Something happened 65 million years ago, and I need your help to stop it! - Chap 3
We drifted with the violent river, trying to stay above the surface, still holding hands. Ghostly figures watched us from the sides, some of them human. The river entered a lava tube with a low ceiling which forced us under the surface. I lost Jiang’s hand. Where did she go? Everything was pitch black here. I wasn’t going to be able to hold my breath for much longer. I fell down an underground waterfall. Falling in total darkness, unable to see the bottom, I let out a scream that was instantly suffocated by the surging water. A rock scraped my arm pretty badly. After I reached the bottom of the fall, I resurfaced inside a bigger cave where I could breathe. The oxygen levels were a bit lower here which made my mind clearer than it had been since my arrival here. The blue light from the fungus lit up the cave.
“Jiang?!” I yelled. “Where are you?!”
The roaring waterfall was just next to me, but the only thing I heard for a moment was my heart pounding in my chest.
“Where are you?!” I looked around.
Jiang had resurfaced a few meters away from me. I swam toward her. She hugged me, equally revealed to see me alive as I was seeing her alive.
“You’re bleeding,” she said. “Your arm.”
“I-I know,” I said. “Everything hurts, and I’m freezing.”
We climbed out of the water and sat down to rest for a few minutes. There were several openings around us, all glowing equally blue in the dark.
“I think we’re inside the nest,” Jiang said. “Where’s your gun?”
“Oh, crap,” I said, “I must have lost it in the water.”
“Me too. I still got the grenades, though.”
“And your repellant?” I asked. “It’s still itching like hell under my clothes so I suppose it’s still there but the water washed away all of it from my face I think.”
“I don’t know,” Jiang said. “Let’s hope we’re still somewhat protected. The pellets for the others are still in good shape. Hopefully, we can still cure the others with them.”
My heart sank when I thought about how slim our chances were.
“I don’t want to die like this,” I said, “or worse, to be turned into one of the funguses’ many mindless drones.”
“I don’t think any of the pale creatures we have seen have been mindless drones,” Jiang said with a resigned look on her face. “We aren’t dealing with a eusocial species. This isn’t a colony, such as an anthill, filled with members given a specialized task. This is just one organism. One, single mind. I don’t think it infects other organisms, or maybe it does that, but I think it does something else as well. Something completely unheard of in evolutionary history. It could answer some of our questions.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s just speculation,” she said and got up on her feet. “Let’s go, we have to see if we can find the others, or maybe a way out.”
I stood up as well. “A way out would be nice.”
We entered one of the caves at random since there was no way for us to know which one would lead to where we wanted to go. The damp air smelled of rotten meat and something that reminded me of ammoniac. We kept to the side of the cave, constantly worrying that something would appear at every turn. Faint echoes of roars, grunts, and what sounded like human screams traveled down to us. The fungus covered most of the walls, which illuminated the cave for us but also probably meant that we were being observed.
The cave led to a natural bridge that stretched over the bottom of a larger chamber. Beneath the bridge, there was a pool of red goo in which two ghastly Tyrannosaurus rex seemed to be growing. Part of their skin was still translucent, revealing their inner organs.
“What in God’s name–“ I began.
“As I suspected,” Jiang said.
“Excuse me?” I whispered while we crossed the bridge. “We are looking at two Tyrannosaurus rex being grown in what looks like a giant petri dish from hell and you suspected it?”
“It’s what I’ve been speculating about, but I didn’t dare to draw any conclusions until now. This is a spawning pool. My first clue was that there weren’t any spores. All known fungus uses spores to reproduce. But this one showed no signs of any reproductive capabilities beyond perhaps splitting itself in two. If it was some kind of slime mold – as Rodney suggested – this would have been expected since they’re single-celled amoebae, but in this case, each separate part of it seemed to behave as if still a part of the same individual organism.”
