Barbados author TK Toppin writes character driven cross-genre tales, full of action, adventure and whimsy. Get your teeth into this flash fiction piece, then follow the links to her books. Enjoy!
STOP, DROP, ROLL… AND RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
“You got that right. This tech is pretty ancient.”
A general calculation pegged the control room on the bridge to be circa 1960s, complete with round screens and dials, protruding knobs like toothpaste caps and sharp-edged consoles, even an old-fashioned landline telephone in a horrible peachy colour was mounted at one end.
“No. I mean really. Dinosaur.”
I looked over at Mason. Judging from his expression, I knew immediately he didn’t mean the outdated navigational equipment on the derelict vessel. He stared at a point behind me and acted like he’d just pooped his pants, in the worst way possible. He even stood funny. That chilly thing that runs down your spine; ran down mine. I swallowed, not particularly wanting to turn around. In fact, I wanted to play the typical damsel in distress and simply scream for no reason. Instead, I found some mild comfort staring at Mason, who conveyed all my sudden fears.
A low growl and waft of hot air brushing up my back was motivation enough for both of us to squawk. Instinct kicked in. Without looking back, I lunged forward, grabbed Mason and propelled us both as far away possible from whatever creature that was blowing me a kiss.
We rolled across the dusty floor, Mason rigid in my arms. It didn’t help, considering he was nearly twice my weight and carried most of our expedition gear. I cursed him. I cursed whatever breathed on us. Loudly.
As we came to a stop, under a console, I heard the first thundering sound of something heavy and solid stomping the metal grate floor. The vibrations ricocheted around my innards, jiggled my boobs, not in a nice way, and made me bounce off the floor to its rhythm. A small squeak escaped from me. I looked up from my prone position.
My muscle mass melted, and lots of blood drained from my head and limbs. I might as well have turned to not-quite-set jelly.
“Ohh…” was all I managed to croak.
Dinosaur. Or something that looked pretty close to one. It was hard to tell exactly what it was, other than its impressive size, scalding hot breath, and teeth. So many teeth…
Why was I spewing out grade school science stuff?
It reared back its head, as if to chomp down on us in one dramatic fell swoop. It inhaled instead, its mouth cracked open wider as it sucked in a phlegmy rasp.
So many teeth!
“We should…we should run. Now!” I jabbed my elbow into Mason, scuttling backwards, eyes riveted to the creature.
Teethosaurus brought its head down, and on an ear-shattering roar, a blast of fire spewed from its mouth. Not dinosaur—
I yanked Mason and scrambled to safety. We careened around the consoles on the bridge, and dived behind a solid-looking counter. Hot lashes slapped against our backs. As we tumbled along the floor, tucking as much of our bodies as we could behind the counter, a rush of smoke and flames blasted by. The stench of sulphur and something pretty close to rot assaulted our senses.
Mason screamed from next me, hands clenched around his ears. His inability to move was my motivation to surge to my feet, dragging him as best as I could. I yelled out his name, ordering him to move. He responded like a robot, with fear making his eyes goggle and mouth curve downward. We ran out of the bridge to the sound of the beast in pursuit. Dinodragon’s huge body slammed clumsily around the room to a cacophony of noise.
Our legs propelled us down the same route we took when we boarded the vessel, and straight to the waiting drop ship on the deck. The sooner we got off the ancient tanker and blew it out of the water, the better. Dragon-dinosaur and everything!
In the back of my mind, I cursed our employer. Sometimes a little heads up would be nice. Science vessel, my eyeball! It was a freaking freak house. How else would one explain an old 1960s ship, the maritime kind, materialising out of nowhere like a ghost? The thing was close to 600 years old, and by all rights, it should’ve crumbled up into fine rust particles or sunk to the bottom of the ocean—freak show creature and all.
We belched out a doorway, one we’d noticed earlier that had suspicious scorch marks and long scratches. If only we’d taken heed then and not ventured any farther. Curse curiosity!
Tumbling onto the main deck, we sighted our drop ship waiting for us. Wisps of exhausts from the idling thrusters caught the ocean breeze and dissipated. The homely grey and black vessel never looked better. I slapped a hand to my ear, activating the audial implant and alerted our on board computer.
“Prepare for immediate take off!” I screeched. “And open the door—now!”
