Chapter 22 (also Joshua Ch 22) Wednesday, 1330 hours (1:30 PM)
Joshua wandered the halls of Zoo Center, but was tired of his confinement in the building. He felt he needed to be alone, away from people. Even in his private office, he knew that there were people as close as next door, and they were even likely to come in and bother him. As he did from time to time, Joshua needed to give in to the demands of his solitary life, and find a refuge from people who knew him.
Joshua went down the back stairs of Zoo Center, opened the door, and made the usual cursory scan for loose carnivores before walking to one of the zoo maintenance carts. There were a lot of them, parked haphazardly by Calfers returning from their patrols. He wished his troops would be a little less haphazard about putting them back on charge. Joshua took the nearest cart and drove off to the only zoo habitat that had any real interest for him, The Reptile House.
He entered the deserted building, deserted of humankind anyway, and wandered over to a bench in the snake wing to sit down and ponder. He had a problem, boredom. Not only his own boredom but he had to worry about the boredom of the membership, a nervous, expectant boredom, one that bred dissatisfaction and worse, introspection. The membership, worried as they doubtless were about what the police would do to them, would have to be diverted. Joshua had to do something not only to comfort his Calfers, but also to let them know he was still strong, and in control; even something to engender fear. It was better that they feared him, a palpable presence among them, then they fear the distant abstraction of the police.
Joshua judged these thoughts deserved entry in his diary. He took the slim leather bound day organizer from his pocket, and in the soft light, surrounded by the silence of snakes, began to write. He had almost a years worth of writing, his ideas, his beliefs, and the details of his daily schedule. He capped his pen and flipped through this record of his life over the last year. He turned pages until reaching the first blank page, the schedule for tomorrow, Thursday. Not quite blank it was since it had one schedule entry. He turned to the next page, Friday, and from that point forward, methodically began ripping out the pages. He did not like to carry what he did not need. He turned back to Thursday, now the last page in the organizer, and noted the entry. He had scheduled Armageddon for 7 AM.
The slow oozing slither of a reticulated python drew Joshuas attention away from his diary. Joshua stood and drew close to the glass to admire the creature, with its delicate tongue flitting in and out of its mouth and its cold emotionless eyes. With slow precision it moved to a rear corner of the enclosure, coiled itself comfortably and became motionless. A motion from the adjacent exhibit now drew Joshuas attention. A great hooded cobra, perhaps stimulated by Joshuas motion in the empty hall, or perhaps even by the heat radiating from his body, rose softly and swayed hypnotically. Joshua stared admiringly at the great venomous reptile with its lethal fangs that folded neatly back into the jaw until needed. Fascinated, he leaned over, peering nose to glass until the cobra struck, hitting the glass with its flattened hooded head. Joshua recoiled backward throwing his hand to the wall to regain his balance. A description of the cobra was attached to the wall, and Joshua read it.
"Youre a fraud," laughed Joshua to the cobra.
The cobra, impressive as it was, came from a circus. Its fangs had been removed and the sockets cauterized. The cobra was harmless. A bite with those little grasping teeth would probably not even break the skin.
Joshua continued through the World of Reptiles in a less pensive mood, stopping eventually at the crocodile lake.
There he saw a real killer, a ten foot long crocodile, a beast living at the boundary of the sunlit world and the mysterious liquid domain beneath the surface. The crocodile followed Joshua with its eyes, but was otherwise motionless.
"Here is a real killing machine," said Joshua realizing that he had already decided to kill once more. Once more before the apocalypse he would kill again, and looking into those great malevolent reptilian eyes, he knew how he would do it. "Jack is going to have fun with this one."
Joshua unclipped the walkie-talkie from his belt and radioed in to ask Jack to collect a few Calfer guards and meet him in the Education Building in ten minutes. Stopping on the way out to catch another look at the reticulated python, Joshua returned to his cart. His destination was the first floor of the Education building where the hostages now resided. He had decided, for the sake of symmetry, again to select two hostages, one to be released to the authorities, and the other to the crocodile. It was more than symmetry. It was more the expression of absolute power, the power to decide life and death.