After the FallWhen the dim times began to lengthen, she still made the calling, though not with any hope of answer. At such times a great restlessness would rise within her, and she would wander, far from the den her naked hands had dug, and from the spindly yellow plants that sometimes attracted prey. For the first years she had voyaged into the West, for that had been the place of her mother's people. But at the end of those years she had halted on the barren edge of heaving black water, and had almost died in that place, of starvation and the dusty air and the cold where the clouds never parted. So she had come back East and dug her den, and now when the wandering seized her she never went far beyond the places she knew.
She drank from the spring often, for calling hurt her throat, and at such times she often knew bitter despair. Stunted and skeletal, skin fragile and pallid, her nails prone to breaking, she knew why her mother had driven her away. But of all the young ones her mother had raised since the night of fire, only she had survived.
The calls never carried far, over the deadening layer of dust. And when she patrolled the borders of her territory, there were no signs of disturbance, except by the small creatures that plagued her, and stole her food. She was not surprised. The time for calling was over, now, and the time for survival was beginning again.
The pain had returned. It had come with the calling last year, and this year it brought with it weakness which would not allow her to fight off the small creatures which scuttled across her body, attracted by the blood from her coughing. Sometimes, mad with hunger, they gnawed at her still form, stirring her into wakefulness. Then she would try to catch them, and sometimes she would succeed, and their raw flesh would provide her needed nourishment. More often they would twist away, and the fresh blood would attract more of their brethren.
It was not given to her to know that she was dying, for she had never seen the death of her own kind. Nor could she see the hand of the past disaster that had shaped her life in the cancer that now consumed it, from years of breathing the poisonous dust.
But it was there, and she was dying, nonetheless.
There was no one moment to be recorded, when her life slipped away. If those who nipped at her scaly skin detected the cessation of her heartbeat, they did not pause. This was not a time for history. That would come later. Nor was it a time for metaphor, though the image of the last of her kind being devoured by those who would succeed them was a potent one.
She had been swift, and cunning, but they would be more cunning yet. And yet, in the end, even these must fail.
In the dark of her den, the long snout lay in shadow, making her head appear rounder. The tail lay curled beneath long hind limbs.
The years turned onward in their steady circle from the body lying beneath a dinosaur moon. She was not the first. She would not be the last.