And if anyone else was ever going to arrive, it would most likely be from the same portal. I wanted to stay close.
And I'm glad I did because now, she's here.
"You're not in The Flintstones," I tell her. "This is no alternate reality. It's just time travel."
She snorts. Soaking wet. Her hair looks good like this though. It's getting curlier as the rain falls.
"Flintstones? Time travel? Is that your idea of a joke?" she asks. "Because I kind of want to punch you in the face."
"Wow. You got a little spark, huh?"
She rolls her eyes. "This isn't funny. I don't know what this is, or who you are, or what is happening. But that was like, a woolly mammoth, wasn't it?"
"I know it's silly. Yes. That's W.M."
"Clever." She groans, then falls to the jungle floor, taking deep breaths in and out.
"Not my finest work."
She looks up at me. "And that? Is that like a giant rhino armadillo thingy?" She points to a lazy friend of mine who snoozes in the brush near my home most of the time.
"Yeah. That’s Dude. I don't know his technical name, but he doesn't bite. At least not me. He prefers lizards."
"Lizards?" She smiles. "Great. This is really fucking great. I'm supposed to be on the trip of a lifetime and I've ended up here in the Ice Age."
"Uh, this isn't the Ice Age," I correct her.
"Right. Tell me, oh, wise one, what is this exactly?"
"Well, there are no icebergs in sight, are there? So, I mean, technically it can’t be."
"I didn't realize we were being technical when we were talking about time travel."
"That's a fair point," I say. "But do you want to get out of the rain? Because it's really gonna start pouring any minute."
"How do you know?" she asks.
I smirk. "Because I've been here for five years, sweetheart."
"Don't call me sweetheart. I'm Skylar."
I stick out my hand. "I'm Stone."
"Is that supposed to be a joke?"
"No," I say, "it's the goddamn truth. I'm Stone Maguire, ex-Special Ops. Currently, I'm in survival mode. Have been for a long ass time."
She shakes her head in disbelief. "This is ridiculous. I'm going back to the cave." She turns around and begins to walk, but I reach for her elbow.
"Don't," I say. "Right now, during a rainstorm, there'll be some saber-toothed tigers taking shelter there."
There's a roar in the distance, cawing too, and Skylar’s eyes widen. The mountain bears and the lions are letting the other jungle dwellers know that they're here. She begins to tremble and I realize she may have a tough girl act going on, but she's terrified.
"Come on, Skylar, let's get you warm."
"You have a house here?" she asks.
I smirk. "A house? I’ve got more than that. Honey, I've got a cave free of wild animals."
As we walk through the jungle Stone asks what happened leading up to my time travel.
“I was alone, exploring. And there were kids with fireworks,” I explain. “The cave started shaking, spinning.”
“That is what happened to me,” Stone says. “Only it was a grenade.”
“I woke up in the cave with blood on the back of my head. It was pitch dark. I was terrified. The boys with the firecrackers were nowhere to be seen.”
“And you managed to get out of the cave pretty quickly?”
I nod, the rain falling heavy on my shoulders. “The exit was small. Large rocks had fallen all around me. And the fact I wasn’t hit by one feels like a small miracle.” I smirk. “I made it out alive only to be nearly trampled by a goddamn woolly mammoth.”
He chuckles. “Next thing you know, you see a man wearing nothing but a loincloth.”
Stone has long hair, unruly and curly. A thick beard. He’s tanned, with a chest so chiseled I could make a carving. And when he began to sing an actual lullaby to the woolly mammoth, my heart broke a little. It was the kind of song my mother would've sung to me when I was little if there had been a mom at my side.
Yet somehow his voice didn't just soothe the woolly mammoth, it also seemed to soothe me.
With Stone leading the way, his calloused hand wrapped around mine, I try to take in what he’s shared.
I’ve time travelled. To the Stone Age. And I’m with a strange man who seems to know his way around. He's barefoot with a satchel hanging at his waist. The sky darkens with each step we take.
If we’ve really travelled through time, that means I entered some portal that landed me in a prehistoric era. My mind spins as I consider this.
I thought he was joking when he said he lived in a cave. But then we pass a thatched roof hut and walk into a stone cave. This one isn’t underground. There’s a ceiling just above Stone’s head, with a large rock out front that I assume he rolls over at night for protection. It’s nothing like the cavernous underground caves I’d been exploring.