The flows of water were strange and unnatural – but no more so than the flows of time that surrounded it. This place – where was it? It was not the sea floor. Where else was there but the sea floor? And the era… How could the era be wrong? What could it mean?
June’s heart leapt in her chest when she finally got to see the trilobites, for truly they are the most majestic of creatures. Somewhere between a slater bug and a cockroach, with just a hint of prawn, they scuttled slowly over the artificial seafloor at the bottom of the massive display tanks on level one.
“My God,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!”
“Aye, lass,” Captain Pete said. June glanced at him and saw that he, too, was staring entranced at the trilobites in the tank, his eyes moistening at the sight of their muddy-brown carapaces and masses of nasty little crawling legs. “To think that we – that this generation of human being, should be the first to see these creatures in just over four thousand years.”
“Just pullin’ yer leg. I mean two-hundred and fifty million years,” Captain Pete said. “We have fifteen species of the critter on show for the opening day – and that just be the beginnin’. I intend to have double that number in a year – aye, and sea-scorpions and nautiloids besides.”
“Ye know it!”
They high-fived, and probably didn’t even realise how dorky they were being.
“It’s astonishing that you’ve been able to clone all these species,” June said.
“Clone?” Captain Pete laughed. “Cloning be impossible. Science fiction!”
“These are fossil trilobites, what have been restored to life by an infusion of time-energy, returning them to their Devonian or Cambrian state.”
June wasn’t sure what to make of this. But then she hadn’t been sure what to make of cloning either, so she just shrugged. “To think that these magnificent creatures once ruled the Earth!”
They both watched a little longer. The trilobites scuttled a little in the muck.
“Wow,” June said.
“Yar, ye’ve said a mouthful,” Captain Pete said.
“Well, I suppose I’d better get back to work,” June said. “The Grand Opening is the day after tomorrow. We certainly don’t want anything to go wrong.”
Three terrifying minor-key chords boomed out from the PA speakers – dun, dun, DUUUUUNNNNN!
A moment later, they were followed by Nayagaan, the AV guy, saying, “Sorry! Wrong button.”
Night settled slowly over South Hertling, as Valerie Cenwicz drove her Lamborghini home. As she passed the nearly-completed Trilobite Park, she felt a sick sensation in her gut – a sense of foreboding even worse than that which she’d felt at the sight of the Pyramid. She felt almost fortunate that traffic was so bad, reasoning that she’d possibly have swerved or crashed at speeds faster than a crawl.
She turned into the Super Centre across the way, and parked next to a beaten up concrete truck. The sick feeling in her innards had not gone away – if anything it had gotten worse. There were still plenty of passers-by and the light had not yet gone away, so she felt safe enough leaving her car for a walk to clear her head.
It didn’t work. Her stomach felt like it was doing forward handsprings and her head was spinning. As she staggered away from the road, she felt her gut settle and her head clear, until she was left feeling better but gasping for breath, supporting herself on the fence between the Super Centre and a takeaway chicken shop. She briefly considered that putting distance between herself and Trilobite Park was what had settled her, but then decided that maybe it was the smell of chicken, so she went in to calm her nerves with a small bucket.
‘Axel’s Chicken Volcano-Lair’ read the sign, which was accompanied by a cartoon picture of a man in a labcoat cooking a chicken with a giant deathray. It was weird, but the chicken smelled too good for Valerie to care. She went in.
“Are you okay?” asked a burly looking man with a heavy eyebrow ridge, who was eating at a bench by the door.
“Yes, yes,” Valerie said, though she wasn’t entirely sure that she was.
“Here, take a seat,” said the man. “No, I insist. Now breath deep. Count to five… let it out slowly. Again. There, is that better?”
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Are you a doctor?”
“HR Manager,” the man said. “Just glad to help. It’s what we do.”
“I don’t know what came over me,” Valerie said. “Just this wave of foreboding washing over me.”
“As I said, I’m not a doctor…”
“A sense of impending doom – crushing, crushing, doom.”
“Not a doctor. Think I’ve done my bit, you know…”
“Terrible doom coming soon… How’s the chicken?”
“Quite good actually, but now that you’re feeling well, perhaps…”
“I’ll go get some and we can finish the conversation then.”
The burly man was hurriedly trying to finish his meal when she returned.
“They cook it very fast,” she said. “I thought that deathray in the logo was a bit of fun, but they actually cook chicken with laser beams. The guy at the counter says that the shop is owned by a former supervillain, isn’t that interesting?”
The burly man sighed.
“I’m Valerie Cenwicz, by the way. From Goozy and Bawks Real Estate.”
“Thag,” sighed the burly man. “Wait, Goozy and Bawks? Oh, I think they’re the ones who sold the Trilobite Park land to my boss.”
“No! You work at Trilobite Park?” Valerie said. “That’s the place I had my weird and unsettling premonition about.”
“I thought you said it was a foreboding.”
“That’s basically a premonition. I think. Anyway, I have a bad feeling about that place.”
Thag finished wiping his massive hands with a moist towelette. “How bad of a feeling?”
“Pretty bad,” Valerie said. “But this chicken is helping me calm down. I mean, just because I had a bad feeling doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen, does it? Isn’t that silly? Like superstition?”
“My people were never superstitious,” Thag said, lowering his heavy head. “They had no notion of superstition at all. Lived purely by rational thought.”
“Oh, good,” Valerie said. “I guess?”
“They weren’t superstitious,” Thag said, “and now they’re dead. I have learned to respect superstition, Ms Cenwicz. I’ll look into things at the Park. Make sure everything is okay.”
“Thank you,” Valerie said, between bites on a delicious drumstick. “That really makes me feel better.”
“But I may need you to help, too,” Thag said. “I need whatever information you have on that site. I don’t ask you to break the law or get yourself fired, but just whatever info you can bring me in good conscience.”
“Might be a couple of days.”
“Opening is in a couple of days. Hmmm… Here, have this. Free ticket for the opening day.”
Valerie took the ticket, not certain whether to be pleased, suspicious or angry.
“Thanks,” she said.
Thag tipped his tray into a bin, smiled distractedly and left, muttering, “Bad feeling! Indeed,” as he went.
Valerie finished her chicken alone, occasionally shooting concerned glances at the Park, and half-wishing that the Pyramid was still there.