IT’S NOT THE HEAT, IT’S THE HUMIDITY
S. K. Pepper
Tara rolled over and grunted as a stick dug into her back. “I thought I’d cleared this spot better,” she grumbled as she sat up. She stretched and looked around to see if there were any more sticks which could disturb her sleep. She had the nagging sense that something was wrong.
Suddenly, Tara realized that she didn’t see She-Cat who had been sleeping on the other side of the camp fire. In fact, now that she was looking more closely, she didn’t see any remnants of the camp fire either.
“Wha a a a t?!” Tara leapt to her feet. Something was definitely wrong! Unless, She-Cat was playing a practical joke on her. . . Either way, some investigation was called for.
The dawn’s light identified no footprints or other clues to reveal to Tara where she was or where She-Cat had gotten to.
“This doesn’t look like Jungle Island,” Tara muttered to herself as she jogged up a nearby path. Her eyes continually scanned the vegetation ahead and above her. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. But, boy – someone was going to pay when she found out.
Tara came to an abrupt stop as a large head rose over the crest of the small his to her left. A brontosaurus! (Or whatever it was now called – her mind was so overwhelmed at the sight that it refused to call up the less familiar “correct” name). Her amazement at the sight of the long-necked dinosaur quickly turned to wariness. Had Dr. Rivits and his daughter, Roxanne, got hold of the Time Portal again?* She didn’t see them but that didn’t mean that they might not be nearby. She began to climb the hill with caution. From the higher vantage point, she hoped to better see the lay of the land.
* Ed. See FemForce Issues 1 & 2.
As she got to the top of the hill, Tara could see that she had reached what appeared to be a large plain on which about a dozen of the dinosaurs cavorted or ate plants. The dinosaur which she had first spotted — or which had first spotted her! — moved its head towards her as if to see what she was doing there. Tara realized that her human size made her vulnerable to being accidentally stepped on. Here, her ability to grow was an advantage.
The surprised dinosaur snorted as Tara grew another 10 feet until she could look it straight in the eye. It sniffed her cautiously then turned and began to chew on some nearby branches. Tara had just started to survey the area when she heard a loud crashing sound behind her. Whirling, she had just enough time to see three or four larger dinosaurs charging towards her before diving into a large clump of prickly bushes to escape being trampled. Her quick movement drew the attention of the dinosaurs which circled her and began sniffing her. Their hot breath tickled the now scratched and disheveled Tara. “This day is just getting better and better,” she sighed. To avoid any future problems with the dinosaurs, Tara grew larger until she was face-to-face with the 20 foot tall newcomers.
The playfulness of the dinosaurs was unexpected. It reminded her of children playing together at the park. This thought had no sooner crossed her mind than Tara felt the ground shake and heard a loud, trumpeting sound. The air above her head rippled and a thunderous crack ripped through the air. The mother dinosaur’s tail whipped back to take aim once more at the interloper who dared associate with her young.
Tara’s stunned gaze could barely take in the sheer enormity of the mother’s presence as she ran to evade that monstrous tail. The mother must be at least 30 feet high at the shoulder! This was no brontosaurus. This had to be a Titanosaur! Tara had heard that some dinosaurs nurtured their young in a communal environment but that was a fact that she had never anticipated witnessing first hand!
The mother’s frantic calls had roused the other mothers, who began to position themselves to attack. “Here’s on girl who is not going to enjoy play group this time,” she murmured as she grew taller to try to defend herself against the whipping tails. Her sudden and rapid growth startled the dinosaurs into temporary stillness. Could Tara find a way to make the massive 100 foot long dinosaurs stop attacking her while she quickly tried to escape from the nest?
Running and growing simultaneously was not as easy as she had hoped. The added size kept throwing off her stride. By the time that she had attained her full 50 foot size limit, Tara had reached the edge of the nest. A massive, angry head rose to meet her. “Uh-oh,” Tara gasped. The father dinosaur dwarfed the jungle girl. She had always found her ability to grow to be a mixed blessing. Now, she had a strong desire to grow taller than 50 feet.
Suddenly, she felt a smack across her cheek. She turned, looking for what had hit her.
“Wake up, Tara!” She-Cat was shaking her friend hard. “I don’t want to have to slap you again. Come on.”
“Wha a a a t?” Tara felt confused. The dinosaurs faded from view as she struggled to wake form the nightmare that had so completely engulfed her. Looking around, she saw the camp fire burning and heard the sounds of her own Jungle Island!
Tara gripped She-Cat’s hand. “I’m fine now,” she said.
“That’s a relief! Your ranting and raving was interfering with my beauty sleep.”
“What a nightmare.” Tara rose and stretched to clear the last vestiges of that dream away. “That’s the last time I stay up late after having your spicy ‘Trout Surprise.’”
“My excellent pan-fried fresh trout had nothing to do with your nightmare,” She-Cat responded. “Your mind was just too focused on your upcoming presentation at the World Ecological Summit in Egypt and that new paleontological find over there. You said that you’d hoped to have some time to see the dig site — your mind just took you there while you slept.”
Tara grinned. “Yeah, but you don’t think I’d let you off the hook so easily do you when you so rarely cook!” The two friends laughed and began to prepare breakfast. There was nothing like camping out under the stars to bring out the appetites for fresh fish cooking on a fire.