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Two Dinosaurs Fighting: MA Publishing Module

By Jefferson Koubis

A thunderous clash rips across the desert. After one strike, a period of silence follows. Then it comes back again, furious and forceful. The sky, however, is a clear blue, with clouds drifting completely undisturbed. There is no culprit storm brewing. No, the source of the sound is of two titans battling for dominance. Eighty-five feet of muscle and flesh slams into another eighty-five feet of mass, kicking up a wall of sand with each lumbering movement. These giant beasts, long-necked quadrupeds, fight on in the face of a crowd, unperturbed by the legion of eyes watching them. The two champions slam their necks against each other over and over, pushing each other closer to the brink. One must fall, after all, and none of them will leave until they do.

Among those watching is a small interloper, too miniscule in comparison to be recognised by

these giants. Unlike them - Dreadnoughtus - she walks on two legs and is adorned with golden-brown plumage. She is Velociraptor, and she is waiting for one of them to fall. And unlike them, it’s not in anticipation of a new crowned victor, but instead of an easy - and rare - meal. As shockwaves ripple across the sand, smaller mammals and lizards flee the scene, joining the masses that have done so already; only a fool would get caught up in these titans’ battle. And a fool she is to wait to feast on something so beyond her size.

The battle continues bloody and brutal, neither male yielding. The velociraptor chitters

anxiously, hopping around the sidelines on two toes to a foot. Time is a precious resource in the desert, and she’s only losing it whilst she waits for the outcome of this battle. But she’s invested enough time waiting already, to leave now would be a wasted effort. One of the fighting Dreadnoughtus bellows a sound that shakes through the ground, heaving his great weight onto his hind legs. Rearing up, he brings his whole mass down in a swing of his neck, slamming directly into his opponent. The other fighter tries his best to stand against such incredible force, digging his feet into the sand, but the battle has been long and hard; his strength, limited, has been pushed past its limit. With a loud groan, he falls to the ground a loser, whilst the victor remains standing tall above him. Acknowledgement spreads across the crowd alongside the heavy ripple of ensuing footfall. Through the clearing sand the Velociraptor can see her fears come to fruition; the loser picking himself back up, and continuing on to live.

Dismay weighing heavy in her stomach, the velociraptor scatters from the moving herd,

exercising all her agility not to get trampled on. From here it’s only a short cut across the plains to her nest, a small crevice in a rock formation. A small glimmer of fortune in a bad situation, as daylight hours are fading fast and she has to get back. Though it would mean returning empty handed, she’s been away from her chicks for too long. Built for speed, she makes short work of the journey, running with her head low and tail high, keeping the first toe raised on each foot lest she risk dulling her most vital weapon. As she runs she keeps an eye on the ground for any sign of prey to hunt, anything to dull the ache in her own stomach. The environment barely changes along her journey; the sky remains a bright strip against the never ending expanse of the sand, broken up only by the rare spot of vegetation or the stripped carcass of one of those that failed to make it out in this wasteland.

On the verge of giving up, suddenly, she notices movement. A small rodent, shrew-like in

appearance, digging through the sand and dirt on its own hunt for morsels. In all likelihood, it’s just as desperate as her. But, as she lowers her posture and readies herself to hunt, she has no time to spare on sympathy. In a lightning quick motion, she darts forward towards the shrew. It’s quick to react, releasing a squeak of panic as the velociraptor sets upon it - but she’s quicker. With an expert precision she pins it down with her foot, spearing its hide with the singular, long, hook-like claw she sports. It’s over in seconds. Loading the fresh carcass into her jaw, she knows that her spoils won’t be enough to sustain both her and her own for any substantial amount of time, but with it she buys herself some more - just enough, she hopes, to make it to the next.

When she returns to the nest - a carefully dug thing, built up with whatever twigs and branches she could find at the time - she’s greeted by the sudden raising of three heads, all partially bald with patches of feathers growing in uniformly odd places. Eyes wide, they open their mouths to release a chorus of peeps, futilely flapping and climbing on over each other. As the chicks scramble over each other in a writing mass, she lowers her head to make her offering, dropping the carcass to be ravaged by their tiny maws. Between juvenile bites and tears are vocalisations of appreciation, and demanding peeps for more that can’t be fulfilled. When they’re done she takes a seat on her nest, brooding her chicks. This is where she’s meant to be, taking care of her young, not venturing out hunting just yet - not until they’ve grown some more. But she has no mate to hunt for her, not for a while now, and whilst she never saw what happened to him she’s always known. She’s seen it happen to so many others, and responsible for just as much. Death comes for them all. And so, unless she let herself be taken next, she shoulders the burden of two.

