After the Apocalypse
Chapter 56: Revelation
by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue
He'd been alone for only one very long day and it was already starting to wear on him a little. When he'd first wandered out into the storm, he'd just needed some time to think. A few minutes to gather his thoughts and then move on. Sitting in the kitchen of the White Horse Inn, he tried to retrace the events of the last few days in his mind.
When he'd left camp, he began walking slowly, without much purpose, almost hoping that someone would find him and tell him that he wasn't a killer and that he wasn't going crazy. When that hadn't happened, he'd realized it wouldn't. Nobody really knew the trouble he faced, no one knew he'd killed two people or that it was his fault they were in this situation. If it hadn't been for him, there would have been a Winter Camp, but it wouldn't have had so many youth, so many children separated from their families with neither knowing if the other was alive or dead. As he had continued to walk, he thought about his own parents and wondered. He had made his way to the back of the Beaver Creek firebowl and up the trail toward Baldy.
He realized he was tired, but he knew he couldn't sleep right away. The tumult in his head had to be addressed, and besides, with the wind and snow the way it was, he'd be lucky to make it if he just laid down. For a moment, he considered it. Lying down in the snow and not waking up would be an easy answer to all his problems-no more wondering who blamed him for their misfortunes, no more wondering if those two men had families and children somewhere who now wondered where their fathers were, not knowing that they'd been killed by some callous stranger.
As he thought on it, he decided he didn't deserve to die. It would be too easy and he needed to be punished for what he'd done. There was no other way. It would be wrong to take his own life, or to let the storm do it for him. He headed off the trail to a place he knew, another trail which led back towards Lang. He laughed for a moment at the thought of Lang cabin, which for years had been called Midway. They could rename them all now and there wasn't anything the council could do about it. When he got back to the group, he'd suggest it. It might be fun to rename all the cabins and campsites.
Pausing on a wide flat space above the cabin, he decided to build a fire and spend the night there. He could have made it back to the cabin easily, but there was something about this spot that seemed oddly comfortable, and he felt it would be easier to be with his thoughts here than in the confines of the building. He began gathering branches and twigs to build a fire. He kicked some snow out of a broad circle then stamped it flat with his heavy boots. He finally laid a small fire in the middle and then, using his body to shelter it from the wind, he lit it with a Zippo lighter.
He took some more branches and made a rough bower for himself. Nothing wonderful, but it would keep him out of the snow. For a long time he sat staring at the fire and turning the events of the last few weeks over and over in his mind. He knew mentally that what he'd done was probably the right choice. The men he'd killed had probably killed the other man they'd found in the parking lot, and they probably would have killed Lou. It was possible he could have made them surrender, but that seemed unlikely. Even if they had, he didn't know what he and Lou would have done with them.
The problem was with his heart. He'd gone nearly twenty years without deliberately killing even a bug and then he'd just turned around and shot two guys dead. He knew there was some hypocrisy in this whole thing, knew that since he ate beef and poultry he'd been responsible for hundreds of deaths in his time, but that didn't matter. It wasn't really the death that bothered him, it was that he'd done it. He'd probably have become a vegetarian long ago if he'd had to kill food himself.
Even as he thought about these things, he knew he was delaying the inevitable. He'd killed those men and somehow he had to make up for it. He needed to be punished for his crimes, but he wasn't sure who should punish him. Returning to Winter Camp seemed out of the question. They'd ask a few questions, then decide it was probably okay that he'd done it. They might declare it self-defense, they might even declare it heroic. He didn't feel heroic though, he felt like a lawless, murdering scumbag. He resolved at that moment not to return to Winter Camp until he'd made some amends for his crime.
He couldn't stay where he was either - the rest of them would come looking for him and they'd probably bring him back to a hero's welcome. Besides, he realized his stomach was already growling at him, and he was getting thirsty. He'd wait 'til morning then head into Metamora to see if he could find something to eat and drink. After that, he wasn't sure where he'd go, but it wouldn't be to Winter Camp.
His mind slightly at ease, he built the fire up to a roaring blaze, then drifted off to a fitful sleep. One good thing had come out of this, he realized just before he finally fell asleep; he'd discovered that he didn't need the Vader box any longer. It had, of course, always been a possibility that his weight loss would have made the box obsolete, but he hadn't tried it. He'd gone back to the doctor a few times but they hadn't sent him for new testing since the first time he'd been diagnosed. Kind of amazing that it had taken a major tragedy to make him see that the box was obsolete.
He slept late and by the time he woke up his fire was nearly gone. The entire area was blanketed in more than a foot of snow, and the winds continued to blow. He was slightly surprised that he'd managed to survive, the temperature wasn't that low though and the fire was still warm. He'd just have to count himself lucky. He kicked the remains of the fire out and scattered his bower in the woods. He wasn't sure why, but he didn't want anyone to know he'd spent the night here. He then headed back down the trail towards Baldy and out into the new Camporee area. It would have been shorter to go over the Last Ceremony site, but it would have been a harder hike, and he was sure the others would search that area first.
It hadn't taken him as long as he'd thought, despite the snow, and by late in the day, he'd been at the White Horse. It was, as far as he could tell, the only building still standing in Metamora. He was starving, exhausted, and cold. He knew the three were related, and a warm meal seemed the best cure for all three. He rummaged through the kitchen of the White Horse and found some food and matches. He lit the gas stove and warmed his hands for a few minutes before heading for the walk-in freezers to find something to eat. An hour later, he had a full belly and felt much better. He was by no means safe, but at least he had food and shelter, something he imagined many people were without at that moment.
That, he realized with a start, would be his salvation. What group of people would be better prepared to help in a disaster than Boy and Girl Scouts? They'd completely missed the boat on their responsibilities. They had all focused on their own survival without even a single thought of those around them. What they needed to do was to reach out and try to make things better for people. He couldn't believe they'd fallen so far, so fast and he knew a change was in order, but not until morning.
Tonight he needed to get some rest so he'd be able to make the trip to Lapeer in the morning. He tipped over a few long tables to make a rectangular shelter for himself, then tossed all the napkins he could find on the bottom, thankful that the White Horse still favored cloth. He thought about building a fire, but there was no fire wood and he wasn't sure about the storm outside. Instead, he settled on firing up the oven and throwing in a ten pound bag of potatoes. Once they were warm, he placed them strategically in his bedding. He laid two more tables atop the ones he'd already tipped and created his own small tent within the building, then crawled in and settled down to sleep.
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