Jonah’s Story Part I: Ain’t no Jive
I thought that they were Angels,
But much to my surprise they climbed aboard their Starship
And headed for the Skies!
Come, sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me lads!
Come Sail Away
I had been underground for six weeks: Extreme Spelunking.
As I take off my re-breather I notice a scent in the air that I cannot place. Burnt hair? Melted plastic? I gag as a reflex. What the hell is that smell? As I exit the cave and walk 2 miles back to my truck with my gear I notice that the Ranger Station is closed even though his Jeep is parked out front. Also the parking lot is empty which is unusual for a Sunday morning. Trying to put my apprehensions out of my mind I get on Route 96 and head for home. I pass no one on the road and even the Wal-Mart looks closed.
I pull into a Dollar General and I go into shock when I finally saw the blue sky above. Where are all the People? Because of the enormity of the desolation, I find relief in the clouds. I see a Red Tailed Hawk soaring above my head: a good Omen for a Bad Day. Staring at the sky, I repeat over and over: “My God what have we done?” Then I fall on my knees and weep. I lose time in my grief and soon the sun sets. As the dark descends I am completely blown away that the street lights turn on at Dusk. What the fuck is going on? What happened to the Electromagnetic Pulse?
That night I cheer myself by writing a song:
Let me lay it out real clear.
The moment of Truth is near.
Fear not! All will be well:
Hunky-dory. Peachy. Swell.
Dark dreams have the power to kill
Like swallowing a bitter Pill.
“Live and let Live” is what they say.
Well then, you better get the hell outta my way.
Depression is just Self-Pity manifest:
A time to be less than my best.
So here I am on the Road:
No letters, no email, no phone:
Utterly and completely Alone.
Not a Soul in sight.
So I force myself
To turn my thoughts to the Light.
My only Hope is to stay Alive.
My prayers to God I send
And that ain’t no Jive.
Fences will we mend:
Much more than just Survive.
Strive every day to avoid End.
Thankfully, I have a dreamless sleep that first night and I wake at Dawn. I am beyond low, in the depths of a deep Depression I cannot shake. So I sing my song again which lifts my spirits just enough to pack for the road ahead. With the shelves undisturbed, I find all the supplies I needed at the soulless Wal-Mart: a large backpack, canned goods, bread, lunchmeat, boots (two pair), dozens of CDs and DVDs (for boredom), plenty of guns with ammo, several books and maps, camping supplies, a propane stove and of course coffee and a pot. What did I forget to bring?
Not a single corpse to be found. Was I Left Behind from some all-inclusive Rapture? Where has the radiation gone? More and more evidence showed that the attack was not nuclear at all. No fallout, no radiation, no EMP. What the hell happened? Maybe a biological weapon? Conventional bombs? Chemical? Where are all the bodies of the dead? Why are the birds and other animals unaffected? Where is the electricity coming from? Too many questions and no answers, at least for now.
I find a Jeep with the keys in the ignition, a full tank of gas, GPS and a CD player, so I grab all I can and I throw my pack and other supplies in the back seat and drive out of town on interstate 24: Free of only the occasional car on the shoulder. Most of the traffic appears to be heading into town rather than running from: very confusing. Where did the hundreds of thousands citizens disappear to? Do I really want to know? More unanswered questions . . . So while I drive, I decide to write another song:
Somebody’s World Ends Every Day:
The Death of Man’s Ignorance, they say.
I would ride that Missile like fate.
You better get your Afterlife Straight.
Where have all the people Gone?
Is it Darkest before the Dawn?
So many Unanswered Questions:
Where are the Solutions?
These Lyrics keep me Sane.
Am I the New Wave Cain?
Marked for life by Homicide?
Or should I seek solace in Suicide?
The Guilt of the Survivor is my Lot.
No markers on this Funeral Plot.
Alone I drive to who knows where.
What the hell is that over there?
What the hell is that over there? I break my reverie when I see a semi jack knifed in front of me outside of Manchester. I decide to check it out. Oh my God! A corpse! Or what’s left after the turkey buzzards had a crack at him. I’m no CSI, but the body appears to be badly burned: a crispy critter. The semi is also covered with burned and melted parts and the load has been completely destroyed. I take plenty of pictures with a digital camera I grabbed at Wal-Mart on a whim. Observe with an Objective Mind is my new motto.
I’m Friends with the Monster that’s under my Bed. Get along with the Voices inside of my Head. You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath. And you think I’m Crazy. Yeah you think I’m crazy.
As I get back in my Jeep an old conversation pops into my head. In high school I once asked Susie Smithson out on a date. See declared: “Jonah, I wouldn’t go out on a date with you even if you were the last man on Earth!” Well, now I am. Where the hell are you?
As I drove down Mt. Eagle, I approached Chattanooga from the Northwest. More and more I find myself talking out loud to myself. No big deal given the present circumstances. My concern grows when I start a conversation with myself complete with different voices and points of view. They used to call that Schizophrenia, but to me it feels perfectly Natural. What are you gonna do when you get to Chattanooga? Look for survivors, of course. What are you gonna do when you find someone? I do not know, yet. What if they aren’t friendly? Then we’ll kill them. Really? Yes, of course, we will.
As I drive toward the outskirts of Chattanooga, I see more and more abandoned cars. Entering the valley, it becomes more and more difficult to navigate as the road fills with vehicles. Eventually, I must drive in the median then on the wrong side of the road which is mostly free of cars. Still, no more corpses appear which is a real relief. I make camp at a Hampton Inn and Suites. The clean linens feel great.
I wake in a cold sweat from a nightmare: I was a Hawk in the sky, flying over the Desolation of an unknown city on the coast. San Francisco? No, East Coast. Where? Baltimore! That’s the Inner Harbor and the Aquarium! I soar to a lower altitude and I see people, dozens of them. They are raiding a K-Mart and loading stuff into U-Haul trucks. One of the women sees me, waves and smiles. Then she screams, “See ya soon, Jonah!”
I could not shake the shrillness of her Scream and its Message: go to Baltimore. Her voice haunting in the morning light: I take a few minutes to get my bearings. Oh yeah, Hampton Inn and Suites has sheets that are no longer clean. Go ram it.
End Part One
Copyright 2014 Joel Paddon