Charon Dunn and Sally Smith has a new queer YA action-adventure dinosaur tale out: “Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler.”
Rhonda’s favorite boy band is trapped on a dinosaur planet, and only she can save them!
Warnings: Dinosaur-related violence; cannibal alien traffickers (and a couple of non-explicitly-described, off-camera pedos who meet with a horrible fate); nonsexual flirting
She trilled at them clumsily. They trilled back, expertly. Correcting her. Chattering and commenting, the way miniraptors sometimes did. They could be terrible pets for people who liked peace and quiet, but Rhonda was the kind of person who tended to have music playing and the TV going while voicechatting with a dozen friends, and she didn’t mind at all.
“Don’t attack me in my sleep, okay? Stand sentry for me and I’ll go up there and get us some more of that fruit for breakfast. Maybe we’ll get another one of those good ones.”
The raptors seemed agreeable. Nothing disturbed Rhonda’s sleep until the dinosaurs sang to greet the dawn. The raptors had vanished but Rhonda kept her promise, climbing up for more ripe fruit. While she was eating breakfast, the raptors returned, eagerly hop-flapping up to the same safe distance and waiting patiently for Rhonda to throw them chunks of peeled fruit.
After they were all full, and after Rhonda had washed up, relieved herself and found another vine to replace the broken one, she tied her boat back together and headed downstream.
The current picked up, significantly. Soon she was flying along, fast enough for the breeze to dry the sweat on her forehead.
The stream swooped into sauropod country and Rhonda found herself drifting between necks that reminded her of palm tree trunks, dipping their heads to sip delicately at the fresh stream water or nibble those fat tender leaves that made such good serving plates. They had wise old wrinkled faces that sometimes glanced at Rhonda as she floated along. Their bodies were so far away she could barely see them. They may have been brachiosauruses or diplodocuses or apatosauruses or brontosauruses. You’d probably need to look at the whole creature to be sure, and that was too formidable of a task for Rhonda to tackle.
The water grew rough. Rhonda spent her next night on a small island in the middle of the stream, hoping she’d hear predators splashing toward her in time to stand up for some stick spinning routines. She found some eggs and fruit, and she killed a multi who was also expressing an interest in the eggs. Gutting and dressing the multi was disgusting. Rhonda had avoided skinning dead animals with her hands up until this point but her luck had run out. At least she had a good knife.
The next morning she headed downstream, the imaginary band circling her in kayaks. Backing her up as she serenaded them with their own songs while pointing her toes to guide herself around the rocks.
She passed through some amazing scenery. Big tropical trees dripping with ferns and vines guarded the shores. Occasionally the stream curled around a bend, giving her a glimpse of the ocean, which wasn’t far to the north.
By the time Rhonda reached the fork that would take her back to the lake, the stream had become a river, full of partially submerged rocks wreathed with white water. She stabbed the stream bed desperately with her pole, but she wasn’t able to change lanes in time to merge left. The current carried her swiftly along a parallel path. Soon another stream appeared to her right, blending in with the one that was carrying her rapidly north, towards the ocean.
She couldn’t stop. She couldn’t steer very well and it was taking all her focus to avoid crashing into rocks by stabbing at them with her stick and pushing away. Rhonda was exhausted by the time the river calmed down. It became murky and green as other streams fed it. Occasionally she could see fish breaking the surface, none of them large enough to present a threat.
She sailed past a herd of stegosauruses gathered on the bank for a drink. Past a family of ceratopsians who shook their horns in response to Rhonda’s imitation raptor trill. Down a grassy green slope towards a white sandy beach straight out of a travel brochure.
A set of tall cliffs stood between Rhonda and the ocean. She gathered a waterfall would be appearing in her future, and soon she heard it roar. She used her stick to drag herself to the bank, and as she was doing that a horrific stench found her nose.
It smelled like manure, and litterboxes, and septic tanks, and compost heaps, and garbage bins, all mixed together. It made Rhonda want to vomit, and she clapped her hand over her nose until she got a little more used to it.
She walked to the cliff, alongside the stream, gulping deep breaths to avoid the stink to the extent possible. The stream poured down the cliff in a picturesque waterfall. Rhonda determined it was within diving distance, assuming there were no rocks lurking under the surface.
Her eyes swept the coast, immediately noticing three things. First, there were a series of pens along the beach where human beings were imprisoned. Second, there were bots – and quite a few humans bristling with weapons – making sure the humans stayed in their prison.
Third, the guards and the humans were covered by canopies, which were protecting them from the harsh sun. And also from the pterosaurs gliding through the sky.
In fact, Rhonda noticed a nesting colony of them on the other side of the stream that had brought her here. She could see a pterosaur of considerable size attending to a nest filled with wide-open mouths, and more beyond it.
The pterosaurs scared her even more than the rexes and the raptors. You wouldn’t see them, you wouldn’t hear them. But suddenly there would be a feathered dragon on top of you, and it would probably do exactly what Rhonda saw pterosaurs doing down on the beach, swooping down to grab crabs from the surf, then dropping them on a rocky stretch of beach. And then pulling shreds of meat from the cracked-open corpses.
Charon Dunn has experience with a great many things, including deposition summaries, videogaming, forensics, bunny rabbits, audio engineering, fortune telling, rhythm and bass guitars, secretly sabotaging Oxford commas, multiple flavors of fandom, and trial preparation. She lives with a massive Ragdoll named The Big Kahuna, whom some believe is the largest cat in San Francisco. Keep track of her at [email protected].