Welcome author Joseph Erhardt as my guest blogger for today’s Supernatural Friday. His collection of short stories was just released and is now available, and he is here to blog about dinosaurs.
Pamela K. Kinney’s Supernatural Friday column is, well, for the supernatural. But before we go there, I’d like to take just a few lines to talk about monsters that are, or at least were, Real.
Most of us remember our first exposure to dinosaurs. For many, dinosaurs arrived in our lives via the television or the movie theater. Whether Jurassic Park or The Valley of Gwangi—or even any of the Godzilla movies—these ancient behemoths brought forth a feeling of excitement, of awe. In a way, the dinosaurs were frightening without being that frightening.
For others, the first dinosaurs appeared in books off the school library’s shelves. I recall the first book about these creatures that I read, and how it began with the illustration of a dimetrodon, a synapsid that looked like a large lizard with a vertebral fin (probably for heat-exchange), but which was actually in the line that eventually led to mammals. Only later in this volume did it show brontosaurus (no apatosaurus at that time) and stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex.
For me, my first exposure to dinosaurs occurred in a bowl of cereal. Yup. Mom poured out a bowl of flakes, added milk, and set the bowl in front of me. Three spoonfuls later, I spotted a green leg among the flakes and said, “Mom! Mom! There’s an animal in my food!”
That’ll get your attention all right.
For the next several weeks, I ate only cereals that included, as premiums, small plastic models of various dinosauria.
So what is it about dinosaurs that makes them, well, likeable?
The dinos that walked on four legs and ate plants probably reminded us of elephants or rhinoceroses stretched out to sizes that made them even more stupendous and impressive. Because they didn’t eat meat, they were cuddly and good big friends to have, especially for a child so dependent on adults that having friends like brontosaurus or stegosaurus diminished that feeling of helplessness, of not being able to fend for yourself.
But the dinos that walked and ran on two legs—those fascinated because we, too, are bipedal. Our sense of awe here may be sparked by an innate, automatic anthropomorphication—these dinosaurs were, in a way, like us.
Today dinosaurs are still popular, especially as movie monsters, because they have a basis in fact, viz., they were the products of eons of natural selection. The ways they looked, acted and ate were that way because of evolutionary pressures. They were not artificial, ungainly monsters made up in some artist’s or writer’s fever dream. This gives dinosaurs a verisimilitude that other monsters simply do not have. These guys were our monsters. They existed, they lived on this planet, and they ruled it for millions of years longer than the arrogant genus Homo is likely to survive.
Heck, it took a whole asteroid and the subsequent volcanism of the Deccan Traps to knock these guys over. They deserve our respect. And awe.
Of course, one dinosaur did survive. And this scaly old curmudgeon has recently collected his tales of speculative fiction into a compendium known as The Dinosaur Chronicles. The foreword explains just how he survived, and who is responsible. The stories run the gamut from straight SF to fantasy to speculative mystery. About half have been published in paying print markets; most of the rest were just too long for the markets of their day. Included in the book are the following tales:
The Blue Smoke Test -- An over-the-top tale of a scientist who creates a time machine and precipitates the Ultimate Disaster.
The Men with the Power -- An aging, retired diplomat crashes a diplomatic soiree and uses his special talent against a dark-side version of himself.
Two Steps Forward -- A soldier with PTSD has his tormenting memories erased, which works. For a while.
Punkin' Vipers -- A Halloween tale of a man with car trouble and a field of corrupted orange orbs.
Evensong -- Of what use is a planet with a 20,000-year lifespan? And why would it be a locus for murder?
Open Frame -- Karma meets reincarnation in a bowling alley.
Eliza's Quick-Drying Polar White -- Crickets and an alternate dimension provide irony and amusement.
Who Mourns for Spring? -- An AA meeting ends with everyone really needing that drink.
Sheep in Wolf's Clothing -- A man infiltrates the annual meeting of the undead. Events do not unfold as expected.
Letter of the Law -- Sometimes being literal is being cruel.
The Practical Meek -- A man of the street exacts a painful vengeance for the death of this friend.
Edges of Memory -- A killer kills, and then forgets--utterly--that his victims ever existed. A nurse investigates and discovers a shocking secret.
