We had spent the cold season down on the desert and could watch the snow creep lower and lower down the mountainsides. As the warm season approached, the snowline receded and we knew it was time to climb back up to our mountain homes.
The lizards were used for going up-hill. They were aggressive, and would vie for the front of the line, which meant they could haul people and goods up the steep chute. I watched them from the gallery above and was impressed and frightened by their dominance plays in the pit below. They were long and low and mean. The were full of scales with tails that were more like whips than appendages. They also had far more teeth than seemed necessary. How many are necessary anyhow? And far too sharp to be comfortable having them near.
The handlers had warned everyone to say out of the way until the animals were harnessed. I got the impression the handlers considered us a nuisance and the lizards considered us dinner. There was a set of large metal doors that were closed, which the lizards would go through once harnessed. The right door contained a smaller door for the handlers’ ingress and egress. The floor of the pit was scarred from their sharp claws and I remembered those same marks in the chute on our downward trip. At the time, I hadn’t realized what they were from.
There was a yell from the other side of that massive metal door, the clank of metal and a sharp twang and the large doors opened a small amount. As much more yelling ensued, one lizard drove for the door on the right, slammed his head into it causing it to swing outward and slam into the stone wall. The door cracked the stone where it hit and bounced back and scraped the lizard’s tail on his way out. The door never closed because the rest of lizards were escaping. I could hear horrible screams on the other side of the door and wet, ripping sounds that set my stomach churning. Then silence.
Everyone in the gallery shouted at once and ran. I turned toward father and his face was white. “Don’t move,” was all he said. I thought about this. Yes, this probably was the safest place right now. We stood there looking at each other, unmoving.