Got my first International Review. That’s pretty cool!

And it’s a good one, by the Australian author of Guns of Perdition herself, Jessica Bakker.

Oh. My. God. This book, West of Prehistoric, by Erik (Tracer) Testerman was BRILLIANT. The highlight of my 2020 reading journey. It came out of nowhere – I hadn’t heard anything about it – and perhaps that’s why I had no real expectations going in, but within two pages, I was already blown away, and knew this was going to be a helluva book.

What’s it about? Well, think Red Dead Redemption 2 meets Planet of the Apes, then has a threesome with Jurassic Park. The resulting love-child, is West of Prehistoric.

Ex-outlaw turned rancher, Jed Smith, is minding his own business working on his ranch, when he’s suddenly (and brutally) attacked by a dinosaur. From that moment on, the weird, the west, the carnage, and the awesome, don’t stop.

An excellently fleshed out cast of characters join Jed as he seeks to first understand the dinosaur/ape menace that threaten the west, and then to stop them slaughtering every human they come across. Action is crammed into these pages, but there’s still room for fantastic character development, wry humour, and yes, some romance. You know an author has a great handle on character development when he makes the reader love and care about the main character’s horse!

Though West of Prehistoric is Testerman’s debut novel, he feels like an old-hat at writing – there’s nary a jangled sentence or misplaced word to be found. And while the premise of West of Prehistoric might seem simplistic on first glance, it’s actually absorbing, engaging, and addictive. I had trouble putting this one down.

It’s pretty clear this is a setup for a sequel or possible trilogy, and I can only hope Testerman draws this saga out for a few more books – I for one, will be lining up to get the next instalment when it comes out.

Yes, it’s weird western. Yes, there’s gore. However, even to those of you who aren’t into this genre or gore, I’d suggest grabbing a copy and giving it a go, because at the end of the day, this is just a wonderfully told, greatly entertaining story.

Purchase HERE


Did you see that? She called it BRILLIANT… in all caps. (I added the bold.)


RAWR! Pew! Pew! Part FIVE!


The previous story portions:

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part Tew!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part Three!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part FOUR!

The saga of blazing guns, ferocious dinosaurs, and hairy barbaric savagery continues with Part FIVE.

(Honestly, at this rate, I’m going to post the entire book online before I get published. But that’s what happens when you write something, you want to share it.)

Here. We. Go.


A pair of apes on trikes caught the corner of my eye as they splashed through the river into the canyon.

I turned the telescope on them. Large birds, identical to the ones chased earlier by the big-headed dinosaur, were draped across the backs of the mounts. Brown feathered bodies bounced with the heavy steps of the trike until they stopped before the caves. Leaping down, apes untied the birds and effortlessly hoisted them across their shoulders. Carrying the corpses, they moved along the base of the cliff towards a small stand of trees.

A distant chirping drifted to me, intensifying as the apes entered the trees with their load. Peering through the gaps of leaves and branches, I could make out an outcropping of rock jutting from the canyon wall, creating a natural overhang. Beneath it was a large cage woven from thick branches that reached from the ground to the bottom of the bulge, with a gate near the center. Small black claws reached through the woven gaps, grabbing and shaking the cage as the things inside tried to get out.

One of the apes leaned a makeshift ladder against the fence and climbed to the top of the overhang, carefully avoiding the grasping claws. He opened a portion of the fence as the other passed the dead birds up. The chirps hit a feverish pitch as the bird’s bodies were shoved through.

Apparently, trikes weren’t the only tamed creatures in the canyon.

I watched the apes feeding the unknown animals for a few moments longer before deciding I’d seen enough. I needed to get back to town and let the Sheriff know, and figure out just what in the hell we were going to do about the tunnel.

I began to push back away from the edge, then stopped as an odd thumping noise reached my ears. Unnoticed, a pair of apes had moved beside the large slab of obsidian rock and were beating their chests with a fist. Others noticed and stood, copying the motion while facing the rock formation, adding to the dull thudding. Within moments the entire canyon was reverberating with the rhythmic pounding as it spread through all the apes.

The two that started the beating, stopped abruptly followed by the rest.

All the apes began moving to the strange rock formation. The ones wrestling threw tanned skins over their nakedness, while others stacked spears and lay down bows, and the apes cooking pulled meat away from the fire.

More of the apes poured from the caves in a steady stream. There was well over two hundred of them now standing around the circle of stone. But none of them stood inside the towering slabs of granite, leaving the area around the raised rock platform clear. I watched them through the telescope, in awe at the sheer number of them. Far more than I would have expected, and more were coming from the cave still.

A giant black-haired ape stepped from one of the cave entrances. Sensing something different about this one, I turned my glass on him.

He stood a head taller than the scattering of apes that hurried around him. The right side of his face was hideously scarred. The wound ran from chin to temple and twisted the side of his face into a grimace that exposed a large canine in a half snarl. He wore a simple waist belt and loincloth with a black handled knife tucked into a sheath. As he stepped forward, apes quickly parted before him.

Reaching the stone platform below the altar, he motioned towards the caves.

I swore viciously as a pair of apes stepped out with an Indian held tightly between them. The apes began hooting and calling in deep, rough voices. No doubt calling out insults to the captive.

The man’s chest was bloodied. His long black hair stringy and hanging over his face. He was naked, but he still had fight in him. Kicking and struggling he tried to pull away, and one of his guards slugged him in the stomach with a large fist. He convulsed and legs pulled up as he tried to double over against their grips. Vomit dribbled from his mouth. The apes dragged him through the crowd. Surrounding apes slapped and punched him about the head and body as he passed by.

The sound of their jeering joy and laughter at the man’s torment drifted to me. His feet dragged as he was hauled limply up the stone platform. I felt my face flush hot in anger.

Then I watched, horrified, as the guards dumped him on top of the obsidian slab. The crowd’s hooting grew louder as he thrashed weakly against the two stronger apes. With an almost dispassionate interest, they stretched his arms apart and lashed him down horizontally to the rock with leather cords. Their task finished, the guards stepped off the stone platform and disappeared into the crowd.

The black scarred ape stepped before the Indian captive.

A guttural chant began, followed by single clenched fists once again beating in unison. I felt it within my chest, as my heart seemed to pound in rhythm.

Sweat dripped from my brow, and the glass fogged. Quickly, I wiped the eye piece clear and looked back through the telescope.

Someone in the teeming mass of hairy apes was passing up a misshapen bowl. Green smoke wafted from whatever crazy stuff burned inside. The black ape accepted the bowl and laid it carefully beside the squirming man on the slab.

The scar-faced ape drew the blade from the sheath at his waist. It was obsidian, with a dark handle. The Indian hocked a wad of spit at him in defiance. In return, the ape casually palmed the man’s face and slammed his head backward against the stone. His body went limp.

My jaw clenched, and I ground my teeth so hard I thought they might crack.

I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t know what I could do.


Laying the knife gently on the black altar, the scarred ape cupped his hands around the smoldering bowl and raised it into the air as the chanting and pounding ceased.

The canyon was eerily quiet as he lowered the bowl and breathed in the green smoke.

For a long moment, nothing happened.

Then the bowl dropped from the ape’s hands, shattering on rock. The black ape shuddered and braced himself against the altar. He twitched, violently, jerking his head from side to side. Knees bent and wobbled, threatening to collapse underneath him.

Whatever was in that bowl wasn’t your ordinary peyote.

Suddenly the giant ape threw himself upright, thrusting out his chest and raising clenched fists at the sky. He roared, an ugly, harsh, inhuman sound as the other apes joined in. The thumping noise of hammering fists against chests began again with a fevered violence. The pounding was louder and harsher this time. There was no rhythm. Just a mass of noise that echoed and assaulted my senses.

The Indian awoke. Bewildered and groggy, he twisted and turned on the black rock.

The scar faced ape scooped up the knife and plunged it into the man’s belly.

I wasn’t prepared for the sudden violence and almost dropped the telescope as a high-pitched scream of agony pierced the air. The chipped obsidian knife slid upwards easily and stopped once it reached his rib cage. The man kept screaming in horror, staring wide eyed at his gaping wound along his stomach. The savage ape set the knife down and reached into the cut, amongst the vitals, and under the rib cage. The shrieking ended with a twist and rip, as the ape pulled out the man’s heart.

Raising the organ in his fist for all the apes to see, blood ran down the ape’s black fur arm and splattered onto the altar.

Hundreds of throats roared in satisfaction.

The scarred black ape savagely took a bite out of the heart. Blood oozed from his mouth. Swallowing, he hurled the remains into the crowd.

Apes pushed and shoved each other for it. One hairy monkey began pummeling another to the ground with both fists as others kicked and fought to get the chunk of human flesh.

A hand suddenly held it aloft victoriously above the thrashing apes, a bloody chunk of raw meat coated with dirt. Roaring, he bit off a chunk and hurled it across the crowd where the scene was repeated, again and again, until there was nothing left but apes fighting each other around the circle of stones while the scarred ape leader watched on in satisfaction.

Saying I was in shock was an understatement. Horrified was more like it. But furious…. absolutely.

Slamming the telescope shut, I slid my rifle before me and braced it into my shoulder. I found the black scarred ape at the altar and guessed the distance.

Common sense told me that my position would be given away once I fired, but I didn’t care. Every single one of these hairy men-monkeys needed to die. But I’d satisfy myself with just taking their leader’s life.

