Fiction: "Nuclear Nightmare"

© 1983 by Andersen Silva

The horrible, the unthinkable deed was done. No one knew who had launched that first, silently hulking missile, of course, but it no longer mattered. Though the sun had set over an hour ago, the countless fires around the world lit the smoky sky with an ugly, deathly haze. Bodies lay in haphazard positions on the streets where they had dropped, flesh barely hanging on to bone. Car frames were warped and buckled, unable to withstand the heat which had scorched earth for miles. There were, miraculously, a few survivors; these were the ones to be pitied, for their deaths would be infinitely more agonizing and prolonged than those of the instantly fallen. The wretches that had the strength were crying or just moaning pitifully, while the others quietly but fervently prayed for speedy deaths.

Underground, in shelters, the situation was slightly better, but no one was looking forward to spending months confined below the surface, rationing the food and water that had been stored away against such an eventuality. Many loudly cursed the religious zealots who were generally believed to be responsible, and others cursed their own government for not being able to deal with the situation rationally. It was really a moot point, who was to blame, or even who got the blame; someone had pressed one fateful button, and now all mankind would pay the price.

"Mr. President? Mr. President?" Startled, the man threw up his arms, knocking papers and files off the desk. "Oh, I'm so sorry, sir! I didn't mean to frighten you. Are you all right?"

The Chief Executive of the United States of America slowly regained control of his twitching muscles. "Yes, James," he said in a barely quavering voice. "I'm fine. Just... daydreaming." As the aide knelt down to help recover the paperwork, the President picked a newspaper off the floor and gazed at the headline: SUPERPOWERS TO DISCUSS ARMS REDUCTIONS, AGAIN. "Well, sir," remarked James pleasantly, "I guess you won't have any time to daydream at the summit." Looking out the window at the lush lawn, the leader still saw burning trees and blackened flesh vividly. "No, I... I suppose not. Do me a favor, James. Call State and Defense and have them meet me here." As the aide turned, the President let out a nervous sigh. His head was swelling with ideas, as a single tear slowly trickled down his left cheek.