She was alone, she was tired, but most of all, she was hungry. Starvation gnawed at her entrails like a crazed rodent, some mysterious animal still in evolution’s future, and its insistence filled the convolutions of her simple brain with a dark foreboding of its own demise.

The valley was small, a concave in the bosom of the mountain, and perpetually veiled by mist, dew drops sparkling on ferns as delicate as lace and on the wide, glossy gingko leaves –their prettiness deceitful, the leaves had serrated edges, sharp as her own teeth were sharp; everything here was deceiving, from the vibrant greens that concealed the thorns to the lurid palette of the poisonous flowers and the sweetish fumes rising from the swamps. The valley’s limited dimensions could only offer limited possibilities; inevitable that once the last herbivore passed on, the predators themselves would become prey.

At the time she had run across what would be her last supper she hadn’t known it, and she knew no better now. That scanty snack, the small Diplodocus calf, had barely sufficed for both herself and her mate, and they had stood trembling, voraciously gulping chunks of meat while they eyed, in resentment, the much bigger mother stuck in the quicksand, out of their reach, sinking so slowly, the graceful arched neck swaying to and fro as it longingly mewled for its lost calf. Then only the Velociraptors remained, for they were able to prosper on the elusive meat of the fast scurrying primeval mammals, and because the raptors, hunting in packs and not alone like she did, were now the kings of this lost world, even though they ignored their kingdom’s transience.

It was the raptors that had taken her mate, who was a lot smaller than herself but still a lot bigger and deadlier than a raptor, two raptors, a dozen. And even a dozen Velociraptors thought twice before tackling a Tyrannosaur, and thrice for two. She could not begin to understand the changes in her life, one moment the hunter and the next the hunted. But her former mate, who had needed even longer to grasp this concept of change, was now a pile of bones bleaching in the sun and she was alive, albeit pained by the festering wound on her right flank and the desperate hunger.

That was the reason she trod forward, opening new paths through the thicket, surprisingly silent for a beast her size. The raptors were keening, their short fierce cries punctuating the excitement of the chase, and these days she wasn’t beyond devouring whatever leftovers they deigned to leave in their wake, those versatile, quicker, more sinuous, more numerous heirs to her kingdom. And that was the reason, too, why she didn’t back up into the forest as her nostrils caught the new, unfamiliar scent – but how could she have known, the voice of hunger being the only thing that mattered, the only call she still avowed, and the scent so tempting, faintly reminiscent of the warm-blooded prey she was too clumsy to catch, shaping something in her brain that was tender and juicy and eatable even though tinged with the fear of the unknown. She mistook the detonations for thunder, and this mistake she would never repeat, for she would never hear the sound of a gun being fired again.

She was alone, she was tired, but most of all, she was hungry. Still stunned, still clutching the pistols, she circled the fallen mountain of flesh, eyeing it sideways while she kept an eye out for more of the smaller beasts to come challenging her catch; but the valley lay silent, shrouded in mist, festooned with rainbows. It was hard to accept the evidence of her senses, this impossible, mythical creature now resting quietly at her feet. She risked a hand on the immense chest, the skin was not rough as she had always fantasized such a skin should be, but smooth and cool to the touch like a lizard’s or a snake’s, and vividly coloured too. Underneath, a mighty heart was slowing, syncopating –one, one-two; pumping blood in, blood out; one, one-two- and blood was oozing from countless tiny holes, one, one-two; once again she could feel the surprise, the shocked admiration that something so big could be brought down by something so small –one, one-two; one, and then nothing, only a glazed eye staring at the sky in mute reproach.

Her legs collapsed, and she sat down heavily on the trampled ground, not far away from the initial imprint this archaic king had left for her to step upon –and failing to register at first, truth to tell, its significance. Her boot had slipped on the hardened mud of the track, but only as she, moved by a sudden impulse, stooped and placed a hand on the earth, and felt it shaking, not unlike the tremor that announces an approaching train, did she make the connection between the warning her synapses were flashing but her rational brain stubbornly refused to admit.

Was it possible to eat a T-Rex? Aussies ate crocodile steaks, and lizards roasted on sticks were a delicacy in some places; she couldn’t really think of a reason why she shouldn’t camp here for the night, build a fire on that handy shelf of stone that had saved her hide minutes ago. There was plenty of wood and clear water around, and with a full stomach she might figure out a way to sever the beast’s head and secure it –from a high branch the smaller predators wouldn’t reach, perhaps inside the small cave itself?- until she could have it shipped back to a talented taxidermist of her acquaintance.

The head would look great on her fireplace.


NOTICE: This story is a work of fiction. Lara Croft, her likeness, and the Tomb Raider games are all copyright of EIDOS Interactive. There is no challenge to these copyrights intended by this story, as it is a non-sanctioned, unofficial work of the author's own. Entry for the 4th Village of Tokakeriby Tomb Raider Story Competition, 2009.