The afternoon before Trilobite Park opened, Blake gathered the Paleontology Club met after school to meet with their supervisor. Her name was Mrs Vallerez, and she was a forty-year veteran of the public-school system. She had a no-nonsense attitude, shopped exclusively at ‘Cardigan World’ and though she had never been seen to smoke, she always stank of cigarettes – but boy, did she know her science.
“We all here?” she said. “Daisy, Blake, Juraj? If there’s only three of you little f—fellows, how come I’m taking an excursion of twelve students into Trilobite park tomorrow?”
“We got some extra tickets,” Blake said.
“Point of order,” Juraj began. “I think we need to remember that, pursuant to…”
“Juraj, you’re one of my best biology students,” Mrs Vallerez said. “But one more word out of you and I’m putting you in the worm farm, capice? Daisy, you look like you know what’s what. So tell me: what’s what?”
“We gots some extra tickets, lady,” Daisy said, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “So we give ’em out to some other students. Let’s see,” she continued, checking a list, “there was that handsome rebel with the heart of gold beneath his rough exterior; the real pretty girl who’s unhappy with her jerk boyfriend; the pretty girl’s slightly less attractive friend who might be better lookin’ if’n she took off her glasses; the class practical joker; a sporting hero who’s beginning to think that there’s more to life than football…”
“Fine, fine, whatever,” Mrs Vallerez said. “Ugh, big group. And it’ll be crowded there too, opening day. But trilobites? That’ll be pretty sweet.”
Blake smiled. Mrs Vallerez’ saving grace was that she genuinely did care about science, and she cared about her students caring about science.
“Yes, Mrs Vallerez,” Blake said. “Imagine it! Real, live creatures from an unimaginably distant past epoch!”
“It’ll be something,” Mrs Vallerez said, misty eyed. “Also, it gets me out of staff development day. It’s win-win. What could go wrong?”
After his visit to Trilobite Park, Barry Hodges wasn’t feeling well so he called into LPR Holdings and went home. His wife was visiting family, and usually he took advantage of her absences by making an enormously hot curry and slowly eating it as he binged on game shows.
But, as mentioned, he didn’t feel well. So he took to bed early and dreamed of dark water and ancient oceans.
Brett Blandson was a middle aged white man with extremely limited resources of intelligence, judgement, charisma and courage, and for this reason he had recently been appointed Prime Minister of Australia. He was pretty sure that he wouldn’t last very long in the position, so he had made certain to fill his calendar with as much cool stuff as he could. Why not enjoy his eight weeks in office — before inevitably being forced out and returning to his old job of deputy social media manager for a Formica warehouse?
But that was in the future. On that night, Brett traveling to a hotel in South Hertling, in preparation for attending the opening of Trilobite Park the very next morning.
“Okay, it’s trilobites not dinosaurs,” he said to his chauffeur. “But it’s still pretty sweet. Just think! No human being has seen these creatures for thousands of years. Not since they were destroyed in the Great Flood.”
“I can think of at least two things wrong with what you just said, sir,” the chauffeur said. “Maybe three.”
“That’s great,” Blandson said. His one genuinely useful political skill was an impressive ability to simply ignore anything anyone said to him.
“Here we are, sir. South Hertling Arms. Nice view of the railway junction and the brickyard.”
“Nice, nice. Strewth, where are the other government cars?”
“You are the only member of the government attending this function. The others are all plotting against you.”
“Oh, okay. Uh… You want to have dinner with me then? I don’t like eating alone.”
The chauffeur sighed. “I know that, sir, we’ve eaten together on several occasions. I’d really prefer it if you closed your mouth when you chew.”
“Bonza,” Blandson said. “We’ll go eat after we check in. Then I might go to bed early. Long day, you know, what with the listening and getting the job done and so on.”
“I hate you so much.”
“Good to hear.”
In the bowels of Trilobite Park, Maria and her sister Lenora were hard at work on the new plumbing arrangements.
“This isn’t going to be easy, sis,” Maria said.
“No, or cheap,” Lenora said.
They high fived.
“Did you see those things in the tanks upstairs? The gross, creepy bugs?” Maria said.
“Yeah, those are the trilobites.”
“Are they? Why would someone want to see them?”
“I don’t know, it’s something to do, isn’t it,” Lenora said. “And it’s air conditioned, so it’s good for a hot day.”
“Yeah, but… Holy shit, would you look at this!”
Maria was up to her elbows in the innards of a complex water pump. She held up a connector where four pipes came together. Lenora found it hard to look at. There was something strange about the angles by which it connected. Something that hurt her eyes to see and hurt her brain to think about. She gave a low whistle.
“Haven’t seen one of these in a while,” she said. “That’s some serious five-dimensional engineering.”
“And it’s new,” Maria said. “This wasn’t here when we installed these pumps.”
They both fell silent for a while, lost in thought.
“That engineer…” Maria said. “The first one I mean, not Captain Earnest. Did she strike you as the sort of person who might pull a switcheroo like this?”
“It’d explain a lot,” Lenora said. “We did mention early on that we both have advanced training in hyperbolic topography, so if she was pulling something like this she’d have to do it behind our backs. The rest of this set-up is weird but not sinister. Maybe she did arrange everything so…”
Lenora was struck by a heavy barrel, thrown from above her. Consequently, she did not complete her sentence.
Maria looked up. There! At the landing at the top of the pumping room stairs, a silhouetted figure stood, already reaching for another barrel. Quick as she could, Maria began hopping up the stairs. Another barrel was thrown, but she deftly jumped it. As she jumped, she grabbed a mallet that someone had left on top of a junction box in the wall. Another barrel came at her, and this time she smashed it.
She reached the top of the stairs, mallet at the ready.
“You!” she said, stopping suddenly.
She did not avoid the next barrel. It struck her in the head, sending her spinning in a small circle, her head full of terrible beeping noises.