Alec Kerley and the Roar of the Dinosaur
The werewolf’s howl sounded through the cave like a tornado siren warning of impending doom. The hairs on the back of Alec’s neck bristled. Everything was black as death, except for a couple of shaky flashlight beams.
It was closer.
Alec’s heart galloped in his chest. Death is coming.
The werewolf burst into the cavern like a locomotive. “RRRRRRAAAAHHRRRRRRRR!”
POP! Click! Alec’s dad, Danny, shot his last bullet at the beast as it rushed at them.
It swiped a giant clawed hand at Danny, who ducked in the nick of time. The werewolf ran into the blackness.
“That was close!” Danny gasped.
Mr. Gonzalez, who worked with Alec’s dad at S.T.O.K.E.R., the Strategic Operation for Key Entities Response, raised his pistol. “Where’d it go?”
The werewolf suddenly rose out of the darkness before Alec’s friend Emily, standing on two legs to its full seven feet in height. It glared down at her with one yellow eye and snarled; the beast’s right eye was closed and swollen. Emily gazed up at the monster as if in a dream.
“Shoot it!” Mrs. Edgar shouted at Mr. Gonzalez.
Mr. Gonzalez raised his pistol, but before he could get a shot off Emily’s mom shoved her daughter away and stood before the hulking beast.
“NO! YOU LEAVE MY DAUGHTER ALONE!”
“Mrs. Doyle, MOVE!” Mr. Gonzalez bellowed.
“Mom, get away!” Emily shrieked from the ground.
Then, as if in slow motion, Alec watched the werewolf attack Mrs. Doyle in a flurry of teeth and claws as Mr. Gonzalez fired his gun. Emily screamed. The werewolf roared.
And it was over.
“YAAAAAAAHHHH!” Danny yelled, rushing at the monster and shoving a wooden stake into its back.
The werewolf reared back, knocking Danny to the cave floor, and went crazy. It leaped around, bumping into stalagmites and columns, causing rocks to crumble from the cave ceiling.
POP! POP! POP! Mr. Gonzalez shot blindly into the dark, away from the group. “It’s going berserk! We’ve got to get out of here!”
The beast rammed against Alec’s best friend, Ken, and the two fell to the ground.
Alec sprinted at them. “KEN!”
“Alec, get back!” Danny yelled, following his son.
Ignoring his father, Alec jumped toward the sound of the snarling creature, hoping to help his friend. He landed on its leg, and it kicked him back violently. He flew into his father, knocking them both down. Mr. Gonzalez approached, shining a flashlight beam on the monster. It was now on its stomach and Ken was on its back pounding the side of his fist against the wooden stake handle that protruded.
“Ken, get off of it!” Mr. Gonzalez said as he pulled at his son’s arm.
Eleven year old Ethan ran up and began kicking the side of the werewolf’s head. “THERE, BEAST! THERE, BEAST!”
“Ethan!” Ethan’s father, Mr. Edgar, who also worked at S.T.O.K.E.R. along with his wife, called out as he approached, shining a flashlight at them.
Ken’s sister, Sarah, appeared in the darkness and helped Alec to his feet. Emily ran past her, toward the werewolf, with another wooden stake in her hand that was already blackened with soot from the vampire it had been buried into.
“YOU KILLED MY MOTHER!”
Danny caught her from behind and wrapped his arms around her, holding her back.
“Let me go!” She bucked like a bronco.
“It’ll kill you, too!”
“I don’t care!”
The werewolf rolled, throwing Ken off, then kicked out against the cave wall. Small stones and pieces of limestone crumbled from the ceiling. It rose up on all fours and rushed forward blindly, ramming its shoulder into the wall again. The cave floor reverberated with a deep rumble.
Mr. Gonzalez looked at Mrs. Edgar and pointed at the exit. “Get them out of here! We’ll follow!”
“KENNETH!” Mrs. Gonzalez screamed. Mrs. Edgar grabbed her arm to prevent her from running towards the werewolf.
Emily broke free from Danny and rushed at the monster. “Aaaaaahhhhhh!” She raised the stake over her head with both hands, then swung it down and buried it into the creature’s neck.
