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Horns23: Rubeosaurus



acrylics 2012,
Styracosaurus (Rubeosaurus) ovatus.


"No, I'm telling you, I saw it with my own two eyes!" cried Five-Horned Mac, and he swung his huge crested head back and forth. Mac picked up his feet and tapped them on the ground, which is what he always did when he got irritated. He hated it when somebody challenged one of his stories. He eyed me hard then swung his head to Pico and glared at him, too.

Pico was summarily unimpressed. He just kept working on the tough patch of long-root grass he was eating.

"No way it happened," I said. "Sky fire always hits tall things first. Big Lake has tons of trees. It would have hit that first."

"I never said we were at Big Lake," Five-Horned Mac said. "We were at Small Lake on the other side of Flat Top Rock and there are no trees there. I'm telling you, it happened just like that." He was really upset now. Normally he backed down off one of his wild tales when someone started questioning the details of it. Normally he'd say, well maybe that part was a little bit stretched. But this time he wasn't; he was really certain he'd seen sky fire come right down and strike Billy Long Tail right on the horn.

"Why didn't you run?" I asked him. "If I'd've seen that I wouldn't have stood gawking at it."

"Well we didn't know it was happening at first, just this flash and then BOOM, Bill's practically up on those stubby back legs of his makin' some kind of sound like a jungle bird, and he's glowing all over."

"Well how was he glowing?"

"Because the fire got in him, how the hell do you think?"

Pico lifted his head and, still chewing, said, "Just let him tell the story already. You're killing the flow."

"So anyway… yeah. The sky fire hit him alright, right through the horn. But that's not even the weirdest part."

"Tell it," Pico said.

"So Bill, he's all jolted up and like I said, he's glowing, man, I mean same color as the fire in him and it's swear to God the freakiest thing I'd ever seen. Up until what happens next. See everybody starts going crazy; Bill is going up on his back legs callin' out like a wild animal and everybody else starts getting away from him, trying to tell him to calm down. But all that yelling has gotten us attention and you know how Small Lake is set up on that rise?"

"Yeah," I said. Small Lake was up on a flat, muddy bank. It was tough getting up it and worse getting down.

"Well, the mud starts shaking a little and we hear this whump whump whump and what do you think comes running up that bank but a great big scale faced Bone-Eater. My horn to God."

I made a noise, and Five-Horned Mac started stamping his feet again. "Look, I swear. It wasn't a full grown one, and that's important. But it weren't no baby either. It was big and mean enough and it took one look at a pack of panicking horn-noses like us and it thinks, well I've got dinner and dessert. He flexes his tiny arms and curls up those tiny hands of his and lets out one of those roars that can shake bananas off of trees, and there go the horn-noses slip sliding all over the bank there."

"But Bill, he's going crazy, man, I mean bonkers, totally wild, has no idea what he's doing and he's still glowing, right? But not just glowing, like, there's these blue and white waves of fire just rippling over him, like water. He sees this Bone-Eater and he doesn't even register what's going on, he just has to get that fire out of him. So he bellows just as loud and with his head swinging all over the place, he charges right at the thing."


"I saw the whole thing. I was half in a gulch, trembling, I mean shaking, man. So Bill runs right into the Bone-Eater, BAM, and his sky fire horn goes up and in and tears this big slit right up the Bone-Eater's belly. The Bone-Eater was so stunned that something was charging him, something with fire comin' off him in every which way, it didn't even move. It just gets slit, right up the middle and falls over. Dead. Just like that."

"Just like that?" I asked.

"I saw it. I saw it with my own two eyes."

Mac had stopped stamping his feet, but he was looking hard at me. It was not that Mac was a liar, really, but that he liked his stories big. There was always a sort of truth in there somewhere; so if there had been five monkeys that had stolen the fruit he found for breakfast, well, maybe it would become fifteen by the third time he'd told it. I squinted back, but he didn't move, not an inch.

"So that's it then?" asked Pico.

"That's what?"

"That's the end of the story?" Pico grunted and stopped tearing at the root still stuck in the ground. "That's a terrible way to end a story. You can't end it like that. End it right. What happened to Bill?"
Then, Mac sighed. He shifted and he swung his crest- only five horns atop it left unbroken – and looked all around him. "I don't know for sure." He said. "I know what I saw – what I think I saw. But even I don't trust my own eyes on this one."

I glanced at Pico. Pico glanced at me. The root didn't have his attention anymore.

"So – Bill's standing there, breathing, shaking. I can see him plain as day from the gulch I'm in. And he's starting to twitch, like he's itchy and he can't make it stop, and there's this weird haze over him, kind of blue. It's that water rippling thing I said, but Bill, he acts like there's red ants all over him. He doesn't even realize there's blood on him or a dead Bone-Eater there, he's just dancing and twitch and he starts screaming 'get it off me, get it off me.' And before any of us can get up or anyone can even try to get in his way, he takes off for the water and goes running right in. Galumphing. Charging. And this is what I remembered seeing, clear as day: he goes in too fast, it's like, the rippling get bigger all up his horns and all up his back, then suddenly, it's gone. Day to night, just like that. Gone. And so's Bill."

We were quiet. Mac looked side to side again, then back at us, nervous.

"Just gone?" Pico asked.

"Yeah. Nothing. No blood or guts or anything. We're all just standing there in the dark by the lake and there's a dead Bone-Eater spilling its insides all over the mud. Nothing else."

"But… how? I mean…" I started and stopped.

Mac cracked his head to the side and shook his back out, then his tail. "I don't know man. I don't know. I've asked myself that for months. I don't have any answers. But I tell you one thing; I've never gone back up to Small Lake, and I never will. Not for all the fruit in the orange leaf trees."

Then we were silent, and we tilted our heads up. The sky was getting dark, and predators loved the dusk. But it was calm.

"Anyhow," he said. "I've gotta get going. Gotta get me some sleep."

"Alright," I said. "Take it easy, old Mac."

"Yeah, you too."

And Pico snorted goodbye.

After he'd lumbered off into the dusk, I turned to Pico, who had finally freed up that root and was eating it. "That story was bullshit. It's gotta be. I've never heard that from anyone else."

Pico shook out his back and chewed with his eyes half shut. "Who cares?" he said. "Story's not about facts. It's about story. And that one was good."

Text by :icondoughboycafe: the winner of the contest I announced.…
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