valley of the deer

The morning after her father died, the first thing Laura saw upon waking was Bobby, curled up around his Wolverine doll–the one that he’d carried out of the lab, through a sewer, bundled into the fake bottom of a crate in the back of a truck, up the 5, across the deserts of Utah, the Rockies, and the long flat north that came after. He had carried it through these woods, through this fight and this flight, and there he was sleeping, pudgy hands curled close around it.

Laura had read the comics Gabriela and the other nurses had brought in for them. They had been assigned to learn how to read briefs, maps, instruments, but Gabriela had brought Laura comics about heroes.

In the lab, they had taught Delilah how to drag poison from green veins, how to find the sharpest edge at her beck and call, to strangle. The day before, Delilah had shredded the life out of men with a screaming rain of pine needles. She had wrapped long grasses around Rhodes’s ugly bolo tie and dragged him down and down. But that next day, that dawning day, Laura woke up to see Delilah calling small yellow apples down from a tree blooming out of season.

It had been a story in a comic book, Eden. It had been fiction, a fantasy, a dream, a random set of coordinates. Logan had suspected they would find nothing when they got there. He had been sure.

Sometimes promises are fiction. Sometimes they’re written on the backs of twice-folded photographs. Sometimes the nurse with the steadiest hands whispers to you in the middle of the night come with me child, wake up child, curl up in this duffel bag, stay quiet child, believe me child, we’re going, we’re going, I’ll get you somewhere safe.

Laura had curled up in that fabric-walled darkness, clutching her backpack to her chest. She had her ball, the paperwork that was her life writ out, two battered comic books. A photograph with a list of whispered names. They were not supposed to have names any more than they were supposed to have birthdays or comic books or childhoods.

Kind hands were waiting for them at the end of this journey. There was refuge. There were new names, visas and school where no one should bleed for anything except loose teeth and ignored blisters.

Logan had scoffed, and Laura hadn’t listened. She had said her friends’ names over and over. He had pointed to coordinates in a comic book, and she had said her family’s names over and over. She knew, the way Logan never did, the way Logan never would, that some days stories save you. Sometimes a nurse calls you child instead of by number, and gives you flimsy precious pages to read in the dark.

They knew the comic books were comic books. Laura knew, before she ever met Logan and his smelly, hopeless self, that the X-Men were no gods among men. Flimsy pages—she understood flimsy. She understood the way things tore–pages, clothing, skin and ligaments.

But sometimes you can make the story real. “Eden,” they said. They pressed the coordinates hand to hand, whisper to whisper, and they ran. They promised each other, and they found each other there, at coordinates that had been nothing until they made them a waystation, a place to rest. A watchtower.

Laura had carried so little out of that lab. She had the metal that lined her bones. She had her family’s names. She had a set of coordinates in a battered old comic, and she would carry that forever. It wasn’t real, but she was. It wasn’t real, that Eden, that haven, but she had been there.

She had run shrieking into Rictor’s arms. She had cried on Bobby and danced around the hard cracked dirt with him, each swinging the other in wide circles. Logan had slept safe there for the last time. She would carry it forever. Fading, flimsy pages. A tired man with a funny beard.

They would go next over shallow valleys and dry rocky peaks. Delilah would hunt down a deer in the woods, walking silent on fallen leaves and little sprouts, calling death down green and blooming. Rebecca would cook it up over the fire Bobby raised from sparks, and Laura would lie on her back with her hands on her full rounded belly and pretend she was a lion. When they came down from the mountains, the wide low fields would roll out below them for miles. There would be so much sky.

But for now, in this morning, this dawning day–there was a little boy in a wood, who was the safest he’d ever been. There was a little boy in a wood, with a yellow Wolverine doll held to his chest and Laura sat there in the waking light, watching him breathe.

8

Tibia: Edmontosaurus regalis is the only known hadrosaur from the Horsetheif Member

Dromaeosaur tooth: both velociraptorinae and dromaeosaurinae are known in the formation, only the former has described at the species level (Atrociraptor marshalli). This tooth however appears to be a dromaeosaurine tooth.

Tyrannosaur tooth: Albertosaurus sarcophagus is the only known tyrannosaur from the formation. This is one of the first maxillary teeth as the anterior serrations curve strongly to the lateral-posterior. The photo doesn’t show it though as the posterior serrations are on the underside.