"Do you think it's still out here somewhere?" I asked quietly, stepping onto a fallen tree trunk before dropping off onto the other side. My shoes splashed into a puddle, spraying my bare legs with mud.
Owen hopped down beside me, gun still held in both his hands. "Couldn't have gone too far." He cast me a look as we fell into step together, footsteps treading softly over the forest floor. "I'm not gonna let anything happen to you. You know that, right?" He asked.
I gave him a small, grateful smile. "I know." I bumped his shoulder with mine. "My hero."
He gave me an amused look just as the sound of an engine roared in the distance. "The boys." I said quickly, and Owen nodded.
We took off at a sprint, heading in the direction of the sound. The closer we got, though, the more it seemed to fade away until it was quiet once more. We came through an opening in the trees, slowing to a stop. At first, I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me with the filtered sunlight casting shadows onto the rocky wall. I took a step closer, reaching behind me and feeling for Owen. My fingers brushed the front of his shirt and I grabbed it, tugging him forward.
"Shut up. Just look." I interrupted him. I stepped forward, his shoulder brushing mine. "This isn't what I think it is, is it?"
"Sure as hell looks like it." He answered.
In front of us was a crumbling set of stone steps, wild life growing haphazardly all around it. At the top of the steps, two huge wooden doors stood open, inviting us into the darkness inside. The logo, faded but still etched into the stone about the door, was the same as the one above the doors of the visitor's center at the resort.
"This is part of the old park, isn't it?" I asked breathlessly. "I can't believe anything is still standing."
"We knew it was out here somewhere, but no one ever bothered trying to find anything. Just built a fence up around it and labeled it all as a restricted area." Owen explained, motioning for me to follow him up the steps.
"I bet the boys came through here. They had to."
Owen crouched to the ground and ran his fingers through a patch of churned up dirt near the entrance. "Looks like the doors were just pushed opened. There's track marks from them here." He straightened and look at me from over his shoulder. "You're probably right."
Despite the seriousness and the danger of the situation, I felt a jolt of excitement as we walked through the tall double doors. During my research of the old park before coming to the island, which really hadn't been more than a few google searches, I'd seen plenty of photos of the old visitor's center. Inside, it was barely recognizable. Twenty-three years of natural wear and tear had taken its toll. The walls and floors were covered with dirt and wild plant life, the metal scaffolding that hung from the ceiling was draped with vines.
I dug my phone out of my pocket and put it into flashlight mode. I circled the room slowly, letting the beam of light wash over the walls. Something from the adjacent room caught my eye. Before I could think twice about it, I walking towards it. "This is unbelievable." I whispered.
"What is it?" I heard Owen ask.
"Gift shop." The walls were lined with shelves, filled with dusty merchandise. Toys, t-shirts, books, pajamas, keychains. I reached up and picked a faded t-rex stuffed animal from the closest one, brushing off the dust. "All this stuff just got left here."
"Weird." Owen agreed, brushing past me. He grabbed what looked like it once might have been a pint glass from the counter in the middle of the room, using his shirt to rub away the dirt and grime. He turned and held it out to me, showing me the old Jurassic Park logo peeling on the side. "They literally up and left this place and never came back for any of this crap."
"Not until now." I added. I suppressed a shiver, thinking back on the conversation I'd had with Violet on my first day on the island. I wondered how many people had lost their lives in this same building. I discarded the morbid thought with the stuff animal, grabbing Owen's wrist and leading him out of the shop. "Come on, it's starting to freak me out."
We poked around for a little bit longer before taking a corridor that led off of the lobby, quietly and carefully following it as it curved through the building. The hall finally ended in what looked like a maintenance room, attached to a garage. Yellow Jurassic Park rain jackets hung along pegs on the wall, like they were still waiting to be used. I followed Owen into the garage, where an old jeep was parked. The space next to it was empty and the ground marked with fresh tire tracks. A heap of fabric caught my eye and I leapt forward.
"This is Zach's!" I exclaimed, picking up the familiar sweatshirt. "I saw him wearing it at Claire's the other night!"
"They must've taken that other jeep...how the hell did they even get it started?" Owen asked, poking around the shelves. I shrugged, turning to assess the remaining vehicle. It had a flat tired in the back, the paint that covered the body rusted and flaking.
"Hell if I know, I can't even-"
A loud snarl suddenly came from outside of the garage door as the ground beneath my feet began to tremble. The sweatshirt fell from my hands, forgotten, as I scrambled around the front of the car. Owen pushed me behind him protectively. I crouched down, peering over the hood. A flash of white caught my eye. Then a giant, clawed foot appeared outside the garage.