“And then there was the mystery with the supposedly extinct dinosaurs,” Jiang continued. “It further indicated my hypothesis. The many versions of Kira made me almost sure, but this confirms it. Organisms reproduce to spread their genes before they die. The individual dies, but it’s okay because the genes stay with the offspring. But imagine an organism that doesn’t age. It wouldn’t need to reproduce for the genes to remain. However, such an organism faces a big problem.”
“And what is that?”
“It can’t adapt to the changing environment. Over time, it would be unlikely for it to survive. But what if it developed a way around that problem, either evolutionary or by its own intelligent design? Wasn’t it you who suggested it first? An organism with an intelligence comparable – maybe even superior – to our own should have been able to take over the entire planet. So why hasn’t it?”
“I don’t know?” It was still difficult for me to think, even down here where the oxygen levels were better.
“I think it has learned, somehow, to acquire the genetic material of other organisms and then how to spawn them in these pools. That’s why we saw the evolutionary older dinosaurs walking around. It still remembers their genetic setup. This organism must be ancient, I mean not just from our perspective. It must have been alive millions of years ago to have genomes that old.”
“But why?” I asked.
“That’s the thing!” Jiang said. “I think it chooses to let other species live so that it can wait for them to adapt to the environment and then just steal their DNA and spawn versions of them for its own use. Who knows if this substance, this black mold, even is its original form?”
“You mean to say that there could be some kind of immortal brain somewhere on the planet controlling all of this through some sort of network?”
“I know how it sounds, but look around,” Jiang said. “I wish Rodney were here to take part in these theories.”
“And now this immortal organism has stolen us?” I said. “I mean our species DNA? That can’t be good.”
The cave branched into several different paths. Again, we chose one at random. That path branched as well. Some of the different paths led downward, some continued straight and one went upward. Since we were of the impression that we were deep underground, we picked the latter. We kept doing this for hours, and for each hour it looked like the cave had become smaller. Before we knew it we had to crawl to keep moving forward.
I was exhausted and shivered from the cold. Every part of my itching body ached as I crawled forward. I tried to imagine home; a warm shower, a glass of wine, a good book in the evening, staying in bed a Saturday morning, wondering what a Tyrannosaurus rex might have looked liked from the safety of my home. Why had I come to this place? I wanted to cry, but once again my more human emotions were hastily replaced by animalistic horror. Something behind me hissed, and even though I couldn’t turn my head around to look at it I just knew it was one of those giant snakes.
“Oh, please, no, God,” I began. “I beg of you, please, no.” I wasn’t even a religious man, but this was just too much for my rational thought processes to handle. “Jiang,” I said while speeding up as much as I could. “I’m pretty sure there’s a giant snake behind me.”
“Just move faster!”
I was hyperventilating. I scraped my knees on the uneven floor. The hissing came closer and closer. I could even hear its slithering body against the floor now.
“Can’t you just give me a grenade and–“ I began.
“No,” Jiang said, “we would die instantly.”
I knew that, but I was in too much panic to think about it.
“But it’s going to swallow me whole any moment now!”
“Don’t think about it and move forward as fast as you can.”
“I can’t go any faster now, you have to–“
“Just go, go, go, go!”
Jiang crawled down a hole that went straight down. There were some rocks blocking the way forward, so she didn’t have a choice. I followed her down. It was so tight that my shoulder was dislocated from the pressure. If I hadn’t been so unnaturally thin from malnutrition I would definitely have gotten stuck in this small passage, upside down. The thought of it almost made me forget about the snake reaching for me. Luckily, it was too large to fit into this hole. It did get a hold of my boot though, which slid off my foot as I fell down into the chamber beneath.
We landed in a pool of stale water. It wasn’t deep, just half a meter. I sprained my left hand hitting the bottom. I moaned out of pain. Jiang helped me up on my feet. It didn’t feel like I was of any help to her anymore, rather it felt like I was in the way. I had trouble moving with only one boot – and with my barefoot either touching down on the slippery slime or on sharp rocks – and the throbbing pain all over my body slowed me down even more.
