities. But I couldn’t stop staring at it, nor could I shake the feeling of familiarity with that smoking mountain.
It seemed like forever ago now when my sister first brought out that cake, complete with decorations of little plastic dinosaur toys in the Jurassic landscape scene. It was incredible. My mom and sister said they’d stayed up until midnight the night before making sure the river of blue icing was just so, and the salt-dough trees stood up just right. They iced the chocolate cake with green frosting, giving the landscape a grassy-dirt look. They put a ribbon of blue icing on one end for a river and sprinkles all around the volcano, making it look like it had spewed ash over the place.
They’d done a good job too, especially the scenes of carnivorous dinosaur meals added by my brother-in-law, the ones that featured the scary-looking Allosaurus feeding on the Stegosaurus while the Ankylosaurus, Triceratops and Ornithischian fled the area.
But now, it was those such scenes I wished to avoid. I had to get to the volcano, to the very top if possible. Maybe then I could get a better idea of how to get out of here.
“They told me to make a wish!” I shouted at the sky as the chicken-sized Anchiornis huxleyi flew away, startled.
If I could only have a wish now, I would wish I’d never wished to see a real live dinosaur.
Tavin Stucki is a sports reporter from Midvale, Utah, with a vivid imagination. His obviously fictional story was inspired by the recent birthday cake his family baked for him, a recreation of the dinosaur cake they made for his fifth birthday. Send any comments telling him to grow out of this dinosaur obsession to firstname.lastname@example.org.