Pangaea, Chapter Thirteen

Chapter 13

Malcolm can’t make himself look at the rex. He’ll have to look at it soon, he knows that, but he can’t do it. After he looked around the room once again for a way to escape, he let himself break down for a minute and then looked for any way that he could kill himself. Maybe, he thought, there would be a nail or something else sharp lying around, but there wasn’t, and his jacket is gone, so he can’t use that. He banged on the glass as hard as he could, but nothing happened other than it shaking a little. So there’s no way he’s going to get out, he figures, and that means he’s definitely going to die in here, and there’s no way he can do it himself, which means that being killed by the rex is the only way out. So he’s going to have to look at it eventually, but he can’t; the sight brings about instant panic and scares him to death, and so he looks away from it, deciding that he’d rather have disgust at his weakness than an enormous panic attack.

He tries to fall asleep, thinking things might be easier if he were unconscious, but can’t, and things that usually bring him comfort—thinking about his family, bringing back happy memories, reciting memorized passages from Fractal Sciences and Complexity—only bring depression. So he has no option other than to look around the room and avoid thinking at all, and that’s when he sees the door handle start to twitch.

He only stares for a minute, not comprehending what it means, and then he bolts to his feet and runs over to the glass. The handle goes still, and his heart sinks for a moment—even Emma’s company would be preferable to being completely alone for this—and then it goes all the way down, the very wide door swings open, and Anna’s head cautiously pokes in. She pulls a bobby pin out of the lock on the door, looks around for a moment, and then spots Ian. She says something, but he can’t hear what it is. He just looks at her, flooded with relief and confusion—What is she doing here? Is Emma going to kill her too?—and her lips move again. “I can’t hear you,” Ian calls. She seems to hear him, and says something else. “Can you hear me?” She nods. “There’s a white box on that chair. I-I think it’s a microphone.” She sees it, holds it up to her mouth and says something that he doesn’t hear. He shakes his head, she presses a button on the box and her voice immediately comes through the ceiling, “Can you hear me now?”

“Anna,” he says, his voice filled with relief; it seems like so long since he’s heard her voice. “Anna, are you okay? Did Emma bring you here?”

“No, I followed her,” she says, looking around the little section of the room she’s in. “How does this thing open? There has to be a way in or out of here.”

“I don’t think there is, Anna,” Ian says, trying to keep his voice even so he doesn’t upset her any more than he has to. “Listen, sweetie. You—you need to get out of here. Just go. Run. I don’t want you around when this thing wakes up.”

“Likewise,” she says; she’s noticed a small control panel on the wall, some sort of touch screen, and is doing something with it. “Did you see her use this?” she asks. “I can navigate the menu, but—” Abruptly, behind him, Malcolm hears something fall on the floor with a splat; Anna looks at it for a second, wrinkles her nose, mutters, “Well, that’s a meat dispenser,” and starts working on the control panel again.

“What are you trying to do?” Ian asks desperately; why won’t she listen? Doesn’t she see she’s in danger?

“There has to be a way in or out of here,” Anna tells him, holding the microphone in one hand and swiping the touch screen with the other. “There’s no door in there, is there?”

“No.”

“Figured. The glass must come up, then.”

“How do you know?” Ian asks, glancing back at the tyrannosaur every few seconds; it doesn’t stir. “How do you know there’s a way out?”

“This is a cage,” Anna says, not looking at him. “Every cage has a door.” She sees something on the screen and claps. “Here we go!” She presses something, stares for a second and then turns to him and says, “It only opens with fingerprint recognition.” She touches the screen; it goes red for a second. “It won’t take mine. Maybe it needs Emma’s. I think she’s still in the building. If I can find her, maybe I can convince-”

“She won’t let me out,” Ian says. “I know she won’t. If you want to help me, if you want to do something for me, get out of here right now. That’s what I need you to do. I need you to leave.” He puts his hand up against the glass. “I love you, Anna, and I don’t want you to have to see this. Please, sweetheart. Get out of here.”

“Is there no other way out?” Anna asks. “Have you checked the whole room?”

“Twice,” Ian says sadly. “I’ve done all I can. But this thing will—will wake up any minute, honey, and I need you to leave.”

