Erin and the Dinosaurs
by Jon Hansen
It was Wednesday morning when Erin noticed the dinosaurs in her kitchen.
She had carried her cornflakes bowl to the sink, only to see her boyfriend Karl’s dishes from last night still stacked there. She reached for a spaghetti-encrusted plate, and that’s when she saw the ants. Big black ants scurrying around the bottom of the sink, with more of them trailing up and across the counter to a largish crack in the wall beneath the kitchen window, a crack the landlord had not fixed in the eight months she had lived there.
Erin did not freak out. Instead she started cursing. At the ants, at Karl, at her landlord, and at her mother, because they had fought all weekend about Karl and his general unsuitability as a boyfriend and human being. As her mother’s nagging tones echoed in her head for the nth time, Erin picked up a dishtowel and swung it like a cloth hammer down on the ants. Carnage everywhere! Momentary satisfaction flared, only to be replaced by annoyance at the crumpled ant bodies. As Erin studied her work, she noticed that not all the tiny corpses were ants. Some were dinosaurs.
They were very small dinosaurs, but dinosaurs to be sure. Erin had planned to become a paleontologist until eight months ago, when she left school for Karl and a job at Video Monster to pay the rent. She’d always gotten As, even in the field work class with picky Dr. Lundberg, so she knew dinosaurs weren’t supposed to be that small. She leaned closer. In with the dead ants were two allosaurs, a triceratops, and a tyrannosaurus rex. “Yep, those are dinosaurs, all right,” she said out loud.
She thought about calling Karl on his cell phone and telling him about the dinosaurs. He wouldn’t be in his tort class yet, just study group with Tim and Heather and Kathryn. Erin thought about Kathryn of the long legs and long red hair and decided not to call in case she heard Kathryn laughing when Karl answered. Plenty of time for that later.
She swept the dead ants into the trashcan, carefully avoiding the dinosaurs. What to do about them? Call her mother? The landlord? CNN?
As she pondered, more ants appeared from the crack. She watched them closely. With them came more dinosaurs: ankylosaurs and stegosaurs and another tyrannosaurus rex.
As she watched, the dinosaurs circled their dead. Erin expected to see them start eating. To her surprise, the dinosaurs began nudging and pushing the bodies back towards the crack. The ants did not help, only marched on to the sink.
Guilt churned in Erin’s gut. The ants didn’t bother her that much, and she wouldn’t have wanted to kill the dinosaurs if she had known they were there. Moved by their tiny efforts, she scooped up the dead dinosaurs and set them by the crack. “There,” she said. “I’m very sorry.”
As one, the dinosaurs looked up at her. Why did you do that? they said.
Erin found the fact that the dinosaurs could talk no more surprising than their size or that they were in her kitchen in the first place. “I felt bad,” she said. “I didn’t know they were there.”
No one knows we’re here, said the dinosaurs.
“How did you get so small?”
We heard there was a comet coming, said the dinosaurs, so we shrank to hide from it. After that, everyone forgot about us. Now we live with the ants.
“That was nice of them,” said Erin.
It’s all right, said the dinosaurs. The ant queen doesn’t like us living with them anymore, but she’s too polite to ask us to leave.
“I don’t mind,” said Erin. “I like dinosaurs.”
Thank you, they said. It’s very hard to find people who like dinosaurs today. Everyone expects us to be large and scary.
Erin frowned. “That’s terrible.”
We agree. The dinosaurs looked at each other, then back at Erin. Would you like to come live with us? You could be our new queen, and we wouldn’t have to live with the ants anymore.
Erin raised her eyebrows. “You’d like me to be your queen? But I’m not a dinosaur. How could I be queen?”
That’s not a problem for us, said the dinosaurs. We’re not ants. Besides, it’s sometimes good to have an outside opinion.
“I don’t know,” said Erin. Leave Video Monster and become queen of the dinosaurs? Her mother would disapprove. Karl would say it’d make it hard for him to join a decent law firm. Kathryn would laugh. “I’d probably have to become small as you, so I couldn’t hurt you accidentally.”
The dinosaurs nodded. We can show you how. But we don’t remember how to become big again.
Erin thought again about her mother and Karl and Kathryn. She especially thought about Kathryn and her long red hair, the same hair Erin had found on her pillow when she came home Monday. Karl had been in the shower and didn’t see her see it. Remembering how she had defended Karl to her mother, Erin said nothing, only picked the hair up in a piece of tissue. And she thought about when Kathryn had kissed her Tuesday while Karl was out, a lingering kiss that left Erin pleased but confused. Then Kathryn had laughed, the sort of laugh Erin now realized she always heard when she didn’t get the joke. Whether the joke was on her or Karl or both of them, only Kathryn knew.
Erin thought it over, then looked at the dinosaurs. “I’d love to come live with you and be your queen,” she said, and smiled when she realized that she meant it.
With that, off she went, leaving Karl the apartment with the rent and the dishes and the crack in the wall and the ants and possibly Kathryn, or possibly not. But not the dinosaurs. Those Erin took with her, and where they are now, no one knows.
Jon Hansen’s work has appeared in such places as Strange Horizons, Black Gate, Weird Tales, and most recently the anthology Scattered, Covered, Smothered. His day job is that of librarian at Kennesaw State University, and his chief amusement when not writing is watching his cats eye the birdfeeder. For more information, consult his website at http://www.logicalcreativity.com/jon.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish