Nathan’s Private E-Journal – February 16, 2014 “My Odd Valentine’s Day Adventure” Part – V

The cry came again, this time closer and more menacing than before.  I cocked my head at the sound.  It did not resemble any mammalian creature’s call I had ever heard.  Yet it did make me think of a cry from large predatory birds.  Only this one sounded much bigger than any of the ones that came to mind.

A moment later, I spotted movement from the portal which Otto had disappeared through earlier.  It was very brief but enough to tell me that my suspicions were correct.  For the briefest instant I saw a very large and sharp beak, bigger than a man’s head pop through and then withdraw.  But what alarmed me more was the fact that the beak had stood a good seven to eight feet from the ground, which meant the owner was exceptionally tall.

Immediately, my mind began racing through the myriad of creatures Otto and I had encountered over the years, as well as the ones who had once roamed this world.  Since the unicorns closely resembled the horses of this reality, my brain thought back to their evolution and what kinds of creatures had sought them as prey.  Immediately one name came to mind, “Terror Birds”.  Carnivorous prehistoric birds that had roamed South and North America long ago before man arrived via the Bering Strait. They were of course extinct here, but in the Para-Earth my equine friend had come from, they had obviously survived.  Which in turn meant that since their prey had developed a horn as a defense, the Terror Birds might have developed some new evolutionary weapons of their own.

It suddenly occurred to me that both mare and foal had remained silent, in spite of the cries.  Whereas as my other companions, Beavis and Butthead, started jabbering and raising their guns.  Immediately I told them to shut up and not move a muscle.  Luckily, they immediately obeyed.  A moment later, the Terror Raptor stepped through the opening.

TB

As I feared the creature had developed some new traits that its counterparts in this world had not.  For one thing, instead of tiny little wings that served no purpose, these monsters had grown their arms somewhat longer, but nothing compared to their ‘fingers’.  Those had extended considerably, much like a regular bird’s, but instead of sprouting feathers these bones had fused and sharpened to elongated talons a good one to two feet in length each.

Now, I knew what had made the scratch marks on the mare.  A part of me suspected the purpose of such claws was to slash a rear leg, severing the muscles or tendon, in an effort to hobble its prey.  They could also be used to block the unicorn’s horn in a face-to-face confrontation.

Unfortunately, my momentary lapse of scientific fascination meant it was too late to alter the brothers’ perception of what they were seeing.

“Jesus Christ, is that what I think it is, bro?” asked Eric.

“A living fossil?” replied his sibling licking his lips with excitement.  “Yeah, and he’s going to look great on the wall.”

“Not if I get him first,” Eric smirked raising his gun.

But before either could aim, the creature turned towards us and let loose another piercing cry which startled both men.  In my case, because my hearing was so sensitive I was forced to one knee while I tried to protect my keen ears.  It was like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard amplified twentyfold.  I literally had to try and shut my ears down to protect them, yet the sound of a rifle firing still reached my brain.

A moment later, the bird’s cry was replaced by a shriek of panic and then silence.  Looking up, I barely caught a glimpse of the Terror Raptor darting back through the portal.  Whether it had been wounded or not, I couldn’t tell.  All that mattered was that it was gone and we were safe.

uh oh

I started to congratulate my companions on their valor when I heard a menacing click followed by the unnerving view of staring at the business end of a rifle.

Before I could ask what was going on, the gun’s owner snarled, “Buddy, I don’t know where you learned that little hypnosis trick, but news flash: we see things for what they really are.”

Immediately I knew exactly what he meant.  The effort of protecting my hearing had caused me to lose my concentration, and now they could clearly see both mother and foal for what they really were.

“A live unicorn and its foal,” Eric was saying, “We’re going to be more famous than Dad, when we bring them home.”

“They’re not yours to take,” I told them firmly and started to get to my feet, only to have his brother shove his weapon to my forehead.

“You are in no position to stop us, Mister,” he told me with a smarmy grin.  “We’re in charge and you’re going to do exactly as we say, or…”

“You’ll kill me?” I asked blandly.

“Only if you do something really stupid,” Don told me, trying to look menacing.

To be honest I still don’t know whether or not they’d have gone that far.  But I could see they were kind of edge.  The appearance of the Terror Raptor had startled them more than they were willing to admit. Especially since their shot had not killed the animal, merely driven it off.  But for how long?  That was the question.

Still I had to plan my next move carefully.

Turning into mist would take but a fraction of a second, but I was now directly in front of mom and foal.  Which meant I went to my mist form, a trigger might be pulled and any shot aimed in my direction would likely hit one of them.  So instead, I went with a different plan of attack.

Down where the legs of my pants ended, well out of the brothers’ line of sight, parts of me were breaking off and burrowing into the ground.   From there, my miniature ‘moles’ began tunneling towards where my captors’ feet stood.  In a little while, they’d climb up into their shoes and put the bite on them.  Once that happened, I’d have full control over them.  Not that I really wanted to do it.  I abhor taking anyone’s free will from them, even temporarily.  But under the circumstances, and with the lives of mom and foal in danger, I was willing to make an exception.

And what were the Brothers Dim up to, while I was doing all this?  They were arguing between themselves about what to do with me.  Eric kept suggesting offering me a cut of the profit, but his brother was more inclined to keep me out of the spotlight entirely.  Apparently, he wanted the glory for finding a pair of live unicorns for just the two of them.