“I’m not leaving,” she says. “I’m not going anywhere.” She puts her hand on the glass.

“Anna, you have to go,” he says, trying to sound authoritative but just getting more choked-up. “Emma, uh, she’ll be back soon, and I—I don’t want to think about what’ll happen if she thinks you know too much. Just… just leave. Go back to the hotel room. She’ll tell you I killed myself, but please, make sure there’s an autopsy-”

“Don’t say that,” Anna says, her voice trembling. “You’re not dying. You’re gonna be okay, Dad.”

Ian sighs and looks down; he hadn’t prepared to give this talk for at least a few more years. “Anna, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left you when you were little. I’m sorry I divorced your mom, I’m sorry I wasn’t around to be your dad. Don’t—don’t ever forget that I love you, okay?”

“Stop talking like that!” Anna cries. “I’m gonna get you out of here, I swear!”

“I wish you could, but that’s not the way it is now,” he tells her. “All you need to worry about is making sure you get home safely. Don’t let Emma shut you up, okay? Tell everyone what’s happening here. Go to the press and tell everyone. And if you see your stepbrother and stepsister at my—at my funeral, tell them that I love them too. Will you do that?”

“Stop it,” Anna says, pulling her hand back and blinking away tears. “I have one more idea.” She turns, throws open the door and runs out of sight.

“Anna!” he calls after her, but she’s gone in an instant. He stands with his hand against the glass for a minute, biting his lip to keep from crying, when he hears a thumping sound coming from behind him. He whips around and sees the tyrannosaur’s tail flicking back and forth—oh God, oh God, it’s waking up, oh God, I’m not ready for this— and slowly, one of its big, yellow eyes opens. It stays like that for a moment, makes a low snorting sound and, in a single, practiced motion, heaves its head and body upwards, getting to its feet. Ian watches, frozen with terror, muscles tense, as it surveys the room, flicking its tail nonchalantly. After a moment, it walks over to the center of the room, noticing the bloody steak lying on the floor; that must have been what fell from the ceiling. It leans down, sniffs at it and, making Ian jump, grabs it up with one snap of its jaws. The animal throws the steak in the air and easily catches it in its gigantic jaws. It chews with a couple more snaps, each making Ian flinch and step back, a lump goes down its throat as it swallows, and it turns and looks straight at him.

The rex looks more curious than angry as it takes a step toward Ian; he takes two steps back and finds his back pressed to the glass, so he slides along it, not taking his eyes off the animal. It takes another step, following him—does it think he’s trying to play? The will to live, the need to run away, comes back to him in a rush, along with an essential memory. He holds completely still, his eyes still trained on the rex, not moving a muscle. The animal pauses and then starts sniffing around, eventually lowering its head to his level. It pauses when its head is right in front of Malcolm, and the fabric on his shirt ripples as it sniffs. He doesn’t even let himself breathe until it pulls its head back up. When it does, it stares at him for a moment, and Ian’s heart thumps in terror, but it doesn’t lunge at him like he expects it to. Instead, it takes a step back and swishes its tail more, lowering its boxlike head. Ian stands still, ready to dodge a bite, expecting it to snap at him at any moment, but it stays stationary, looking at him expectantly. After a minute or two, it turns its head to the glass wall and taps it with its nose, and then looks back at him, snorting. It does the same thing again when he doesn’t respond, and he finally realizes what the animal wants—it expects him to let it out through the glass.

Not entirely sure how to respond, Ian takes a cautious step toward the glass, and the animal’s eyes follow him. He stands entirely still again, and the tyrannosaur gets visibly agitated, swinging its tail faster and clawing at the air with its little forearm. It makes a grumbling noise, turns away from the glass and starts pacing around the room, its footsteps pounding on the ground and echoing throughout the huge area. It makes another agitated sound when it gets near Malcolm, and looks at him before it goes over to the glass wall and whacks it a few times with its thick tail. When Ian doesn’t respond, it starts pacing again, and he takes the opportunity to look over and see if Anna’s back; there’s no sign of her. The rex is making louder noises now, almost whining and roaring at the same time, looking at him every few seconds. He remains completely stationary, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference—it appears that the rex can smell him. That’s not a surprise to Malcolm, but it doesn’t reassure him much either. There’s nothing he can do if the rex gets angry at him, and it seems to be headed in that direction.

