The worst possible scenario
[ fiction - july 05 ]
“I lit a cigarette on a parking meter and walked on down the road.”
(‘Talking World War Three Blues’, by Bob Dylan)
“Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”
The bombs had gone off that morning; by noon, most people were dead. He had waken up that morning and heard the crash of buildings collapsing, and windows shattering. If that wasn’t scary enough, he looked outside his window, or what used to be his window, and saw the mushroom clouds in the distance. They kept rising and rising, as an image of total doom and death and destruction.
Immediately, he tried to turn on his radio, and then his television, to see what was going on, but there was no reception. There was not even any electricity. People were screaming, women and children being the loudest. Men were running to and fro, trying to save their lives. Luckily for Winston Smith, he did not live in a high-rise. But he thought it would be wise to go outdoors, before his house collapsed and crushed him under its weight.
Outdoors, there was total pandemonium. Cars had veered off the road and crashed into telephone posts; there were corpses lying around everywhere. Then Winston realized he was wounded: his face was burned, as well as his arms and hands. He thought of going to a hospital or clinic, but the buses were not running, and the metro seemed to have stopped. He was about to walk into the metro station, when a man came running out and yelled at him not to go in there, because people were trapped. The streets had collapsed and crushed the people that had taken refuge in the metro tunnels. Half the buildings in the area had collapsed, and there were mountains of rubble in the streets.
Winston looked up, and the mushroom clouds had gone, but there was a black cloud where the sun used to be, and it was getting colder. Was there going to be a nuclear winter? This was supposed to be a thing of the past. He stopped for a second and wondered. How could this be possible? The Cold War had ended, when the Berlin Wall came down, and now when was that? In 1989, he guessed, although that was some time ago. So who was responsible for this nuclear attack? Was it the Russians? the Chinese? Was it a terrorist attack? There had been nothing in the media about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Everything seemed safe. Mind you, there was 9/11, and the war on terror. But the government had pacified the world, and there was nothing in the news about this happening. However, it is true, none of the nuclear warheads of the United States had been dismantled or destroyed. Russia had sold one third of its nuclear submarine fleet to rogue states like Libya and Syria. And it seemed to Winston that the world wasn’t safe for democracy after all. But he definitely felt betrayed by the government.
Then he saw some soldiers, wearing anti-radioactive uniforms, and carrying machine guns, policing the area. So Winston wandered off the main streets, and started looking for food. How would he eat, now that there was radiation in the food chain? He found a grocery store, stuck his arm through the window and grabbed a banana. That would be breakfast. But wasn’t the government supposed to prevent this scenario from happening?
All over the streets, there were corpses, and wounded people. Most buildings had collapsed. There was nothing left to do, but to wander aimlessly and try to survive for a couple of days at a time. And suddenly, Winston realized what he had become, after all these years: a homeless person.
Written with the financial asisstance of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.