Pangaea, Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Ian’s back in the Jeep. Every inch of it is familiar, although when he looks closely at specific parts, the details are blurred. Grant is still next to him, frozen in terror just as he is, staring at the horror unfolding in front of them. The ground shakes, the dashboard rattles, and the air is filled with screaming and a terrifying, otherworldly roar.

Some tiny part of him is familiar enough with this place to know that he’s dreaming, he must be, but the rest of him seizes up in complete panic. He stares forward, heeding Grant’s whispered command to stay completely still, and watches as the gigantic tyrannosaurus, scales glistening with rain, claws digging into the mud, plunges its head into the underbelly of the Jeep in front of them, trying as hard as it can to grab the two children within.

The smell reaches his nostrils, even though the windows and doors are closed. It’s that carnivore smell, so sickeningly familiar, the scent of decay, rotting flesh, death. It makes him sick to the stomach and halts the thought that he had just a second ago. Those kids are helpless, separated from their deaths by only an inch or two of metal, and he should do something to help, but even sensing the gigantic carnivore makes him freeze in terror.

Grant is going out to distract the animal, he must be; Ian has the sense that he’s on the way to opening the door. But he moves so slowly. He moves in tiny increments, as if time is slowed down, but only for him; outside, the dinosaur is still attacking the car, and Ian doesn’t have any sense of time going any slower. Finally, a high-pitched scream reaches his ears, and he’s acutely aware of the two children, only a few feet away, whose lives are in danger. What if those were his kids in there? He’d go out to help them, no matter what. Ian tries to get up, fights to open the door, but he can’t move an inch. He’s stuck in the passenger’s seat, and he has no choice but to look out the windshield and watch.

The rex hesitates for a second, and for one heart-stopping moment, it turns and looks directly at the second Land Rover, and stares straight into Malcolm’s eyes. He holds his breath, still trying to get up—maybe he can distract it, Alan isn’t moving, he has to—but the predator goes back to its prey. Ian puts every bit of his strength into getting up, pushing the door open even an inch, but it’s to no avail. Tim and Lex’s screams pierce the air, even louder than before, as the metal underbelly of the car tears open and the rex’s head dives in. Even as the dinosaur keeps pulling up ragged bits of crimson flesh and Malcolm keeps screaming and trying as hard as he can to get up, the kids still let out one unbearable, gut-wrenching scream, and the smell of blood is heavy in the air, and it just won’t stop until—

Ian jolts awake to find himself sitting up. His head swims, he hears his heart pounding and that horrible screech still ringing in his ears, and he smells sweat. It takes a minute for him to get his bearings, to realize that what he just went through was and always will be just a dream, but even then, he doesn’t entirely believe it. That one was new, he thinks, closing his eyes and steadying his breathing. It’s not by any means an uncommon occurrence for him to have nightmares about Isla Nublar, about everything that did happen and everything that possibly could have. This time, it’s a blend of both. The kids being attacked by the rex, and their being eaten by it.

It isn’t real, Ian reassures himself, knowing exactly how wrong he is. Of course the kids didn’t die; he’s visited them a few times over the last ten years. Their external wounds healed quickly, and their new fears and once-severe PTSD seem to be lessening. But—and this is one of those thoughts that Malcolm can usually suppress, but one that can strike and lodge itself in his brain when he’s vulnerable or can’t think straight—if they had been, it probably would have been his fault.

Malcolm was in that car with another person when the rex escaped. He was trying to stay alive just as much as anyone else, and Grant got up pretty quickly when he saw that the kids needed help, he reasons to himself in the darkness. Malcolm would have gotten up to help them if he had had the chance. And he did, when he thought Grant’s distraction wasn’t working. He did it—maybe not fast enough, but he did it. He took a flare and made the tyrannosaur leave the kids alone. So he isn’t responsible for the Lex and Tim getting hurt. Right?

Still, though, he can’t help wondering if things could have been different. What if he had struck a flare as soon as the rex started heading for the other Jeep? What if he had distracted the animal before Grant did; what if he led it somewhere else, far enough from the others to allow them to escape, or he ran towards it and took his chances with its obvious appetite? It didn’t actually try to eat anyone else after it ate Gennaro; would everyone else—everyone, Ian helplessly thinks, more worthy to have lived—have gotten away unharmed if he’d been eaten instead? That’s another death Malcolm feels overwhelmingly accountable for: Gennaro’s. But the kids mean more to him, and thoughts of them and the trauma they went through haunt him more often, especially in times like these, when he’s alone in the dark with old guilt staring him in the face.

Ian thinks about these things sometimes, when he can’t stop himself from doing it. But this time, his wondering is less about the what-ifs and more about the sickening reminder he got from that dream and what he can’t stop accusing himself of, even after all these years. That he was selfish, only looking out for his own needs by staying in the car as long as he did, and because he couldn’t be there to protect them, because he wasn’t there with them when he should have been, a little boy and girl got injured and might have been dead were it not for Grant. That because of him, Tim and Lex almost died.

As Malcolm gets out of bed, puts on his slippers and quietly exits his bedroom, he’s only thinking about one thing: something terrible happened to kids that depended on him because he wasn’t there when they needed him, and there’s no way he’s going to let that happen again.

He walks down the carpeted hallway and slowly opens a door two doors away from his bedroom. It’s much less of a generic guest room now that it serves a specific purpose; the girl sleeping in the small, green-sheeted bed has personalized it more and more as she’s stayed more and more often. She’s done a few paintings, all abstract except for one of a salamander and another of the pyramid at Chichen Itza, which are hanging on the walls. Various stuffed animals adorn the laundry hamper and closet, and there’s a tiny desk on the corner with one of Anna’s clarinets resting on it. There’s a tiny LED clock on it, which reads 4:22 A.M. Ian looks around for a moment to make sure he’s not about to step on anything, and then kneels down by the bed and reaches out, touching his daughter’s shoulder. “Hey,” he says softly; she doesn’t stir. He gives her a little shake, and she moves her arm. “Anna. It’s just me.” She stirs a little more, and after a moment, slowly sits up and yawns.

She takes a minute to open her eyes, and then looks over at him. “Dad?”

“Yeah. I-”

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “That was really immature, what I said earlier. I don’t hate you. I was just mad.”

He smiles and ruffles her hair. “I know you don’t.”

“Can I-” She yawns again. “Can I stay at Jackie’s house instead? I think that would be easier. She lives closer than—”

“No,” he tells her. “I changed my mind. You’re coming with me.”

This takes a minute to sink in, and then she sits up straight. “Really?”

“Yeah. You still want to go?”

“Of course!” She laughs a little. “All right! We’re going to Florida!”

“That’s right,” he says grimly. “Pack your damn Mickey ears.”

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