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walk through time

Walk Through Time...from Stardust to Us
Six Winning Essays from the WTT at Singapore

Essay 6

A shrill wind whistles through the rocky landscape, rebounding against jagged rock and swirling as it is kept in by the rock formations. The skyís grey and overcast pallor changes the mid-afternoon light from a brilliant orange to a desolate grey, devoid of feeling. Tall, wrinkled trees thrust their twisted branches towards the sky, leaning precariously over the gullyís edge. Their sparse leaves spew and flutter in the gyring wind, while clouds race overhead. A nearby river fumes and roars in apprehension of the coming storm, its sound joining that of the wind and weaving together amidst the rock. Sheer cliffs bound the gully on all sides, rough hewn and giving the impression of a heap of rumble fused together.

The tension in the air gets much more tangible all of a sudden, and the wind crescendos into a shriek. Just as abruptly, this dies down and gives way as big rain droplets splash on to the ground. Ice-cold, pitter-patter and soaking-wet, these pellets nearly connect with a reptilian head that ventures out of its hole. He quickly darts back inside the overhanging rock and waits out the storm.

The medium-sized yellow eyes aligned at the side of his head peer back and forth continuously, peering out at the falling rain. His thick haunches bulge and ripple with muscles adapted to spring to and from among slippery rock outcrops. Four-toed feet spread outwards, thick and flabby toes resting in a stable manner on the uneven ground of the cave. Suddenly, this dinosaur leaps out of the cave as he powers himself from behind with his immensely powerful hind legs. Ignoring the rain falling on him, he surveys the ragged landscape around it, while bone extrusions just above his eyes prevent any rain from touching them. Resting easily, he feels the gnawing hunger inside his belly. The rain might come, he thought, but he will still have to look for food. As he sits there silently debating with himself, the roar of the rain suddenly increases. It was time move on.

The reason for his four-toed feet readily becomes apparent as he traverses the rocky land with surprising ease in leaps and bounds; toes meld to and grip every rock, no matter how sharp, with frivolous ease. Even without the roar of the rain, it would have been hard to discern the scratching sound of the rocks scraping against each other, so lightly did he bound across the landscape. With grace that a ballet dancer would find impossible to achieve, he leaned forward and used his hands to get a purchase on the rock as he powered with his hind legs. Finally reaching the top of the steep incline, he pauses to extract a stone that had snared among his fingers. Fidgeting on his two feet, the dinosaur peruses the slight forest growth before him.

Food was scarce nowadays, but it is also not much different from sixty-five million years ago when the comets had first pounded the earth, destroying almost every scrap of growth there was and nearly wiping out entire species. Where the comets had come from, no animal knew, not even the bipedal animals with long arms and hands who are the most intelligent around. Fragmented and rendered far and wide, these comets blanket most of the earth with their rocky remnants, leaving patches of land which, fortunately, avoided the destruction.

All these thoughts pass in a twinkling of an eye in the dinosaurís head. The result of millions of years of evolution are shown by how the dinosaur analyses the landscape in his brain. Slight movement in the trees; the mammals are aware of my presence. Slink away immediately. Obeying his second-nature like thoughts, he quickly retreats back into the grey mass. A monkey-like sentry posed at the edge of the trees relaxes as the dinosaur uses its grey camouflage to blend in with the rest of the rock.

Food is not available widely. Probably only the bipedal mammals will have food. I have yet to learn how to extricate food from the ground. Food supplies are at the south-western boundary of their trees. Located near the base of a thick yellow tree if I remember correctly. With these thoughts, his eyes scan the south-western part of the forest, and notices the scant growth cover between the nearest line of rocks and the tree line. Dash.

The sentry quickly perks up as he notices the black and grey dinosaur crawling away among the rock. With a quick analysis, he knew that the dinosaur was about to reuse the same route as the previous time when it had raided their food supplies. Quickly, he yelled a warning as he gripped a crudely twined rope and slid to the ground. Picking up his weapons, he shifted to a prearranged position nearer their food supplies, ready to cut off any retreat should the dinosaur choose to escape by this path.

Movement among the trees. Thereís a sentry blocking off the path that follows the tree line. The dinosaur rested awhile before continuing his surreptitious journey among the narrow border of rocks that enclosed the cleared space leading to the tree growth. He found no problem squeezing between the narrow crevices. At one point, it had to dash towards an outcrop that blocked his way, and using his hands to break it while swinging to one side to avoid the exploding dust and fragments. Unfortunately, this movement was seen by the sentries who yelled out the location of the dinosaur and that he was approaching fast. Holding their rough hewn implements, they were ready to defend their food supplies, just as they have done so for over hundreds of millions of years.

Setting down when he arrived at the break between the rocks where he would sprint towards the forest, it started to think. Just as the great destruction sixty-five million years ago had allowed for the evolution of the mammals, the dinosaurs that survived had also evolved to gain intelligence that rivalled those of the mammals. No way I can do it this time, it thought as it viewed warily the greater number of sentries that were now arrayed amongst the trees. I need to use an unexpected method. Suddenly feeling the gnawing of an empty stomach, he thought, better do it soon. His pupils dilated for a while as he went into deeper thought.

A crowing sound coming from a form flying over the trees attracted the dinosaurís attention. So rare that I hardly see one of my own species who have taken to the air nowadays. Maybe I should follow them to the northern lands where it is warmer and nearer the sun, and probably more food as well. His eyes glazed over as he reminisced. Meanwhile, the bipedal mammals were distracted by the dinosaur who was flying overhead. These could steal food more easily, for they could just swoop in and out of the trees before anyone knew. He suddenly became aware of what had happened. Making sure that the sentries were looking up instead of down, he quickly covered half the distance to the tree line and cowered among one of the bigger rocks there. Silently, he thanked the dinosaur who had helped, perhaps unwittingly.

Just as the dinosaur had flown further away, the sentries turned back and suddenly noticed that the dinosaur was gone from the rock line. Yelping in alarm, they quickly wandered among the forest to check whether the dinosaur had already "infiltrated". Noticing that he was nowhere in sight, they turned back, as they communicated to each other that he was not there. But they were too late.

Taking the opportunity, the dinosaur had sprinted the rest of the distance and was upon them before they knew it. Better adapted to gripping the rough terrain of the forest floor, he reached the food supplies faster. There it was. Under the tree. As he grabbed two of the bags of food, he spun around to confront the sentries following upon his heels.

Maiming tossing rushing bumping tumbling sprinting again blurry movement spinning snapping, the dinosaur cleared the tree line and headed for the rock line where he could quickly cut off any pursuit, as he knew that the mammals could hardly walk on the rocks without being pained, much less run. Halfway, there, he sensed that he was being followed. Swivelling around, he maimed the pursuer and cleared the rest of the distance while the others hesitated.

Just then, he heard a cry from the mammals. turning around, he saw the dinosaur, who had been waiting patiently, sweep in and grab one of the bags made from twine. Taking the opportunity, the dinosaur had decided that extra food wonít hurt.

As the dinosaur bounded back towards its cave located across the rocky field, he smiled to itself. Mammals may be more intelligent, but dinosaurs are going to dominate the environment, because we are better fitted with cunning to survive when food is scarce.

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