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First came the time-storm, which erased half the population. Then came the Dinosaur Apocalypse …

How did it all begin? Well, that depends on where you were and who you ask. In some places it started with the weather—which quickly became unstable and began behaving in impossible ways. In still others it started with the lights in the sky, which shifted and pulsed and could not be explained. Elsewhere it started with the disappearances: one here, a few there, but increasing in occurrence until fully three quarters of the population had vanished. Either way, there is one thing on which everyone agrees—it didn't take long for the prehistoric flora and fauna to start showing up (often appearing right where someone was standing, in which case the two were fused, spliced, amalgamated). It didn't take long for the great Time-displacement called the Flashback—which was brief but had aftershocks, like an earthquake—to change the face of the earth. Nor for the stories, some long and others short, some from before the maelstrom (and resulting societal collapse) and others after, to be recorded.

Welcome to the Lost Country.

From "The Dreaming City":

It was at once garish and sublime, hipster and gauche, a burnt-orange relic of a bygone era with a tip of the hat to Frank Lloyd Wright and a debt to Googie architecture—a thing as righteous as it was ridiculous, which sat amongst its desert like an outsider, an intruder, as out of place as the transplanted palms and piped-in water, as artificial as L.A. itself.

"They weren't kidding when they called it the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars," I said, as Rusty fidgeted and nickered, and shook flies from his ears. "But what's with all the high fencing and concertina wire—only to leave the entire front-perimeter open? There's just a hedgerow. No fence at all."

Nigel sat up in his saddle and looked on, the sweat beading along his forehead. "Be damned if I know; it wasn't like that before." He looked around the area—skittishly, I thought. "Maybe he had it removed when they took out the road. He was like that, you know. All about the visual." He pointed at the house itself. "Wouldn't have been a problem, though, even if it were there—there's a man door in the fence just beyond that breezeway."

I held out my arm as everyone started to move. "I—hold up. I—ah, I don't like this."

I scanned the overgrown yard and the cosmetically-placed boulders (some of which were the size of moving vans); looking for traps, looking for threats. "It doesn't feel right."

Lazaro got off his horse and approached the hedgerow—then turned to face us, splaying his arms. "What? You heard Jamaica; dude was all about the visual. Probably figured there was no need—once the road was taken out. For a front fence, I mean." He let his arms slap to his sides. "Now are we going to go check it out, or what? Or are you all just going to sit there all day?"

And there was a growling noise, a deep-throated snarl, which sounded from behind one of the rocks even as a shadow fell across the knee-high grass—at which a great cat padded out which was easily the size of a pickup, and hissed at us: its huge pallet showing pink and pale, its black lips stretching, its whiskers and curved fangs—which were like tusks—gleaming in the sun.

"Lazaro, don't!"

But it was too late; he'd already drawn his pistol and squeezed off a few rounds—which went pop, pop, pop in the late afternoon sun and echoed along the hills; which reverberated across the valley like the sound of a car backfiring …

Sciencefiction en fantasy
11 januari
Hobb's End Books

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