Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 41
Myra sat in a chair in the back room of the car and stroked the baby hadrosaur’s soft, brown skin. Moonlight glinted off its body and she could just make out tiny, darker markings. She traced these with her finger and waited for the tiny creature to awaken. It would wake up and she’d feed it and love it. This was her child. The one she’d waited for since she was a little girl. The one she’d always wanted to care for and raise.
She’d raised dogs and farm animals growing up, but this was her dream. To see and touch living, breathing dinosaurs. She wanted to raise them and study them and learn all she could. Now she had that chance. She would never be going back to the future. She couldn’t go back. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and she was going to stay here study each and every dinosaur she could find.
There was no need to worry about what Sam or Girlfriend or Lin or Tiger Lily would think. They were only here to save Clive. But Myra wondered if Clive really needed saving. Perhaps he was on a more noble quest, one they couldn’t possibly understand.
Myra put the baby in her lap, being ever so careful not to disturb its sleep, and slid one of Clive’s many journals in front of her. She longed to just read them all and absorb as much of his experience as she could, but she wanted to gain her own experiences. To make her own observations. She didn’t need Clive’s book.
The journal slid effortlessly across the table and landed on the floor in a paper sprawl like a dead-
A dead what? Myra looked down at the baby hadrosaur in her lap. It had been cold since she’d picked it up, but it was a reptile. It was supposed to be cold, wasn’t it? And hatchling reptiles would have a yolk sac in its stomach so it didn’t need food, right?
That being the case, why had it been so quiet? She placed her hand on its chest. Nothing. It wasn’t breathing. How long had it not been breathing? Had it grown colder and she only now noticed? She sucked in a panicked breath. It had trusted her to save it and she’d allowed it to die. It had suffered the same fate as its brothers and sisters back at the nest. It had died. All she’d done was prolong its death. She brought it up to her breast and rocked back and forth holding it.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she mumbled quietly as she cried.
She was a killer. She’d probably had some future bacteria on her that killed the poor thing. No, she couldn’t believe that. Clive had been here a long time. But he had also not had contact with them until he’d been here a while.
“Wait a minute,” Myra said quietly to herself. “It must be Clive that’s killed off all the dinosaurs. Just as I’ve killed this baby, it must be him that’s killed off all the rest. His studies have allowed him to spread his germs all across the land.”
She laid the baby hadrosaur’s body on the floor and started sifting through Clive’s journals. She had to find the first one. She read through some of his notes and his research, but he had to see this coming. He had to know he was destroying this world. Her world. The one she so desperately cared about and needed to save.
With only the moonlight as her source of light, and fueled by anger, she read through Clive’s notes. How the healthy herds of hadrosaur had gone from numerous and thriving to sickly and dying. How their colors had dulled, and they became more and more listless. They tried to migrate, but had difficultly leaving a grazed area and would die off en masse.
Her rage continued to increase as she read onward through page after page, journal after journal. His notes had gone from startling observation of magnificent beasts, both predator and prey, to a study of what was killing off all the animals he could see. Even the predators were fewer except the number of scavengers that increased. He noted that there must be something he can do, but postulated that he should do nothing for this must be the pre-ordained fate of the dinosaurs and he would do better to go off in search of an explainable source.
Myra knew better. He was only spreading whatever and doing it at a far faster rate. If he wasn’t stopped, he could endanger every species of dinosaur across the globe. She couldn’t let that happen. He had stolen her chance to study these magnificent beasts in their natural environment.
Her eyes started to close as she opened one of the last journals and her head bobbed. She had to finish.
Lin gasped as she came into the back and saw the baby hadrosaur on the floor. “What happened?”
Myra’s head snapped up. “What? I’m fine.”
“Myra, I’m so sorry. What happened to the baby?”
Myra couldn’t answer. She burst into tears of frustration. How could she explain this to Lin? She would never understand that it was a problem far deeper than just one little baby. This was the possible extinction of the entire species. Could it be possible that Clive was the destruction of the dinosaurs?
She couldn’t grasp that. It couldn’t be possible. How could one person from the future kill off nearly every reptile of the past? It had been something quick, but could it be possible? Could a germ from the future propagate in a prehistoric environment and destroy everything?
“No, it’s not possible.”
“What’s that?” Lin put her arm around Myra’s shoulder.
“It can’t be Clive that’s killing the dinosaurs.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Lin shook her head.
Myra could feel her eyes burning from exhaustion. She needed to rest, but she had to make sure Sam got this car moving again. She knew he’d been injured and the dead troodon in the middle of the narrow passageway was a testament to the battle he’d fought, but that didn’t matter. That was only one dinosaur. By her own calculations, thousands of hadrosaurs were at risk at this moment and they needed to get moving.
“We’ve got to get Clive and get out of here.”
“I know, that’s what we’re going to do just as soon as we can.”
“No! I mean we’ve got to do it and we’ve got to get out of here now!”
“But Sam isn’t awake yet. Girlfriend has been giving him antibiotics, and Tiger Lily too. They’re both pretty much out of it.”
“Then we need to figure out how to drive this thing and catch up to Clive. I think it’s our presence that’s killing off the dinosaurs.” Myra tried to stand up, but her legs went rubbery and she fell back into her seat.
“Let me get Girlfriend. I think this is something we should talk about first.”
“No! There’s nothing to talk about.”
“What’s going on? Sam and Tiger Lily…”
Myra cut Girlfriend off. “We need to get going. We need to get Clive and get out of here and we need to do it as soon as possible.”
“And we’re going to do that just as soon as Sam can get up and drive.”
“No. We’ve got to do it now. We can’t wait around. Don’t you realize what’s happening?”
Girlfriend shrugged at Lin. “Apparently not. Lin, do you know what’s going on?”
“There’s no time to explain. Just sitting here and talking, dinosaurs are out there dying. I should have seen it before. I’m so stupid. Of course there’s a temporal paradox. It’s killing the dinosaurs.”
“How do you know it’s not just the way they died out?”
“I don’t have time to explain. We’ve got to get going. We’ve got to go.”
Sam struggled to hold himself up in the door way. His arm was now in a sling. Girlfriend gasped and rushed to his side. “I’ve been listening as best I could. This thing is pretty easy to drive. I’ll get us going again.”
“Thank you, Sam.” Myra once again tried to get up, but nearly fell over. Lin supported her.
Lin smiled. “I think you need to get some sleep.”
Myra didn’t fight. Now that she knew Sam was going to get them to Clive, her mind turned off. She barely registered the softness of the bed as Lin lowered her onto it.