I turned back around and slid to the ground. Owen pressed his back up against the bumper before exchanging anxious looks with me. I wondered if it was smart enough to know we were hiding, if it could smell us or sense the heat from our bodies. I gripped Owen's arm tightly in my hands. My mouth felt dry with fear, my pulse racing as a nervous sweat formed along the nape of my neck. It felt like the longest, most agonizing minute as we sat there, waiting for it to go away. Eventually, though, the sound of it's heavy breathing and low growls dimmed and vanished along with it's footsteps. Owen and I both exhaled sighs of relief, slumping back against the jeep.
I was trying to will my heartbeat to slow when the roof over our heads came crashing to the ground. A loud, terrified scream erupted from me, a sound I had never heard myself make before. The Indominus had somehow found a way to the roof and was gnawing it's way through. It's huge teeth, rows and rows of them, were stained with blood.
"Go!" Owen shouted, pushing me towards the door. I staggered to my feet, taking only a second to find my footing before sprinting back the way we had came. Earsplitting crashes and bangs came from the garage as we fled, and I only paused long enough to make sure Owen was still behind me.
We raced through the abandoned lobby and down the stone front steps. "Climb!" He suddenly called out. I felt his hand on the small of my back, pushing me in the direction of a tall, gnarled tree.
I didn't hesitate, pushing my feet off the ground and grabbing onto one of the lower branches. I pulled myself up off the ground, ignoring the burning in my limbs. I kept climbing, falling into a rhythm of reaching, grabbing, pulling until finally there was nowhere else to go. I settled myself onto one of the thicker branches, pressing my back against the trunk. I was out of breath. Inhaling deeply felt like trying to breathe through a straw. Owen pulled himself up onto the same branch I was on, scooting closer to me. He held a finger to his lips before pointing back towards the visitor's center. I craned my neck and through a gap in the thick foliage, I saw the Indominus. I wasn't an expert on dinosaurs by any means, but it didn't even look like a dinosaur. It was just as big as the t-rex, if not bigger, but it lacked the short arms. Instead, it had long front limbs with huge claws. Short, jagged spikes ran the long of it's back and along the underside of its legs and arms. The way its snout was shaped, with the yellowed, crooked teeth showing even when the jaws were shut, reminded me of a crocodile.
"What the hell is that thing?" I asked in a hushed voice.
"That," Owen began, turning to face me. "is what happens when you let people play God. You okay?"
I nodded, thinking his answer was on point. Whatever gene splicing they had done in the labs had created something no one had ever expected. "Genetically modified hybrid." I said suddenly. "A while ago Claire had mentioned something about this. Even then, before I'd even seen the thing, I told her I thought it was a bad idea."
"That's the thing with these damn Ingen people...they're all like Hoskins. None of them seem to understand that these things they call 'assets' are actually real, life animals." Owen spat, shaking his head in disgust.
"We have to follow it. We can't let it get closer to the resort." I said quickly, thinking about Violet, Claire, and all of the other thousand of people trapped there completely unaware of the killing machine that was currently out and about.
Owen looked at me in surprise. "Gray and Zach?"
"We know they took that jeep so they're probably halfway back to the park by now. I'll call Claire and tell her to have her security people keep a look out for them." I finally felt like my breathing was back to normal as I pushed myself off the tree trunk. I glanced towards Owen to see him watching me with an amused glint in his eyes. "What?" I asked.
"Nothing...just thinking about how you might be the bravest bartender I've ever met."
I rolled my eyes. "And despite the fact that we're in a life-threatening situation here, you still manage to be an ass."
He laughed, leaning closer and swiftly kissing me on the lips. The unexpectedness of it left my dazed for a moment. He started carefully climbing down. "Come on, before it gets too far!"
I glanced towards the forest floor and instantly regretted it. I swallowed back my fear. I'd forgotten my thing with heights until I was already in the tree. Fear of being eaten alive clearly trumped fear of heights. I sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly before beginning my descent back to the forest floor.
Owen was already at the bottom, nudging one of the Indominus' huge footprints with the toe of his boot. He glanced at me. "This way."
He took off at a run and I followed close behind, my heart racing from both the adrenaline and the incessant running I felt like I'd been doing all day. I pulled my phone from my back pocket, swiping through my contacts until I found Claire's name. It only rang once before she picked up.
"Are you guys alright still?" She asked urgently, bypassing a 'hello' altogether.
"We're good. We think that Zach and Gray have a car and are probably headed back to the resort right now." I said quickly.
"Thank god." Claire breathed. "I'll keep an eye on the monitors for them. What about the Indominus?"
"We're following it."
"What? What the hell do you mean you're following it?" She demanded. "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?"
"It'll be more dangerous if it gets to the park, Claire." I reminded her.
"Hold up!" Owen skidded to a stop. "There!"
