Chapter 13: Watercourse
Anne had been drifting for a short while before she had awoken to the sound of chirping noises. She sat up, examining the surroundings the raft was bringing her through.
The river had narrowed out, causing the foliage on the two opposite banks to merge above her, overhanging the river. The sky was blocked from her vision, and the only reason she had to believe it was still daytime was the fact light was somehow filtering through the branches, illuminating certain spots as the raft drifted downstream.
The branches overhead were lined with small berries, but she thought better of getting up to grab them, wary about them being poisonous.
As she passed underneath a beam of light, she could see an animal jumping through he branches, carrying a small branch of berries in its mouth. The animal was small, just under two feet tall. It was light yellow, and had a beaked head, reminiscent of a parrot.
She had drifted on before she could see more, but she continued looking upward, seeing several more of the animals jumping around the branches above.
They weren’t Othnielia, she knew that.
As she continued to ponder the dinosaurs above her, her gaze focused on the river ahead of her. She could see that the overhanging tunnel opened up, the river widening slightly, causing a break in the foliage.
As the raft carried her back into light, her eyes fixed on a giant metal dome just ahead of her, positioned above the river.
The domed aviary was over a quarter of a mile in diameter, as far as she could see, and was constructed out of giant, metal struts which had a thin, almost transparent layer of mesh that clung to the interior side.
The river trailed underneath it, and before she could think, she had been carried under the edge of the dome. Above her, the dome rose over a cover of mist, almost blocked from view entirely.
The river gently bent off, trailing through the aviary, and on both sides the riverbanks were slightly muddy. To her left, there was a serene, grassy field, which ended at a palm tree forest, where her view of what lay in the depths of the aviary was blocked. To her right, palm trees were scattered loosely, among grass.
Somewhere inside the aviary, she heard a loud shriek, which made her heart plunge into the recesses of her stomach.
She remembered what she had read in the lab back at the Visitor’s Center, and how the aviary’s inhabitants were set to be replaced by those she had encountered on Site B because they were fiercely territorial.
The Pteranodons she had seen in the aviary on Isla Sorna hadn’t been too friendly, and if they were to be replacing another species that was too fierce, she couldn’t imagine having to encounter the animals here.
The animals that were with her now, waiting somewhere unseen nearby.
What had they been called? Seradactyls? Caradactyls? Something like that, yeah…
As she continued questioning names, a large shadow passed over the field to her left. She saw it out of the corner of her eye at the last moment, looking at it before snapping her head up.
She had missed the shadow’s owner.
The raft made a scratching sound as it beached up, caught on the shore. She grasped the paddle, sticking it out and pushing it into the mud, shoving away to dislodge the raft.
She dipped the paddle in the water to wash away the mud, before setting it back inside the raft as it continued its course.
Far off to the left, beyond the palm trees, she could see a building that appeared to be resting on the treeline. “Wonder what that is…”
The river bent off, finally nearing the opposite side of the silver-domed aviary.
Her raft slipped under the edge of the aviary as two more shadows passed over the river.
Quickly after passing away from the aviary, the river narrowed more than before, forcing the foliage on both sides to once again merge to create the dark overhang.
The current had picked up as well, quickening the steady pace the raft had been going.
Occasionally the raft would pass underneath the beams of light illuminating the water from gaps in the thick branch mesh above. Often, too, she could see the animals that had been in the previous overhanging tunnel.
She had lost sense of time in the repetitiveness of the tunnel, forgetting how long it had been since the raft had carried her out of the aviary.
She felt the urge to sleep, due to the quiet of the tunnel. The peace was interrupted only by the little animals above, but even then, she thought, it wasn’t too bad.
Still fighting off sleep, she rolled up onto her knees, bowing once to dodge a low branch. The raft had been sturdy enough; full to capacity with air and able to support her weight without bending or giving any indication it would do something unexpected.
She pressed the rubber side, unable to even pinch it with her hand because of the good inflation.
She moved to one edge of the raft, peering her head over to look into the water. It was a dark grey, shadowing whatever rest underneath its surface. Only when the raft passed a beam of light could she see the depths.