Carbine stamped softly from the tree line, but I tuned him out and slowed my breathing. Concentrating on the gentle rise and fall of the sights, I began taking up the slack in the trigger.

I was about to smite a giant, evil monkey with 350 grains of cast lead and vengeance.

Hell yeah.

Carbine snorted loudly, interrupting my concentration.

Annoyed, I rolled to the side to see what he was upset about.

A spear point shattered on the sweat soaked rock where I’d lain a moment before.

The ape stood towering over me. His large brow furrowed in frustration at his missed stab. Another monkey grabbed Carbine’s reins and was rewarded a vicious bite to his shoulder by my horse. He screamed, and Carbine twisted, kicking the ape in the chest and sending him sprawling.

I bet that hurt, but not as much as this.

With my freehand, I drew the Colt and shot the ape standing over me. He didn’t give in to the wound as the bullet punched through his belly, instead jerking the spear back and preparing to thrust with its shattered tip.

This time, I shot him through the center of the chest where his heart should have been, and he collapsed in a twitching heap.

As the other ape painfully crawled onto all fours, I carefully put a bullet through his skull and dropped him.

So much for the element of surprise.

Flipping back over, I realized the canyon had gone quiet. The multitude of apes had stopped beating their chests, and were staring at my position. I felt hundreds of eyes upon me.

Surprise monkeys, I have weapons of fire, thunder and lead. Fear me.

Scar-face pointed a thick, blood coated finger in my direction and bellowed a command.

The crowd went wild as apes began pushing, shoving, and running in different directions. Some ran back into the caves, others towards stacks of weapons, and most rushed towards the cliff below me.

Swearing, I yanked the rifle up and quickly shot at the ape leader as he turned away. The bullet missed and hit the Indian’s corpse instead. The evil black ape disappeared among the frantic swarming mass of his followers.

There went my chance at killing their leader. But at least the Indian was already dead. He probably would have forgiven me anyways, all things considered.

If there was any doubt as to where my position was before, the gun powder smoke from the Sharps that drifted over the canyon made it abundantly clear. But I figured I could slay a few more of them before I needed to get out of dodge.

Working the action on the rifle, I randomly selected an ape splashing through the stream in my direction and pulled the trigger. The rifle boomed again satisfyingly, and the ape pitched forward and thrashed in the water as another puff of gun smoke blew out to join the other.

I grinned evilly.

This was like shooting monkeys in a barrel.

Rising to a knee for a better field of fire, I fired into a small band of apes headed for the trikes. Another boom, and this time an ape dropped while the one beside it screamed and fell, clutching her side.

One bullet, two wounds. My sort of math.

The herd of trikes, stirred up by the gunfire and excitement, were proving hard for the apes to throw harnesses and saddles on. Dust stirred as the dinosaurs shuffled in confusion, making it harder for me to pick out targets. But the two trikes that rode in earlier were still harnessed and ready to go. As an ape tried mounting one of them, I fired. The shot was low, and hit the trike. It bellowed in pain and side stepped, shaking its horns and knocking the would-be rider off.

Apes were running for the canyon entrance now, trying to circle around and catch me from the rear. I ignored them. I’d be long gone by the time they reached my location.

An arrow zipped by, fired from an ape standing in the stream, and landing somewhere in the forest behind me. My aim was off, and I put a bullet through his leg as a large, hairy hand slapped the top of the edge.

Shocked that one of the apes reached me so quickly, I frantically worked the outdated reloading mechanism of the Sharps.

The big female monkey pulled herself over the edge. I cocked the hammer back and fired from the hip, the muzzle mere inches away from her face. Unsupported, the recoil of the rifle almost knocked it out of my hands. I managed to hang on to the gun as the bullet punched through the ape’s throat with a spray of blood.

At such a short distance, her flat face was filled with sparks of burning powder. Blinded and wounded, the ape clawed at her face and throat before toppling backwards and falling, yellowed canines bared in a silent scream.

Peeking over the edge, I saw her body twisted and broken amongst the rocks and a multitude of others clinging to the rocks below. Some stopped and stared at the corpse, others climbed faster. None of them looked happy.

From the canyon floor, more apes picked up bows and arrows whistled by me, thudding into the trees and ground nearby. One hit beside me, shattering the shaft on the rock and pelting me with splinters. It was time to go.

I ducked and scrambled away from the cliff edge. Reaching Carbine, I slammed the telescope shut and into the saddle bags before leaping into the saddle. From behind came grunts and hoots as apes began reaching the top of the cliff. Smacking his flanks with the barrel of my rifle, I let him lead as I twisted in the saddle and fired at the apes behind me. I managed to make one duck before losing sight of them as Carbine charged amongst the thick trees.

Within seconds, we were lost in the forest.