Jiang could easily have left me behind, but instead she risked her life for me and came back to help me. The cave system inside this mountain was an impossible maze. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of tunnels – either natural or dug out by some animal – going through it. A group of cloned Thescelosaurus – an ornithopod dinosaur approximately as tall as a person – appeared to our right, charging at us. Jiang pushed me behind her and picked up a grenade. From another entrance, Velociraptors emerged at full speed. They let go of loud, distorted squeaks that combined almost sounded like some kind of twisted laughter. Jiang threw the grenade where the Velociraptors joined up with the Thescelosaurus.
The ringing in my ears after the explosion was all I could hear for several minutes. I was laying on my back. I could see the ceiling of another crawl space moving right in front of my eyes. I didn’t understand what was going on at first, but then I realized that Jiang was crawling backward dragging me by my fungus covered jacket.
We came out inside another small chamber. The floor was filled with red water, the same kind of water in which the Tyrannosaurus rex had been growing. In the center, bathing in the pale blue light coming from the walls, there was a body glued to one of the crystals with fungal-matter. The fungus crawled up toward the ears and entered them. Although the eyes had been picked away, we still recognized him.
“Oh, no!” Jiang teared up. “Oh, no, oh no, oh no.”
It was Rodney. He was still breathing, but his body was mutilated to such an extent that saving him would’ve been impossible or at least a worse fate than death itself.
“What in God’s name has it done to him?” I asked.
“We failed him,” Jiang said. “He trusted us to protect him.”
Rodney gurgled when he heard our voices as if he tried to speak.
“He’s trying to say something,” I said. “Listen.”
We listened carefully
“…underground…” He stopped to vomit some grey mucus. “…thermal energy storage…” He muffled something inaudible. “…Temporal…” More vomit. “…crystal.”
We waited for maybe ten more minutes without being able to discern any more words.
“We have to go,” I said. “There’s nothing we can do for him.”
“We can’t leave him like this,” Jiang said with rage in her eyes.
Strange whispers erupted from the walls. They were difficult to see in the dim light, but as soon as our eyes had spotted them they were impossible to miss; several naked bodies stuck to the walls by the fungus. All of them bore the same face – the face of Rodney. Their whispers sounded like robotic mumbling. It wasn’t possible to distinguish any of the words they were using – if they were using any words at all – but it sounded as if they were calculating something.
“What is this?” Jiang said.
“I-I think it is using his atypical brain to create some kind of computer,” I said. “A human supercomputer, maybe.”
Jiang didn’t respond. She took a grenade, removed the pin, and held the safety lever.
“I’m sorry,” she said toward Rodney in the center.
“Wait,” I said.
“What?” she said. “We can’t leave him like this. I’ll throw it, and then we’ll run.”
“I know,” I said. “I just wanted to say–” I gulped out of discomfort. “Y-you should put it in his mouth. The shockwave from the explosion will travel to his brain faster than the nerve signals. There will be no pain, just instant death.”
Jiang sobbed uncontrollably as she carefully pressed the grenade inside Rodney’s drooling mouth, constantly repeating the same thing:
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”
Blood-tainted tears from Rodney’s empty eye sockets ran down his face. Jiang made sure the safety lever was released.
“I never told him which my favorite dinosaur was,” I said. “It was Stegosaurus.”
“Come on,” Jiang said and ran toward the neighboring chamber.
We sat down with our backs against the wall with the entrance between us. I covered my ears and looked at Jiang. She wasn’t just grieving a friend. Her facial expression somehow revealed it.
“Y-you loved him, didn’t you?” I asked.
Before she could answer, the grenade went off. Rocks and flesh – engulfed in fire – rushed inside our chamber right between us. She didn’t need to answer. I knew.
As we walked out of there I wanted to comfort her, but she didn’t seem interested in talking to me. We didn’t speak for some time after the death of Rodney. I walked behind her to give her some space, but when she stopped in the middle of the cave we were walking through I didn’t hesitate to run up to her.
“Do you hear it?” she asked. “It sounds like singing.”
