The eruption had happened a season ago as the volcano’s eastern side disappeared in a thundering, sky-blackening cloud of dust. The ash fell and settled on the mountains, painting the slopes in a dead pale gray. The smell of soot and burning kept the animals away. Only the hardiest of seedlings and most pervasive of weeds sent roots into it. Otherwise it was barren, unused. It was almost as if the ash piles were waiting for the rains.
And when the rains came, an outpouring twice what was normal for the season, the ash flowed with the water, a river of mud more than a meter deep, gushing over the land. The vegetation that had survived the explosion and ashfall drowned in the thick river. So, too, did the beasts hiding in boles and branches.
Desmatosuchus was there. It saw the wall of mud, unstoppable, unbelievable, flowing like a gelatinous, amoebic monster. The reptile squeaked and turned to flee. Behind it, the mud pulled up trees, tossed them into its mass like a bored student flicking pencils over her shoulder. The mud roared, licked the soil and the low plants that lived there. They would never see light again.
A rock was ahead, an outcropping of andesite a couple meters high. Smaller critters—insects and lizard-like things—were at its peak, huddling in fear. A larger reptile stood in the stone’s shadow, hiding under the lee, ignorant of the mud’s ability to sweep around rock and carry everything away. Desmatosuchus scrambled, shrieked again, scraped claws on rock, desperate for traction. The mud arrived, kissed the tip of the reptile’s tail. The shock of the touch made Desmatosuchus jump, pushing the smaller reptiles to the edge of the rock. The mud flowed beneath them, an endless grey tide, washing the world in its belated death. Eventually the rains stopped; the mud stilled. It took some time for it to dry, but the reptile’s could wait. Their metabolism permitted patience. When it was stiff enough to tread, Desmatosuchus clambered down and patrolled the mud where little steams of brown trickled among uprooted trees and dead bodies. Death was so prevalent, it seemed unnatural to be alive.