To be continued…


This is where I ask for your help. If you’ve enjoyed reading these excerpts and would like to be contacted when West of Prehistoric becomes published, please use the Contact Me page(click here) and send me your name and email to be added to my email list.

Here’s why – The goal of publishers is to sell books and they are leery of first time authors because we don’t have a reader base yet. It’s a financial risk taking one on.  But, when I can brag about having x,xxx number of people on an email list, who can be contacted once the book is published – it helps ease their fears that taking me on will be a losing proposition.

I do promise to only contact you in regards to this book or follow up books. I won’t sell or give your email to anyone, because that’s a dick move and I hate spam.

So if you liked what I’ve written, want to read the rest, and want to support me as a first time author – get on my email list. 🙂

1885, an excellent year.

Why did I choose 1885 for my Epic Story Of Lost World Adventure Awesomeness?

Well, there was a lot of cool stuff going on.

Such as, the roller coaster was patented. The Irish tried to blow up the Tower of London with dynamite. John Babbacombe Lee was hung three times and didn’t die. (The English declared it ‘Divine Intervention’, and eventually released him. This is like Game of Thrones ‘Trial by Combat’… except it was more like ‘Trial by Hangin”) The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York and the Rabies Vaccine is a success. (Yay!)

None of that matters a single bit in regards to the book. But it’s neat to know.

BUT, the BONE WARS was nearing an end. That was when a pair of rival archeologists tried to destroy each other while discovering new species of dinosaurs in the American West. Eventually they ruined each other socially and financially. It’s kind of a shame they didn’t just resort to a duel though… Anyways. This is just too awesome of a historical event to not include, and some of the ground work is already laid in the first book.

There was also the Temperance Movement to ‘Ban All Fun Activities by Men’…

But most importantly, 1885 also pushed us into the wonderful world of smokeless gun powder and metallic cartridges while black powder was still being used to good effect.  John Moses Browning was about to reveal his famous 1886 Winchester, and one of his earliest inventions, the 1885 High Wall had just been put into production.

(Sadly, we’re still over a decade away from the pump action Winchester Model 1897 Shotgun that would eventually be used in every military conflict up to Vietnam. Could you imagine how cool one of these would be against apes and dinosaurs? -stab- KABOOM!)


Man… the things I want to write about…


Did I mention that the military was still using single shot Springfields? (Sucks to be you guys when faced with an army of numerically, and physically, superior apes with a prowess for soaking up bullets. That makes for great battle scenes.)

There were also a lot of famous characters still alive, or who’d recently deceased.

Wyatt Earp was 37 years old. The shoot out at the OK corral took place four years prior. Doc Holliday was still alive and up to no good in his flamboyant style. Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and Theodore Roosevelt were all running around at the same time as the villainous likes of John Wesley Hardin, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sitting Bull, and Jeremiah Johnson were this side of the dirt.

1885 was a heckuva year to be alive.

Oh, and the very first edition of ‘Good Housekeeping’ was published. Which is probably why the Temperance Movement took off…


“This Book Doesn’t Suck.” – Reviews and Thoughts From Random People on the Internet.

These are a collection of reviews from when I posted the first four chapters and asked for unknown people on several web forums I visit, to read and critique my book with honest, and vicious feedback.

I figure the people who know me personally may mislead me with good intentions. But no one is as cruel and vicious and blatantly honest as random people on the other side of the internet who care nothing for your feelings.

And yup, out of the 117,xxx words, I had a shameful amount of ridiculous little word errors. 😦 But no one made any complaints about the general story line, so that’s nice.

I’m down. I’m a pretty voracious reader and the fact that there is a hand cranked gatling gun, an ape, and a triceratops piques my interest.

YJJPWrangler 5/14/2019


Just got done reading through the first four “chapters”. Most of the edits I made were grammatical/punctuation in nature but I did have some issues with some sentences. A few thoughts:

-totally unique subject matter. I’ve read quite a lot and this is by far the most “diverse” setting I’ve found
– definitely gives me a feeling of the “land before time” theme(not a bad thing)
-is this supposed to be young teen or adult fiction? reason i ask is there are certain points in the 4 chapters that could greatly use some expletives. great for adults, maybe not so much for kids
-The first part of the first chapter was odd to read. I felt like I needed to know more about Jed before continuing. but I’m sure you fill in his backstory later on. (I do. :P)

I’ve got the comments saved on a word file if you would like them. I am looking forward to reading the rest of it.

-YJJPWangler 5/15/2019


“Awesome book. While reading , I felt like I was right there in the middle of the action with everyone. I quite literally could not put the book down, I could not wait to find out what happened in the next chapter.

Looking forward to the rest of the series.”

-A_Kelly. 5/29/2019


I think the book is pretty awesome. It’s a little out of my genre but I can’t wait for the publisher. I’m not sure how many pm’s you’ve received but add my name to the list. I’m dropping a 10 spot for the privilege too. I’ve just got to figure out the logistics to get it to you. Great book!