I hadn’t heard anything, but when she pointed it out to me I did hear something that sounded like faint choral music with an almost sacred melody. The echo from it came from somewhere ahead of us and the closer to it we got the more clearly we could hear it. It was hauntingly beautiful, and yet it felt so out of place that it almost terrified me more than the grunts from the Tyrannosaurus rex.
“It’s close,” Jiang said. “We’ll be there soon.”
“Beware of the siren call,” I said, but we didn’t stop.
We entered a large room with a high ceiling. The blue light pulsated along with the music. Several entrances led to the room, all of them guarded by cloned dinosaurs. At the bottom, in the middle of the room, there was a pit surrounded by sharp long teeth growing from the edges. The sacred music came from above it. It was sung by the surviving passengers. They were hanging from the ceiling by strings of fungus that had attached itself to their eye sockets. Their bodies were equally mutilated as Rodney’s had been. Most of them only had their torsos left. Only a few still had some clothes left on, the rest were naked. Their mouths were the only thing moving.
“Why are they singing,” I whispered.
“It has taken control of their minds,” Jiang said. “For whatever reason, it is making them sing.”
As the music reached its crescendo, Jiang stepped forward. She held one of the last grenades in her hand with a tight grip. I stayed behind, but when I saw that she wasn’t attacked – perhaps because of the grenade – I joined her. The music slowly faded out until everything went completely silent except for the dripping sound of urine that escaped from between the legs of one of the passengers hanging in the ceiling. The passengers spoke in unison, with voices distorted into something almost demonic:
“Wh-who are you?” Jiang asked.
It took a while for it to answer, and then:
My heart filled with dread.
“It must be the concept within the minds of the survivors that is closest to its self-image,” Jiang whispered to me.
“Homo sapiens,” it repeated with the voices of the survivors. “So much potential.”
“Did you bring us here?” Jiang asked.
“Brought back a sample from the future,” it said. “Studied habitability and future genotypes. Homo sapiens detected. So much potential, so much potential.”
“Potential for what?” I asked.
It stopped speaking with the survivors in unison and used one at a time instead. First an old man, then a middle-aged woman, then a teenage boy and lastly a girl not more than ten years old:
Then, again in unison: “So much potential.”
Two Triceratops appeared behind us. We didn’t have anywhere to go, except down the pit in the middle of the room. Jiang turned to me, telling me to jump together with her. I was exhausted, so tired of running for my life, but I had to continue. The thought of death still filled me with bottomless anxiety. I looked at the pit and the teeth growing out from the sides of the opening.
“Are you sure that’s a way out?” I asked.
“You are out of time… Homo sapiens,” the organism said and began singing like before.
The sides of the pit were wet and slippery. It felt like falling through an enormous gastrointestinal tract. It smelled like it as well. I throw up on my way down, only to have the vomit stick to my unkempt beard. We ended up in a river of gastric acid inside a cave made out of flesh. This was the inside of one of its biological structures. The walls were pulsating, just as if they had a heartbeat.
“This is digestive fluid,” Jiang said. “We better get up on land soon or we will be digested!”
We went down the river without being able to catch on to anything. I could feel my skin burn from the acid.
“Keep your head above the surface!” Jiang yelled. “You can’t ingest this, it will most likely kill you.”
I struggled to follow her advice, only breathing intermittently when my head reached the surface. The river ended inside a large living chamber where the fluid seemed to accumulate. Partly digested dinosaurs floated on the surface. We climbed on top of a small island made out of flesh. It was almost impossible to breathe because of the methane bubbling up from the bottom of the acidic lake.
“Where are we?” I said.
“I think we’re inside a stomach,” Jiang said. “It’s probably a part of some kind of biological power plant.”
“So we’ve just thrown ourselves inside the belly of the beast,” I said. “How the hell are we going to get out?”
“Not the belly of the beast,” Jiang said “Just one of its structures.”
“But how will we–“ I tried.
“Let’s just stop and think for a while, okay?” Jiang said. “We have to process what it told us.”
I stood up and tried to see if there was an exit somewhere, but there wasn’t. “I think we need to get out of here first.”
