Joel and I have been in Wyoming for five years now. How fun. I asked Joel if people used to be proud of their home state, he said that national or state pride was never a thing. Almost always people grew up and left their home, and never spoke of it again. That's a very 'Joel' answer. He's not really prideful of anything, ever. I guess that is fine, even though there is plenty to be prideful of. In Jackson, we have climbed back to a state of near-modernity. Our town is powered by a hydro-electric dam, we have two restaurants, and a small university. Just the other day the university discovered a new bird. Their guess is, the post-pandemic world has spurred the explosive evolution of a new Cordyceps species. The creature spotted is a huge, large winged fluff ball that resembles the infected. It's resemblance lies in its rabid predation and it's weird mutated face, it's an ugly fucking thing. It's presence is especially alarming because we do not know if we should prepare ourselves for more infected birds that may attack us just like their human Cordyceps sister.
Anyways, the reintroduction of leisure into our lives discomforts me; Joel is the same way. I have a hard time understanding why the people of Jackson want to live indifferent to the dangers of this new world. I can see this desire most clearly while observing the children of Jackson draw. Their sketching negatively prehends the decline of our alertness. You'd think that something so pervasive as mutated cannibalistic monsters and desperate moral-less gangs would naturally creep into the passive activity of a child's drawing, but it doesn't. It has been concealed. We're becoming weaker, more susceptible to the surprise event, yet another explosion.
At the University I learned that we have a bad record of surviving rare-catastrophes, or a perfect record, however you choose to see it. The devastation of past diseases, natural disasters and unexpected breakups have continually ravaged humanity for the entirety of its existence, particularly because we think the unlikely or the improbable will never happen.
Joel is dead; had I succumbed to comfort it'd feel much worse. How do I exact vengeance in a way that best encompasses my rage? I don't give a fuck about justice. Justice was probably thought up as a way to make us feel less primitivistic. I figure there's no real difference between 'justice' and vengeance. Seriously. So call it what you want, they have to suffer like me. Part of why this hurt so bad is because it was an inconceivable surprise— like a bird that evolves over the course of a year, or even a day. My best chance at survival is to embody a similarly unexpected event that even the most nefarious schemer doesn't think is worth anticipating, like hail in Florida, or a record-shattering hurricane in New York. I had to sneak into a camp in Blackfoot so as not to be captured or killed on sight. They are steadied by an alertness that Jackson mortally lacks.
The citizens of the Blackfoot refuge do not know what Idaho is. They are about as uncivilized as they are vigilant. It would appear that leisure and education have been supplanted by constant militaristic development. Still, they are susceptible to the unexpected. It is clear that their patrolling and innate alertness helps protect them from a group of Cordyceps, or a gang of thieves, however they are still vulnerable to something so improbable as a petite woman with military training stealthily invading their compound in broad daylight. It is like having a mailbox even though it opens you up to an improbable, though entirely possible surprise snake attack. This is in part the condition that we all find ourselves in, an inability to annihilate surprises. Preparation merely changes the circumstances out of which a surprise unfurls. Yes, the possibility of a surprise is never fully extinguishable.
The Clayton national park is astoundingly large. I decided to hug its circumference instead of attempting to cut through it; I cannot risk getting lost. In order to check the coming miles for bandit camps, or cordycep hordes I climbed atop a big rock. This rock is about the height of a fire truck with a fully extended ladder. From here I could see almost all of Clayton. I heard a disgusting noise, and turned my head to see the newly evolved bird. No, it was different. Another one? It was distinct somehow. The pile of its pelt was even more ratted, and it's face looked as though it was about to erupt with puss, or a cloud of fungal poison. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and attempted to spot the bird again. There, it is flying in a circle above what must be its next meal. Is it preying on a human? The predator turned midair and displayed its right side— a tag. Pinned to its side was the letter T and the number two. "T2." I then realized this was not a newly evolved bird, rather it was one that predated the infection. I knew this because I saw a tag like that on the Giraffes in Salt Lake. The university was wrong, possibly spurred by a need to secure its own legitimacy. I feel near instant relief— If birds become rabid, and succumb to the cordyceps strain there would be almost no hope for humanity. I was unprepared for the possibility of it not being a threat to me— it felt like an explosion happened, and then it unhappened. The devastation is still real, though equally meaningless.
I came across a museum, an 'animal' themed museum. The museum could elucidate the nature of the tagged creature I saw (twice), so I began to explore. I scanned the museum, overgrown with Seattle flora that coincidentally made the stuffed wildlife of each exhibit all the more impactful. Kinda funny. Within an exhibition that focused on nearby wildlife I finally found it. It was a Condor. Fucking nasty looking thing, entirely not infected. The bird's wings span up to ten feet, and primarily eat the scavenged carcasses of other mammals. Gross. Condor's nearly went extinct because they'd ingest led-coated bullets left in hunted animals. I checked my gun— it doesn't have led bullets. Good.