Chapter 16 Wednesday, 0600 hours (6 AM)
Brian, now a private citizen, got up early to seek out Joshua. He knocked politely on Joshuas third floor war room, and was admitted. Though still before dawn, Joshua looked fresh and alert, as if he had already been working for a couple of hours. Brian had no idea that Joshua had spent the last hour fending off an attempt to re-take the zoo.
"I think Id like to go over and let Evan out," said Brian.
Joshua looked at him for a few moments, until their eyes made contact.
"I think the lessons been learned. Dont you?" he said.
Brian cast his eyes down. "Yes," he said.
Joshua reached in his desk and tossed Brian a ring of keys, which he caught with both hands. Joshua walked over to consult a chart pinned to the wall.
"Tyrone and Kevin will just be getting off their shift. Ill have them meet you out front at say, 6:15. They'll run you out to Evan and bring you both back," he said cheerfully, "We wouldn't want you eaten by anything. You can go now."
On the drive to the World of Darkness Brian passed the bloody, ravaged carcass of a nyala. The sight fit so well with his mood that he didnt even notice.
Tyrone and Kevin decided to wait in the cart while Brian went in to free Evan. The World of Darkness Building felt a little strange to Brian since at the moment, it was not dark. Night and day were reversed so that now, while the zoo had no visitors, the nocturnal animals could sleep. Brian, hearing only the sound of his own footfalls in the empty building, went through the door to the bat habitat. Here in contrast, since the room's main power switch was off, it was totally dark. He fumbled around the wall and snapped on the switch, filling the habitat with its usual dark red light.
Brian looked through the glass wall and saw Evan, looking very tired and in something like a trance. It was strange that Evan made no move to get up and greet his friend and liberator. Evan said nothing, and did not even stir, as Brian sorted through the keys and unlocked the small door to the habitat.
"Come on out Evan. Its morning."
Evan came stiffly out of his captivity. During the long night he was tortured by the darkness and the fluttering of the squeaking bats, and his need for sleep. As the night wore on however, Evan, shirtless, increasingly was afflicted by the cold.
"Here. Put on your shirt," said Brian, handing him the checkered flannel.
Brian stooped to pick up the dead flashlight he had left the night before, and shepherded Evan, who had still not said a word, out into the lighted part of the building.
The light more than anything, restored life to Evan. He went into the restroom at the World of Darkness entrance, filled a sink with hot water, and plunged his hands and arms into it, letting the wet warmth slowly diffuse throughout his body. Ten minutes later, he came out with both his color and humor restored.
"That was not exactly the best night I ever spent," he said to his old friend.
Before going out the door, Evan turned to Brian. "Look, Lets get out of here," he said. "I mean out of the zoo. Ive had enough of this."
"Im not sure we can. Roger and his group left last night. I don't think anyone else will be allowed to leave. Im not president any more either, and I think Tyrone and Kevin are probably loyal to Joshua. Anyway, now there are snipers posted at each entrance and exit, and I think their job is more than just to keep people from breaking in," said Brian
"Loyal to Joshua? Are there factions in CALF now? Brian, what the hell happened last night."
"I wish I knew."
In so far as he was able, Brian filled Evan in as they drove back in the cart.
"There was an attempted invasion by the police last night, but as you can tell, it didn't succeed. Joshua has enough armaments at the zoo to supply a small country. And there was a meeting. CALF is run by committee now."
"You mean a committee made up of Joshua and no one else," said Evan.
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" said Brian, "but they said it was for my safety; me and the other officers."
"Stop!" shouted Evan. "What's going on here?" he said pointing to the nyala carcass. Then Evan noticed that many of the carts were going the same way they were, back to Zoo Center. "What's going on?" he asked again.
"We're having a pep rally at 9 AM."
"You're kidding, right?" said Evan.
"No. Not exactly. It's a show of solidarity at the morning broadcast."
They finished their drive, and Brian darted up to his room. He invited Evan along to unwind and for some conversation after the bat ordeal. Since Evan had not been a CALF officer, he didnt have a room of his own and had to bunk in a communal dormitory. This was a strain on Evan, an only child and solitary by nature, who had to expend emotional energy to maintain his zone of privacy in the rough and tumble of the dorm.
Brian plopped down in an easy chair.
"Don't you have to change for the broadcast?" asked Evan.
"No. I'm not on camera anymore. It's better. I don't think I'm cut out to be a president."
"Hes crazy you know," said Evan
"Who? Joshua? No, hes rich. That makes him eccentric, not crazy," said Brian, but he saw that Evan was not in any mood for jokes.
"Im sorry about this," Brian said. "There was nothing I could do."
"I know, but how could this happen? Were animal rights activists, not animals."
"Its gone wrong, hasnt it?" said Brian.
"I guess," said Evan. "You know, when I was a kid, about the same age as those cub scouts or maybe even a little younger, I lived near a zoo. Every day, going and coming from school, I cut through the zoo as a short cut. Zoos were free then."
Brian didnt know where this was going, but he paid attention and let his old friend talk on.
"Id stop in the lion house and go to the Golden Cats cage."
"Whats a Golden Cat?" asked Brian.
"The Golden Cat, Felis Temekki. Its one of the lesser cats. You know, like a serval or carracal, but a little smaller. It has beautiful golden fur, something like a mountain lions. Anyway, I thought this was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. I started to worship it."
Evan saw Brian crack a smile.
"Really," said Evan. "I worshipped it as a god. I made up prayers for it. I asked it to intercede for me with the universe, and I offered it sympathy for its captivity. My family wasnt religious, so this was the only god I had. It still is. Not that I believe its a god anymore, but I pretend it is. Brian, Ive never told anyone about this before and Im not sure why Im telling you now. You think Im nuts, dont you?"
Brian nodded No, while Evan talked on.
"You see, my animal activism is sort of a religious activity for me, a way of keeping faith with myself, who I am. And now its gone bad." Evan who was really sort of talking to himself looked at Brian.
"Do you understand what Im saying?" asked Evan.
"Yeah," said Brian.
"Brian," Evan said pleadingly, "Ive got to get out of here."
"I dont know how. Evan, were trapped here, all of us. Anyway, a lot of this is my fault and I feel Ive got to stay around to the end, to see how it all plays out. Im not the president anymore but I cant run out on the others, or the cause, if there still even is a cause."
Evan pondered this in silence for a while and then stood up to release some nervous energy.
"Brian. Weve been friends for a long time. If you cant go, then I wont go. Ill stay here with you," said Evan, "But Ive got to do something, even if its only a gesture."
They spent the next hour trying to figure out some kind of a protest gesture. The first idea was to tear down the zoo perimeter fence on the Pelham Parkway side. That was too ambitious. The next idea was less ambitious but still difficult. They continued planning and scaling down their schemes until they came up with the idea of removing the cartridges from all the assault rifles in the zoo. That scheme too was discarded as too hard and too dangerous. Finally, Evan decided his gesture would be small and private. He would remove the shells from Jacks rifle. It was a very small gesture indeed since Jack never fired his rifle, but it was something.