My name is Tim Hawkes. Well, my full name is Timothy Mason Hawkes. I have the same first name as my paternal grandfather and my middle name is my mother's maiden name. I'm forty years old. My wife and two children are dead. My job is gone. A lot of other things are now gone for me and for many other people. I felt that I have been deserted to live on alone in an empty world. I will tell my story for whoever may eventually read it.
I was married to Julie. We had two children, Mattie and Tim, Junior. Three weeks ago, a drunk driver killed them all and himself in a high-speed crash when he crossed the median. Their deaths were near instantaneous according to the police and the drunk and his company were well insured. The insurance company is paying the full policy.
My company gave me some time off but my boss called a week later and told me that they were shutting down. The Democratic regulatory environment had increased costs and we couldn't change enough to be competitive with overseas suppliers. Changing the product line hadn't helped. The holding company was just closing the division until something changed or a buyer for the two plants appeared. I had to come in and gather my personal possessions like the other approximately hundred fifty employees at our plant.
Into every life, some rain must fall, but this has been a flood. I didn't know what else could happen but wasn't looking forward to it any more.
We had always camped. I decided I needed to get away from the house and our small town for some time. I loaded the camper, hooked it to the back of my truck, and left for a park in the mountains. I didn't want to see people or be seen. I signed in and set the camper in place. I ate supper and spent the night.
In the morning, I loaded my backpack with enough food and other items for a week and headed further into the mountains. I hiked for almost two days before setting up my small tent beside a creek close to an old beaver dam.
I sat there and, in the words of a book's character, took out my soul and examined it. I wasn't particularly proud of my reaction to my troubles. Julie's parents had lost their only daughter and grandchildren. I loved Julie's parents and knew they loved me but I had just walked away from them and everyone else without even leaving a message. I knew that I would have to head back and be part of the world. Julie wouldn't want me to abandon life. It wasn't the way we had patterned our lives, taught our children, or lived our marriage.
My parents had passed a few years ago. My mother had died of cancer and my dad lost interest in living and just withered away. I was an only child and came late in their lives. My mother taught me to trust in God and do right. I was doing neither one right now and knew that she had through her dying breath.
It would be two days before I could reach my camper. I hadn't even taken my phone. I did have a forty-five in its holster. I had had problems in the past with snakes and animals. The pistol could ruin a snake and had scared the bear and the wildcat that had approached me at different times in the past. I was and am still a pipe smoker and knew that the smoke from it wasn't pleasant to most wild animals. While it was a dead giveaway to humans, I wasn't hiding though I hadn't been anxious for human contact.
I walked into a deserted campground. I would have to look but it had been six to eight days. I thought seven was right. I retrieved my phone from my truck and found that I was right. It had been seven days. Today was March 23, 2011. The phone had a number of messages so I sat at the table for my site with pad and pencil to make notes.
The first two were people from my old job leaving a message hoping I was okay. I had managed quality assurance for the last three years and one was a co-worker and another was the finance guy. I noted their numbers for follow-up and continued to listen.
The next was Julie's dad, Roger, wanting to check on me and hoping I was well.
The next was from a neighbor asking if I had heard about Florida. He noted that my camper was gone and was assuming I was camping.
I had two more from former co-workers.
The next was another from Roger. He said that Mary and he were both sick with a virus or something that was going around rapidly. He had heard people were dying! He asked me to call when I could.
The next one was from Roger a day later. He sounded terribly sick and said that Mary had died last night! The President had come on and admitted that a virus was loose from the Florida catastrophe. Roger said he didn't think he would make it either. He wished me good luck if I wasn't sick.
That was the last message and it was yesterday. I called Roger but got no answer. I left a message on his answering machine that I had been camping and had taken a week-long hike to clear my head leaving my phone in the truck. I said that I planned to head back to town in the morning.
Now, I had to wonder what had happened and was going on. I didn't like mysteries in life. This was scary and the deserted campground was also different. It was time to address the world.
It was late afternoon and I didn't want to arrive at my home in the dark. I pulled out my pipe, packed it, and lit it. I tried to limit my smoking to one pipe a day though some times I would miss a day or two and some times I would have more than one in a day. The last two days, I hadn't smoked while I hiked. This was my first for today.
I ambled over to the office but it was deserted. There was a cabin about a hundred feet away and I thought the ranger and his family lived there. I started walking that way but stopped when close due to the smell from the open door.