The werewolf stood on two legs and reached behind its neck, grasping at the stake. It tried to get away, climbing a column, digging its nails into it and jerking upwards repeatedly. As it went higher, it jerked up again and rammed its head against the cave ceiling. The column cracked and began to break apart. The floor below them started to quake.
“WE’VE GOT TO GET OUTTA HERE!” Mr. Gonzalez hollered, grabbing Ken and hurrying toward Sarah.
“Alec! Come on!” Danny said, pulling his hand.
“What’s going on?” Ms. Cunningham murmured, fumbling into the crowd. She was the kids’ science and history teacher, who was recovering from a vampire bite, and was the reason they were in this cave of death.
They had tracked the vampires here, deep in a cavern in northwest Arkansas, to kill the vampire who bit her before she turned into one herself. They had almost been too late, since she had begun to change before the vampire was killed. Luckily, she turned back to normal when the vampire died.
But now they had the werewolf to deal with.
“Get back!” Mr. Gonzalez barked.
The ceiling split open as the column crumbled. Mrs. Edgar found a flashlight and swung the light beam at the group, moving it around until she found her husband and son. It settled on their faces.
Mr. Edgar had picked up Ethan and was holding him in his arms. Their faces were dirty and their hair askew. They turned and peered into the yellow light.
The column shattered and tumbled to the ground, taking the werewolf with it. With a rumbling roar, the cave bottom shook and burst open.
“ELBERRRRRT!” Mrs. Edgar shrieked.
Mr. Edgar glanced down at their feet, then back at his wife. “Evie…”
The floor disappeared.
Danny’s hand was wrapped around Alec’s, tight, so tight it hurt. All at once, it seemed to Alec, the world yawned, opening its mouth wide, and swallowed them up into a freefall of pitch black, accompanied by a chorus of screams. Everything around them was cracking and crumbling and roaring and falling, falling, falling.
And then nothing but darkness.
“God never abandons us, Alec,” his mother said. Her voice was a hoarse whisper and her eyes were sooty black, splotches on pasty skin. Her greasy blonde hair surrounded her head on the wrinkly white hospital sheets like a dirty halo. “There’s nowhere you can go, no mountain too high or valley too low, where His love can’t reach you.”
His vision was blurry and his face was contorted in pain. “So… if God ‘loves you’ so much, why hasn’t He healed you, Mom? Why can’t He just snap His fingers and make it happen? Hmm?” He fought to maintain his composure.
She studied his face closely. “God nearly always chooses to do His work through people, Alec, I’ve told you that before. Like the doctors here in this hospital. He prefers to work through people, to help us through people, to love us through people. And to work through us to do the same for others. We are His hands and feet.” She peered deeply into his eyes. “There is a plan,” she coughed. “God is there, and He loves us, and there is a plan… a perfect plan.”
“And what if you don’t get better? Huh, Mom? What then? Doesn’t that mean that God didn’t answer our prayers?”
Her emerald eyes, mired in those pits of black, rolled to his father behind him, hovered for a moment, then crawled slowly back to Alec. “Then that will be the ultimate healing, won’t it?” She raised her eyebrows at him and smiled wearily.
Alec frowned and shrugged.
She pulled him close and kissed him on the forehead, then glanced at his dad. “So tired…”
Alec’s father touched his shoulder. “Come on, Son. Let’s go. We can call Mom later tonight.” He leaned down and kissed his wife. “I love you, honey. We’ll be back tomorrow.”
She cupped her hand to his cheek, smiling. “Love you, too.”
Slowly, Alec raised himself from the chair that his dad had scraped across the floor to the side of his mother’s bed. Streams traced their way down from his eyes, despite himself. Before his father could pull him away, he reached out and touched his mom’s shoulder.
“You’ll be okay, Mom, you’ll see. Everything will be okay.”
She took his hand again. “I love you, Son,” she whispered. There was pain in her eyes that she had fought to hide for weeks. But now it seemed she couldn’t hide it anymore. Tears formed in her eyes.
