The badlands stretched out as far as the eye could see, a vast sweeping plain of nothingness. The soil was too alkali to support much plantlife, leaving the landscape a uniform shade of tan all the way to the distant horizon, where a darker jagged line of mountains broke the monotony of the landscape. The spring sun beat down, making a valiant effort to produce a stifling heat. But the effect was ruined by the steady breeze, blowing continually across the plains, a cool force of nature, eroding the land before the very eyes of the two lone human observers.
"What do you think it was like, back then?" Billy asked, leaning up against Alan's side.
The two were in the bed of Alan's truck, leaning against the back window and with the tailgate down, parked on a low rise overlooking a potential dig site. They'd been sent out to review the site, to try and determine whether it would be worth the effort-and expense-of excavation. So far, they had seen little reason to bother with the site.
"Well," Alan said, shifting so his arm was more comfortable around Billy's shoulders-and incidentally pulling him a bit closer. "From the looks of it, I'd say we're right on the edge of one of the inland seas. All this would have been underwater, from right below us on out to the horizon..."
As Alan talked, Billy could see the ancient landscape taking shape in front of his eyes. A vast sea stretched before them, while off in the distance, a young range of volcanoes smoked and glowed, where a slow but steady lava flow was building a few of the peaks higher. The atmosphere was rich in oxygen, along with other atmospheric gasses- sulfur was predominant, along with intense amounts of carbon and ozone, producing a thick soupy environment. The sun shone only faintly, causing a diffuse yellowish glow over much of the sky, but lighting some heavy clouds over near the volcanoes in spectacular shades of red and orange. Even through the heavy air came the smell of the primordial ocean, teeming with life. Vast plants hung overhead, some of which had survived virtually unchanged even in modern times. Ferns swayed, enormous deciduous trees strained for light, and trilobites scurried everywhere, up and down their stems, in a mindless quest for food.
Vast herds of dinosaurs lumbered past, driven by instinct to travel from their usual haunts to seek the mating and nesting grounds, further north on the shore of the great sea. The endless tramp of massive feet wore a path into the rich, spongy ground, leaving tracks and traces for humans to find, unimaginable years later. But little else was left behind, just a record in stone of the great beasts who had once trod here. The waters receeded slowly over the years, leaving behind a land where nothing grew. Cataclysmic changes occurred, resulting in too many changes for evolution to cope with, and the age of dinosaurs passed from the planet.
But the earth remembered. It could feel still the tramp of those mighty feet, as her largest lifeforms sought a place to reproduce themselves. Even now, sixty-five million years and more after the last dinosaur had walked the ancient path, their footprints remained.
"It must have been incredible," Billy said. The vision faded slowly from his eyes, leaving behind the desolate plain once again.
"I'm sure it was."
Alan felt Billy turn and look up at him and shifted his attention from the ancient vista to the man beside him. Time slowed and then halted its stately progression as their lips met. Eternity shivered, then time resumed with a sigh.
"I love you," Billy said.
Alan smiled. "Yeah. Me too."
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