-thebrotherinlaw. 5/26/2019


Damn man, I LOVE it!!! I am through the first three parts and will start the fourth ASAP!!!

Also, if that pic isnt the cover of this book, I will be thoroughly disgusted!!!!

-JSJJ388. 5/14/2019


Hey man, just finished part four of the book. I gotta say, you’ve got me hooked! Let me know what you need to send me a copy, and when its published I’ll buy a copy.

-JSJJ388/ 5/15/2019


That was definitely riveting! I read down to where his horse came back the next morning. I should not have even started because now I am running late to get my office work done before heading out to work! I do have some criticisms so will hopefully come back to it and share. I don’t read fiction at all but your writing style kept me glued.

-R Q 5/15/2019


When this goes to print, I’ll gladly buy a signed copy for my collection. Nitpicky grammar nazis aside, I think its very well done for the genre you chose to write about. Keep it up, you have the knack for fictional story composition.

-308/223 Shooter. 5/17/2019


I can’t believe you killed that horse in the beginning!

-Mom. 5/28/2019


This book doesn’t suck.

Jeepinmatt. 5/28/2019.


Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading the parts you had posted. Being that I grew up on westerns I could easily visualize the scenery in my minds eye. I didn’t feel that it was lacking in description whatsoever. I did notice some errors, but I am not one to judge.  It seems you have several folks more adapt to editing than I could ever be. I look forward to reading the rest, please keep us updated as to its release.

-Rox&Mud 6/4/2019


So far, so good. All minor stuff to fix, almost everything noticed is sentence structure… nothing big and plot shaking. Thank goodness. Seems to be the sort of stuff a typical editor would catch.

Of course there’s some complaints in the beginning that are addressed later on in the book…. Such as the Main Character using the term ‘mother’. Everyone wants him to say ‘ma’ or ‘momma’… but it’s revealed later that he comes from an aristocratic southern family. He was raised with proper genteel manners. That’s an important part of his back story and one of the main story arcs that continues through the series.

I also changed a team of horses to mules, for no reason other than to spice the story up with some variety, and I missed a reference to them being horses.

Silly me.

Anyways, go read it – give me feedback. Then pray I find someone who will publish this so other’s can read it too.

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part FOUR!

Cowboys V Apes final

(Don’t worry, we’ll get to the Gatling Guns eventually!)

The previous story portions:

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part Tew!

RAWR! Pew! Pew! Pew-Part Three!

The saga of blazing guns, ferocious dinosaurs, and hairy barbaric savagery continues with Part Four.


The next morning, I woke to the Carbine nudging me with his muzzle and stamping his hooves impatiently. It was annoying having a horse that could occasionally work a slip knot free. But at least he didn’t leave me stranded. After I shoved his head away, he looked me in the eye, lifted his tail and let loose with a load of manure. Cursing the day he was born, I pulled my blanket and slicker aside before any droppings rolled onto them. Somehow, our morning routine always seemed to begin with me swearing at him. This wasn’t the first time that I missed Misty. She’d been a good horse and lacked a single mischievous bone in her sweet body.

I broke down my simple camp by rolling up the bedding, letting Carbine drink his fill from a small nearby stream, filling my canteen, and cinching the saddle tight on his back. I was anxious to begin exploring the other side, and since I didn’t pack any coffee, I skipped a fire and ate a few hardtack biscuits for breakfast. Without my caffeine, I’d just be a little more ornery than usual. Dinosaurs and apes beware.

By the time we reached the cliff face, the sun had burned off the low-lying mist.

As best as I could tell, everything appeared to be just as weird today as it did yesterday. Except there were more tracks, from what looked like a dozen or more four legged creatures with small hooves. Whatever they were, they appeared to be heading east, probably to kill more of my cattle. I decided to follow them later, but for now, I wanted to see what the other side held.

I tied Carbine’s reins to a small pine tree beside the tunnel, this time making sure they were sufficiently tight. Then I slipped my hand into the mysterious opening again. It rippled as before, and like last time, there was only a barely noticeable tingle.

Satisfied I probably wouldn’t die crossing through the strange shimmer, I drew my hand back. It was time to see what this mysterious other side was all about.

Walking back to Carbine, I pulled the Sharps repeater from its scabbard. Scratching his withers, I opened a saddle bag and took out a collapsible brass telescope and tucked it under my arm. He snorted softly as if to wish me luck. Holding the rifle tight, I gathered my courage, closed my eyes, and blindly stepped across the invisible line.

A tingle ran over my entire body. I cracked my eyes open a sliver and saw I was still alive. Now that I was on the other side, I tried to shake lose the fear of the unknown that gripped me so tightly last night, but the feeling lingered. This was unfamiliar territory. The sort of place that defied the laws of everything I knew possible. It was downright scary.

