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“I don’t know how I could have been so wrong,” Helen said. She buried her face in her hands.
“It happens to the best of us,” Eric said. He eyed the television longingly.
A football game was about to start, and it seemed like they’d been sitting at the table for hours, talking about the same things over and over again. The dinosaur ghosts are eating republicans. Why are the dinosaur ghosts eating republicans? How do we stop the dinosaur ghosts from eating republicans? Blah Blah Blah. He rolled his eyes.
Not three feet away, there was a perfectly good couch and a perfectly good television set. Unfortunately, both were walled off by perfectly good yellow police tape, put there not by police, but by Helen, to prevent her from accidentally stumbling into her late boyfriend’s favorite spot in the apartment and bringing back all those painful memories. Even worse, James’s second favorite spot in the apartment, the bathroom, was also off limits, which meant Eric had to go down the hall and use the bathroom of some guy named Tito whenever he needed to drop a deuce.
“Somehow they’ve managed to penetrate that invisible membrane between the third and fourth dimensions,” Helen continued. “If I could figure out how, I bet I could find a way to stop them.”
Eric leaned in close. “Hey, Baby. You wanna take this to the bedroom?” He raised and lowered his eyebrows suggestively.
“What’s the big deal? We’ve done it before.”
“A girl likes a little romance. Besides, this isn’t the time.”
“It’s never the time,” Eric said angrily. He stood up from the table.
Helen looked at him incredulously. “We just had the time last night. And then we had the time again this morning.”
“Yes, Helen, but now is a different time. It’s game time, Helen, and I wanna watch the football game.”
Tears flooded Helen’s eyes. “I can’t have football on in the house,” she said. “It’s just too soon.”
“Aw, everything is too soon.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know!” Eric shouted.
Helen’s grief turned to anger. “What is this, Eric? What are we doing here? We’ve spent the last three nights together. Where is this going?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Eric said, his anger turning to fear. “We’re just two people bonding over our troubles and a paranormal phenomenon in which dinosaur spirits wreak havoc on...”
“Is that all this is to you?” Helen interrupted, her anger turning to outrage. “Just some fling?”
“Um, I don’t think, I mean, I didn’t mean...” Eric stuttered, his fear turning to backpedaling. “It’s just... Oh, Helen. I don’t think I can do this anymore.”
Again the tears came rolling down her face. Her voice got all squeaky. “Are you breaking up with me?”
“I didn’t even know we were going out.”
“Get out!” Helen shouted, her sadness transforming into rage. She’d been on a serious emotional roller coaster lately.
Eric started to say something, but decided against it. He turned and quietly walked out of the front door, leaving Helen with her smoldering resentment, which would likely convert to depression at any moment.
“No,” she said, slamming her fist against the table. “Eric is just another silly little boy obsessed with sports and afraid of commitment. I’m sick of them all.”
From that moment on, she told herself, she had no time to waste on the likes of him. She had dinosaur ghosts to stop from eating any more republicans.
She stared at the arrangement of thingamabobs spread across the table. One of these doohickeys was going to help her blast those damned dirty dinosaur ghosts back to the Paleozoic era. She picked up a screwdriver and went to work.
Three days later, having made the short drive to Washington D.C., she popped her head in on a rather heated debate between different factions over at the Heritage Foundation. There, she sat through much screaming and accusatory innuendo, with the majority attributing the recent spate of dinosaur ghost attacks to Obamacare, taxes, and a massive governmental conspiracy to cover-up actions following the attack on the embassy in Benghazi. After several minutes, it became obvious to Helen that she’d come to the wrong place.
Across the street, she found another meeting already in progress, this time at a liberal think tank, the Center for Progressive Progress. A young man was making a presentation to a panel of distinguished experts chaired by none other than Harlington University’s dean of paleontology, Dr. Brenda Bellingham, she who had once blocked Helen from matriculating in her department way back in chapter 1.
“Darn it,” Helen said, taking a seat in the back row. “Not this bitch again.”
“Let me get this straight,” Mrs. Bellingham was saying condescendingly to the young man standing before her. “You maintain that the recent spate of dinosaur-related hallucinations are in fact actions perpetrated by actual dinosaurs.”
“No, Professor, they are the ghosts of real dinosaurs. My data shows conclusively that these dinosaur ghosts are extremely pissed off about how their remains have been used to wreck the environment.”