I went back into the office and turned the television on and listened to CNN and then Fox
News. Both told the same story. I was amazed to hear about the separation of Florida and saddened at the number of people dead and missing. I was dismayed to hear about "Slick," the virus that was devastating the country and the world. There were rumors that the President was now dead. It was known that all hospitals were overrun with sick people who were dying. The death rate was almost total. If you got sick, you died!
Still smoking my old pipe, I walked back to my camper and pulled a beer from the fridge and sat at the table drinking it and smoking my pipe. I had food for four days, more if I stretched it or used some of the freeze dried meals that I had for hiking. As I thought about things, I thought I might extend this trip through the weekend.
In the camper, I had no radio or TV just a CD player for music. I had a Kindle for books and it could connect to the Internet if there was WiFi available. I could continue to listen to the TV in the office and get a better handle on the situation. I was now sure that Roger didn't make it. There was no one who expected me or who needed me back. I wasn't sure I wanted to be in the middle of whatever might be happening even in my small town.
I thought about that while I set my canopy and made a few preparations in case the rain that threatened came. If it rained really hard, I would stay inside the camper.
All that took care of the immediate situation. Now, I had to figure out the long-term situation. Of course, if I caught the virus, there would be no long-term. Until that time, I would make plans like I would live a long life. The only thing that I saw right now was the emptiness of it without Julie and the kids.
I finished my beer and my pipe. I continued to stare out at nothing for some time before going inside the camper and preparing a simple supper.
After eating and cleaning up, I went back into the office to listen to more television. After an hour, I realized that there didn't appear to be any new stories. I did pick up a few items of information about the virus in listening for a longer period. I picked up a new title, "The Day," for March 17. The troubling thing was that there didn't seem to be any new news. There were no new on-site broadcasts. That told me as much about the seriousness of the situation as the reports. The numbers of dead might now be staggering.
I thought about that for a few minutes as the talking head continued. I had the remote and went to the channel guide and found the local stations. I went through all the local network stations and found none with live shows. All were playing tapes from their network and from their newscasters about the virus and Florida catastrophe.
I decided to stay for a week. People didn't do well in troubled times and I didn't want to be caught in a confrontation with someone armed and feeling sick and scared. I had never felt a need to prove my manhood.
I was tall about four inches over six feet but so slim as to be considered skinny with a face that could best be described as pleasant. I had worn glasses until lasic. The only good thing was my medium brown hair was still on my head and hadn't grayed. I was clean shaven. I didn't look muscular but was wiry strong and, at my pace, could go for a long time with a pack. I wasn't fast, just steady. Endurance was my thing.
After channel surfing, I returned to Fox News and switched off. I returned to my camper and bed. I don't know that tomorrow would be a better day but it would, at least, be one.
I woke in the morning and started my coffee while I showered and dressed. I sipped my coffee while I made a simple breakfast of instant oatmeal. I took all that outside to the picnic table to look at the morning weather. Based upon the clouds, I was pretty sure I was going to receive some rain. Just as I finished, lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The rain began. I had some more coffee and sat in my camper with my Kindle and read. After the initial start, it eased up into a steady, soaking type of rain.
Julie and I used to love camping in this type of weather. Until we had children, we used it as an excuse to make love in the camper. After the kids were born and Mattie was old enough to know what we were doing, we cleaned up our act to make it a family time. My son even told us that he would rather camp in the rain than in good weather because we had more fun. I cried a bit to think about all that.
Late in the afternoon, I pulled out the umbrella and walked to the office to watch some more television news. I learned nothing new other than CNN seemed to be all taped. The Fox News broadcaster looked sick and haggard. I was listening when he said that they were going to a repeating tape. He wished everyone good luck and said good bye. When his image faded, the tape began to run. Unlike CNN, they admitted that the broadcast was taped and on a continuous roll.
I left and went back to the camper. I thought to myself that mankind may have finally managed to create an extinction event. I wondered why I wasn't sick though I realized that I had never been sick a day in my life. My only hospital visit had been due to a broken arm when I fell out of a tree at around the age of ten.
I mulled all this over in my mind as I prepared supper. I decided that, if I survived, then others would also. I'm not sure I felt better about that.
I spent my week and closed my trailer, hooking it to the truck. I headed back to my house not hurrying and trying to see what might be different. Very little was different except the deserted nature of everything. I parked the trailer in its usual spot in the early afternoon. I had eaten snacks for lunch while on the move.