She turned away, still on her knees, and looked up at the overhanging branches, a foot or two from the top of her head.
Another low-hanging branch managed to poke her forehead unseen, and Anne shook the twinge of pain off after muttering, “Ow.”
Ahead, she saw several branches move above the river, and she reached up, grasping the branches above to slow the raft.
They stopped moving, and Anne moved the raft hand-over-hand using the branches, still wary.
The bow of the raft passed underneath where the branches had rumbled, and Anne heard a snap.
She flinched as a beaked head poked out from the branches above, less than a foot from her face. The small, beaked face that tapered back into a frill was small, and its mouth opened-and-closed, chewing on a small berry.
Anne gripped the branches, knowing this dinosaur had been one of the ones that she had been seeing and hearing much of her time on the river.
The raft below her was being supported by her shins and feet, as she slowly moved one hand toward the animal, making for another branch to hold onto.
It made a low squeaking noise, and she put her hand up into the branches, wrapping her finger around one, only to—
She had pressed her palm against a concealed, small branch as she had begun to grasp the larger branch.
Her sudden noise caused the animal to jerk, and fall forward off the branches it had been using to support itself to put its head below.
Its head jutted downward, and now she could see its neck and back, as well as a quick glimpse at two small little hands. Next to come down from the branches was its larger hind legs, followed by its thin tail.
The animal bounced sideways onto the raft, and Anne let go of the branches, wondering what to do as the animal flopped and chirped in its own confusion.
It was a just over two feet long, and as it regained hind leg footing Anne could see it was no less than a foot and a half tall.
The frilled head and beaked, seemingly parrot-like face reminded her of a miniaturized Triceratops, but she knew well that it wasn’t.
It made a quick chirping noise, and warily backed away, balancing itself oddly on the rubber footing. Its tail pressed against the interior of the rubber bow, and it circled around, making a frantic jump onto the rubber edging.
“Go on,” she urged politely.
The animal crouched, springing off the raft’s edging and landed three feet from the raft, just short of the shore. It surfaced, running up through the water and onto the shore.
Anne watched as it bounded over the dirt and into the thick, dark wall of plants, disappearing from sight.
The current had quickened more than it had when she had begun her drift away from the aviary. Now the tunnel was moving by noticeably faster, and the river had considerably narrowed out.
The raft was carried around a bend, and Anne could see the end of the tunnel. Beyond, clear vision was waiting for her, illuminated in the daylight.
And there was no more tunnel where the river continued flowing.
Just a flat, horizontal line.
Ah, hell. No way.
The current began to rush her forward, out of the end of the tunnel. She reached for the paddle, sticking it out over the raft and into the water, hoping to stop it. She made one move with the paddle, frantically digging into the water to pull herself to shore.
She heard a remote, muffled crack, and felt the paddle slip from her hand. She caught it bob under and over the surface of the water as it sped ahead, carried into the waterfall.
Anne knew she had been too late.
She made sure her life-jacket’s straps were held tight, but she had only gotten through one before the bow of the raft was carried over the lip of the waterfall.
Anne couldn’t close her eyes, staring in shock during the split moment before the raft completely tumbled over. Below there was a large surging pool, where slow waves were slowly rippling away from the base of the waterfall.
The only noise she could hear was the tumultuous roar of water around her, and as the raft titled downward for its final descent, Anne was given a view of the fifty-foot waterfall.
The stern was forced over, the raft sliding down only a foot or two on the face of the waterfall, before flipping over from the back.
Anne was shoved away from the waterfall, despite trying to grip the raft, and was sent spiraling down to meet the water below.
A chilly cold swept through her body as she plunged into the depths.
She trudged up onto the shore, unbuckling the support vest. Her hair was dripping, and she pushed it out of her face as she finished messing with the last strap.
She slipped the vest off, dropping it onto the ground near the water, and looked back. At the base of the waterfall, she could see a rush of water surging from the bottom, spreading outward across the small pool before forming near her into another river, which continued to trail on through another green, grassy field, which was surrounding her..