“It gave us the last piece of the puzzle,” Jiang said. “It brought us back in time. A sample of the future. That’s what it said, right? It must have seen the comet, maybe a long time ago, and figured out its trajectory. It couldn’t reach orbit through biological means, couldn’t stop the comet, but it was able to develop the ability to travel in time. Why did it need a sample?”
“It wanted to know if the Earth would be habitable again,” I said, still looking for an exit even though I had already looked everywhere.
“It stands to reason that if it can bring something back in time, it ought to be able to send something forward in time,” Jiang said.
“Are you saying–“ I began.
“It’s planning an invasion!” Jiang said. “When it was talking about our species potential, I don’t think it meant the potential of its human clones here and now, but the potential of our entire species. I mean, the comet is most likely about to strike too soon for it to be able to use the clones to build rockets, don’t you think?”
“It’s planning on escaping into the future?” I asked.
“Yes,” Jiang said. “That’s exactly what I think.”
A moment of silence, and then we said two very different things at the same time:
“That’s our ticket home!” I said.
“We have to stop it!” Jiang said.
Jiang looked at me disappointed when she heard me.
“Why must everything be our responsibility?” I said. “This thing won’t stand a chance against humanity.”
“Are you crazy?” Jiang said. “We are talking about a quasi-immortal, super-intelligent organism with an arsenal of cloned dinosaurs and humans and who’s knowledge and cognition is most likely stored everywhere throughout its body rather than in a single organ that could easily be destroyed.”
“But we got nuclear weapons!” I said. “It won’t stand a–“
“It might be enough for a small piece of it to survive for it start all over again,” Jiang said. “We need to find the mechanism that allows it to travel in time and destroy it. It won’t have time to rebuild it before the comet strikes.”
“B-but it’s suicide,” I said. “Please, let’s just–“
“We knew from the beginning that we would never return,” Jiang said. “I know it’s worse than we thought, Ian, but we have to make this sacrifice.”
“I-I’m afraid,” I said. “But I guess you’re right.”
“I have an idea,” Jiang said. “If this is a stomach, maybe we can induce vomit.”
“How?” I asked, still shaking from seriously considering ending my own life for the greater good. Ending my own life. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around that, it went against every instinct in my body. I had felt tremendously relieved when I thought about traveling back home – no matter the cost – and now I had to give that last shimmer of hope up for the sake of humanity. How could it be so easy for Jiang to accept this trade, to accept forfeiting her own life for others? For me, giving up my own life felt close to impossible. But she was right, as always, and on an intellectual level I understood what I had to do.
“The medicine that we were going to administer to the survivors,” Jiang said. “It might work as an emetic drug.”
She smeared the medicine she had brought with her on the flesh beneath us. It worked almost instantly. The entire chamber violently contracted. We were engulfed by the gastric juice immediately, and then – as if caught inside of a vortex – we span around and were propelled through some kind of esophagus together with everything else. I was just about to drown when finally we erupted out of the side of the mountain like from a geyser tilted on its side.
Jiang was lucky, she landed on some soft fungal tissue. I, on the other hand, slid several meters down the mountain until I was abruptly stopped by a boulder. My chest took most of the impact. The pain was excruciating, especially when I tried to breathe. It almost – but only almost – made me forget about all my other ailments. Most likely, I had broken one or two ribs. I whimpered while standing up, wiping digestive fluid out of my face and spitting some of it out of my mouth. I smelled like vomit.
“Are you okay?” Jiang said, carefully climbing down to me.
Straight above us, behind a group of thin clouds in the night sky, the dire green mist around the white comet made it look like an infernal eye watching over its quarry.
“No,” I shouted and coughed which made my chest hurt so much that I had to lean forward, “no, I’m not okay!”
“I think it’s about to happen,” Jiang said.
“What?” I said quickly, almost unable to speak.
“Look, down there.”
The swarm – sparkling with luminescent blue – moved across the valley and above them thousands upon thousands of different types of birds and pterosaurs flew toward the black mountain.
“What are they doing?”
“We need to hurry,” Jiang said. “They’re moving into position.”
