Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 33
The sun rose and Myra opened her eyes. She gasped, thinking she’d missed all the activities of the night before and that the crash had been a dream, but it hadn’t. She looked around and could see that she was indeed in a jungle, next to some oddly-placed encampment. She rubbed her eyes and looked all around the car; the highway was gone, the woods were now jungle, and the trailer park had indeed been replaced by a set of small buildings.
Nothing stirred in the woods. At least that was one small saving grace. She’d heard noises all through the night. She pulled her coat tightly about herself. She had to leave the car. That much was obvious. What wasn’t so obvious was if something watched her. Reptiles could be nocturnal, but were primarily daytime creatures. The buildings weren’t very far away. She could make a run for it. She’d just have to hope that the doors were unlocked.
She looked down at the locked door of the car and laughed. If a dinosaur really wanted in, there was probably little she could do to stop it. She wondered how the little buildings could prevent them from getting in. She sat up straight and looked at the ground and couldn’t see any visible footprints. There were an awful lot of tracks in the dirt like those of a front loader, but there wasn’t any heavy equipment nearby.
She chanced opening the door that she’d so frightfully locked when she’d arrived in the night. It didn’t squeak as she’d suspected a car that had crashed would, but then she really hadn’t crashed, had she? She’d passed through the barrier that Sam had proposed. Only, she was now on the wrong side. Based on all the evidence, she was in prehistoric times, and would need to deal with prehistoric creatures.
Getting out of the car took a great deal of willpower. Every rustle of leaves, every chirp or buzz of insect made her want to jump back into the confines of the car, but she had to get out. There had to be someone in the buildings. Black smoke issued forth from one building that sat off near a bank of solar panels. Myra assumed it must be a power generator.
The other three buildings were all different sizes, but larger than the smoky building. Only one had windows and this must be the one the person lived in. She took a deep breath and started walking toward the building.
Something smelled really bad. At first she wanted to blame the black smoke of the generator, but it wasn’t an oily smell. It was more the smell of rotting flesh. Almost as if something big nearby had died. She wondered if it was the other part of the hadrosaur they’d seen down by the lake, but that would be impossible, or the one on her side would be just as smelly. It wasn’t. It had to be something else.
A rustle from the bushy ferns on the edge of the clearing prompted her forward. She trotted to the cabin. As she ran, she could see large bolts across the double, barn-style doors on the other two buildings. Perhaps one housed some other equipment that must have been used to create this large, flat area, but she didn’t want to take the time to peek inside. She needed to get the attention of the person inside the house.
Myra ran to the door and stared pounding on it. “Let me in! Open the door.”
She tried the knob and the door swung inward. She stood and looked stupidly at the open door before entering.
“Hello? Is anyone in here?” She looked around for a light switch. Despite the windows, the interior of the cabin was still dim. The switch was an old-style, twist knob. She gave it a turn and with a loud clack, the lights came on. She closed the door.
The cabin had only one room. That much was obvious. She could see the windows on all four walls of the building. On the far wall sat the bed, unmade, and a small bachelor dresser. On top of it rested a gas lantern. A bookshelf held a small collection of books and a large set of binoculars. From the titles Myra could tell they were all about paleontology and dinosaurs.
She flipped through a couple volumes. Notes had been made next to some of the species such as “Coloration is wrong. The hadrosaur females are brightly colored and the males are a dull-brown.” And “I don’t think the beasts ever shut up. I had thought with the nightfall they’d stop all the honking, but it’s so warm, they just keep on going. Do they ever sleep?” She laughed. She’d found a treasure trove of knowledge, but if no one knew she was here, she could likely be trapped here forever. She returned the book to the shelf.
On one wall hung a small ice chest and a set of cabinets. On the counter lay a hotplate with a blue, steel coffee pot upon it. She touched it and wasn’t surprised to find it cold. Perhaps the person had left early in the morning? She looked at her watch. It was only 7:00AM. Whoever lived in the cabin had to have heard her car when it arrived. Even over the drone of the bugs in the area the sudden appearance of a car skidding across the dirt would have attracted attention.