Crawl Ice -- A couple is stranded in their Colorado cottage by an antagonized creature that they can't see, and it's getting bolder and smarter as the hours go by.
The Great Aribo -- Two boys at a county fair find the world's greatest juggler, who has a secret both wonderful and double-edged.
Excerpt from “Crawl Ice,” (Copyright 2015 Joseph M. Erhardt)
Evan Fisher lugged the suitcase down the walk, across a spray of ice and snow, and heaved it onto the opened tailgate of his neighbor’s pickup truck.
“That’s the last of it,” Fisher said, stuffing his gloved hands into his jacket pockets.
“Thanks, Evan,” Hank Stricker said, shoving the suitcase crosswise. He latched up the tailgate and added, “I just wish you’d get out of here along with the rest of us.”
Fisher looked back and watched as Hank’s wife locked the front door of their house. “Don’t see a need, Hank. I’ve got wood for the fireplace and enough gasoline to run the generator—when I need it—for two weeks. Power should be back by then.”
“There could be aftershocks,” Hank said. “Slides. If Mountain Electric can’t get their trucks to the lines—”
Fisher put his hand on his neighbor’s shoulder. “Hank, you worry too much.”
Snow crunched as Hank’s wife came alongside.
“Hank’s a worrier, all right,” she said, winking at her husband. “It keeps him out of trouble.”
Hank blushed but added, “So how’s Samantha feel about this?”
Fisher hesitated. “She’s not crazy about staying.” Then he grinned. “But I told her it would be romantic—just the two of us, all alone in town. Almost like pioneers.”
Hank’s wife laughed. “Evan, a weekend in a nice motel is romantic. Two weeks in a cold, dark valley in Colorado is a nightmare.”
Fisher watched Hank’s truck crawl up the winding north road. From time to time, the early-afternoon sun flashed across the tailgate, giving it one last lick before the truck finally disappeared into a cleft.
Fisher turned and trudged slowly up the block, to the rancher he shared with his wife. He wondered if the coming isolation would be a good thing or a bad thing for his marriage. Samantha had complained about being ignored, being neglected. For at least the next week, he figured, there would be no one else to “nore” or “glect.”
She should appreciate that.
As Fisher turned from the street into his walkway, he staggered as a sudden loss of traction threw him aside.
He righted himself and looked down.
A six-foot area of his front walk had iced over.
Ice in the middle of a Colorado November was no surprise. But he’d cleared the walk just that morning, and it had not gotten warm enough for any melt.
For a moment he contemplated the idea that Sam had poured water on the walk to spite him or—and his gut twinged at the thought—to deliberately injure him.
Sam might’ve changed her mind about staying, Fisher thought, but she’s not crazy.
Fisher walked to his door and let himself in.
The front door opened into the living room.
Sam’s voice carried out from the kitchen. “Evan?”
Fisher rushed into the kitchen. His wife sat in jacket and panties, her bare right leg elevated on the kitchen table. A bloody bandage and a bag of ice lay across her knee.
Sam spat out the words: “You said you cleared the walk!”
“My ass! There’s a patch of ice—”
“I know! I nearly fell on it myself!”
Sam’s voice dropped to a menace, and she bared her teeth.
“Do you really mean to get rid of me?”
“Dammit, Sam, it’s winter out there! You’ve got to watch for the hazards, always!”
“You said you cleared the walk!”
“And I did—this morning. I don’t know how the ice happened. It couldn’t have happened. It never got above freezing today!” Fisher took off his gloves and reached for her knee. “Does it hurt? A lot?”
Sam sliced her fingernails across the back of his hand. “Do. Not. Touch. Me!”
Joseph Erhardt’s Bio:
Joseph Erhardt is a published short story author and professional editor/writing instructor. His short fiction has appeared in Keen SF!, Maelstrom Speculative Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Talebones, among others. He’s currently working on two novels and, along with Linda Lyons-Bailey, helped edit Robert E. Bailey’s final novel, Deja Noir, which is currently being marketed to the publishers. His editing services are described here: Joseph Erhardt’s GSC Editing.
You can buy The Cultural Dinosaur on Amazon KINDLE.