A Preview of The Smile People (coming 2016)

Ancient legends tell us that in the beginning the snake churned a river of milk to start the process of creating the earth. In today’s creation story, spots of the Milky Way churned and swirled forth gases that spun round and round until they became liquid. The heavier portions of theses liquid gases sank toward the center of this swirling mass creating suns and planets. Thus began the creation of the earth, from white hot milky gases to a now cooled solid mass.

Some 4.3 billion years passed since those first swirling gasses. A single land mass spanned across the center of the earth surrounded by vast seas. Across the center of this land lay a forbidding desert. To the north and south of this equatorial center grand monsoons swept the lands twice a year giving life to simple trees and non-flowering plants. The first creatures threw themselves upon the mud of the land and slithered back into the seas until once day they did not slither back and remained on the land to lay their eggs and feast on the abundant flora and new fauna. It was an age before the dinosaurs in the late Triassic period.

Among the new creatures that roamed the land was one that would be familiar even today, turtles. The basic body plan of the turtle has remained unchanged for more than 200 million years. Some grew to enormous size like the Archelon and the Protostega which roamed the inland seas of what would become North America. But change was coming.

It’s thought that volcanoes signaled the event. For half a million years molten lava and sulfuric gases spewed forth. Rifts formed and the earth shook as Pangaea began breaking apart. The seas rushed in where the land split, now Pangaea was in pieces with two new super continents of Laurasia and Gondwana, repeating a process that had occurred throughout the eons; lands would crash together to form a super continent and later break apart. This time things were different. As Pangaea began to split apart, the sulfuric and carbon dioxide gasses created by the continuous volcanic activity led to yet another extinction event. The skies were filled with dust and debris, blocking out the sun. Whole categories of creatures and plants unable to adapt were swept off the evolutionary page, except for a precious few. Among those that survived were the testudines; the turtles. As the Late Triassic eased into the Jurassic age, the volcanoes settled down. The dust cleared and once again ferns and other flora began to flourish among the conifers and new creatures took to the land; the dinosaurs.

It is said that the Jurassic period of our earth is the time of the true dinosaurs. The popular picture of dinosaurs just being big cold-blooded lizards is not entirely true. Research indicates that reptiles of this period were active creatures with elevated metabolisms capable of social interaction. Prior to the Jurassic period, reptilian vertebrates differed from the traditional image of dinosaurs through skull and bone construction and hip displacement. Throughout this age of flesh eating “thunder-lizards” and tree devouring behemoth sauropods, the turtle continued to thrive. Life on earth settled into a routine of sorts for millions of years as new species of creatures and plants continued to churn forth. The Jurassic period turned to the Cretaceous and life continued to flourish as it had for millions of years.

In the Late Cretaceous, in a brackish lagoon about 70 million years ago, a set of eyes poked above the water line. Scanning the horizon, the creature noticed a bit of greenish flesh splashing in the water. A quick motion of its football sized head had its powerful jaws sinking into the skin. The victim realizing that it was now a prey, turned to face its attacker in a quick motion. Weighing in at around two thousand pounds, the 50 foot Titanoboa reacted quickly and began thrashing around in the water to wrap itself around its attacker. Around and around the Titanoboa wrapped itself until it had coiled itself five times around the body of its attacker. Now it began to squeeze.

Realizing that its victim was not a tasty crocodile, but something different, the Carbonemy instinctively went into a defensive mode. It swung its head to the side and retreat its legs into the protection of its shell. The Carbonemy also weighed a ton and was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle automobile. This was a Cretaceous turtle. Not the largest that ever roamed the earth, but hefty enough. It was at home in both the water as well as land. It feasted on crocodiles and the occasional dinosaur that came to drink. Its massive shell gave it protection as well as a formidable nut to try and digest. The Titanoboa like all snakes had limited energy reserves available to try and crack the Carbonemy’s shell. Finally, after more than an hour, the Titanoboa loosened its grip and began to uncoil itself from around the two thousand pound turtle. As it thrashed in the water uncoiling itself, the Titanoboa made the fatal mistake of coming too close to the jaws of the Carbonemy. A quick clamp of the turtle’s jaws on the neck of the Titanoboa ensured eventual death. The car sized terrapin dragged the massive dying snake down to the bottom of the black water lagoon and feasted upon its meal.

Later, the sated turtle lumbered out of the waters and onto the muddy bank. Plodding through the ferns and horsetails and other flowering plants, the tank-like turtle found its mate under a young conifer. She nuzzled her head against the rear leg of the male Carbonemy. There was a stirring as the male reared up its four legs and backed up to face its mate. As the male faced its mate, one head stretched out to greet her, and then another head poked up and smiled at the female turtle.

copyright 2015 zack and mack