Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 37
Over the years, Myra had gotten used to reading many a dry thesis paper. Most made some sense, but none had what Clive’s notebooks contained: live observation. She pored through the books reading about migratory patterns, feeding patterns, mating rituals. Even the minor coloring patterns and feeding rituals had Myra fascinated. This was fact; not concocted theory about a long dead animal that no one had ever seen.
The most fascinating portions were about how the hadrosaurs would group together whenever a threat, such as a tyrannosaurus, would appear. They would all face outward and protect as many clutches of eggs and young as they could. Even if it meant that one or two of the young would be eaten by the predator, they’d maintain their circle. A true collective mindset. Concern over the herd, not the individual. Sick and lame would also be excluded from the protection from the circle.
In one note, Clive had mentioned how a large, male tyrannosaur appeared quite suddenly. It had been sliding across the ground on its belly, hidden by the muck and tall reeds, and popped up near a grazing female. It didn’t stand a chance as the beast rose up and rammed the lone hadrosaur. Once it’d been knocked down, the tyrannosaur made short work of dispatching it. The herd saw the event and once the predator was eating, they ignored it, somehow knowing they were safe.
Myra looked up at the portal. Her head swam. She’d been so intent on reading as much as she could she’d made herself carsick. She got out some of the ginger pills she’d given Tiger Lily and took two. Lin also looked a little green around the gills, so she offered two to her.
“Thanks,” Lin said.
Tiger Lily stirred slightly.
“Is she alright?”
“She fell asleep, I think. I slept some last night before we came, but she didn’t. She wanted to make sure everything was ready to go and that all the monitoring we’d put in place was secure. I tried to stay up with her, because I was so excited about coming, but my brain just said sleep.”
“Why did you and Tiger Lily come? I can see why Sam came. This almost seems like his element to be in, and I doubt Girlfriend would leave his side in a situation like this, but you and Tiger Lily, I just can’t make sense out of the two of you being here.”
Lin ran her hands over her hair and tugged at her pony tail. “Well, Doc Brenner talked to us for a long time. Basically he wants us to find his son. That’s simple enough. Sam can follow the GPS device, but that’s not all Doc wants. He also wants us to hook into the front loader that Clive is driving. It has a lot of equipment on it that’s tracking the environment, sun and moon movements, star layout. Things like that. It’s not just a simple front loader, but a solar powered powerhouse of technology. He’s worried that something might be wrong with his son and if Clive can’t operate the equipment on the loader, Doc wants Tiger Lily and I to look things over to see what we can recover from it.
“Actually, the loader was never intended to leave the camp as far as Clive has gone. It has some things for Clive to keep him sustained, but this vehicle,” Lin motioned around them. “Was what Doc and Clive had intended for a long excursion.”
Myra sat with one hand on the open page of the journal. “So, do you think something in Clive has snapped?”
Lin shrugged. “I really don’t know. I’m a little concerned about Tiger Lily. We’ve only been here a short time and I think the gravity of the situation finally hit her. That and pure exhaustion. It is possible that Clive, having been here for some time, finally snapped, but I find that hard to believe. Something bigger must be going on and we’re missing it totally. You know?”
Myra nodded. “I think I do. I mean, I only got to looking around for a little bit before you all showed up. I’ve looked at his notes and saw a little of what was going on, but even reading his journal, I don’t think he lost it in any way. Maybe if I keep reading, I’ll find something. The journals are all dated, do you want to help me read through them? We can just look at the later journals and see what we find.”
“Sure.” Lin started to unbuckle her belt, but as she did the car slowed drastically, tilted to one side, and stopped.
“Myra!” Sam shouted. “I think we need you up here.”
His shout echoed throughout the car and even Tiger Lily picked up her head.
“What’s going on?” she asked sleepily.
Lin put her hand on Tiger Lily’s shoulder. “Something is going on. Sam wants Myra. Let’s go check it out.”
Myra looked at Lin and Tiger Lily as if they could answer her question. She knew they couldn’t. She’d have to go up front and see what it was that Sam wanted. She unbuckled her belt, and went up to the driver’s area.
Sam stood looking out the front window with Girlfriend. They spoke quietly to each other. Myra cleared her throat.
“Oh, Myra. I think we need to stop and look around outside. Are you up for it?” Sam asked.
“Go outside? Here?”
“Well, I guess we could. All theory suggests that the hadrosaurs are harmless herbivores.”
“They only eat plants. It would be like looking at a bunch of giraffes. They’d be more scared of us.”
“Oh,” Sam shrugged. “Come on, we need to go look outside.”
Sam seemed almost childlike as he excitedly climbed the ladder and opened the top hatch. Myra followed him. The rest made their way to the top of the car as well.