Her clothes were stuck to her skin, and the slight breeze running through the air made her shiver. She could see water still sliding down her bare shins, and out from underneath her shorts. She took several steps toward the connecting river, listening to the squish of her socks inside her shoes.
She glanced to the opposite side of the pool, which had been to her right as she had come down, and saw a dirt path rising up toward the waterfall, appearing to go straight into it.
She turned away, standing next to the area where the river and the pool formed together, and looked out across the field. The river course through its small area, finding a part in the jungle on the far side and trailing out of sight through it.
Several trees were scattered across the small field, as well as a small cluster of dark plants and trees aiding to blend in a feeder station.
A herd of four-legged animals were grazing in the area, their number appearing to fit the size of it. Anne counted around a dozen of them, but she didn’t bother following it up.
They were no more than five meters long, with four, short legs supporting their heavy bodies. They stood no taller than she was, under or around a meter and a half in height. Their heads were fairly large, with a beak and a long, protruding horn. Their heads tapered back into a frill armed with six spike-like projections fanning out around it. Its bulk rippled when they moved, and the animals all were rounded off with a thick, short tail.
Like the little creatures she had seen above the river, and several others she had encountered, these dinosaurs were a complete mystery to her. They looked strange, but appeared to be an animal that, if left alone, would remain peaceful.
Her eyes drifted away from the nearest of the animals, toward the feeder station. “Well, now I’m definitely back on time.” She looked at the river on her right, going across the field, to where one of the animals was partially submerged in the river. “And the river hasn’t been too big of a help.”
Her eyes shot back to the feeder station. “Maybe there’s something I can find to tell me where the hell I am now.”
The door to the feeder station swung open with a tremendous creak, a sign of serious age. The air was slightly dusty, and it looked much like the other feeding stations, except for the fact the bars making up the wall to her right upon entrance, facing the field, were thicker and spread out more.
Probably in order to allow those animals to be able to get their heads in to eat.
She made her way past the familiar production machine, toward the door connecting to the back room. When she reached it, she saw it was slightly ajar, nudging it open with her knuckles.
The same conveyor belt was on her left, as well as the monitor station on the wall ahead. The backside of the production machine that was fed through the wall was there as well.
On the far right wall, where the wall of bars would have been, a brick wall stood instead. A desk was pushed up against it, and—like the one she had seen before—had a large notice board above it, plastered on the wall and tacked with many faded notes.
She ran her hand over the numerous notices tacked up on the board, seeing only a few that had been able to sustain legibility over time. None of them she understood; they were discussing codes and maintenance.
She pulled out the chair, sitting down. There were several drawers on either side, and she pulled them open one-by-one.
In one drawer she found a series of feeder station maintenance memorandums, files, and other documents. In another she came across dinosaur information for the paddock.
With a quick glance, she skimmed through it, finding several old pictures and information about the species she had seen outside.
“Styracosaurus,” she whispered, closing the file.
The next drawer held several empty notebooks, papers, and tools. She switched to the other side of the desk, where three more drawers waited.
The bottom held folders of tossed in notes covering the feeder station’s production progress.
Nothing important…Come on…Give me something…
In the middle drawer, she pushed around until finding a folder marked: Waterfall Control & Access.
She flipped it open, finding several papers attached to the inside. A notice on the front page read:
About Waterfall Access
To Personnel –
Immediate access to and from this feeder station to and from the main facility can be reached through the passage located behind the waterfall. Follow the dirt trail leading up to the waterfall to get behind to find the control area for waterfall and river management. There is an electronically-locked door against the back wall, in which you will need to enter a four-digit access code to enter. The code is: 1023.
Interior tunnel will lead back to the garage, and it is suggested that travel in the tunnel be done by vehicle transport, for your own benefit. Two emergency transports are in the tunnel at all times, and must be returned after use immediately.
Have a good day,
Styrac. Station Manager
“There’s a tunnel behind the waterfall?” She looked up. “Now I can get back…”
She looked down at the access code, 1023, and closed the folder. “The power was on in the control room for that computer…I better hope that it’s working for that door, too.”