The night passes, cold and arduous, and the sun reintroduces itself on the horizon. Faced with another day, the timer’s reset, and once again the velociraptor faces the daily struggle for her continued survival. Folded so delicately atop her nest, she enjoys a moment of respite as the sun creeps forward into her space, her little area of seclusion from the world, before it’s time for her to venture out. As she lifts herself up her chicks explode into activity, releasing a cacophony of chirps and peeps, misguided in their understanding. As much as her body calls her to stay, she has to leave. Ignoring the cries of her children, she turns and heads out.

In her search for food, the first priority is to be on the lookout for anything she can scavenge;

whilst she’s a more than capable predator, the hunt takes more energy than she can afford to

expend. She casts her net wide, venturing far away from her nest in the hopes that it means she won’t return with nothing. She crosses plains and passes by herds of other dinosaurs in a great pilgrimage she can’t comprehend, feeling only dismay that none of their number have fallen. Traversing rock formations and cliff faces, she expects to find an unfortunate victim of nature, someone that slipped and didn’t quite make it - yet, no such luck. Hunger weighs heavy in her stomach, gnawing on its inner lining as she continues to search high and low for something, anything, as desperation starts to take hold. With nothing to scavenge, it feels as if even the small lizards and mammals - her next resort - have vanished from the desert too, leaving her alone with nothing but sand and the oppressive sun.

Hours pass as she widens her search further and further out, going as far as the sand dunes to the east. With each fruitless endeavour she begins to fear her time coming; that she and her chicks will be the ones next to be taken by this unforgiving wasteland. No sooner does the fear grip her than she comes across a peculiar sight: a nest, unguarded. Unlike her own, it’s not full of chicks but instead dormant eggs still waiting for their time to come. She spots a probable parent in the distance, a lone, grazing Protoceratops - much bigger than her. If it were to catch her it would surely kill her, but of the two she can’t outrun starvation.

Stealthily, she creeps up to the nest, aiming to be both silent and quick; drawing any attention

would immediately cause her trouble. She moves silently across the sand - grateful for the way it cushions her movements - keeping her body low as she advances. With one eye on the nest and one eye on the protoceratops she inches closer and closer until, finally, she reaches the nest. Briefly, she wonders if this scene is playing out back at her own nest; if some desperate scavenger saw her children left unattended and declared them as easy pickings. In that moment of hesitation, whilst she’s too busy clasping at the eggs, she misses the protoceratops turn back around.

A hoarse squawk is all the warning she gets as the parent charges towards her. If she

abandoned the eggs now, it’d be an easy escape - but she didn’t come all this way to leave with an empty stomach. Pulse pounding through her skull, she fumbles her jaw around the egg she’s grasped, desperately trying to collect it before the protoceratops returns. As much as she tries, it slips along her teeth. Again, the protoceratops lets out a cry. Spooked, she drops the egg. A harsh crack signals the loss for both her and the protoceratops.

Now it’s time she got going.

She moves to run but the protoceratops catches up to her. Immediately, her sympathetic

nervous system shifts gears. Flight changes to fight. She whips around and lunges at her

assailant, jaws opening to release a warning shriek. The protoceratops bellows its own threat, heaving its weighty body out of the way of the velociraptor. She’s sure now that there’s no walking away from this battle; both parties plan to end the other. Sand scattering as she

scrambles to her feet, the Velociraptor lets out another shriek, raising her plumage to appear

more of a threat.

Enraged, the protoceratops comes at her again. Instead of running she lunges, thrusting her

arms out to grapple it with her talons. With suitable grip, she’ll be able to turn the tide and sink in her deathly claw to the jugular. If the protoceratops dies, she’ll be able to eat. She’ll be able to walk away and live. She can’t allow herself to lose this fight. As she thrusts her arms out the protoceratops catches one of them in its beak, clamping down hard to disable the velociraptor. Twisting its neck, it throws her to the floor, scattering sand in every which direction as she writhes in pain. But with its neck exposed over her, it’s right where she wants it. In one swift move her leg kicks up, deathly claw glinting as it catches the sun. In one move, she’ll win this.

Suddenly, the sun disappears. All that either of them see is black. There is no sound aside from a heaving rush that cuts out all else. One loud moment brings an eternity of quiet. The

velociraptor’s heart races as she comes to realise she’s trapped, the heavy weight of the

protoceratops amounting to nothing compared to the sudden pressure that weighs down on her. It could be a mass of sand. It could be anything. All she knows is it's the end of the world. As her last breaths escape her she thinks of her chicks, all alone in the desert now.

Ah - if only she hadn’t been so foolish.

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