“How are we going to find the structure that makes this thing travel forward in time?” I said. “Do you know what a biological time machine looks like. No? Well, me neither!”
“Those things Rodney said,” Jiang said. “I think–“
“He wasn’t making any sense! For crying out loud, didn’t you see the condition he was in? That poor, poor, man.”
“He used the word temporal and crystal and–“
“It wasn’t a sentence, Jiang! It was just nonsense.”
“Would you shut up and listen to me?!” Jiang stomped her foot in the ground. “He said underground thermal energy storage.”
“I think the machine – if you could call it that – is somewhere deep beneath the mountain. What else do we have to go by? That’s our only lead.”
“Underground?” I said. “Please, no more, just–“
“Don’t you get it, Ian?” Jiang said. “We’re already dead. Before we even came to this place, we were already dead. We had been dead for sixty-five million years. The question is how you want to die. Do you want to die giving up or die trying?”
I looked at her, tearing up from the thought of what awaited us beneath the mountain, and said:
“I was in love with you.”
Jiang waited a couple of long seconds before saying anything, then she spoke with some involuntary reluctance in her voice:
We found an entrance a few hundred meters to our right. This time, we didn’t have much to protect ourselves with. Jiang only had two grenades left and we had to save them for the structure below. The clone’s preparations for the invasion of the future turned out to be to our advantage, though, since most of them were moving into positions on top of whatever fungal matter they could find. It was as if the super organism didn’t have time to chase after us.
We spent hours walking, crawling, and climbing through the caves, constantly moving deeper and deeper. The further down we descended, the darker it got around us. The fungus didn’t seem to grow this deep down, so its blue light wasn’t there to help us see.
After four or five hours, that felt like an eternity, the heat began increasing steadily. We were getting closer. A faint noise, reminiscent of static, became louder and louder until we had to yell to be heard. Jiang started running. I did my best to keep up with her, but it was difficult. Not just because of my physical condition, but also – and maybe mostly – because of my psychological condition. I was, rather literary, running toward my own death. The sheer thought of it more or less paralyzed me, and yet I somehow kept going. No, no, no, – just turn around! – no, no, no. And yet I didn’t turn around. I tried to block out the voice in my head, but for every step I took, it got louder.
We carefully looked around a corner and was faced with a bright light coming from an opening at the end of the cave ahead of us. The static was unbearable now, and so was the heat. It was so warm that it hurt my throat to breath and I was sweating profusely. It must have been over ninety degrees celsius.
“Wait!” Jiang yelled just as she was about to crawl around the corner. “There’s a group standing at the opening!”
It was difficult to see them against the blinding light, but there was definitely a group of cloned humans standing there, guarding the entrance.
“You think they saw us?” I asked.
“Not yet!” Jiang said.
“What are you going to do?!”
She took one of the grenades and removed the pin.
“Let’s pray to God this works,” she said.
“Aren’t we killing God?” I said and tried to smile.
She threw the grenade.
The static noise coming from the opening was so loud that we could barely hear the explosion from the grenade. We waited a couple of minutes before we looked around the corner again. The figures we had seen were all gone. It had worked. I tried to suppress the surge of anxiety it gave me, but it was futile. After all, our success meant certain death.
“Come on!” Jiang yelled. “It’s time!”
We ran up to the opening. The clones lay dead around us. The white light came from two enormous crystals in the middle of a pool of lava maybe fifteen meters below us. Looking at them felt like staring into the sun. Thin aisles of rock connected the crystals to the walls and thousands of fungal strings coming down from the ceiling seemed to prevent the crystals from sinking into the lava.
“One of us will have to climb down there!” Jiang said. “And place the grenade in the middle of the crystals!”
I didn’t respond, waiting for her to take the initiative.
“It’s alright, Ian,” she said. “I’ll do it.”
I didn’t say anything at first, I just stared at her trying to comprehend if she truly knew that she was talking about the last action she would ever take. Then I yelled:
“O-okay, but how will you get down there?!”