Sam stood at the edge of the car and looked down. “Right there. What do you think?”
Myra put her hand on his shoulder to keep from losing her balance. With the car at an angle, it looked farther to the ground than it really was. The car was parked on a small rise from the shallow water covered with sticks, reeds, and branches. She looked down into a massive clutch of eggs. No, not just eggs, hatching eggs! Several of the eggs twitched and moved.
Myra started for the ladder, but stopped herself. She looked around the area, but didn’t see any hadrosaurs standing. Looking at the ground brought her fears to her. They’d stopped at one of the herds Clive had noted on the window. It was the closest herd, she forgot which number Clive had given to it. All around, in the muck and mire, lay the herd. Dead. All of them were dead. Several other clutches of eggs. She couldn’t tell from this distance if any of them had hatchlings.
A piercing cry caught her attention. A head protruded from an egg shell, its bill raised to the sky, crying. Myra turned around and prepared to go down the ladder.
“What are you doing?” Sam asked.
She looked up at him from her kneeling position. Girlfriend, Lin, and Tiger Lily all looked at her expectantly. “I’m going down to check on them.”
“What?” He looked at her, shocked. “What do you possibly hope to gain by doing that?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Experience. I’ve dreamed of touching a dinosaur. This is something I’m going to do.”
“What if a T. rex or something comes by? And there are those little ones too. I’m sure a couple followed us. Surely they see the easy pickings out here. I can’t just let you go down there.”
“Then get your big gun and protect me if anything comes near. This is a chance I cannot pass up.”
Myra put her feet on the ladder rungs. Sam’s hand shot down and caught her by the wrist. “I can’t let you do that. At least wait until I actually go and get the gun before you go down there.”
Myra conceded and sat on the edge of the car, her stomach a twist of excitement as she watched and listened to the tiny hadrosaur. Lin and Tiger Lily sat by her side and Girlfriend knelt behind her.
Girlfriend broke the silence. “I made Sam stop. I knew you’d want to see this.”
Myra turned around. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I don’t think you can possibly understand what this means to me. I’ve read about dinosaurs since I was eight. I’ve always, and I mean always, dreamed of touching one. When I saw that dead hadrosaur back on the lake, all I could think of was getting to it and touching it, somehow affirming in my mind that it was real.”
Myra reached up and pulled Girlfriend in for a hug.
“Okay, okay. Break it up. We can’t waste much time here. This thing is making great time and we’ll catch up to Clive in no time at all, but I don’t want to dilly dally too long. Whoever is going down there, get going and I’ll keep watch over you.” Sam raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes and scanned the horizon, the gun held in his other hand, ready to fire.
Myra wasted no time at all climbing down the ladder. She half expected the ground to be damp or spongy and was surprised at how firm it felt under her feet. But then having a three ton dinosaur pack the earth down, it only made sense that the ground was firm and it was high enough above the water level to be very dry.
She wanted to rush over to the nest, but her legs felt rubbery the closer she got. By the time she made it to the nest, two more voices had joined the first, their high-pitched squeals music to Myra’s ears.
The edge of the nest rose up nearly four feet. Myra had to pull herself up and into it. She swung her legs around sat on the edge, afraid to go further.
“Go on,” she heard from behind her. She looked back and Girlfriend, Lin, and Tiger Lily all stood behind her. Girlfriend made a ‘go ahead’ motion. Myra smiled and mouthed “Thank you.”
No more of the eggs appeared to be moving. Only the three had hatched and only the heads were visible. The three struggled to escape the shells, each no bigger than a newborn baby, but would grow steadily and significantly over the next few years. The tiny heads had no crest, but those would grow and develop by the time the little ones had reached adolescence.
“Hello there, little ones.” Myra reached out to touch one of the babies. Its slimy head felt smooth under her hand. It stopped its squeaking and moved its mouth toward her hand. It gaped and made a throaty, expectant gurgle. It thought she was going to feed it.
“What have we got in the car? Any fruit or anything? These babies need to eat, and the parents are all dead.”
“What?” Sam shouted down.
“We need to feed these babies. Their parents are all dead.”
Sam shook his head. “I hate to be a party pooper, but there’s no way we’re going to hang around here and feed babies; we need to get Doc’s son and get back. I hate to sound brutal, but this is nature and we’re not getting in the way.”
Myra felt as if Sam had pulled her heart out and threw it to the ground. How could he be so cruel and heartless? So impassionate? If they left the little ones here, they’d bake in the sun and die a horrible death. Myra wanted to pull each out from their shell and hold them near her. To caress them and tell them everything would be alright. She needed to care for them.
“Nobody move!” Sam shouted. “Hold very still.”