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Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time
by I. MacPenn

Chapter 5:
Time Travel is Not Easy

This was going to be a huge problem, Charlie thought. They couldn't possibly be 70 million years in the past - or could they? He looked around, and things were very different. For one thing, there was a huge, smoking volcano not too far away. The cliff they had eaten lunch by had morphed into a stubby pile of boulders with a tall hill next to it. And all of the other people in the field trip had disappeared.

Before he could even think about the other changes, Alice started yelling at him, "What happened? What did you do?"

Charlie yelled back at her, "I didn't do anything - YOU did. I told you not to, but you didn't listen to me. You never listen to anyone."

Charlie told Alice about how he found the time machine and what had happened to him yesterday, going back to his own birthday and almost getting mauled by a bear from the year 516. But she didn't believe him. So he asked her, "Have you ever seen a smoking volcano in Montana before? No, you haven't, because there aren't any ... I mean there aren't any in our time. There wasn't even a mountain over there a few minutes ago. And where did everyone else go? We're the only people here - they're not playing hide-and-seek. We are not in our time anymore, we are in the past - 70 million years in the past." Alice had nothing to say; she just looked lost.

A strange noise overhead interrupted Charlie, which was too bad, because it was the first time he had ever won an argument with her. The noise was a terrible squawking sound - it sounded like a crow but was 10 times louder. They both looked up and saw a flying animal that was the size of a small airplane. It looked like a giant, brown, mutant bat. It had a long beak and a big, helmet-like crest on its head. Apparently curious about Alice and Charlie, it swooped down near them, circled them once, and then flew away. Alice looked in her field guide and said, "It must be a pterosaur. Maybe you're right about us being back in time."

The pterosaur flew over the pile of boulders and the kids followed it, clambering up the rocks after it. They couldn't keep up at all, but when they got to the top of the rocks, they saw a herd of Triceratops not too far away in the river valley below. There were hundreds of these horned dinosaurs; although they were almost a mile away, these dinosaurs still looked huge. Most were grazing on small plants that were growing near the river. The young ones were galloping around, playing with each other.

Charlie said, "This reminds me of pictures I've seen of herds of zebra in Africa, except that zebra aren't the size of school busses and don't have three giant horns on their heads."

After a few minutes, the herd started running towards the volcano. The noise of their feet striking the ground as they ran was thunderous. Charlie and Alice soon saw why they were running - a pack of Tyrannosaurus rex was chasing them. There were four large T. rex and one that was a bit smaller. One Triceratops was lagging behind the herd, limping a bit. The pack of T. rex soon surrounded it and separated it from the herd, which went on without noticing it.

The Triceratops was jumping around, aiming its eyebrow horns at the predators. It gored one of the larger T. rex in the abdomen. They were stuck together for almost a minute; all the while, the T. rex was shrieking and the Triceratops was bucking like a wild horse. The T. rex finally managed to pull itself away from the horn, but it was bleeding badly and the wound was huge. The T. rex walked around dizzily until it lay down near Charlie and Alice - it didn't even notice them.

The rest of the T. rex pack soon killed the Triceratops and were crowded around it, eating violently. The smaller T. rex tried to get some food, but it was pushed away roughly by the larger dinosaurs. The small, hungry T. rex wandered around the gory scene, trying to find an entry point to the meal, but it soon gave up. It had noticed Charlie and Alice, and after only a moment's hesitation, started to run in their direction.

Charlie and Alice turned to run, but there was nowhere to go - it was obvious that the T. rex could easily outrun them. Its legs were taller than Charlie and Alice combined. This young T. rex was about 30 feet long, much bigger than a car. Charlie yelled, "Get under the rocks, it can't fit in there." So they both got down on their stomachs and squirmed under the boulders.

The T. rex got there just as they had pulled their legs in. It tried to stick its huge snout between the rocks, but it was far too big for that. As it tried to make its way in, Charlie and Alice were sprayed with stinky saliva. Its breath was hot and moist - it smelled like rotten dogfood and vomit.

The T. rex then tried to reach them with its arms. Charlie knew that they had very short arms, but they seem awfully long when they're trying to grab you. And the claws are huge and sharp.

The T. rex then tilted its head and leaned down. It put one eye right by Charlie's head. The two of them were staring at each other, but only one of them was afraid, and only one of them was hungry.

Alice yelled, "Get us back to our time - NOW," but the time machine was on the ground near the T. rex's feet. Charlie could understand how you can easily lose a time machine. Time travel is not easy.

Charlie felt some of the smaller rocks move under the weight of the T. rex. He realized that the T. rex might be able to reach them by pushing some of the smaller boulders out of the way. The T. rex was about to get the very same idea. Charlie had another idea (adrenaline will do that to you). He looked for his fossil-hunting stick, but he had dropped it when they crawled under the rocks. The stick was only a few feet away from him - he could almost reach it, but it was too close to the T. rex.

Charlie picked up a small rock and threw it at the T. rex's eye. He hit it, and the T. rex backed off for a moment. Then it tried to get at them from the other side of the rock pile. When the T. rex was moving, Charlie quickly slithered over to get his stick and went right back to his hiding place among the rocks - he had never moved that fast before.

The T. rex returned to its original position, and started to push the rocks with its snout. Charlie poked its nose with the stick. Unfortunately, this had almost no effect on the giant animal. Alice said, "Stick it up his nose." Charlie tried again, poking it much harder, up the left nostril. It worked - bright red blood spurted out, spraying Charlie. The T. rex shrieked, jumped backwards, and swung its head back and forth. It decided that Charlie and Alice were too much trouble for such a small snack. It slunk back to its pack, shaking its head the entire time, spraying a fine mist of bood from its nose.

Charlie had beaten a T. rex!

Alice slithered out from under the rocks and grabbed the time machine. She quickly returned to the protection of the boulders. Charlie took the machine, typed in the date they wanted to return to, and then hit the red triangular button. There was no swirling mist - instead, they got an error message. It said, "Error #403: Subject would arrive at destination entombed in solid rock - time travel sequence aborted."

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