The Imperiled Actress
Celeste looked at her friends down below. They were running as fast as they could, but she could tell they didn’t have a chance. Maia might be able to get away, but Jack seemed so beat up that he was barely able to stand. The tyrannosaur would make short work of him before moving on to the others.
Celeste did the only thing she could: she screamed. Her throat felt shredded after her long ordeal, and what came out of her mouth was little more than a strangled shout that cut off suddenly and painfully as the muscles in her larynx gave out. If she had screamed that way in her audition, she never would have been cast as Victim #2 in Reggie Sparks’s film Death in the Dark. But here it proved to be enough.
The tyrannosaur ground to a halt, leaving long trenches in the sun-baked dirt behind each of its feet. Its massive head spun to find her at the top of the pylon. Celeste had always assumed that reptiles didn’t have emotions, or at least that they didn’t express them in any way she could recognize, but as she peered into the black slits at the center of those huge orange eyes, she understood that this beast recognized her—and hated her. Its hatred of her scream had carried it through the jungle, and the destruction it had wreaked today had not been for the sake of animalistic hunger or territorial instinct or even wanton cruelty. It had attacked because it hated her, and it was a beast that knew only to destroy that which it hated.
And now, here it was, only separated by a small matter of elevation. This would be nothing to the dinosaur: with a butt of its mighty head it could crack the pillar in half and send Celeste and Thelonius plummeting to the ground. All it was waiting for, perhaps, was for Celeste to scream so that it could have the pleasure of cutting off the hateful noise in mid-burst.
But Celeste was done screaming. Instead, she aimed Thelonius’s blunderbuss down at the beast.
“How about a snoot full of silverware?” she rasped.
The gun slammed into her, bruising her shoulder as it belched forth a clap of thunder and a cloud of white smoke. Dozens of forks that Thelonius had pilfered from the zeppelin’s kitchen rained down onto the beast’s head. The tyrannosaur flinched and blinked, narrowly saving its eyes, but the utensils impaled themselves all along the gargantuan face like needles in a pincushion. The tyrannosaur opened its mouth as if to roar, but instead sneezed mightily, and from her elevation Celeste thought she could see the sunlight glinting off a fork lodged inside the beast’s nostril.
Celeste had no idea how to reload the blunderbuss, so she handed it back to Thelonius who began by stuffing another gunpowder cap down its barrel. Reloading his weapon was a slow process even without an injured shoulder, and Celeste could see that the tyrannosaur was not about to wait for her to deliver another volley.