The sun beat relentlessly on the back of Tim Murphy’s neck as he squatted beside the exposed skull of a Dilophosaurus. Most of the specimen hadn’t been uncovered yet, but the skull crests and notch between the premaxillary and maxillary bones were telltale signs. The bits he could see so far indicated that this particular specimen was probably pretty well articulated, maybe even museum quality.
He could almost picture it in life; thick, reptilian-like skin stretched over the skull. The crests, thin as a bat’s wing spreading from either side of the skull base. Long but weak teeth lined up, giving the creature a crocodile-like head. In his mind’s eye he was looking at Dilophosaurus, but he heard only the hissing growls of V. mongoliensis.
That sound was one that haunted him constantly. At night, sometimes, he would wake from a nightmare with his mouth dry and cottony, his eyes wet with silent tears, arms straight out in the air as if to block some invisible attacker. Stepping into the dark hallway between his bedroom and his bathroom, every creak of his footsteps and every whine of the settling house was potentially a raptor, perhaps hiding in the closet or behind the door leading to the attic. It was coming up the stairs or sliding out from under his bed; wherever it came from, it wanted one thing only: to plunge its retracted claw into his spine, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him before eating him.
After he and Lex had, by some miracle, survived their grandfather’s unfortunately designed theme park, Tim found solace in the knowledge that the park, the dinosaurs, the entire island had been burned to the ground with bombs and flamethrowers. Whatever weapons the Costa Rican military had at their disposal were used to render the volcanic island to ash and cinder. Tim suspected if there had been a way to reactivate the volcano that created the island, they would have done so to destroy any evidence of what had once been there. He and Lex both slept soundly, knowing it was all gone.
And then San Diego happened. A Tyrannosaurus loose in the streets like some horror movie monster. An then his grandfather on television, battling verbally with the new InGen spokesperson about what to do with the second island: destroy it or preserve it. Bring about another extinction or leave the animals—some of which could fly for chrissake—to survive on their own.
The first night of the news coverage, Tim began wetting the bed again. He would lay until dawn in his sodden bed sheets, paralyzed with fear, afraid to move a muscle; knowing somehow that if he breathed too loud, they would find him and kill him.
Tim jerked his head upwards quickly and squinted into the sun at Nikki and Erica, two of his top graduate students. They looked a little uncomfortable, as though they’d burst into his bedroom and found him there naked. He tried quickly to clear his face of the fear he knew must be there and grunted in response.
“The computer locked up again, and we need an admin password,” Nikki said tentatively, almost as though it were a question.
Tim stood slowly, stretching out the cramps in his legs and brushed some of the dirt off his face. He climbed up inside the trailer and washed his hands, the raptors’ cries still echoing in his head. Next to the computer terminal was a stack of mail one of his students loyally brought in from the PO Box weekly. While the computer rebooted, he shuffled through the stack uninterestedly. It was usually the same: overdue bills, requests for interview, offers for book deals, and the occasional death threat calling him a liar and part of a government conspiracy. He’d been receiving them since the San Diego incident, once the general public caught wind of the theme park. A few leaked memos from InGen released the names of the visitors and a few employees, none of whom had lived in peace since. Ian Malcolm had done the interviews for a few years, but mostly, it seemed, to plug his books and attempt to explain chaos theory and mathematical iterations to people who just wanted to hear about the dinosaurs. Tim had ignored all requests for two major reasons; one being that there simply weren’t words to explain what it felt like to be hunted, and the other being that he knew, especially now, that they would have questions he couldn’t answer, such as why, after his experience, he became a paleontologist. How, after facing down death at the claws of these creatures, he still retained an interest in and even some semblance of love for them.
He couldn’t answer because he didn’t know. He was bright; he’d scored a 1460 on his SATs and retained a 4.0 GPA throughout his undergraduate and graduate studies. He excelled in physics, computer science, chemistry, and any math they could throw at him. He could have been a medical doctor, a theoretical physicist, a brilliant mathematician like Malcolm, but he’d chosen instead to spend his life knee deep in fossilized remains of animals who had once tried to kill him. Lex, who had surprisingly given up her interest in computers and opted to become a psychiatrist on the Upper East Side, much to their father’s chagrin, loved to pick his psyche apart over this. She claimed that spending his time dealing with dead dinosaurs was a result of his desire to regain power over the ones who had tried to kill him. Usually, pointing out that she’d given up on the very skill she used to save their lives and choosing to nurture neurotic housewives was all he had to do to get her to shut up, but sometimes he wondered if she was on the money with that observation. Maybe it was some kind of power play—what did he know about psychology, anyway?
As he pawed through the stack, a thick beige envelope with a blue logo stood out and he tugged it from between the others. It was from The Paleontological Association. Furrowing his brows, he tore into the envelope and pulled out the letter. After the first few sentences, the words began to blur and morph, looking like nothing more than hieroglyphs. The gist was that there was to be an expedition to Isla Nublar, the site of Jurassic Park, to study the now-decomposed remains of the animals that had been destroyed, the basis of which was to compare those remains to known fossil remains.
Tim sank to the floor of the trailer, the paper quivering in his hand. Surely, he’d known this day would come; the day where scientists could no longer resist the urge to compare John Hammond’s genetic mutations with the real deal and reconcile exactly how accurate it was to call his creations “dinosaurs”. He tasted his own words to his students in his mouth.
”Science for the sake of science is the only way anything useful is discovered.”
This reasoning was practically as old as science itself; the idea that the best scientific discoveries are made by those who had other intentions. After all, didn’t Fleming discover penicillin accidentally? Didn’t we go to the moon just to see if we could? Is it not in the pursuit of pure scientific curiosity that so many other, more useful discoveries are made?
They’d invited him, of course. They wanted him to head the expedition because who better than someone who had been there before? Someone who could tell them where the Tyrannosaurus had lived and where they could locate several articulated Velociraptor specimens?
Of course he would say no. He was hard pressed to think of a place where he would less rather be than that island, except the second island, where the dinosaurs were by all accounts still alive and active. To go back to the very place that was the source of every nightmare he had to sift through dirt and remains, when he had dirt and remains aplenty right here? Of course he would say no.
But, he reasoned, what if Lex was right in her psychological theories? What if digging up dinosaurs was his way of asserting power and control over them? Wouldn’t it then make sense if he could stand over the bones of the very animals that had attacked him? The image of himself standing victorious over the skeletons of the raptors in the visitor’s center made his heart skip a beat, and he let out a breath he didn’t even realize he’d been holding. His blood surged with the idea of putting to rest the fear that had plagued him for most of his life. Of course he would go and lead their expedition, and he would smile, his muscles finally relaxing, when he laid hands on their bare bones. He would see them as what they really were—animals; deceased animals, their bones bleaching in the sun, while he stood tall and proud, alive. Maybe then he could sleep that restful sleep of the fearless; maybe then he would stop feeling the hot, rotten breath of raptors breathing down his neck every time he turned a corner or closed his eyes.
Of course he would go.