Chapter 8: Unlocal Madman
John Whardall, who was best known not because of what he had done in life but because of his last name—a name that, in his small town, was connected to a family of people that would shoot each other at family reunions and rob each other at keg parties—thought about what or who he might kill when he crawled out from the beaver-like den he had made from the debris he had found around him.
When the first wave hit, he saw it from some distance and enclosed himself in a 100-gallon plastic container with a twist-on lid and sealed himself in. He wasn’t a bright man, and didn’t expect his trick to work, but it did; he had a plunger which he shoved down onto the lid of the container which was lying on the floor beside it but it wouldn’t stick; he dumped a can full of motor oil on the lid and tried again, getting a firm suction on the lid. With the lid in hand, he climbed into the container and pulled the lid down as tightly as he could and held it.
A fifth-grade dropout who had made his living as a deck hand who took orders and followed them—a fighter, by nature, who hated everything he came across and every one of the people who encountered—John Whardall’s only hero in life had been Ted Kaczynski who he had only known about because a cousin had explained the man to him. A man who just enjoyed issuing death, as far as John could tell, was the right kind of man. John believed that people really just needed to be really thinned out. There were too many, and they were ungrateful, and undeserving, and disrespectful. He didn’t believe in God or the devil. Didn’t believe in democrats or republicans or capitalism or socialism or communism or anything else except that there were too many people that weren’t worth anything and they ought to die.
His private-time fantasies were those of massive, worldwide destruction that would kill most, not all but most living creatures, and were fantasies that had guided his thinking for the 40 years of his adulthood so far and had become lodged in his heart like undeniable truths that couldn’t be disproved. He wasn’t even sure that he should be one of the ones that survived.
He crawled slowly out of his den for the 6th day after the wave had receded; the 6th day since he and his survival drum and the weapon he clung to became motionless after a rough and tumble 2 hours of motion… 2 hours of breathing slowly to preserve his oxygen, even as he strained to keep the lid pulled close to the container as water made a slow trickle in… stuck in a tree that was lodged into the side of a mostly destroyed brick structure.
His beard did its regular scratch and tug routine as it caught on the branches outside of the den door. He looked around at the soggy wasteland around him, still recognizing nothing that might indicate where he was. He held his gun close to him in what was a growing habit. The .22 lever-action rifle that he had brought with him in his survival drum was more of a teddy bear, now. It was his comfort item. He didn’t love the gun before… it was just one of a few he had in his trailer that sat behind his uncle’s house in a field of weeds that used to be used to farm soybeans and corn in the middle of North Carolina. He loved the gun now, like a good friend that wouldn’t fail him. He loved knowing that if he couldn’t find something to kill, he could kill himself when he chose to. That felt good to him. It made him, even in these circumstances, a happy person inside.
He smiled. Looked around. Took some time to breathe and smell. Took some satisfaction in knowing that the bulk of humanity had just been thinned out; he only hoped it was reduced to a few million.
Out past some trees that were bunched up some 2 miles away, he could see something that looked unnatural. It was too straight. He took a long, thin branch and tied his handkerchief to it, then posted it beside the den so that he could find his way back. He loaded a round into the chamber with a click-clack of the lever and put the safety on, pulling the hammer back slightly, and began a deliberate march through the soggy debris to find out what was sticking out of the ground, past the lump of trees, 2 miles to his north.
With a slight limp because of his arthritic hip, he meandered around the debris toward the crane. Past a pile of trees and brush, he began to see the outline of a building; first the roof, then the tops of the walls, then the broken glass of the display windows. He stopped. Stared. Furrowed his eyebrows and thought. He saw movement and ducked low. He changed his walk to a slow creep, avoiding thin branches or anything that might make noise. As he rounded the right corner of the pile of trees that had hidden the building, he noticed the movement had stopped. He could hear no other noises except for the slow, steady breeze that came from the northwest.
He slowly began creeping in a direct line toward the crane and the building beyond it. He saw the cherry-red car with the branch lodged into it, upside down on what used to be a road. He crouched down to look inside, and he could see a body. He poked it with his gun; no movement.
When he stood up and turned around toward the building again, Addy was in full flight jumping toward him. He cocked the hammer and fired before any other thought crossed his mind. Addy yelped, landing sideways, then attempted to run but fell motionless after two steps. John then heard Boom yell, and he loaded another round in the chamber with the familiar clack-clack and took aim toward the diner store.