They were still going at it as my ‘moles’ reached their feet and were about to break ground when the Terror Raptor returned.  As you may suspect he had the element of surprise on his side, but not just because he was in a foul mood.  (Did you see what I did there?)

terrorBirdsNotice

No, this time he’d brought a couple of his buddies and they were all staring right at us…

TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME 

Nathan’s Private E-Journal – February 16, 2014 “My Odd Valentine’s Day Adventure” Part- IV

     tromso2

      For those not familiar with foaling or the term “red-bagging”, normally the foal is encased in the amniotic sac which comes out first.   Once this has cleared the womb, there is a second expulsion from the mother which involves the placenta which has been providing the foal with oxygen and nutrition up to this point.  But in this case, both placenta and baby were coming out simultaneously meaning no oxygen was getting to the foal.

       So you can understand why in spite of my anxiety about the approaching hunters, my first concern had to be breaking the sac so the foal could take in his/her first breaths of real air.  As I quickly started making my way back to the scene of the delivery I could tell the baby’s head had already cleared mom’s womb and was moving.  Starving for air, no doubt.  But then I noticed a curious stub-shape emanating from the forehead area of the unseen foal.  A second later it pierced the sac releasing fluids and other unmentionable things.

        I paused to marvel at the realization that the foal was born with the beginnings of what would eventually be a magnificent horn like its mother.  And unlike in some species where horns or coloration was part of attracting a mate, it served an important purpose in birth.  No doubt, red-bagging was common among their kind and the horn had been an evolutionary development to help them survive.

        Yet, in spite of the having pierced the sac the foal was still struggling so I quickly lent a hand and ripped the opening wider until the animal’s nose was clear and taking in air.  From there things moved quickly.  I wound up helping guide the rest of the foal out of mom and helped free it from the rest of the protective membrane.

        After positioning him closer to his mother, I returned my attentions to our unwanted guests only to find they had cleared the deeper snow and could clearly see us.

         “Look, someone’s found her already, Don!” said the one who must’ve been Eric.

     “Yeah, but we have guns and he doesn’t,” the other replied, cocking his gun and quickened his pace.

        Although I knew I could easily shape-shift and take them both down, a confrontation would mean gunfire.  And even a stray shot could hit mom or her newborn.  So instead, I resorted to another of my abilities.  Down by my feet a greenish mist began to cover the ground and make its way toward the pair.

efb6f-green_mist_by_devvyn

         I made the layer thin and close to the ground so as not to alert them to its presence.  As soon as their snowshoed feet touched the edges of the miasma, it quickly worked its way up their pants legs and into their clothing.  By the time they were within twenty feet of me, it snaked into their mouths and noses.

           Now I had them.

        Smiling, I drew upon my years of studying in Tromso, and called out to them in a very convincing Norwegian accent.  “Hullo!  Oh am I glad to see you.  My mare, she has just given birth and I need to get her and her baby back to the stables.”

        The brothers, paused in mid-step eyeing me warily.  They either thought I was drunk or stoned, which is why they hadn’t lowered their guns at this point.

     Finally, the one called Donnie stepped forward saying, “You got a mare that’s just given birth?  Must be pretty special.”

      “Oh, she is,” I nodded eagerly, using the unassuming almost clownish manner that I had seen Otto use on many an occasion to make people think he wasn’t nearly as clever as them.  “At least to me.  I raise her from a baby and now she has given birth to her own.”

       “Really?” Donnie said still approaching, “And here I thought she was special because of her being a unicorn.”

        “Unicorn?” I repeated stupidly.  “What makes you think she is a unicorn?”

      Now he was just five feet in front of me, and began pointing the gun at my head.  “Because I can see the horn sticking out of her head from here!” he snapped impatiently.

        This was the crucial moment and I had to get things just right.  Carefully, a let a smile cross my face.  “The horn sticking…” I began to chuckle. “She get you too, eh?”  Now I doubled up with laughter, slapping my thighs and everything.

      The brothers shared an uneasy glance at one another for a moment.  Then Donnie told his brother to check on the animal, while keeping me under guard.

      As I continued my enjoyment of a good joke, my mind was working furiously to distort Eric’s perception of what he saw.  It was a crucial moment.  If his mind proved more resistant than I’d hoped, then I’d have to take more drastic measures.  One of my hands was already beginning to take the shape of a vicious dog head, when I heard…

        “What the… Oh my God! That is so funny!”

        This was followed by laughter and the sound of Eric joining us. “That’s not a unicorn, Donnie!  It’s a horse with a big icicle caught in the hair covering her forehead.”

       “WHAT?” Donnie exploded and marched past me to see for himself.

      While Eric and I enjoyed a good laugh, I kept my fingers crossed that Donnie was as susceptible to my mist as his brother had been.  After several pregnant moments, he came stomping back towards us looking disgusted.  “I don’t believe it.  We came all this way for a stupid horse!” he groused and turned to his sibling, “This is all your fault, Eric!  You’re the one who insisted unicorns were real!”

     “No, I only mentioned it to Jared and our sister so they’d have an excuse to go skiing out this way.”

       As the accusations flew, I quietly wandered back to my charges.

mom and foal

      Mom was giving her offspring a good cleaning off while he enjoyed his first real meal from her.  She paused briefly to shoot me what I can only describe as a look of gratitude.

      I smiled and was about to tell her it was my pleasure when a menacing howl erupted from somewhere nearby.  I call it a howl, but it was more of a call which had come from no creature known to this reality.  The sound was so chilling, even the newborn paused in his feeding to shoot an anxious look at his mother, who in turned a frightened gaze to me.

      I’m not going to insult myself again by saying it didn’t take a genius to figure out what had made that noise.  I already knew.  Whatever had attacked her earlier had caught her scent through the portal and was coming…

TUNE IN NEXT TIME TO MEET THE PARA-EARTH THREAT AND AN AMAZING RESCUE!