I exited the tunnel and looked up. The limestone cliff rose high into the air around me. It appeared to be a normal mountain range, except for the short tunnel leading back to my side. Looking back through the opening, I could see the back half of Carbine peeking out from the rock side and the grassy plains beyond.

Carefully, I stalked forward to the small rise that had limited my vision of this side. Once I reached its peak, I stopped in shock. Whatever I expected to find; this surpassed my imagination.

I stood at the top of a large valley with a wide river running lazily through the bottom of it. To the right, the open grassy hills gave way to a forest of giant trees arching over a hundred feet into the air. More of the green and red-tinged ferns dotted the landscape mixed amongst knee-high, thick bladed grasses and small stands of trees.

My surroundings were strange, but over shadowed by the creatures below. They were large enough that I didn’t need the telescope, but I extended it for a better look. Kneeling, I braced the optic and surveyed the strange animals.

A small group of massive gray beasts walked ponderously along the banks of the river. Some were thirty feet tall, with thick bodies on stumpy legs, and long graceful necks curving up into the sky, their small heads plucking at leaves on the trees growing in the edges of the river. A young pair, perhaps six or seven feet tall, chased each other around the adults, running and nipping at each other with a gracefulness I wouldn’t have thought possible in such strangely formed beasts.

A pair of vastly different animals ate near the forest edge. Their wide, thick bodies moved on short legs, with exposed bone plating across their backs. As they walked and grazed, they moved in an odd side-to-side gait that reminded me of turtles. A large knot was formed on the end of their tails, and swung back and forth in rhythm with their step. If the club on the end of their tail was used for defensive means, it’d smash a man flat.

I reckoned these were all supposedly extinct dinosaurs. I swallowed hard at the thought. How could such a place as this exist?

An ear-piercing screech came from above as a bird without feathers swooped over the valley. It had a small thin body, sleek, with a long neck and toothed beak, and was carried aloft by wide, leathery wings tipped with talons. It skimmed low over the water, before alighting beside more of its kind in a tree by the long-necks. They squawked and screeched at each other and the dinosaurs nearby.

The tracks of the apes were vague in the grass, but the beasts were clear as they moved towards the forest edge. I’d originally planned on just taking a quick peek. But curiosity got the best of me once again and I decided to keep following the tracks.

Pulling myself away from the strange view, I crossed back through the tunnel that divided two worlds. With some gentle coaxing and a few threats, I persuaded Carbine to enter the tunnel. After seeing the shimmer as I stepped through, he hesitated and looked around suspiciously. I let the reins go slack, and when he cautiously pushed his muzzle towards me, I gave them a yank. When the shimmer hit his nose, he leapt forward so quickly I had to jump aside or be trampled. But once through, he quickly moved out of the tunnel with ears pricked forward as he took in the unfamiliar smells and noises.

After a few minutes to let him get settled in our new surroundings, I pulled myself up and rested the rifle across the pommel of the saddle. We were in a strange land filled with strange beasts. I wanted to be ready for anything that might need shooting before we tucked tail and ran away.

Then we followed the tracks into the forest.


We worked our way through the underbrush amongst the tall trees, following the beasts old trail as it smashed through saplings and churned ground and ferns with its claws.

Fifty feet into the forest, the thick growth began to thin, making it easier to move without the threat of being knocked out of the saddle by a low-lying branch or flayed open by the large thorns that jutted out from thick vines drooping from the trees.

After a hundred yards or so, I discovered a jumble of tracks where the ape’s footprints joined the beasts. The apes’ tracks were packed on top of each other, as if they’d walked around looking at the monsters prints before deciding to follow it.

Here I left the dinosaurs tracks behind and followed where the apes veered off. It seemed foolish to keep going, but after coming this far, the urge to see where the big monkeys came from was overpowering. We pressed on, but I promised myself that I’d only follow for another hour or so before turning back.

Carbine was skittish, his ears flicking back and forth as he tried to absorb our strange surroundings. I couldn’t blame him. This place was making me nervous too. Overhead came sharp shrieks of leathery birds winging above us, and echoing through the forest were distant bellows and screams of unknown creatures. Several times we stopped, listening, as something large and unseen crashed through the brush nearby.

Small, furry brown animals with long noses and black tails skittered over raised roots and through fallen leaves as we plodded along the ape’s tracks. They were everywhere. I bet all the predators munched on them like candy. At first, Carbine didn’t like them underfoot, but after a while he ignored them. From the noises I heard, I’m confident he squished several under steel shod hooves.

The apes’ tracks broke apart, and came back together as they spread out and moved through the forest. It was apparent they were searching for something, and I shuddered to think that they chased after the monster from my barn with only stone age weapons. Tracking them was slow going, the only thing that helped was that there was four of them leaving sign.