Alec engulfed her hand in both of his. “Don’t cry, Mom… Don’t cry, Mom. It’ll be okay.”
His father pulled him away from the hospital bed. He lost his grip on his mother’s hand.
“MOM! MOM! IT’LL BE OKAY! IT’LL BE OKAY! IT’LL BE OKAY!”
“Of course it will, baby. I love you, Alec.”
“IT’LL BE OKAY! Right, Dad? It’ll be okay! Right?”
“Come on, Son. Come on.”
“It’ll be okay, Mom!”
She smiled weakly. “I love you.”
“I love you, too! I love you, Mom! I love you!”
Danny led him into the whitewashed hallway with the hard, cold tile floor and the staring nurses behind the long desk that was across from his mother’s room. What were they looking at? Stupid vultures. Stupid vampires. Slithering into his mother’s hospital room at all hours of the night to jam a needle into her arm and take her blood. Like it had made any difference.
They shuffled quickly toward the elevators at the end of the hallway. His dad mashed the button and they stood in silence, staring at the stainless metal door. Hot tears covered Alec’s face and mouth. He was coughing.
The elevator door slid open, revealing a somber man and woman and two nurses. The couple was obviously there to see someone else who was sick. Good luck.
Alec and his father waited for the people to step out, then began to move inside the elevator.
“CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE, ROOM 316. ALL AVAILABLE ATTENDANTS TO ROOM 316. CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE, ROOM 316.”
The intercom announcement blared over their heads, loud and insistent. Alec and his dad paused outside of the elevator.
“What does that mean?” Alec said.
His father’s eyes were wide. “Come on!” He began running back down the hallway in the direction they had just come from.
“What? What does it mean?”
“Code blue means someone has just died! And 316 is your mom’s room!”
White-clad medical workers were rushing into his mother’s hospital room; it was filled with them when Alec and his dad reached the doorway. His mother was surrounded by a roomful of strangers who were bent over her and yelling. A nurse herded Danny and Alec back into the hallway, closing the heavy wooden door behind her.
And that was the last time Alec saw his mother alive.
Alec opened his eyes to darkness. They were wet, and he fought to catch his breath. He’d had many dreams about his mom since she’d died, but never that one.
Never that one.
It was a memory, actually. One he never wanted to relive again.
It was devastating.
He kept blinking as he panted, trying to make sense of it. Why had he dreamt that?
Finally, he began to focus on his surroundings. What surroundings? I can’t see a thing!
He had awakened expecting to be in his bed, but if this was his room, it was awfully dark.
Alec realized his arms were splayed out to his sides, his right hand down by his waist, and his left hand up next to his head. They were cold, very cold. And his head hurt. A lot.
Where am I?
There was a smell like dirt, musty and damp. Like earthworms caught after a storm.
It was silent, completely silent.
And he was alone.
Alec suddenly remembered what the vampire had said to him before: Hell is separation. Separation from all that is good, and right, and just. Separation from kindness, and hope, and love.
Alec gasped. “I’m dead! I’m in Hell! I’m in Hell!”
Something grabbed his right arm.
Alec jerked back. “AAAHHH!” A demon!
“Alec!” it hissed.
“NO! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Alec kicked at it, his heart galloping. “No!”
“Listen! It’s okay! It’s me! It’s Dad!”
Alec stopped fighting. He was overcome with emotion. “Dad?”
“You’re not dead, Son. You’re not dead. And we’re not in Hell.”
Alec reached out. His hand rested on what felt like his father’s shoulder. He launched himself forward.
He wrapped his arms around his father and held on tight. His father hugged him.
“Okay. Okay. It’s okay, Son. We’re still alive.”
“I dreamed about Mom. In the hospital. When she died.”
His father was quiet. Then, “I’m sorry.”
Alec sobbed. His father rocked him back and forth in silence. After a moment he whispered, “It’s okay, Alec. I’m here. I’m here.”
Alec buried his head in his father’s neck. Then he heard voices, somewhere off in the darkness. He raised his head.
“Where are we?” he sniffled.
His father stopped rocking. “There was a cave-in. Remember?”
