Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hinkley Wept

Roy Hinkley stared into the afternoon and cried.
The day, he could see through the window above his desk, was blue, bright and sunny. Branches swayed slightly in a warm, pleasant breeze. The sound of birds calling, playing and mating were all around him. A cockatoo had perched on his window sill for an hour and not even crapped. Everything was storybook perfect in Hinkley’s world. And he had grown to hate it.
Ten, fifteen, twenty years? Roy Hinkley had given up counting the time of his imprisonment. Time mattered little to him anymore, he wouldn’t let it. He was alone. He had almost come to accept that. The handful of citizens he was imprisoned with in this tiny, deserted, forgotten community were all insane. They had to be. No, he couldn’t let time matter.
A waft of supper caught the breeze that blew into Hinkley’s home. Fish. Always fish. What Hinkley wouldn’t give for a goddamned hamburger.
At first, Hinkley had been the savior of these survivors. It was Hinkley who had purified water. It was Hinkley who gave them shelter and it was Hinkley who had fixed the generator to bring precious electricity. It was Hinkley they came to when trouble approached. But Hinkley hadn’t found a way home, and they never forgave him for that. How, he wondered, had all of the responsibility fallen to him?
One smiling man passed by his window, his ruddy face bearing with it a natural, wholesome health that comes from living close to nature. Hinkley waved and smiled back at the fool who was going to who knows where. To swim, to eat, to fondle himself while hiding amongst the trees, trying to remember what it was like to be with someone he didn’t hate? The man didn’t see Hinkley’s hand gripping a physics book so hard his knuckles turned white, he just whistled as he walked from view.
Hinkley dropped the book, his fingers sore from the unconscious effort, the unconscious anger. He picked up a screwdriver and gave a few final twists to his latest project. The handle on the big breaker switch moved easily and Hinkley began to laugh. For the first time in years, Roy Hinkley could laugh.

Hinkley still had to string the breaker to the device. And something could still go wrong. He knew that. One of them could ruin everything, it had happened before. Endless times. Then they would find out about him. And what would become of Roy Hinkley?
Nothing, he thought as he walked through the trees, bales of copper wire hanging from his shoulders. Nothing could go wrong this time.
Stringing it up would be no problem. That could be done in a few hours and by nightfall the device would be activated and he would again be happy. By nightfall, he would again be sane.
Building the breaker switch had been the hard part. The copper wire was easy. Hinkley had gotten the wire from the generator, but no one would miss the electricity. They had quit using electricity. Their devices had worn out long ago and replacing them was impossible.
Hinkley dropped behind a bush as he heard someone walking through the trees. He couldn’t see who it was, but they were whispering. About me, Hinkley thought. About the Great One who failed.

Sweat ran down Roy Hinkley’s face as he broke through the night-darkened trees and stepped into the community’s main clearing. His grin was almost painful. The end of his final project was near. With work-bloodied hands he connected the last wire to the breaker switch he’d mounted atop the communal dinner table. The copper gleamed in the evening firelight. On the other end, the wires were attached to the device.
Hinkley had found the device two days ago, bright, shining and sticking half out of the water.
It was Russian, obviously. The words spelled out in big red letters betraying its homeland. The tiny characters perfectly set on the inside of a service plate showed how the device worked and how it could be used. Hinkley had wondered how the device had come to be here, half sticking out of the water like that. But he didn’t really care how, or why it was here. The nuclear warhead was there, now, in the water, just waiting for him.
Hinkley stepped away from the table and cleared his throat, the noise wavering under an unexpected rush of startled laughter.
“I’d like for everyone to come out here for a minute,” he said shakily in the direction of the piecemeal houses they had constructed years ago, houses that had protected them soundly from tropical storms. “I have something to show you.”
Hinkley heard a slight murmuring among the buildings and the lost souls came out. The old bat was primping herself like somebody really cared. Her husband came with her. He was drunk, again. But, Hinkley thought, why shouldn’t he be?
The happy girl came out, too.
The skinny, boyish man and the aging debutante came from the shadows of the trees.
Fornicating, no doubt, Hinkley thought, his mind racing. Hinkley was never invited to the trees. Hinkley was never asked to release himself. Everyone thought Hinkley was above that.
The last of the lost souls came from the direction of the water. It was the Captain. The jolly, fat captain.
“What is it, Professor?” The Captain asked.
Hinkley was giggling, and he couldn’t stop. He pulled the cover off the bamboo-handled switch and motioned for someone to join him at the head of the table.
“Why don’t you do the honors, Gilligan?” Professor Roy Hinkley said then screamed in laughter as the idiot flipped the breaker and the whole goddamned island exploded.