Professor Bellingham lowered her head into her hands and sighed. “You’re referring to the burning of fossil fuels?”
“Yes, you see over the course of millions of years, buried organisms such as the dinosaurs were slowly converted into fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.”
“I am aware of how fossil fuels are created, Mr. Wilkinson. And what evidence do you have to support the assertion that this has infuriated the dinosaurs?”
“I’ve provided each member of the panel with my report,” Stumpy said. “As you can see, starting on page 15, one of the conservative journalists killed, Herman Bainbridge, had recently started his own business based on wasting fossil fuels. Rock Benson, the cable news pundit, did a show deliberately obfuscating the debate on climate change the day he was killed. Two days before the Supreme Court was attacked, the conservative majority handed down a ruling that said that since global climate change isn’t mentioned by any documents associated with the founding fathers, then the government has no obligation to do anything about it.”
“And the gun nuts?” One of the other panelists asked.
“Those guys all drove gas guzzlers.”
“I still don’t understand why these so-called dinosaur ghosts would resort to such drastic measures,” Dr. Bellingham said. “I mean, I know they’re natural predators, but still.”
“Well, imagine if your dog died and you buried him in your back yard.”
Professor Bellingham got a far-off look in her eyes and her voice went all squeaky. “Fifi?” she said.
“Exactly. Now imagine if someone came along, dug up Fifi, processed his remains and then poured them into the engine of an SUV.”
Dr. Bellingham struck her palm with her fist. “Those dirty doggy-desecrating dirt balls!”
“Well, that’s exactly how the dinosaur ghosts feel. That’s why they’ve come back from the dead to seek their revenge.”
“But everyone burns fossil fuels.”
“Yes,” but it’s the conservatives who are hell-bent on keeping it that way.” Young Stumpy unfurled a map and placed it on a waiting easel. “This map of the US shows every confirmed dinosaur ghost attack to date. Each red mark indicates an attack location. As you can see, the heaviest concentration of red is here in D.C., but there are also several spots in Detroit and many down in southern states where foreign auto plants have set up shop. You’ll also note that in recent days, even some southern democrats have been eaten, all of whom, I might add have supported burning fossil fuels in one form or another and blocked legislation limiting carbon emissions.”
“And what is your take-away from all this?”
“We have to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible,” Stumpy said.
The spectators stood and applauded.
“That’s not good enough,” yelled a woman on the back row. “We have to do something now!”
Stumpy shielded his eyes from the floor lights as he tried to make out who was yelling at him. “Well, at this rate,” he said, “pretty soon there won’t be any republicans left to block legislation.”
The spectators chuckled and chortled in appreciation.
“That’s your solution?” Helen said, stepping from the shadows. “You’re going to sit back and allow innocent people to die.” She checked herself. “Innocent-ish people.”
Dr. Bellingham registered the identity of the new speaker. “Now Ms. Fonzarelli. You know you aren’t allowed within fifty feet of me. I have a restraining order in effect.”
“I promise not to come any closer,” Helen said, “but I’ll be darned if I sit around and let people die without doing something about it.”
“And just what do you propose we do?” Dr. Bellingham asked.
Helen reached into her backpack and pulled out one of her homemade devices. The panel gasped.
“Now, Ms. Fonzarelli. There’s no need to get violent. Put the gun away.”
“Oh this isn’t a gun,” Helen replied. “And it’s not capable of hurting people.”
“Whew,” said Dr. Bellingham.
“I call it the Ethereal Specter Disrupter, aka the Ghost Roaster, or the Ghost Toaster. I can’t decide which sounds better.”
“What does it do?”
“It whacks the shit out of dinosaur ghosts.”
“And just how do you propose to find these dinosaur ghosts?” Dr. Bellingham asked.
“I’ve got a plan for that too.”
Across the street at the Heritage Foundation, members had finally come to a consensus. The final wording of the official report stated that upon re-invading Iraq, the dinosaur ghosts would greet the Americans as liberators and would, in all likelihood, help them build an oil pipeline across the region.
They were all very pleased with this handy piece of scholarship. What they didn’t know was that two enormous shadows had just fallen over the building, and that within a few moments, the entire structure would be no more.
Up next: chapter 10
Up next: chapter 10