An Incident on Dover Street

dinoby Aeryn Rudel

“What is it, Vince?” Dale said. “A wormhole or something?”

Vincent shook his head and glanced behind him. Some twenty of his neighbors stood in the middle of the street, staring at him expectantly. “How the hell should I know?” he said. “I’m not an astrophysicist.”

Dale scratched the stubble on his chin, and casually swished the aluminum baseball bat he’d brought with him through the air. “You’re a scientist, though, right? Maybe you heard about something like this.”

“Nope,” Vincent said. “I’m as clueless as the rest of you.”

“There’s warm air coming through,” Dale said, turning back to the hole. It gaped in the side of Pat Mavis’ house, an eight-foot-diameter disc of perfect black. Vincent had thought it was some kind of trick, a well executed optical illusion until Dale had thrown an empty beer can at it—into it. Pat and his wife Judy were out of town or god knows what might have happened to them.

Dale was right; Vincent could feel a warmish breeze, and the humid air clashed with the dry, crisp California autumn. “Dale, the cops will be here soon. Let them handle this,” he said. A number of the residents of Dover Street already had cell phones in hand.

“Come on, Vince; you’re a fucking scientist,” Dale said. “Aren’t you a little interested in a goddamn hole in space and time or whatever?”

“I’m not that kind of scientist, Dale.” He sounded irritated but he was scared shitless, really. The noise that had preceded the appearance of the hole was like nothing he’d ever heard, a massive tearing, scraping sound that had filled the world and shaken his house like a small earthquake.

The sound had pulled everyone out of their houses. Only Dale Oslow, the street’s resident tough guy, had been brave enough to get close to it, though. Vincent stood in the no man’s land between Dale and the sidewalk, on the edge of the lawn, closer than anyone but Dale; that made him feel a little brave and a little stupid.

“Something’s moving in there,” Dale said and stepped toward the hole.

“Then get the fuck away from it,” Vincent said, a creeping sense of terror worming into his gut. A shape had appeared, a wavering, indistinct figure standing out against the nebulous darkness. The shape grew more distinct, and it reminded Vincent of something he should recognize. When it came out of the hole, he nearly pissed himself with terror and excitement. One moment there was just a shape in the hole, and the next a dinosaur stood on Pat Mavis’ lawn.

“Is that a giant chicken?” Dale said, eyes wide.

Vincent wanted to tell his neighbor that the ten-foot-long, feathered, bipedal creature with hooked long narrow jaws filled with backward curving fangs and a pair of gutting hooks on its bird-like feet was not a giant chicken. He knew this because he was actually that kind of scientist, a paleontologist, but he couldn’t get his mouth and tongue to work. He managed one word.

“Deinonychus,” Vincent said. He wanted to shout that a goddamn raptor—one of the infamous stars of Jurassic Park—had strolled out of space and time and now stood in all its feathered glory on their quiet, suburban street.

“I’m gonna fucking brain that thing before it hurts somebody,” Dale said and strode forward, raising his baseball bat.

Vincent’s brain made the connection to his tongue too late. “No!” he shouted, as the dinosaur’s wedge-shaped head whirled around, orienting on the movement. Its huge, forward-set eyes fixed on Dale, and it opened its jaws, loosed a hissing screech, and sprang.

The Deinonychus covered the ten feet between the hole and Dale in a single leap, a blur of feathers and fangs, its legs pulled close to its body so those merciless talons would hit first. Vincent heard the hollow metallic thud of the aluminum baseball bat connecting, but the dinosaur still knocked Dale flat.

Vincent stumbled back as Dale began to scream. The dinosaur raked his body like a chicken scratching for grubs, opened up a gaping, scarlet wounds. Dale’s intestines spooled out of his savaged belly like slippery, pink eels.

Terrified screams rose up behind Vincent as the residents of Dover Street ran in all directions. Vincent wanted to scream and run too, but he was captivated by the creature eating his neighbor. A riot of elated thoughts ran through his head. They do have feathers! They do have binocular vision! They ARE birds!

The Deinonychus pushed its head down and through Dale’s flailing arms, clamping its jaws on either side of his skull. His screams became muffled, and then abruptly stopped when the raptor jerked its head up, ripping away most of Dale’s face in a single glistening flap of meat.

The street had grown silent, and the quiet finally broke the damn of scientific curiosity and let fear flow through Vincent’s brain. With the fear came another thought, and it burst through Vincent’s head like a klaxon alarm. Pack hunters! More shapes moved in the hole, and he counted seven before he turned and ran.

Vincent’s educated brain now found it appropriate to dredge up another tidbit of information. The thought formed around the memory of a lecture he’d attended in his second year of graduate studies at Berkeley. The lecture had been about dromaeosaurs, the group of dinosaurs to which Dale’s “giant chicken” belonged. He heard the dry, monotone voice of Dr. Langston, the head of the paleobiology department: We estimate running speeds in excess of forty miles an hour.

That terrible bit of knowledge reduced his world to just three things: the acrid burning in his lungs, the hammering thunder of his heart, and a sound no human being had ever heard—the clicking of dinosaur talons on asphalt.

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