Chapter 24 Wednesday, 1445 hours (2:45 PM)
Something had cracked inside of Jack back in The World of Reptiles. His brittle shell had shattered allowing him to see inside to himself. He was hot headed and impulsive by nature, but the sadistic streak had come upon him gradually. Until his association with Joshua, Jacks temperament was certainly sadistic, but benign. He satisfied his impulses by going to movies, violent ones, like the ones everyone went to. Under Joshuas tutelage though, his sadism became active rather than imagined.
Jack's masochism, on the other hand, was a personal matter. His self abuse was a carry-over from his childhood. He'd seen pictures in books of flagellants and was obsessed by them. As a small boy, his father had beaten him in the name of God, and as he grew older, he beat himself, also in the name of God.
Layer upon layer of vile thought and deed finally became too heavy. The incident of the woman and the snake was the final straw. Now Jack could see clearly inside. He once had ideals, sheltered in a matrix of cynicism perhaps, but none the less ideals. Now he was a murderer, even a double murderer.
Jack looked at what he had become, what he once was, and what he wanted to be. The views were irreconcilable. To the impulsive and action oriented Jack, there was only one possible resolution, and that was suicide. Jack explored the notion from all sides but found no flaws. He had to commit suicide. It was the only way he could atone. The only question was how.
Jack left Zoo Central. His decision to end his life had freed him from the concern about stray carnivores whenever afoot outside. Now it didnt matter. He had even left his rifle back in Zoo Central. He would not need it again. With a feeling of freedom, freedom from worry about roaming cats, and freedom from worry about the future, he walked the zoo trying to decide which zoo animal he would offer himself to for lunch. At the same time, he wondered about God. Was he wrong about his ideas of God too. It didn't matter. He'd find out soon enough.
He came first to the polar bear enclosure. The pure white bears were pacing their enclosure which still had the inedible parts of Andrew Steiner scattered about. He decided against the bears. Mixing his cartilage and such with Steiners seemed something akin to sacrilege. He continued his walk, thinking about predators. Surely the crocodile would be efficacious, he had seen that himself, but his phobia of drowning was too strong. It was a fear greater than the fear of death itself. No, hed find a better animal. An elephant stampede, or indeed any kind of a stampede in the zoo involved logistic problems. No elephants then.
Suddenly he thought of wolves and played with the idea. That was good, even romantic. He liked the idea of departing this earth by being torn to pieces by a pack of vicious wolves. Even the symbolism was right. Jack walked with deliberation toward the Mexican Wolf habitat. Several CALF patrol vehicles passed him on his walk, but they recognized him as Jack, a person not to trifle with, a person with a lousy temper, and they let him alone
Jack found the Mexican Wolf habitat, climbed over the fence and dropped to the ground below. It was, he thought, a very easy break in considering the danger presented by the wolves. Jack looked around, saw no pack of ravening wolves descending on him, and felt the wolves showed a remarkable lack of gratitude. He would have to seek them out and make a more formal offer of himself. The habitat was large, large enough to satisfy the needs of this roaming species. Finally Jack went over a low rise and came upon the wolf pack. They were not as numerous as he had supposed, nor as large. He approached the nearest wolf, which went into a crouch and snarled at him.
"Come on wolves, Chow time," shouted Jack.
Although a few of them growled at him, none seemed inclined to tear him to shreds. Indeed, many of them seemed actually to want to play, barking, wagging their tails and jumping up and down stiff legged.
Jack sat down on a log. Although the wolves came closer, not too close though, they still seemed only to want to play. Jack watched this and then cupped his head in his hands and started to cry.
About fifteen minutes later, Jack stood and the wolves who at this point were frolicking almost within his reach, moved back to a safer distance. Jack felt cleansed, or at least now cleansible. He had been given another chance. The wolves had spared him, and he took this as a sign. Murderer as he undoubtedly was, he could try to make amends, try to undo some of the wrong. Andrew Steiner and Mr. Foreman were dead but there were still the hostages, and the children. He would start with the children.
Jack turned to leave the wolf enclosure when he saw a flash from a tree far back in the enclosure. The flash turned out to be reflection of the rays of the sun, now low in the sky, from the shiny buckle of a backpack. The pack was tied to a limb out of pawing range of the wolves. Curious, Jack untied it and by the Boy Scouts of America insignia affixed to its outer flap, deduced it must belong to the Cub Scout leader. As part of his making amends, Jack intended to return the pack to its presumed owner.
"This guy obviously knows more about wolves than I do," said Jack to a nearby wolf as he hefted the pack onto his shoulders. It was heavy, Jack noted, probably from the weight of the collapsible rubber raft strapped to its top. Jack struggled to climb out of the wolf enclosure.
"Hes in better physical condition than I am also," said Jack.
Jack was no longer suicidal and his soul was stripped raw by his encounter with the wolves. Now he felt fear. He left the enclosure afraid that some marauding cat would savage him before he could make amends for his sins. He smiled to himself in spite of the fear, in fact even because of it. Jack, who had not been afraid of anything since he had graduated high school, was afraid now. He regarded the fear warmly, as a true and wholesome emotion. Jack, now that fear had returned, ran back to Zoo Central to pick up his rifle.