We had emerged from the trees on the edge of a ridge that overlooked a deep valley filled with the wild greenery of trees and plants. In the center, was a huge dome with a glass window in the shape of a bubble. I knew without even having to ask what it was...a birdcage for prehistoric birds. Rushing through the forest below was the Indominus, it's a skin a white streak among the green.
"Claire, you gotta send somebody out here! She's by this giant glass birdcage looking thingy!" I said frantically.
"You mean the aviary?" Claire corrected me, momentarily breaking my panic long enough to cause me to roll me eyes.
"Sure whatever the hell you wanna call it, just get somebody out here! Preferably with guns!"
"Big guns." Owen nodded, pacing the ridge in front of me in agitation.
"Yes, the bigger the guns the better." I agreed, relaying this into the phone.
"ACU is already on their way, they're airborne." Claire assured me.
As if right on cue, the low hum of a helicopter thrummed through the air. I craned my neck, scanning the sky. Finally, I spotted it as it emerged from over top of the trees behind us. It dropped lower to the valley in an attempt to get right behind the I-Rex. Gunfire cut through the air, dirt and dust flying up from the ground with each bullet missed. The Indominus suddenly let out a loud, very pissed off roar.
"Did they hit it?" I asked anxiously, glancing towards Owen and he just shook his head, hands on his hips. I'd forgotten I'd still had the cellphone pressed to my ear, the tiny piece of plastic clenched in my fingers in a death grip. "Are you still there?" I asked.
"I'm here." Claire answered breathlessly and I tried to picture her, in her crisp white outfit as she paced the control room, eyes glued to the wall of screens.
The chopper chased after the Indominus, relentlessly firing at it with everything they had. Too late, I realized what was about to happen. "Holy shit..." The very words I'd been thinking, only coming from Owen's mouth.
The I-Rex crashed through the wall of the aviary, a cascade of broken glass shattering around it. "This is bad." I said quietly.
Owen was suddenly standing next to me, hand pressed on the small of my back as we both stared, completely helpless to the situation, only able to watch wide eyed as dozens of winged dinosaurs flew from the newly formed hole into the cage and into the expanse of blue sky above them.
"What the hell are those things?" I heard myself ask, barely registering Claire's voice yelling into my ear as the phone slid from my hand and fell to the ground next to my feet
"Pteranodons and dimorphodons." Owen answered gravely. "Things that aren't gonna have any problems about taking that chopper down."
I leaned into him, watching in horror as the chopper tried to divert the sudden flock. The giant mechanical flying machine was unfamiliar to them, no doubt instantly taken as a threat. The next few seconds seemed to happen in slow motion as the helicopter did a tailspin out of the sky, crashing through the top of the aviary. A cloud of flames and smoke followed. I clapped my hand over my mouth in horror.
Owen's grip on my waist tightened and he was suddenly steering me back towards the forest. "Get into the trees. Now!"
My heart thundered in my chest as I realized why. The sky was dotted with hundreds of the winged dinosaurs, all of them flocking in our direction. I pivoted on my heel and ran back towards the trees, Owen right behind me. High pitched screeches followed after us. I dove to the ground under the cover of the trees and a second later, Owen's body half covered mine, shielding me from the danger flying over us. His chest pressed against my shoulder, one arm slung around me as our heads ducked together. The trees rustled overhead, leaves, twigs, and other debris falling through the branches to forest floor as the pteranodons and dimorphodons sped overtop and skimmed the trees.
Eventually, the noise faded leaving just the sound of my blood pounding in my ears. We stayed still for a long moment, trying to catch our breaths. Owen rolled over onto his back as I pushed myself into a sitting position, slumping back against the fallen tree trunk we had taken cover near.
"Well, we're still alive." He finally said, tearing his eyes away from the canopy of trees to look at me.
I snorted with an unintentional, hysterical laugh, a completely inappropriate reaction to everything that had happened in the past ten minutes. "For now."
"And we're gonna keep on being alive." Owen said, reaching out and giving my knee a reassuring squeeze.
I covered his hand with mine. "Thank you for that, but I'm really just wishing I had stayed in bed today."
"You mean my bed?"
I groaned, pulling myself to my feet. I stood over him with my hands on my hips, quirking an eyebrow. "Is that really appropriate right now?"
Owen sighed before also standing, brushing off his clothing. "Not really, no, but that's how I'm gonna deal with this. Especially because we're about to run right back into this shit...those things were headed right for the park."
I frowned. "What are we gonna do?" The Indominus Rex had been one thing, but now there were dozens of other potentially dangerous creatures loose making everything a hundred thousand times worse.
He reached for me, brushing my hair out of my eyes. "We're gonna try and do whatever we can, and I'm gonna keep us alive in the process." His hand slid from my shoulder, down my arm, until his fingers were laced with mine.
Then we were off again, once again going against every instinct in my body as we launched ourselves towards danger, instead of away from it.