The sun had not yet risen, but the birds were already beginning to sing in the trees when Justin Case’s SUV pulled up in front of Gina’s father’s house. The houses and trees of the neighborhood were silhouetted against the indigo sky, as it slowly faded to a lighter blue in the west. As Gina left the house and crossed the front lawn, she shivered in the pre-dawn chill.
Inspired by a certain scene from a certain book and movie, I decided to do my own (hopefully more realistic) take on what might happen if a giant theropod were to escape captivity.
I’ve always had a problem concisely defining just what sort of fiction Gondolend is. It’s science fiction obviously, and naturalistic science fiction to be more specific, but those are still very nebulous terms. “Science fiction with dinosaurs” is a little better, but even that draws erroneous comparisons to things like Jurassic Park or Dinotopia (or, even worse, garbage like Terra Nova or Footprints of Thunder). After wrestling with this problem ever since I started writing about Gondolend, I eventually decided that its genre needed a name of its own.
Gina didn’t remember much of what had happened after her jeep had gone into the ditch, but according to the doctor who was shining a light in her eyes she had been found by a couple motorists wandering along the road, dazed and covered in blood. The last thing she remembered was the hopper crashing through her windshield and the world spinning crazily, and then she was taking a reflexive swing at the young nurse trying to stitch up a nasty gash above her right eye and having to be physically restrained until she realized where she was. Thankfully, the kid had good reflexes and her swing had missed. Between those two events, everything got fuzzy.
While we wait for the next chapter of Hunting Ground, here’s another little story I wrote. I may expand on it in the future.
It was exactly this sort of situation that Gina had wanted to avoid by waiting until the weekend to go out looking for the animals. She’d left home an hour ago, and half that had been spent just getting here. Factoring in the other half hour or so it would take her to get back to town, plus time to shower, and she figured she’d have maybe another hour and a half to look for any signs of her mystery beasts before she had to head back. A little less actually, since she’d have the afternoon traffic to deal with by then. And really only half of that time, since however far she walked it would probably take equally long to get back to the jeep.
In a city like Donopolis or Tannhauser, it was very easy to forget that with the exception of the Baz’maha jungle far to the west, the North Province was predominantly a dark-skinned region. For thousands of years the Samara had been populated exclusively by what anthropologists generally called the Chuguk peoples, a diverse collection of cultures and tribes with skins burned varying shades of dark by the harsh equatorial sun. It wasn’t until almost seven hundred years ago, during the upheaval of the Cult Wars, that the Samara became home to a significant minority of lighter-skinned Nordenic peoples, driven north to escape the nightmarish bloodbath that had consumed the lands in the south. In the centuries since the end of the war the descendants of those first Nordenic refugees had settled mainly in the larger cities like Kulig (later renamed Donopolis), Tannhauser, and Suwenna, and today on average made up roughly anywhere from a quarter to a third of those cities’ populations. Elsewhere, in many of the smaller towns, the demographics were still almost exclusively Chuguk with little or no Nordenic presence at all.
“You’re not gonna believe this.”
Gina leaned back out of the cage she’d been cleaning and looked up at her father, Doctor Martin Herodias, standing in the doorway. “Believe what?”
“You know Grier’s bull, Shovel?”
She couldn’t help but smile. Shovel had a habit of charging her jeep when she passed through his territory. “Yeah, what about him?”
“Looks like something broke off one of his horns.”
I’ve decided to put Eleven Days in the Valley on hiatus for a while, so in its place have something new (and very old): Hunting Ground! If you’re relatively new to Gondolend this should hopefully be new to you, but longtime readers will recognize this story as an updated version of Theropod, the story that started it all.