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Epilogue

 

 Written In The Rocks

 

 

 

Somewhere on the planet Irignum, far beyond the desert on which the ship temporarily sat, Tobit had been chewed and mauled by the spike-toes, but they had found him just too distasteful to digest.  His life support system, though torn in places, was not palatable, and it was actually toxic to alien life.  Smaller scavengers, including other bipeds, crawlers and flyers managed to eke out a few bites of meat by sticking their heads into the torn openings of the suit to get at the flesh.  They too found the experience distasteful, so it was up to the insects and bacteria to finish off Tobit’s remains.  The tough digestive tracks of the planet’s predators and scavengers may not have been poisoned outright by the microbes filtering out of the alien’s suit, but a new creature had invaded earth’s air that was particularly lethal to dinosaurs and their kin: a crystal-like structure that was necessary for Revekian metabolism but would prove to be fatal to many creatures during this age.

            Earthlings would one day call it a virus.  Within a few millennia it would have spread around the globe and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and many orders of reptiles on earth and allow the mammals to finally take control.  Flying reptiles and the dragons of the ocean would also become extinct, as would several other unrelated species in the sea.  It would, during its early stages of mutation, have no effect on mammals, birds and other reptiles of the planet, including the crocodiles and their kin.  Turtles, snakes, and lizards would continue to thrive, as the mammals and birds took over the niches once occupied by dinosaurs.  The new plants would continue to encroach upon the receding margins of the jungle, as the climate also began its climactic change.  A vastly improved order of insects, who depended upon the flowering plants, their pollen and fruit, would continue to converge upon the rain forest, prairies and ever-expanding fields of grass, flowers, and fruit bearing trees.  Meanwhile the virus would mutate during the evolution of the planet to become the worst killer of all time.

 

******

            While poor Tobit lie in the forest to be consumed by insects, microorganisms, or small scavengers who were able to tunnel into his suit, Varik would lie intact inside his muddy tomb.  The stream of mud that had overflowed the banks of the nearby river had covered the surrounding floor of the jungle, so that small lizards, mammals, insects, and even birds would become part of the strata in which he was entombed.  Quickly covered in advancing mud, they too were encased forever in the sludge.  As Varik decomposed slowly inside his ruptured suit, he would gradually deteriorate away as would the muscle inside an ammonite shell or the flesh of the dinosaurs who became fossils in the earth.  The metallic and plastic substances making up the alien’s life support system had a far greater half life than such materials on earth but would gradually be dissolved and replaced by the earth’s own minerals, until they too became fossilized: a crystalline replica of Varik’s life support system and bone structure, an enigma for geologists and paleontologist to ponder someday when Varik was discovered in the rock.

            The lush rain forest of Northern Arizona gradually gave way to a changing landscape, a process that took many millions of years.  Mountains rose and fell, the sea moved in and out, and countless species of mammals and birds evolved, lived for a spell, and then become extinct, until, after the last great ice age, there was a great desert filled with ancient wind-worn rocks, much similar to the desert on which the aliens’ ship had escaped to so long ago.  The remnants of ancient volcanoes, lakes, and great forests (now petrified as multicolored rocks) stretched over the landscape of Northern Arizona where dinosaurs and aliens once roamed.

            Into this scorched and tortured land, a sound broke the stillness.  A cloud of dust marred the cloudless horizon.  Once again in this no-man’s-land, bipeds appeared.  This time they did not come as a great vessel out of the sky or migrate as primitive hunters and gatherers from the north as such nomads had done for thousands of years before the White Man appeared.  This time they rolled across the desert in a small, compact vehicle that threw up a great dust cloud in its wake.  From the jeep, an excited sound from one of the bipeds burst forth as he pointed at a likely outcrop of rock.  Out jumped one of the bipeds, with the other not far behind.

            “Look at the fossils in that rock!” the first one cried.

            “It’s a bonanza!” the second biped crowed, doing a clumsy jig.

            For several moments the excited amateurs pecked away at their discovery, their geological picks ringing discordantly in the desert air, until the first biped stopped suddenly, slapped his forehead in disbelief, and pointed down at the rock.  There, after a large chunk of late Cretaceous shale fell away, were the remains of Varik’s life support system, preserved almost perfectly in the rock.  While Varik had long ago disintegrated inside, his suit had been replaced by minerals that defied rust.  His arms, legs, torso, and helmet segments were perfectly preserved, but, as seen in fossil seashells, the inside of his suit was made up of the matrix of the rock.

            “Jeeezuz, Ralph,” the first biped seemed to shudder, “it looks like a space suit in this rock!”

            “Impossible, Hank.” Ralph shook his head. “It’s gotta be a fluke!  I’m sure it’s something else!”

            “No… Ralph,” said Hank slowly, bringing his eye right up to the rock. “It’s too uniform…. It looks like there’s an inscription of some sort on this fossil.” “Ralph,” he whirled around excitedly “do you know what this means?”

            “I dunno,” Ralph sighed wearily. “…. Sunstroke?  We couldn’t both be having the same dream!  I’ve never seen a fossil like this before!”

            “Ralph,” Hank slapped his forehead again in disbelief, “this rock is sixty-five to seventy million years old.  It’s late Cretaceous.  When this thing—whatever it is—began to fossilize, there were still dinosaurs around.”  “ Tyrannosaurus rex, the tyrant king, still ruled,” he framed his words carefully. “…. Now it turns out that they were not alone.  If what I see isn’t a dream or we’re both not stark raving mad, this is an alien, Ralph.  During the Age of the Dinosaurs, extraterrestrials once visited earth!  Look how small it is and how large its helmet is, as if it had a tiny body and yet a great big head.”

            The alien shared the same slab of rock with countless fossilized mammal, reptile, and avian bones, but so far the two explorers had not seen dinosaur bones, which had been the original goal of their expedition today.  For several hours Ralph and Hank dug around the fossilized space suit, until it was almost completely uncovered.  As Hank took one more peck at the rock, however, the fossil began disintegrating in pieces before their horror-stricken eyes.  As they tried to hold various sections in place, the suit continued giving way, until the remains of Varik, the Revekian, looked like potsherds of a bygone race, everything that is, except one perfectly preserved boot, which Hank quickly and almost tearfully protected with both his hands.

            “I hope your brought some glue,” he muttered to Ralph, as he lifted it carefully out of the rock.

 

The End

 

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