“Affirmative,” tweaked into my ear, directly followed by the hatch doors sliding open.
Mason and I sprinted, Dinodragon thundering behind us. How it planned on getting through the exit doors—
The beast barrelled into the doorway, the metal frame bent and spread wider. The distinct sound of old corroded metal snapping and screaming terrorised the air. Mason made a pining noise, his eyes riveted to the drop ship’s open hatch, his legs pumping across the deck. Unable to stop myself, I kept looking back. The creature seemed stuck, but with a heave forwards like a battering ram, it burst through, roaring with indignation. I made the pining noise now.
A hot rush slapped against our ankles, the bitter scent of smoke and char spurred us on. Mason dived into the drop ship first, like a rugger player slamming into the scrimmage. He was very agile for one so lumbering. I followed, uncaring if I landed on him.
“Shut the doors, Elmo!” The computer’s name. “Take off now-now-now!”
The hatch doors slammed shut, instant silence greeted us for a brief second. A horrific crash against the hull made us lurch inside.
“Elmo, take off. Now!” I sat, frozen, like one waiting for an accident to happen.
The drop ship trembled, running through the usual take off sequences. Oh, for the love of all things in the universe. Hurry the fudge up! Thrusters fired up rapidly with a deep burp, the engines screamed as it engaged for maximum elevation—
Dinodragon rammed the vessel again. Mason fell flatter, having never gotten up in the first place. I gritted my teeth.
“Elmo, for all the suns and moons, get this clunker up in the air!”
“We appear to have taken on extra weight, Captain.” Elmo, ever-helpful.
Mason let out a guttural bellow. “We’re going to die!”
Scared as I was—literally, it was close to bowel-loosening scared—I sucked in my most bracing breath and pushed up to my hands and knees. “Not today!”
From beyond the hull, something like the screams of fingernails on a chalkboard made my skin pebble and chill my spine. Lots of fingernails! The creature was trying to rip the tiny ship apart. Mixed with the frenzied whine and vibrations of the ship straining its engines to take off, it sounded downright nightmarish.
“Elmo, engage weapons. Activate the below turrets—”
The drop ship lurched again, we jerked wildly to the aft of the vessel. Mason’s elbow rammed into my ear, inflicting more vertigo into my head. I wanted to vomit.
“Elmo just shoot the thing off us!” I screamed from under Mason.
“We are too close to the landing zone, Captain. Weapons fire will destroy our thrusters.”
“If we don’t shake that thing off, it won’t matter either way.”
I would’ve rolled my eyes. “What!”
“Realigning the thrusters towards the creature might dislodge it.”
I rolled my eyes. “Do it then!”
I heard a low grate as thrusters turned, then the engines whined even louder. A sudden earthquake-like tremble rocked the ship; the creature attached to us scrabbled loudly against the hull. An image of live lobsters in pot of boiling water came to mind. Dinodragon let out another of its bone-chilling roars. In one quick jerk, the drop ship bounded away like a sideways slingshot pellet.
Elmo immediately corrected our flight path, which I imagined would’ve had us careening into the derelict ship’s main cabin. Before Mason and I could stop with the screaming, Elmo righted us and shot upwards. The G-force flattened us against the latrine door, my face buried somewhere deep in Mason’s armpit. His deodorant chip needed upgrading.
After what seemed like forever, Elmo levelled the catapulting ship into an easy cruising angle and speed. I shoved Mason off, he didn’t object, in fact it appeared he’d passed out.
“Turn us about Elmo. Let’s a have a good look at that creature.” I scraped my hands through my hair and wobbled to the pilot seat. “Activate forward cameras and record. Let’s see what our employer has to say about this.”
Mason stirred from behind me. “Ask for more money.”
About the Author
T.K. Toppin is a published author of Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction novels and short stories. The Lancaster Trilogy was her debut, previously published by Champagne Books Group/BURST Books. She was also represented by Ring of Fire Published to release the To Catch A Marlin novel and short stories.
T.K. was born, raised and lives in Barbados and is currently enjoyed the exciting world of indie publishing. When she’s not writing, she can be found procrastinating or watching Netflix, and juggling the addictive realm of Instagram.
For more on T.K., visit her Blogsite
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