The Sauropod turned her long, graceful neck skyward. The days had become an interminable twilight. The gray ash contaminating everything had even stolen the sun.
Miriam stared out the window of the Gulfstream jet into a cloudless blue sky. The flight had been interminable. The last week had been interminable, but it would be over soon.
Sauropod stood over the clutch of eggs nestled in the once tall grass. The grass had provided a fine hiding place from predators, and she was an attentive mother, keeping watch, warming them with her own body on cool nights.
Now the grass was bent over, weighed down by the ash falling from the sky like poison rain, suffocating, turning a Technicolor world monotone.
She snuffled her eggs in an attempt to blow the ash away, instinctively sensing the danger. Her efforts were futile. The ash was falling faster than her great lungs could clear it away.
Blue skies were deceiving. They made you believe everything would be okay. They made you hope.
In spite of everything, Miriam still hoped. Not for herself. She was a lost cause, but for Philip who had a life to live, who had a future, a future she had jeopardized.
A bottle of Patron Silver beckoned seductively from the bar. This task would be so much easier if she could numb herself to what she had to do.
She needed to feel. She deserved this pain. Oblivion would come soon enough.
The ash stifled everything, even sound. The world had been on mute for days, and Sauropod didn’t hear the danger until it was on top of her. The bottle-nosed crocodilian slid out of the gloom, snapping at her great tree-trunk legs.
She could have run. He was too far from his water source to chase her, but she wouldn’t leave her clutch unprotected.
His razor teeth tore into her massive leg, and the taste of blood sent him into a biting, thrashing frenzy. She stomped and kicked, catching the beast squarely under his jaw. She used her size advantage, throwing her bulk sideways, whipping her long tail around and sending him end over end until he finally rolled to a stop.
He regained his feet and stood still as a statue. Sauropod paced back and forth in front of her precious treasure, stamping her feet in distress, not daring to get closer.
The beast waited, unmoving.
The plane began its descent without warning from the flight deck. Miriam didn’t bother fastening her seat belt. The water she had been staring at for the last several hours gave way to dry land, and then the New York skyline appeared in all its glory.
Her phone beeped. She hadn’t turned it off in flight. They hadn’t expected her to. These people didn’t worry much about that sort of thing.
The incoming text message had a picture attached. Philip sat in the back seat of a car. The photographer made sure to show the US Consulate, clearly visible, through the window. Philip’s face was tense, but Miriam could see it was born of determination, and not fear. Two small creases between his brows told the tale. Even as a baby, he would make those creases when he was hell-bent on having his way.
If her sixteen year-old son could push aside his fear, then so could she. The plane touched down, and she opened the attaché case on the opposite seat. A woman’s blazer was folded neatly inside. It was chic, stylish, exactly what one would expect a US ambassador to wear on business.
She slipped into the blazer, noting the extra weight, her fingers running over the hard plastic inside the front pocket.
The Crocodilian monster blinked once, and then made his move. Sauropod was ready, stamping and kicking to protect her injured leg, but she miscalculated. The beast didn’t attack her, choosing instead to dart underneath her to the nest. He snatched two of the five eggs in his long snout, and wheeling around, headed back to his murky hole.
She howled in agonized protest, and for a moment, considered following him. She couldn’t hope to catch him, and even if she could, her eggs were likely already gone.
She circled the nest. Three lone eggs remained in the clutch. The leathery skin on her left foreleg was torn and bleeding. She stared at the red streaks, startled by the sudden explosion of color. The ash continued to fall, mixing with the blood, turning the brilliant red to black, and then gray until all that was left was the pain.
Miriam descended to the waiting limo.
“Good afternoon, Ambassador.”
Customs waved the diplomatic car through the airport exit.
“79th and Central Park West.”
“I want to clear my head before the meeting.”
“Of course, Ambassador.”
Miriam fingered the hard plastic in her pocket, worrying it like a cold sore, embracing the pain.
Sauropod was weak. The nearby trees had been stripped bare, the ash-covered grass inedible. She dared not move further from her clutch. The beast was out there. She heard him sliding through the ash, waiting her out, waiting for her great strength to fail.
She tottered on wounded legs, and then lay down, circling her massive body gently around the nest. She closed her eyes, tired beyond reckoning.
The monster moved closer.
The ash fell.
Inside the museum, a fossilized dinosaur lay on its side, curled into a ball, filling the cavernous exhibit hall. Miriam saw it encircled a clutch of eggs.
She activated FaceTime. “I’m in position.”
“When your son leaves the car, you will have ten seconds to complete your task. If you do not, I will shoot him in the back.”
She smiled, “Run to the Consulate, Honey.”
A hand shoved Philip out the door.
The fossil’s placard read “EXTINCTION.” She climbed over the rail.
Miriam stroked the mother’s long neck.
“We both failed spectacularly, didn’t we?”
She closed her eyes and pressed the detonator.