Mad Dogs and Englishmen WIP

Unfinished draft of a work in progress. Sorry about the title.

Here it is:

Cold like truth. Not “the truth,” not any one truth, no. But there it was. A lot of truth had bled from the wounds of the twentieth century and this half-grown one. The most potent of which was probably the one embodied in “you can’t go home again.” You couldn’t, see, ’cause that doom clock that the science men played with now moved only forwards, like real time. They were into the minutes past midnight, and you couldn’t say it wasn’t so when it was cold like it was outside at night, and here you were in the hottest part of the country – during the day, that was. And who knew when day would dawn.

Shelby didn’t. During the day, it was hot as balls, and even then they didn’t always turn off the heat in these motels for fear of not being able to start it up again at night. Or maybe it was pure laziness. Motels was maybe too high- fallutin’ of a word for the kind of establishment he was stuck in lately. Stuck was a pretty good word though – Shelby didn’t move at night because it was too cold and the dark was dangerous, disorienting even without the banditos that no doubt walked out there. But only mad dogs and Englishmen went out in the noonday sun. So he moved from four in the morning until ten-thirty, and then again from five to eight in the evening. The roadmaps still gave pretty good indications of where to find shelter, so long as the latest disaster hadn’t touched down.

He remembered:

Tsunamis the day after Christmas. Hurricanes that had girls’ names, devastating the most powerful country in the world – but not enough. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, floods, storms, earthquakes. The worst in recorded history, they’d say. The worst in three hundred years, or two hundred and fifty years, and still the majority refused to clue in.

He and his friends had blithely donated to relief funds en mass, feeling good about making a difference, planning their next hippy backpacking adventure to another continent – by plane, of course, but they had steel water bottles, now wasn’t that eco-friendly? 2.5% of the world’s oil usage came from the manufacturing of plastic water bottles, after all. Yeah.

He still had that damned bottle – was drinking out of it presently, in fact, wondering about the care lines around his eyes and whether that was normal at his age. At least his hair wasn’t greying yet. Maybe he could find someone later to try the whole repopulating and rebuilding the planet schtick on later in the day. Only they’d have to be pretty fucking stupid for it to work – or as desperate as he was. Feeding the population they had left was a much more difficult nut to crack than busting a nut and repopulating.

The water oiled his crevices and cracks as it slid down his throat and it felt great. He was counting on getting up to get some more in a moment. When the water made it to his empty stomach, he felt a queer ache, a pain – like maybe from too much, too empty, too fast. No more water, then. The ache faded,  but hunger remained. He didn’t think he’d seen anyone or any signs advertising food to be traded on his way in. The only thing for it might be to move on early instead of waiting for word that the weather up ahead had turned. It was hurricane season. The motel-owner had said that the dude who fancied himself martial around here had gone on patrol a week or so back, and would soon be overdue to check back in here. Then there would be news. But when a martial disappeared, that was news, too, and Shelby didn’t feel the need to say what kind, either, even to himself.

He’d have to pay an arm and a leg to share in the rations of people who weren’t selling. He doubted that they would any of them be interested in the services of a trainee dentist turned medicine man. A doctor was a useful thing to be, but he would have heard by now if anyone were sick, and you couldn’t exactly trade favours as a doctor unless you counted on waiting around until someone got sick, and if you did, and someone did, you were considered bad luck. Even then, he might not be able to help – the medicine man part of his trade came from knowing more than he should about drugs. He couldn’t perform complicated surgeries, and he could only just set bones without puking.

He tried to steel himself for the decision he knew he was about to make, staring out at grey, dry earth and decay. He found himself wishing for a spider outside the windowpane – something, anything to watch. But even spiders didn’t want this country. He tried to remember the last spider he had seen or killed, tried to pinpoint when they had disappeared. Everyone had stopped killing spiders when the deerfly had started up in March one lovely, too-early spring thaw. That had been unpleasant. By that time, Shelby was already terrified of benign weather where there ought to have been killer storms, inhospitable cold. The solution of the general populace was to smile at rising property values and put in their air conditioners early. Christ. And all the while Florida was getting snowstorms that buried houses and killed alligators.

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