Myra took some time to peruse the contents of the cabinets and wasn’t surprised by anything she found. Simple canned goods, pots, pans, bowls and plates, utensils, and the like. Everything looked very plain, but clean. The entire cabin had a just-picked-up appearance.
The windows allowed Myra to look out over the valley and distant lake. As she neared the window, she could see writing on the window with small arrows pointing into the distance. She tried to focus on the writing, then into the distance to what it may be denoting.
The first arrow was labeled “Herd #12: first affected” and she could see many specks in the distance at the point of the arrow. She squinted and tried to make out what the specks could be, but couldn’t.
She returned to the bookshelf and retrieved the binoculars. They were heavier than she’d expected and she nearly dropped them. Her heart pounded. Could this be a herd of hadrosaurs? She licked her lips in anticipation as she put the cord of the binoculars over her head and lifted them to her eyes. It took several seconds and a few times adjusting the focus to get a clear image, but far off in the distance she could make out large dull, brown masses lying on the ground next to colorful and larger mounds. Each looked deformed and somehow out of place where they lay. Nothing around them moved.
She scanned slowly around the masses until she saw what looked like a head and then she knew she was looking at a large herd of dead hadrosaurs. She gasped. Dead? But how?
Myra lowered the binoculars and read more of the writing on the window. “Herd #2: forth affected, Herd #5 second affected.” It went on and on. It appeared that every herd on this particular window had been affected, but by what? Was some sort of disease killing off the herds of hadrosaur?
She looked around the cabin for someone to ask, but she was alone. Completely alone. The gravity of the situation struck her. She was stranded in the past, perhaps sixty or seventy million years in the past, or more. Not only was she the only human in the cabin, she was likely the only human on the planet. The person who’d lived here had left and could very likely be dead.
Slowly she took the binoculars off of her neck and walked to sit on the bed. Would they know she was here? They would have to, wouldn’t they? They’d surely find the front end of her car sitting in the road in the trailer park drive. They would know she was here and come for her. They would have too. But how could they do that? If the park shifted again, she’d be inside the camp. She’d have to run out of the camp and into the Minnesota woods to return to her own time. She couldn’t very well stay outside and wait. Just because the hadrosaurs were dead in the distance didn’t mean that predators and scavengers were as well. In fact, a large number of dead bodies would attract them like a magnet. She also couldn’t risk running that far, for if she didn’t make it in time, she’d be cut in half like Sam’s friend Casper.
Myra put her face in her hands and sobbed. She was trapped. She’d always dreamed of returning to the land of the dinosaurs and seeing them in their natural habitat, but had never thought of something like this. In her dreams, the hadrosaurs would eat from her hands like the giraffe had at the zoo. She’d be able to walk among them unmolested and pet them and study them and take endless notes that would be published. She’d become famous for her research. Her dream had turned into a nightmare.
Fear gripped her as she thought about going outside and visions of tiny raptors and troodons came to her mind. Even a tyrannosaurus might be stalking around the massive buffet on those plains. She was not only trapped in the pre-historic era, but she was trapped inside a cabin with no hope of ever leaving again.
She turned and planted her face in the pillow and cried hard, fear and frustration overtaking her. She was never going to go home. Never. She would be trapped here forever. She was going to die here.
The realization of her own demise was interrupted by the whirring of a motor. Not the loud rumble of a gas-powered motor, but the sound of a large electrical motor. Myra sprang up and wiped the tears from her eyes. A quick scan of all the windows revealed a large, black vehicle sitting just to the south of the building. It had narrow, heavily-tinted windows and huge, thick tires. An all-terrain vehicle that could easily travel over the rugged ground here. The entire top of it was covered with solar cells.
A hatch on the top opened. Myra wanted to duck down, but also wanted to see who would come out. Was this the person who lived here, or had someone actually come to rescue her? She moved to the side of the window and watched.