“The Dinosaurs” by PD Penley
Francis reclined in the middle of his jon-boat in the middle of the lake in the middle of his 12-acres inherited in the middle of his life so many middling years ago. The sun was setting quickly, reaching the point of its descent where it spins into a free-fall, disappearing behind the horizon with a visual crack. Francis gently laid his bamboo rod next to him, propped up against the boat’s transom, baited with a freshly-caught night-crawler and a heaping of hope. The day’s dinner, however, still eluded him. He kept his eyes open, staring upward, allowing his mind’s focus to wander away from his empty stomach. Francis waited for the constellations to put on their nightly show.
His routine for many years, Francis knew this show by heart. Tonight the timing was off, though. The dusk curtain, usually drawn by now, still covered the constellations, preventing the stars from their first act. Yes, the sun was gone, but the house lights lingered.
Francis’ eyes began scanning the sky with urgency, glancing left, then right. Francis sat up and looked forward, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He leaned his head back, the nape of his neck bent over the hull of his jon-boat. The culprit came into sharp upside-down focus: a second sun. This one angrier, redder than the first; festering and pulsing as it made its way through the illuminated evening sky. The second sun dragged behind it a long, blazing tail. A pitchforked devil sun to rival its earthly, angelic counterpart. Francis knew immediately what this was. He was never the star pupil in school, but he always paid attention when those teachers spoke of the dinosaurs.
This must have been how those beasts felt in their final moments. Deep in their routine, when something minuscule tipped them off. At first, nothing but a feeling that something was amiss, the innate knowledge of the end before acknowledging the end. He pictured them now. Hundreds of scaly animals, different species scattered across the landscape in their tribal herds, all at once directing their eyes toward the sky, together experiencing a single moment of communal shock.
What he wouldn’t give to be one of those dinosaurs now. Yes, their fates were intertwined with his own, identical. He knew that now. But the inevitable destination did not bother Francis. He was ready for his end many empty-stomached sunsets ago.
Francis watched calmly as the red devil sun grew larger and larger. The once-cool metal alloy of his jon-boat began to burn his skin, his clothes became drenched from sweat. This fall night slowly became a hot summer’s mid-afternoon. It wouldn’t be long now.
Francis didn’t fight it, he only reminisced. Those lazy lake days when he was a school boy. Day-dreaming about dinosaurs from his unforgiving seat on a jon-boat hull until his mother called him inside for a home-cooked dinner.
His stomach growled.
Across the world, human necks craned back, eyeballs scanned the skies for an anomaly. Minds registered immediately what they found. They too studied the dinosaurs.