Brontotherium, Rod Ruth, c. 1974

It was as if the mountain had been struck by a hammer. It suddenly split, spewing coals and ash and sparks and liquid stone. The sky went from cool star-specked blue to red and choking black, and it terrified the animals. They thundered across the fields below the mountains, backs dappled by firelight. Birds lifted from the trees in clouds and flooded the air, wings beating, voices cracking. It was an exodus of terror.

The big brontothere galloped as best as he could. He was not made to run. The small camels darted around him like a river around a stone. If they cried, the Megacerops could not hear them; the volcano’s surf-like churning drowned most other sounds. He looked back on the flaming mountain, the Eocene Gomorrah, and the light of the lava burned his eyes. Even after turning away, he could still see the shadow of the fire stamped on his corneas, his eyes smote for looking back.

Brontotheres, Zdeněk Burian

Light lunged from both sides of the world. The earth tore itself open and bled flame; a fountain of molten rock hissed from the wound. Cascades of burning rocks thumped against the ground in sudden, erratic rhythms. Streaks of blue fire reached down like witches’ fingers, cracking against the water-filled air. There was no sky—instead a blanket of ash and cloud hung so low the brontotheres feared they would soon feel it on their backs. The baby cried; the mother lowed, and corralled it with the fear-hiding patience mothers do best. The sounds and blinding flashes were disorienting. The bull snorted rain out of his nose as sheets of water ran off his hide and swelled into puddles at his feet. The family moved in search of safety, but the truth was the ground and the sky had betrayed them, and they trusted nowhere while sandwiched between a rupturing earth and panicking heavens.