Pangaea, final chapter (17)

Chapter Seventeen

Emma Ludlow does not enjoy her current living arrangement. Her trial is still pending, as the investigation of the events at her park still hasn’t been completed. She posted bail when they took her in—she had enough left in the company’s treasury for that, at least—but somehow, when she tried to buy a plane ticket to Europe, they caught her, and now she has to stay in jail. Quite a nice jail, better than public ones, and well worth the expense to be sent there. But Emma is now an inmate, and she’s not very proud of that title, to say the least.

She does have one solace, though, and it serves as an excellent distraction from the details of her upcoming trial, about which she’s updated nearly every day—so far, they’re charging her with two manslaughter counts, criminal negligence, a few misdemeanor counts because of employees’ and the little girl’s injuries, second-degree assault and intent to commit murder, to name a few. If not for her secret, she might go mad. But she refuses to; she’s nursing her secret, keeping it carefully hidden so that no one else can take it from her.

She walks quietly in double-file with the rest of the inmates, an armed guard walking behind the group to supervise them, along the dirt path. One of the benefits of a jail for the well-off is a lovely woods and daily walks through it for exercise. Emma feels the hunk of cafeteria meat in her jumpsuit’s pocket, and when she’s sure it’s still there, takes a step to the side, toward the woman next to her. Without looking to the side or saying a word, she sticks her foot out, and when the red-haired woman takes another step, she trips and goes sprawling to the ground. She immediately starts screeching and lets out various curses and threats—this particular woman isn’t well-known for stability—and grabs the ankle of the inmate behind her. When the two start shouting and swinging at each other, the guard rushes over and the other inmates gather in a circle, so no one notices when Emma slips away.

She runs as quietly as she can until she’s hidden by trees and can’t hear the fight anymore, and then quickly and deliberately finds the spot in the woods that she’s visited enough to know the exact location of. When she sees her secret, she kneels on the ground and pulls out the hunk of meat. “I brought you something,” she whispers. Her little secrets, the three tiny animals, see what she’s brought and descend on it, quarreling about who gets which part. She watches as they eat; they’re adorable, and looking at them, she can’t be more proud of what she’s created. “You’ve grown,” she whispers, smiling. The bipedal, scaly animals are getting bigger each time she sees them, and soon, she may even be able to tell what species they are.

One of them, satisfied with its portion, goes back to the nest to eat. Emma hasn’t had enough time to build them a proper nest, so she used the briefcase that she brought their eggs here in—the bribe she slipped the guard to keep it was hefty but well-spent—and they’ve suited themselves to it well enough. As the two other babies tussle over the remaining meat, she carefully studies the third one, looking at its tiny face, its little claws, its muscular legs. “I think you may be rexes,” she says to herself. She was in too much of a hurry to tell their species when she grabbed their eggs from the hatchery; she wasn’t thinking of anything but keeping her creations alive. And not only are they still alive, they’re flourishing. Now that they’re the only remainder of her dream, she’s been watching them very carefully, and although they’re really just products, she’s developed sort of a liking for them.

Tyrannosaurus or Carcharodontosaurus,” she decides. “Must be, with those head shapes. I’ll have to see how big you get.” She reaches out and lightly pets the head of the eating dinosaur. It makes a high-pitched sound, something like a menacing purr, and snaps at her finger, leaving a tiny tooth mark and a dribble of blood on the tip of her finger. She winces and inspects her wound. “Feisty little fellow, aren’t you?” she says. The animal chirps and, finishing its meal, gets up and watches its siblings tear their little prey in half. It watches for a moment, cocking its head, and then goes to join the kill.

The End

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