“We’ll have to use our clothes and tie them together!”
My entire body trembled out of fear and pain as I took off my clothes. The heat made my exposed skin burn more than the rashes had done earlier. We tied everything together as quickly as we could, but it still felt like it took hours.
“It’s not enough!” Jiang said with frustration in her voice. “We have to tie it to one of the corpses!”
Distraught, I grabbed one of the clones by its leg and dragged it toward me. Jiang tied our clothes to its ankle.
“You’ll have to lower me down,” she said. “Do you think you can do that?”
I nodded, but I didn’t know if I actually could.
“Okay, just make sure to put me down on the small walkway.”
She grabbed the hand of the corpse and began her descent. I held my end of the cloths with all my strength. The voice in my head was so loud now, almost louder than the static from the crystals. Go back, save yourself! The thought of death was unbearable. The cessation of existence. It went against every fiber in my being. I began crying. Jiang was halfway down now. I looked at her. Why hadn’t she chosen me over him? It was a ridiculous thought to have at this moment, and yet… She saw the tears in my eyes, and then she saw my lips form the dreadful words escaping my mouth: I’m sorry.
I couldn’t hear if she yelled something before she fell into the lava. All I could think about while I ran back was my second chance at life. I ran so fast now, much faster than on our way down. My hope for returning home had come back. The darkness engulfed me. You loved her. But I had loved life more. All I needed to do now was to reach the fungus and travel with it back to my own time. But I got lost in the pitch-black caves under the mountain. I panicked.
“God, help me!” I yelled, and this time I didn’t mean the God I didn’t believe in. “Please!”
After a few hours, there was a large jolt. I fell to the ground. The ground shook for several minutes. Was it the comet? When everything had calmed down, I stood up. An eerie silence surrounded me. The static in the background had stopped. Some faint light came from a direction that had been dark earlier. I slowly walked toward it, still hoping to find a way out so that I could join the beasts on the fungal tissue. But as soon as I reached the source of the light, all my hopes vanished in an instant. The entire mountain was gone. A large crater, seemingly cut out with a carving knife, had taken its place. The comet cast its ghastly, green shadow over me. The organism was gone.
Dispirited, with my head down in shame, I wandered through the jungle and across the valley. With nowhere else to go, I returned to the subway car where I’m now awaiting death. There was a backpack on the floor that one of the passengers had dropped the day we arrived. Inside it, I found the notebook that I’ve been writing this testimony and confession in for the last three days.
Just moments ago, the comet entered the atmosphere and crossed the sky at twenty kilometers per second on its way down to what will become Mexico. The roar from its rampage in the heavens was deafening. I keep hearing Jiang’s voice in my head: Before we even came to this place, we were already dead. We had been dead for sixty-five million years. The question is how you want to die.
Once again, she had been right.
I know what will happen next. The shockwave from the impact will reach the valley. Even at that point, I won’t be able to accept my own death. My face will assume an expression of pure horror and I will press this notebook against the glass of the window. I know this because I’ve seen it. The man inside the fossilized subway car was me.
We used a three-dimensional laser scanner to examine the thin layers within the rectangular fossil excavated next to the remains of Dr. Ian Foster. It revealed the regular, consistent shapes of letters on each layer. Put together, like a puzzle with thousands of pieces, the testimony above appeared on our computer screens.
Dr. Foster dated their arrival in The Late Cretaceous to somewhere during the month of May and given his recollection of the events leading up to the temporal relocation it is reasonable to assume it happened this year. The subway car Balthazar is still in transit within the Stockholm metro, so we know it hasn’t happened yet.
Due to diplomatic complications, military bureaucracy, and the almost impossible task of convincing the chain in command about the truth of these findings, there isn’t enough time to launch any large scale mission on foreign soil. Therefore, I’ve taken it upon myself to travel to Stockholm in an attempt to remove Dr. Foster from the train. I’m breaking the law by sharing this online, but as you can probably tell – given the content of the testimony – I need all the help I can get. If I don’t succeed, the super-organism might arrive at any moment in the near future.