“Lost Canyon of the Dead” — Brian Keene

Two-time Stoker Award-winner Brian Keene is the author of more than a dozen novels, including zombie novels The Rising, City of the Dead, and Dead Sea, the latter of which shares the same milieu as this story. Other novels include The Conqueror Worms, Castaways, Ghost Walk, Ghoul, Terminal, Dark Hollow, Urban Gothic, and his latest, Darkness on the Edge of Town and A Gathering of Crows. Other recent work includes his new, ongoing comic book series The Last Zombie from Antarctic Press. Keene’s short fiction—which has been collected in Unhappy Endings and Fear of Gravity—has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including the zombie anthologies The New Dead and The Dead That Walk.

All that remains today of the dinosaurs are their fossilized bones, towering assemblages of which adorn museums around the world. As children, many of us gazed up at these skeletal monsters and imagined what it would be like if all these spines and ribs and skulls and teeth suddenly came to life and tried to devour us.

Brian Keene was likely one of those children. He says, “This story is about cowboys, dinosaurs, and zombies—the three things all little boys love. I wrote this story after finishing a long, serious novel. I usually write something pulpy and fun after finishing something serious—sort of like a palate cleanser.”

Science has learned a lot about dinosaurs, who were once thought to be slow, lumbering reptiles unable to cope with a changing climate. We now know that dinosaurs were warm-blooded and agile, that they were nearly wiped out by a devastating meteor strike, and that the survivors evolved into modern-day birds (a fact attested to by beautiful transitional fossils such as Archaeopteryx).

One mystery that remains largely unsolved is what color dinosaurs were. Scientists had long assumed that dinosaurs were green like lizards, or maybe gray like elephants. But in recent years scientists have speculated that dinosaurs may have had more varied, colorful patterns, like certain kinds of snakes. Recent analysis of fossil melanosomes may provide some insight.

The dinosaur skin in our next story, however, could probably best be described as green…and mottled…and rotting.