Alec’s head felt fuzzy and thick. “Cave-in?”
“Remember? We were deep in that cave in Arkansas, where we found the vampires.”
The white face of the smirking female vampire, Kate Bender, flashed in Alec’s mind. He shuddered. “I remember the vampires.”
“And remember the werewolf?”
“I don’t… wait… Captain Chaney!”
“He turned into a werewolf, and attacked us in the cave! I remember!”
“And the cave collapsed. And here we are.”
“Which is… where?”
His father sighed. “Um, not exactly sure. Somewhere down in the ground, under the cave.”
“How far down? Can we climb out?”
“Don’t know yet. Hopefully we can. But are you alright? Are you injured?”
Alec looked down at himself but saw nothing. “My head hurts. My neck is stiff. My arms and legs and back ache.”
“Are you able to move them?”
“That’s a good sign. Let me feel your head.”
Alec felt his father’s fingers search over his face and scalp. When they touched the back of his head, he winced. “Ow.”
“Hmm. There’s a bump back there, but I don’t feel any blood, thank God. I’d raise my hand and ask you how many fingers I’m holding up but I don’t think that would help.”
Alec snorted in the darkness. “Probably not.” He paused. “But what about you? Are you okay?”
“Well, I think maybe my ankle is broken.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s not life-threatening.”
“But how are you gonna get out of here?”
“I can move, Alec. I just may need to lean on you when we go so I can take weight off my ankle. You’ll be my crutch!” His father sounded like he was trying to be positive and joke with him.
Alec nodded, though his dad couldn’t see him. “Sure.” Then, hearing the voices again, he said, “Who else is down here?”
“Not sure. I just woke up and found you. HELLOOO,” his dad called toward the voices.
“Hellooo! Danny?” someone answered. It was Mr. Gonzalez. “Is Alec with you?”
“Yeah, he’s with me. Who else is with us?”
“I’ve got Ken and Sarah and Ms. Cunningham over here.”
“Is everyone okay?” Danny said.
“Okay? We’re buried alive, that’s what we are! We’re gonna run out of air and turn blue and die!”
That sounded like Ethan Elvis Edgar. He was a year younger than Alec and his other friends and was a squirmy, wiggly, gassy little fellow, but was one of their close inner circle now. They’d all been through a lot together.
“Ethan? Who’s with you?” Mr. Gonzalez said.
“That’d be me,” someone coughed.
“Yeah.” Elbert and Evelyn Edgar, Ethan’s parents, had recently begun working with Alec’s dad and Mr. Gonzalez at the secret government monster-hunting organization, S.T.O.K.E.R., within the last year. They had come along to help find the vampire.
“Elbert, is Evelyn with you?” Danny said.
“No. I don’t think she fell with us. I just hope she and the others got out of the cave in time.”
“Why?” Ethan’s voice was high and strained. “Do you think she got killed in the cave? Do you think it fell on her?”
“I’m sure she got out okay, Ethan. You know your mom. Her head is harder than the rocks in that cave.” But Mr. Edgar’s voice sounded shaky.
“NOOOOOOOOO!” someone screamed, so loud it jarred Alec’s teeth. A slight echo carried the scream off into the darkness.
“What’s wrong? Who is it?” Mr. Gonzalez huffed.
“NOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOO!”
Alec’s skin crawled.
“For the love of Pete, who is that?” Mr. Edgar said.
“What’s going on?” Danny said.
“Emily! Emily! Wake up!” That was Ms. Cunningham.
Their friend Emily was screaming. And Alec knew why.
The werewolf. Or Captain Chaney. It was both. Captain Chaney was a soldier with S.T.O.K.E.R., with them for protection.
Alec gritted his teeth.
It was Chaney whom they needed protection from. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Chaney was a werewolf. He had transformed while they were out looking for the vampire.
And he killed Emily’s mom.
Alec closed his eyes.
She’s dreaming about it.
“I’m so sorry, Emily,” he whispered to himself.
No, he decided. His dad was wrong.
This really was Hell.
© 2014 by Douglas L. Tanner