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Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse - Gischler Victor - Страница 2


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II

Using the sled he’d made to haul firewood, Mortimer took the bodies a mile or so away for burial. If the strangers had friends, Mortimer didn’t want the blame for the killings. It had not been his fault, he’d convinced himself. He’d wanted to talk, and they’d drawn on him.

He still felt sorry about it.

Mortimer soon developed a little routine. He flailed at the frozen earth for a few minutes with shovel or pickax. Then he’d catch his breath by the small fire he’d built and search the pockets of the dead men. They carried precious little. One had a condom in his wallet and nothing else. That’s optimistic, Mortimer thought. He discovered that each man had only one bullet in each rifle and carried no other ammunition. They could not possibly have been coming for him and must have been hunting.

All three wore red armbands.

He’d exhausted himself by the time he put the first two into shallow graves, covered them back over with dirt and rock. Another heavy snowfall would completely obscure the deed.

He leaned the third body in a sitting position against a young pine. He liked the look of this guy, the same brown-red facial hair except his moustache had been curled up into friendly handlebars. The face was pudgy and jolly in spite of the fact that all life had gone dark in the eyes, which were wide open, round and glassy.

“I’m sorry I had to do that,” Mortimer said. “It was the other guy, almost got me with that deer rifle. Just wasn’t anything else I could do.”

Mortimer nodded and shrugged as if listening to the corpse’s reply. “I know, I know. I should’ve yelled at you from the cabin instead of creeping up on you. But see it from my point of view. I had to make sure you guys were square first, right?”

The man’s dead eyes appraised him unblinkingly.

“You were surprised to see me up here,” Mortimer said. “A good place to hide, this far up. I’m probably the only fellow in East Tennessee who was ready for it.”

The fire crackled. Mortimer put on another fistful of sticks. Nothing stirred on the mountain.

“If it hadn’t been for my wife,” Mortimer admitted, “I’d have never come up here. It took both the end of the world and Anne riding my ass to sign those divorce papers. One wasn’t enough to run and hide. At the time, the divorce seemed worse. Can you believe that? I guess because it was personal to me.”

Mortimer took the pickax and started on the third grave, stopped when he felt winded again and threw more sticks on the fire.

Mortimer resumed the conversation. “Her name was Anne. She wanted a divorce. I didn’t. We were both angry. We didn’t know why, just that our unhappiness had to be the other’s fault, and damned if I was going to pay her one goddamn cent of alimony, you know? I was raised to work things out.”

He got up, dug some more, came back to the fire.

“Anyway, you could see it all coming. I don’t think anyone really thought it was the end, not the absolute final end, but just that it would be bad. And so I found the cave and started getting it ready. But really, I was leaving Anne. I was going to take the top of this mountain for myself and let her have the whole rest of the world, and all the trouble was just sort of an excuse. And I would just be gone, you know? And if she wanted those divorce papers signed, she’d damn well have to come find me. She’d have to earn it.”

He finished the hole, but didn’t put the body in right away. He still wanted to talk. He realized he was practicing. It was a time for talking again, and he wanted to remember how, wanted eventually to talk to someone who would talk back. The crushing loneliness had crept up on him so gradually that he hadn’t even noticed it until he’d stood over the men he’d killed. He could have asked them so much, and maybe they’d have known some jokes and he could’ve laughed.

Mortimer laughed out loud to see if he recalled what it sounded like. It felt fake and tin in his throat, and he seemed to remember that a legitimate laugh came up from the belly. He decided not to practice laughing.

He conjured Anne’s face in his mind, the sharp angles and bright, alert eyes, hair a rich brown. Skin so clear and white. “Huh.”

Mortimer kept talking as he grabbed the man by the wrists and dragged him toward the hole. “I don’t guess any of this makes a damn bit of difference to you. I wonder if you have a wife. I sure am sorry for her if you do.”

Mortimer dropped him in the hole. “Again, sorry.” He covered him up.

III

In back of the cabin was an opening four feet high and five feet wide that led into the cave. Mortimer stopped at the gun locker first, took the keys hung on a string around his neck, picked out the correct one and opened the locker. He reloaded the police special.

It was a big gun locker, long guns on top, ammunition and pistols in the drawers below. He had two more police specials in case something happened to the first and a thousand rounds of.38 ammunition sealed against the elements. He had a twelve-gauge pump shotgun, a lever-action.30- 06, a.223 Ruger Mini-14 with two thirty-round banana clips. There was also a 9 mm Uzi that Mortimer had converted to full auto with online information, when there had been such a thing as the Internet.

Mortimer had maxed three credit cards stocking the cave with canned goods and medical supplies and tools and everything a man needed to live through the end of the world. There were more than a thousand books along shelves in the driest part of the cave. There used to be several boxes of pornography until Mortimer realized he’d spent nearly ten days in a row sitting in the cave masturbating. He burned the dirty magazines to keep from doing some terrible whacking injury to himself. There were also books on survival, books showing how to use the many tools he’d brought, books revealing the secrets of the land, how to skin and dress game, how to produce various medicines from plants and animals.

In the farthest reaches of the cavern, an underground stream ran through a deep chamber. Mortimer had secured a ladder down to the chamber and had rigged a system of buckets and pulleys to haul water. The cabin/cave combination was fortress, refuge, sanctuary and home. He had been relatively comfortable and safe these nine years.

Nine years. It seemed an impossible amount of time.

He dug into a cabinet and came out with a shaving mirror. He didn’t shave anymore and had put the mirror away. He took the mirror out to the cabin window so he could see himself in the light. He gasped at his reflection, the haunted eyes glaring red-rimmed from the bushy hair, and beard and eyebrows gone awry. He remembered he was now thirty-eight years old, but he looked like some old, wild hermit, streaks of gray in his black hair and beard.

Many of the books Mortimer had stashed in the cavern were novels. He’d anticipated having a lot of time on his hands. In Treasure Island, there was a character named Ben Gunn who’d been stranded on an island and had gone half insane lusting for cheese. Mortimer imagined that’s how he looked. No wonder the stranger had swung the deer rifle on him.

He fetched water up from the stream and heated it with a Coleman propane stove. He didn’t have much propane left, but he didn’t build fires in the cave because there wasn’t any way for the smoke to vent. He rummaged the storage boxes until he found a disposable razor and a can of shaving gel. Rust ringed the bottom of the can.

He splashed warm water on his face and lathered up, but the razor balked at his thick and tangled beard. He went back into the cabinet and found scissors. He cut away the beard in big patches. The hair collected around his ankles. He tried the razor again and shaved close, nicking himself around the chin. He wiped the blood with the bottom of his shirt. He cut his hair with the scissors. He surprised himself by doing a good job. Nine years had taught him patience with tedious tasks.

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