Lost Time (Between Two Evils #2)

By D. L. Orton

General fiction, Romance, Sci-Fi, Action & adventure, Hybrid & other

Paperback, Hardback, eBook

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250
3 mins

Chapter 1
Diego: Out on a Limb

I lie in the greenish half-light, my lungs on fire, panic forcing out any rational thought. And then I remember where I am—or rather where I should be.
I pound my fists against the translucent coffin lid until I manage to hit the release lever. The top pops open and frigid air rushes in, smelling of damp earth and evergreens.
I gasp for breath, my heart pounding.
The last thing I remember is a panicked voice shouting to abort the mission. Stop the countdown because…
Mierda, I can’t remember. But it definitely wasn’t good.
I lift my head, and a blinding pain stabs me in the temples. I take a ragged breath, wrestling down the urge to vomit, and open my eyes. All my body parts seem to be intact, but my skin is wrinkled like I stayed in the ocean too long.
I collapse back into the condensation-covered sarcophagus—and notice bright red drops spattered across the internal wall. Now that I think about it, I can feel the cut in my right palm.
Probably from that damn seashell.
I wipe my bloody hand on the towel—the only thing between me and the full Monty—and shiver in the frosty air.
It’s way too cold for a tropical beach.
Where the hell am I?
I inhale the cool breeze. It doesn’t smell like La Isla beach, either. Maybe I landed in the cloud forest or on the high slope of a volcano?
At least I didn’t arrive under water.
I remain still, listening for the sound of the surf, but hear nothing except a low-pitched groan. The capsule is rocking ever so slightly. I gather my strength and kick the lid off. It bangs and crashes as it falls away from me, taking a long time to hit the ground.
I force my nearsighted eyes to focus. Above me, massive coniferous branches fan out, clouds rolling in just beyond the treetops.
Houston, we have a problem.
I heave myself up high enough to see over the side of the capsule, still shivering in the damp, chilly air. The pod is lodged in the upper boughs of a giant tree, perhaps thirty meters above the blurry forest floor.
Christ, I hate heights.
I think the tree is an evergreen, but I’m not particularly good with plant identification.
Isabel would know.
A wave of despair sweeps over me. I try to shake it off and concentrate on the problem at hand. These are definitely not the sort of trees that grow in the tropics—at least not in my time.
Now that I think about it, it does look a lot like the Jurassic forests you see in dinosaur movies.
Shit.
The soft groan becomes louder, and the pod shifts beneath me, threatening to fall out of the tree.
Go!
I rush to get free before the branch gives way, but my muscles aren’t working properly. On the third try, I manage to wrench myself out, but as I drag my body over the edge of the pod, my towel slips off and disappears into the branches below.
Don’t look down.
I put my bare feet on the prickly bark, grab onto an upper branch, and pull myself free, my eyes pinned on my shriveled privates.
Whose idea was it to send me in a towel anyway?
There’s a cold breeze, and the clouds are getting heavier by the minute. If I don’t get down before it gets dark…
Don’t go there.
I shuffle sideways along the branch until I reach the relative safety of the trunk. My whole body is shaking, and I feel weak.
Something moves at the edge of my vision, and when I look more carefully, the trees seem to be crawling with giant bugs.
I blink a couple of times and realize that they’re not insects, but black birds—hundreds of them—perched in the trees around me. I look out into the forest again, dread creeping up my exposed back.
No tyrannosaurs or brachiosaurs, nothing but green—and all those birds.
At least birds descended from dinosaurs, so I probably don’t need to worry about being eaten by a velociraptor, but I can’t remember if there were ever any giant, man-eating dodos.
With my luck, there probably were.
I shut my eyes for a second, pushing down vertigo, then start climbing down.
The tree is huge, and it’s slow going. I have to shinny sideways around the trunk to find footholds and handgrips, bumping and scraping my bare front-side against the sharp branches and rough bark.
Note to self: The Hitchhiker’s Guide was wrong. When time traveling, shine the towel and bring the boxers.
As I move painstakingly down the tree, I get an uncomfortable feeling—like something sinister is watching me.
Why are there so damn many birds?
Naked, cut up, and shivering, I continue downwards, wondering how the hell I ended up in Alfred Hitchcock’s nightmare.
But before I manage to climb down even three branches, I hear a loud snap and look up to see a black explosion of wings.
A moment later, the translucent Coffin comes bouncing down the tree branches like a bobsled on a spiral staircase, heading straight for me. I force myself to look down, trying to gauge if I’m low enough to jump—and notice a flash of red moving through the trees.
There’s an astronaut straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey down in the forest.
What the—
“Diego!”
I whip my head around at the sound of my name, looking for the source of the voice. It takes me a second to spot the woman standing at the base of the tree.
Isabel?
A damp towel drops over my head, covering my eyes, and I lose my balance.
Shit.
I grab for the towel, but my foot slips, pitching me backward. For a sickening instant, I watch the world slip by in slow motion. And then my head strikes a branch, pain shoots through my neck and spine, and I tumble sideways into nothingness.



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