Author : Cesium
My office glows all night long,
It’s a nuclear show and the stars are gone.
Wind howls past my helmet and something unidentifiable crunches beneath my boots. Dust. It’s dust. It used to be other things, it used to be trees and windows and… and people, but now there’s no more use thinking about that. Now it’s all dust.
It’s odd seeing a bit of starlight peeking through the gray sky. My ship’s waiting for me up there. I imagine it impatient at this bit of sentimentality. It’s right, I suppose. The suit tells me I’ll soon exceed the maximum recommended radiation dose. Lest a cancer take its hold in my chest. Or, another one.
The suit also tells me it’s cold, but I can’t feel it.
If it were properly symbolic the starlight would be an inspiration. But there’s no one left down here for it to inspire. Not anymore. The stars just gaze, fey and oblivious, down through the dust in the sky, the dust swirling about the ground… and me, who will be dust soon enough, watching what’s left of the place I used to work, as if it would live once more.
It still stands, dozens of stories of steel and concrete, a cold-edged skeleton baring everything to the unceasing winds. The nuclear shockwaves blasted away everything but the bones, turned it all into dust. And it shines in my helmet display, shines with gamma rays and high-energy particles. Shines with residual radiation that could kill me, and still might. It’s not a hopeful light, it’s a light of grief and death without rest. The war is over and this place deserves to lie dark and silent beneath the stars.
I look up, but the dust has hidden them once again. There will be no rest, not for years yet.
I wasn’t here when the bombs fell. Those that could quickly fled deep into space, and I was among them. I have no reason to come back here now, but I want to say goodbye. Or that’s what I’ve told myself. The truth is I don’t know why I’ve come. I know I shouldn’t have, I know it’s dangerous. But somehow it felt as if I ought to.
Around me blow the bodies of people I knew and people I’ve never met. The wind whips them into dust devils, little eddies and swirls that stretch up for a second and then dissipate. They scour away at the bones of the buildings, still warm with their nuclear glow, and my presence or absence disturbs them not at all. Dust above, dust below, and my office before me, dead but not buried.
I don’t think about the day it happened, but I remember my life before. Her. Him. Faces I knew, some still alive, most gone. I remember loving them, avoiding them, arguing, laughing, traveling, playing, grieving, writing, enjoying. I can trace the threads of a life gone by, as if I were living it now. But I’m not. That life is over, and closed to me.
There is nothing left here but the radiation and my memories beneath perpetual grey. It’s time to leave the dust behind, leave the skeleton towers and the always howling wind, and go back to the stars. To the only haven I have now, to the others cast adrift by that moment in time. And maybe we will be able to talk, and share, and laugh. About all that we’ve lost.
I turn away and step into the shuttle that will bring me away from this place.
Take me home…
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows