10 | WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH

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The jungle was now scorching, steam rising from the rich earth. A symphony of species chirped all around us, with the occasional rustle of a bush that made us collectively jump. The vegetation became thicker the deeper we ventured, less light breaking through the trees. I was constantly wiping at the sweat dripping from my face, a little self-conscious that my shirt was now see through. I flinched every time I felt sweat seep into the wounds from my fall earlier. Alex quietly tagged along behind me.

"And exactly how far away is this resort Laura?" asked Zach, his tone laced with sarcasm. My growing annoyance with how blunt he was continued to flourish. I slashed at a vine with a grazed hand, huffing out a frustrated breath.

"Listen man," I said, stepping over a log as I spoke. "I don't care if you don't like me but, we're all on edge alright? So chill." I pulled aside another vine. "You can have your precious non-alcoholic martini at the VIP lounge in the T-Rex Kingdom when I get you back to Claire at the resort."

Zach stopped to turn and face me, parting his lips with a stern expression as if he was ready to snap at me, but he didn't. He was looking just beyond my shoulder, a frown clouding his expression. "What is that?"

I turned around, a small line of smoke wafting up from a pile of crushed metals and tyres about 50 metres from us. Gray's eyes widened. Zach began to slowly walk towards it, swatting away Gray who was reaching for his hand. "Hang on," I said, stepping in front of him. "Stay here with Gray," I instructed. I looked at Alex, motioning for him to come with me.

Together, we approached the wreckage with caution. Sparks flew out of the crushed pile of metal, the bloodstained seats cleanly slashed with what seemed to be a giant claw. "I think it was some kind of golf buggy," he said. I reached inside the vehicle and swiped at the blood on the blue leather which stained my fingertips instantly.

Alex was now stood beside a tree, staring at a something in his hands with widened eyes. He held a bloodied, Jurassic World branded helmet that had been sliced on the crown towards me. I lightly touched the blood. It stuck to my fingertips once again. We looked up at each other. "We have to get those kids back Laura," he said quietly so the boys wouldn't hear.

"Guys," I heard Zach call. He and Gray were stood facing something. I walked back through the jungle to stand beside them to see what they were looking at. "What is it?" Gray asked curiously, looking up at his older brother who had made the discovery. I looked at Zach, confused. "What's wrong?"

He pointed his finger directly towards where the four of us stood. I followed his gaze closely, eyes widening when I could see it.

"Is that-?" Zach started.

Among the thick greenery of the jungle was the outline of a moss-covered concrete building, cracked and chipped from decades of determination hidden among deep vegetation. Dark, wooden doors were tucked under an intricate stone mural, carved into the shapes of dinosaur fossils. I stood in amazement at the building I'd heard so much about in my time at Isla Nublar, but had never seen with my own eyes. My eyes ran over every ancient detail. "Maybe it's some kind of storage facility?" Alex suggested.

"That's no storage facility," I replied, my eyes not leaving the scene.

Zach immediately stepped forward, the sound of converse hitting concrete guiding us up the steps covered in leaves to the doors. I couldn't help but hold my breath as my fingers traced over the stone-cold handles. If the stories were true, they hadn't been touched in over 20 years.

Zach let out a grunt as he pushed open the wooden doors with all his strength, the abysmal creak of heavy wood piercing through the jungle. We were greeted with the flapping of wings echoing through the empty hall as its animal inhabitants scattered away. I was the first to enter.

The hall was lit dimly by a giant overhead glass observatory speckled with dirt and moss. Old construction rails and broken stairs suggested the place had never been finished. Among the greenery sprouting from the floor, a pile of giant rubble scattered the area. "What is this place?" Alex asked.

My boots crunched under what sounded to be some form of tarp. I kicked a heap of dirt away from the strange sound, revealing a worn piece of black canvas. The more dirt I brushed away with my foot, it read "ruled" in red font. I looked up at the hall once more, frozen in time and covered in leaves. "The old Jurassic Park visitors centre," I said. All three of the boys were silent. "As in, the original park?" Gray asked. I nodded. His eyes darted around the room in amazement.

The argument Zach and I had staged earlier over the raptors began to trickle back into my mind as I stood in the hall. Judging by the teenager's tense shoulders, I think he was reminiscing about it as well.

"Reckon there's a light switch anywhere?" Gray asked. His older brother glared at him. "Yeah because a theme park that's been abandoned since the 80s is gonna have a working light switch," he snarled. "...It's technically since the 90s," he corrected him quietly.

It felt wrong. Standing in a hall where you knew what had happened inside of it: you began to shift uncomfortably. I could feel the weight of 20 years of heartache and covered mistakes begin to settle down on us like the dust we had stirred from opening the doors. I eyed the pile of rubble with a twisting sensation in my stomach. As fascinated as I was, I knew I shouldn't be in here. Even Owen hadn't seen the old park in his time working here. Alex, oblivious to everything, admired the dirtied glass ceiling above us.

Zach picked up a piece of the rubble beside him, wiping it off and inspecting it. He shook out a piece of canvas fabric from underneath his feet and wrapped it around the stick. He looked at Gray, "you still have any of those matches?" he asked him. Gray reached into his belt bag, pulling out a soaked box of matches. "Here ya go."

We ventured deeper into the visitor's centre, keeping our senses alert. We passed what appeared to be a giant painted mural of a pack of four hunter green velociraptors perched on a rock, depicted as though the artist had interrupted a conversation they were having. I thought of our four raptors and how they glared at Owen when he called them all in from their secluded pen for a training session, interrupting their tedious routines of chasing each other. I couldn't help but smile as I admired it.

I brushed my fingers over the aged yellow paint, thinking of Delta. My chest grew tight as I thought about the early hours of today, the smile on my face quickly crumbling. With no way of getting in contact with anyone, Hoskins could easily be directing his men around the compound as they invaded our arena. I could picture his beady eyes lingering on my velociraptor, latching her into a metal muzzle at the hands of strangers. A violation of her easy adaptability towards strangers. Tears began to well in my waterline.

"You okay?" Alex asked softly. He noticed that I hadn't retracted my hand off the painting of the raptor. I whipped it down. "Yeah," I replied. I furiously wiped a tear that had spilled down my cheek away. "Just, been a bit of a hectic day," I said, trying to regain my normal, assuring tone that I prided myself on.

Alex put a gentle hand on my shoulder, the warmth radiating through my collarbone. "Nothing's going to happen to her Laura," he said.

There it was again, that feeling. The one I couldn't quite put my finger on. The one that made me look up at him with tears still sitting in my eyes rather than uncomfortably looking away. His fingertips felt hot against my shoulder, warmth stretching down to my stomach. "Of course," I said, swiping at my eyes ones again. "She's a raptor, she can bite anyone if she needs to," I laughed weakly.

I hated using humor to mask how vulnerable I could be.

I could tell Alex had noticed. Anyone with half a brain would have noticed how terrible I am at trying to rebuild my walls once they'd cracked. He was contemplating on a sentence swirling around in his mind, but repressed it. "You've still gotta get us back to the resort," he said instead, a soft smile gracing his lips.

"-You remember when we fixed up grandpa's old Malibu right?" I heard Zach's voice say ahead of us. "Oh god, come on," I mumbled to Alex, quickly brushing past him to locate the boys before they got themselves killed. The feeling evaporated as I rushed in to see what they'd stumbled across, but it didn't fade. Like any unanswered question, it lingered uncomfortably in the corners of my mind.

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