Her amber hair and deep green eyes searched the crowd swelling around her. And then she landed on mine. I felt my face open up into a nice, wide smile. “Jim,” she said. The tension and relief flooded out of that single lonely word. It was the most incredible feeling I had ever felt. My heart swelled in size as she rushed toward me and swallowed me up in a big hug.
She was shaking.
I hugged her back.
I pulled her in tighter. I could feel my heart pounding against her body, pressed up against me. We unraveled, and she looked up into my eyes.
“I’m so glad you’re here, safe and sound,” she said. “When the rex came, I was sure we were all going to die. That was one pissed off momma.”
“I woke up after the attack and there was nothing. It was just me. I was so confused and disoriented. And then Keith stumbled upon me and pulled me in to this makeshift village.” I looked about, and the majority of the crowd had dispersed, just another person welcomed to their new, temporary town. But a few stayed, including Keith. He was talking with a bunch of elderly men and women, and another man in his 30s, all in a huddle, just a few yards away. I could see him peek over another person’s shoulder every minute or so and flash me a Keith smile.
“She was a mean old rex, and I think this town is actually close to her nest. I saw a couple of nests on the way here, and I think she’s going to come back.” Angie took my hands in her, a feverish look in her eyes. “We need to get out of here, Jim. It’s not safe here. Let’s head back to Old Salem. The village still has some structures intact, and we’ll be out of the way of the rex.”
I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t like Angie to be so forceful, to put her idea forward and not want to hear any debate. And as I looked around the makeshift jungle village and saw huts and forts and other pop-up homes made of branches and leaves and other jungle debris, I couldn’t blame her. This was not a permanent home.
But my head still ached, the bump still throbbing dully, just background noise against the din of the village.
“Maybe we should stay here one more night before we head out. I don’t know if I’m in too good of condition to travel right now.”
She looked at me, pain flashing across her face. She hadn’t even noticed that I had been injured. Or maybe she had, and felt it wasn’t as big of a concern.
I frowned. “OK, how about this? Let me rest for another hour or two. During that time, you can pack up some stuff, anything you think we might need and they might let us have. Then you wake me up and we head on out.”
Angie smiled. It was the prettiest smile.
All I felt was someone shaking me, and then I was up again.
It was Angie. She had pain in her face. And then she said the four words I’ll never be able to unhear: “The rex is back.”
Terror filled the air as I jumped off the cot and was flooded in between waves of men, women, children and others, rushing by as everyone once again ran for safety.
A thunderous roar filled the village and nearly knocked me over. The rex. She was angry.
Angie was still by my side and we grabbed for each other and started to run. Although it was chaos everywhere, nearly everyone was running the same way, and Angie stopped.
“Do you …?” she started to ask me.
“Let’s go back the other way.”
We had made it a mile or so away from the pop-up village when we heard the ground shake beneath us, and we were thrown to the ground. Angie fell forward, tripping over a big tree route connecting a family of trees. I stopped and rushed to her side, and her face flashed with pain.
She reached for her ankle.
I wanted to pull her to safety, to lift her up, to carry her on my shoulders. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to.
And she knew it, too.
A roar thundered close by, shaking some leaves off of trees around us.
“Run!” She screamed it at me. It was not a plea. It was not a question.
It was a demand.
I ran, faster than I remember being able to, until I was a little bit away, but could still see her. I don’t know why, but I turned, and I saw her, laying in pain on the ground, hobbled by her ankle. The rex stood over her, salivating down on her, its short, skinny arms circling in terror just above her head.
And then I saw the rex, as easy as it had ever done anything, bend down toward Angie and feed.
I just sat there, unable to turn away, wondering why I had to rest so bad in the pop-up village.
I couldn’t even feel the throb of my head anymore.
My ears rang. Echoes roared in my head, and I sat up, or what I felt was up. I could feel the dirt grinding against my body, mixing with the rain that had started to fall in sheets. The mud coagulated against my skin. The cold balls of earth grabbed on, up and down my arms and legs, my stomach, everywhere I looked.
I pushed myself up, lifting my torso off the ground. My arms sank deeper into the mud.
Through the sheets of rain that kept pummeling me, I could see the large footprints, three feet wide, longer than my torso.
I scrambled to my feet and paused to look around. There was an edge of forest just a hundred feet or so away. I ran for it, sweat pouring down my cheeks despite the buckets of rain. My heart was thump, thump, thumping, and my breathing would not slow down.
The clearing that had been abuzz with injured men, women and children, guards and more was empty, filled only with the large rex prints and muted metallic red blood stains.
Leaves crunched nearby, and I slowed my breathing instinctively. I turned my body around toward the other way and saw a man’s head poking out behind another tree just a few yards away. He saw me and waved me over with his hand.
“Quick, come on.” His voice was a loud whisper. A rex must still be near.
I ran toward him, my feet flailing behind me as great gobs of mud locked on to my feet. I wiped them off against the trunk of the tree the man hid behind. He patted me on the back quickly. His enthusiasm was contagious.
“You’re the only one I’ve seen,” he said. “I don’t think anyone else survived that attack.”
My thoughts turned to Angie. She had been standing right next to me when we realized a rex was coming. I remember diving away from her, to my left. I had hit the ground hard and tried to roll toward some of the tree and shrubs close by. They would give me cover from the rex if it made its way here into the clearing.
I remember seeing one of the Jianchangosaurus kicking up a few rocks and watched as one soared straight toward me. After that, blackness.
“How long ago did the rex come through?” I said.
He smiled a bit at me. “Yesterday.”
Keith was leading the way through the jungle, tearing through branches and leaves and other vegetation dangling in his way. He had taken the lead on bringing me back to the larger group after he found me at the rex attack site. He had told me how the others had fled the site before the rex hit, how it was awash in chaos as people ran in all directions and a herd of Jianchangosaurus had stormed right through, leading the rex in.
Some of the others, he told me, had made their way through half of the jungle and found a small alcove to hide. Others had gone on to the hospital near Old Salem that I had sent the injured to. When they met up with the others at the alcove, they had told how the rex had gotten through the hospital defenses and laid waste to the building and much of the Old Salem village.
And others who were at the site before the rex attacked, well, they didn’t make it, Keith said. But the rex certainly was feeding her and her young ones well these days.
All I could think of as I scrambled after Keith was Angie, and whether she was safe or not. Keith had not seen her in the crowds of those who had made it to the alcove, which included some who were injured in the attack. Nor had anyone provided word about her.
It made me wonder whether I wanted to continue, whether I should just turn around and go back to the rex attack site and wait for it again. She had never shown an interest in me, that I know. But to live without her? To not even be able to see her anymore? I did not know how I could live that life, but I kept on after Keith.
And after what felt like hours, we turned a corner down a sharp hill, stepping on large boulders that lined the way down. Around the corner at the bottom was the alcove, alight with activity as men and women came to it, arms full of sticks and stones, berries and meat, and many other things. Overnight a village had sprung up here, as they are usually do after a rex attack.
I had told Keith that I was a doctor, but he had urged me to rest, to lay down, to attend to the bump on my head.
I reached up and felt it. It was a slight protrusion stick up from just above my right temple. Of course, the rock, I thought. Perhaps it was best I laid down if I did not have the faculties to figure out that I would be hurt by a flying rock.
I laid down on a makeshift cot next to an elderly man. He was groaning softly, his arms wrapped around his stomach. Soon his groans were softer. “He must be dying,” I thought.
But then I was dreaming instead.
When I woke up the small pop-up village was wash in activity. I reached for the top of my head and felt the bump. It had gone down a bit, but it was still quite apparent. I shoved myself up off the cot and stretched. My muscles ached, and I let out a yawn, curling my feet onto my tiptoes.
Keith entered the small area that was now the clinic and right toward me where I had slept on the cot.
He smiled. “Come with me,” he said. “I think you’re going to want to see this.”
Like he did in the jungle, Keith made his way through the swath of bodies gathered around the entrance of the alcove, where fires lit brightly against the dark night sky. A buzz was in the air, and the people we pushed past were murmuring. Electricity was in the air. Keith turned toward me as he led me on.
The only thing adorning his face was a bright smile, half in shadow as the fire played off of it.
He stepped through to the front wave of people and stepped aside.
And then there she was.
READ PART 3 ON FRIDAY, JUNE 27.
I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. But last year I did something different after learning about what Chris Brogan does.
I chose three words — Passion, Challenge, Connect — and used them as a way to frame my year. I am doing the same this year.
Follow “it,” whatever “it” is: Dreams, opportunities, success. Don’t let them slip away, never to come back. Keep on track, and do it consistently.
That is pursuit, and that is what I need.
Sometimes, in my personal life, I start a task or project and then I don’t finish it. I get disinterested and move onto the next task or project. I want that behavior to stop.
I want to pick up a task or project and see it to fruition. I want to revel in the feeling of a job done, and done well.
And I also want to demonstrate my commitment to being a better husband, a better friend, a better person.
This word has a couple of meanings, but the one that I’m most interested in is create content. I want to get back to blogging regularly here and at my food blog.
I also want to create works of fiction. In the past, fiction writing has been a very sporadic activity. Now I want it to be something I put more effort into, something that I set aside dedicated time for, even if it’s only every other week.
The same goes for other types of content I want to create: Paintings (acrylics and non), social (Storify) and more.
Bring it, 2013
If I can harness pursuit, commitment and create this year, I know it will be a very good year.
What are your three words for this year?
I love to read, I love libraries and, yes, I love the smell of new books. (Crazy?)
But those reasons are why I was drawn in to the blog post that Gini Dietrich wrote on Spin Sucks about her 10 favorite books of all time. It got me thinking about my list.
(I read a lot of graphic novels and science fiction, so if you’re not familiar with those genres, you might not recognize some of the books on my list.)
In no particular order:
- “Watchmen“. If you’ve seen the movie, it pales in comparison to the graphic novel, which reprints a 12-issue series from the 1980s. There’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. Go read it.
- “Towing Jehovah” (and the rest of the Godhead trilogy). God is dead, and the characters in this series have to deal with those ramifications. Yes, there’s philosophy addressed, but there’s also great development and characters.
- “Dune” (and the rest of the original series). The spice will flow. Duh.
- “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“ Ihad a tough time with this one. There’s probably a few other Philip K. Dick titles that could be here, but I want with this iconic novel.
- “Crime and Punishment“. This is on the list for the tone of the novel, which haunts me to this day. There are certainly a lot of great classics that could be included, but this one was my favorite. “Great Expectations” was a close second.
- “Crush It!“ This business/self-help/motivational scribe is the kick in the pants that you didn’t know you needed. Read it, live it.
- “Bone“. A fantastic fantasy comic book series collected in this large paperback. How does a group of strangers in a valley kingdom have ties to that kingdom without knowing so?
- “Cerebus: Church & State.” This series was 300 issues and lasted decades. And there’s some controversy surrounding the creator, Dave Sim, and some of the later volumes. But the Church & State storyline (volumes 3 and 4 of the series) have some of the best characters, humor and story. (The High Society storyline, volume 2, is also excellent, and would be recommended if you decide to read Church & State.)
- “Demo“. A great marriage of moody dialogue and writing and equally as deep art create this short graphic novel, a compilation of 12 issues.
- “Freakonomics“. Using economics to tackle questions that some would think should be tackled with other disciplines. And reaching unexpected conclusions.