Reaching a large clearing of tall grass, sparse ferns and several fallen trees, we paused well away from the openings edge. I took a sip of water from my canteen and watched for anything that might eat us. Other than small rodents scurrying about in the clearing, it appeared safe for the moment. But the group of apes I followed appeared to have circled around the opening, which was a good idea to me as well. I turned Carbine’s head to walk him around the edge.

We made it several steps before piercing bird calls reached our ears followed by loud crashing noise of multiple somethings approaching. The rodents scampered away, ducking into small holes and quickly leaving the clearing silent and empty.

As the bird calls grew louder, we rode deeper into the thick underbrush, stopping before I lost sight of the clearing through the vegetation. The rapidly approaching sound of snapping branches and rustling leaves filled the forest and made Carbine side-step and tug at the reins uncomfortably. I shushed him and held the reins tight, hoping he wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.

A flock of gigantic birds burst out of the trees. Dodging thick ferns and leaping over fallen logs, they charged nimbly through the clearing.

The birds were larger than any I’d ever seen. They had thick bodies covered in tan and brown feathers, with a small head on an outstretched neck, and ran in bounds on long legs. The squawks came from toothed beaks below beady eyes, and their wings, too small to offer flight, stuck out on each side to give them balance.

A second later, the forest exploded in a shower of branches and leaves as an enormous two-legged monstrosity broke through the foliage after them.

It made the beast I killed pale in comparison.

A good fourteen feet tall and probably twenty-five feet long, the giant dinosaur ran leaning forward on thick muscular legs balanced with a long tail held low. Its head was massive and looked as though it could gulp down a man with little effort. The leathery hide was a light green, with thin black stripes running down its sides and stopping before the pale-yellow underbelly. The small arms clawing helplessly in the air did little to take away from its fearsome appearance.

It looked like the dinosaur that Sheriff Dan had described. And it certainly wasn’t a bunch of old bones buried in dirt.

Carbine understandably lost his shit.

He snorted and reared, kicking and bucking as I simultaneously struggled to prevent him from fleeing and wondering if we should be.

Luckily for us, the monster was fixated on the fleeing birds and ran after them, oblivious to my fight against Carbine’s survival instincts.

The big-headed beast lunged, mouth stretched wide, teeth snapping shut on empty air as one of the birds nimbly leaped to the side. The birds screeched and left the clearing, ducking amongst the low branches of the forest. Mere steps behind them, the giant dinosaur bashed through the screen of trees with a swing of its head. A rotten tree snapped off at the base and toppled to the side, crushing vegetation beneath it. Within moments, the chase was out of sight, and the noise beginning to fade away.

Realizing I was holding my breath, I let it out in a big whoosh as my pounding heart began to slow. Carbine was still panicked, foam dripped from his muzzle and eyes rolled as he searched for more danger. I rubbed his neck and with soothing words, began to calm him.

Everything here was monstrous and dangerous. And heaven help us all if that absurdly big predator crossed to our side. I don’t know how we could stop something that big without a barrage of cannon fire.

Dismounting, I poured water from my canteen into my hat with trembling hands. That monster really did a number on me, and the memories of the smaller beast I killed was all too fresh. My horse drank from my hat noisily, sloshing water onto my pants. I let him rest for a few minutes, running my hands down his neck and shoulders while waiting for the tremble of adrenaline and fear to subside in both of us.

When we moved out, we went slower and more cautious than before, continuing to back track the long strides of the apes. Pure stubbornness and curiosity on my part kept me pushing forward instead of returning the way we came. I promised myself another hour, then we’d turn back.


The temperature rose with the sun, and there was so much moisture in the air I felt like I could swim in it. My shirt was soaked through and sweat rolled down my face. We stopped at a stream, and I let Carbine drink his fill while I topped off my canteen. The water was brackish, but tasted normal enough to risk drinking. And in this heat and humidity, we were drinking a lot

A quarter mile past that, we came across a rotting corpse. As we approached, small green dinosaurs with long tails bounced away through the brush before I could get a good look at them. Whatever it had been, it was chewed and gnawed on past the point of recognition. It had been a big animal though, something with four legs and large flat bones sticking from its back, but all that was left were small amounts of decaying, rotting flesh on the bones. The scent was nauseating.

We skirted around the dead animal and fifteen minutes later, reached where the forest turned into more rolling grass covered hills and what looked like the entrance to a large canyon.

I jerked back on Carbine’s reins to bring him to a quick stop before we stepped into the open.

This strange place was full of surprises.

Several hundred yards away, a pair of apes rode giant three-horned beasts over the crest of a grassy knoll.