Suddenly, the roof above him trembles, not very hard but hard enough that it’s noticeable. Ian turns around and almost doesn’t believe what he sees in the adjourning room. A cloud of what seems to be plaster dust is billowing through, and in its midst, two outlines are visible, one much larger than the other. Ian alternates between looking at the room and watching the tyrannosaur, which doesn’t seem to have noticed the tremors or their visitors. Finally, the dust clears up, and Ian can see what’s on the other side of the glass wall. There’s a huge hole where the doorway used to be, from which chunks of plaster are still falling, and a spiky, plated, quadrupedal dinosaur—Euoplocephalus, he remembers—appears to have caused it. It’s looking around, swinging its tail defensively, and the second shape that he saw is dodging to avoid it. “Anna!” Ian says, trying not to attract the carnivore’s attention. “Are you all right?” She’s bent over and appears to be coughing hard.

She grabs the microphone. “I’m all right,” her voice says through the ceiling, weak and sounding as if she’s choking. “Is the rex trying to-” She has a momentary coughing fit. “Is it hunting you?”

“It’s just pacing,” Malcolm says. “Like it wants to be let out. Where in hell did you find that thing?”

“Tell you later,” Anna says. “Get away from the glass. I’m gonna try something.” Ian backs away, flattening his back against one of the side walls. “Now jump up and down and yell a lot,” Anna instructs, her voice clearing up. “Try to make it angry.”

“Why do you want a second angry dinosaur in here?”

“I want him to charge,” she tells him. “Maybe he can break the glass. Might want to hurry, I don’t think you want to be dinner.”

Ian starts waving his arms around and shouting at the euoplocephalus; over the microphone, he hears it grunt angrily. “Keep going,” Anna orders. “I think it’s working.” He starts shouting louder, and when that doesn’t produce any difference in the animal’s attitude, he runs over and kicks the glass. The euoplocephalus doesn’t respond, but the rex stops and turns its head immediately. Once it does, it strides over to the glass, opens its mouth and lets out an ear-shattering roar. Ian covers his ears, but that doesn’t block out the terrifying scream. The euplocephalus definitely notices and lets out a bellowing sound of its own. The tyrannosaur seems to become incensed by this; it roars once again and then jumps at the glass, turning its head and throwing its full weight at the glass wall. “Get it to do that again!” he hears Anna yell over the noise of the increasingly aggressive animals.

“Is the glass breaking?” he shouts.

“Yeah!” comes the answer, right before the spiked herbivore lowers its head and loudly rams into the glass. The rex, focused entirely on getting to its opponent, swings its tail at the wall, and cracks shoot out from where its tail makes impact. “Almost-” Anna calls, but her voice is drowned out by the loud THUMP as the euoplocephalus turns and swings its heavy, clubbed tail at the wall, followed by the deafening sound as the glass wall shatters, a shining waterfall of tiny, sparkling shards falling to the ground. Ian turns away and Anna ducks to the ground, covering her face with her arms, but neither dinosaur seems to care about the tall wave of falling shards as both of them lunge forward, the tyrannosaur grabbing at the euoplocephalus’ neck and the herbivore ducking to avoid its attack. Glass dust begins to surround the battling pair, and Anna jumps to her feet and yells, “Come on!”

There’s not much room between the spiky edges of the remaining glass and the fighting dinosaurs, but although the euoplocephalus’ tail is swinging around wildly and the rex is thrashing unpredictably in all directions, there’s still a chance of slipping by unnoticed. Ian runs over, ignoring the pinpricks as the glass pierces the soles of his shoes, and slides by the glass to avoid the swing of a clubbed tail. He sidesteps through the narrow passage, coughing as the glass dust permeates his respiratory system and wincing as the jagged edge of the glass cuts his back, and joins Anna. They grab hands and, not looking back, run out into the hall. They can hear the roars and bellows of the continuing duel no matter how far away they get from it, but after a bit of running through concrete-floored hallways, they stop momentarily to catch their breath. The hall they’re in is lined with neat, white doors, and when Ian looks over and reads the label on one of them, he can’t believe his eyes.

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