I pulled the telescope from my saddle bag, and extended it to study the strange horned mounts in detail. They had short legs under thick bodies, with two long black horns jutting out from above their eyes and a smaller one centered above slanted nostrils and a beaked mouth. A scooped shield rose behind its skull, covering the back of the neck, with small round bone protrusions sticking out of the top. The animals were a darkened brown that merged into a tan on their underbelly, with yellow stripes running from nose to shield and across their bodies horizontally.

With an obvious lack of creativity, the first name that came to mind was trikes.

Mounted behind the bone shield, on the trikes’ front shoulders, were the apes. They used an odd form of saddle, with their feet tucked underneath the scooped shield. The reins held by the apes, circled around the sides of the shield, before meeting a harness that looked eerily like my horse’s. The first loop ran around the beak and lower horn and attached to a second loop that ran from the throat to behind the larger horns. There was no bit used, the creature’s beak didn’t look like one would fit.

The apes held bows, with full quivers of yellow-green fletched arrows and stone axes hanging from the saddle. On the sides of the trikes, strapped above large leather sacks, were several long spears bundled together.

Staying in the darkened shadows of the forest interior, I watched the trikes lumber down the hill and wade through a shallow river into a nearby canyon. With the glass, I looked around the narrow entrance, all along the river the ground was churned into a thick mud and the grass plastered flat. A lot of somethings were going in and out of there.

The forest circled along to my right for a half mile before reaching the canyon edge and I had to see what was in there. Clicking my tongue, I turned Carbine and we skirted along the forest edge. I wanted the best vantage point for seeing into the gorge.


As we grew closer to the canyon, I saw thin tendrils of smoke rising from inside and twisting above the trees. Figuring this was close enough, I took my rifle and telescope, tied Carbine’s reins to a tree, and stalked forward on foot.

When I felt close enough, I dropped and crawled to the canyon edge. The sun was at its pinnacle now. The scorching heat reflected off the exposed rock beneath me. Sweat dripped from my face and practically sizzled on stone as I peered over the edge.

It was a box canyon and much larger than I expected, a half mile across at the widest point and a mile long from the only entrance to a distant cliff face where a large waterfall toppled over to the canyon floor. The ground was covered with a lush green grass and giant ferns with scattered stands of trees. The river slowly twisted around the base of the cliff where I lay, gently flowing through large pools and out the canyon entrance. It was a beautiful and isolated place.

It was also full of apes.

There were over a hundred of the big monkeys scattered across the canyon floor, with many more moving in and out of cave openings in the cliff face opposite of me. Groups of apes sat around fires, eating and crafting weapons, while others practiced shooting bows and throwing spears at large bundles of tightly bound dried ferns. A large, completely white ape bounded forward several steps and hurled a spear over a hundred yards before burying half its length into one of the bundles. Apart from the others, a large group of monkeys were swarming over great big slabs of meat, hacking them into thin strips and smoking them over smoldering fires. There didn’t seem to be a difference between the work the females and males did, they were mixed amongst all the tasks, including hurling spears.

They all wore hides and skins wrapped around their waist or over a shoulder.

Except for the ones fighting naked.

Dozens of them wrestled with each other in the grass beside the shallow streams below me. Picking each other up and slamming them down as they scrambled to get the advantage. I watched one rise from beneath the water he’d been pushed into with a handful of muck and fling it at the face of another before tackling him around the waist. Loud bellows and guttural calls echoed up to my perch high on the cliff edge.

A large herd of trikes was further down the canyon, tearing up plants and chewing the vegetation. They appeared docile, as several apes moved amongst them. Overlooking the herd on a small rise nearby, nestled amongst the tall grass, lay a monster of a trike. I noticed him only because his head swiveled back and forth as he watched over his herd. Through my telescope, I could tell one of his horns was shattered halfway up its length.

And then there were carts.

Dozens of them with rough shaped chunks of wood for wheels and two thick poles jutting out the front. None of them had harnesses attached, and from the design and size, they appeared to be pulled by a single ape. They were strewn across the valley floor, some filled with ferns for the trikes, others with logs and sticks, stacked hides, even stones. Many of them were staged in rough rows near the back of the canyon, tall grasses and ferns growing over them.

It was a lot to take in.

Battle seemed to be a way of life for these apes. While the ratio of females to males appeared almost even, it was worrisome that I saw no baby or juvenile apes amongst them. And the number of carts showed the apes moved a lot. There were far more than needed for simple tasks in the canyon.

But of everything in the canyon, it was the unnatural rock formation in the center that disturbed me the most.

At least a dozen chunks of granite had been worked into a rectangular shape and stood upright, a dozen feet tall, in a large circle. In their center lay a large chunk of glossy black obsidian raised high on a stone platform. The volcanic glass was at least ten feet long and five feet wide. The light of the sun shone darkly off the rock, giving it an ominous appearance.

If it was an altar, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what sort of rituals the hairy savages held.



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