Nuclear Summer: Chapter 1
// I’m writing a novel, or something. Here’s the first chapter. More to come.
It was the most cliche of nights for this to happen, dark and stormy. Barry Lane was fighting fatigue and hunger as he walked home from the ration dispensary. He saw someone writhing in pain. They were on the ground of a small alleyway, towering brick buildings on both sides. Government propaganda plastered everywhere. His first thought was to walk away, let someone else take care of this, like he always does. But tonight, Barry had only received half a ration pack, and was feeling disenfranchised with the ordinary. So he decided to help.
Barry called into the vaguely moving darkness. No response. He walked in apprehensively, and knelt down to the person whose movements were becoming weaker and weaker. “Help! Someone!” Barry yelled. “Quiet...” grunted the mysterious figure. Barry caught his first glimpse of the persons face. It was a man, a boy, no older than 25. Barry thought he heard movements, he deliberated calling out, but ultimately decided to heed the mans warning.
A group of people surrounded the alley. They were so quick, so precise, Barry assumed they had military experience. Two of them picked up the injured man. Barry felt hands around his eyes. He couldn’t see. Voices, incoherent whispering all around him. Then, they were gone. A notecard in his hands was the only sign they had ever been there. It was old, yellowing at the corners, upon it was obviously rushed writing. The ink was still wet, bleeding in the rain.
(Notecard Transcription: You saw too much. Join us at 775 Glory Ave at 18:48 tomorrow, or you might not see the day after. -VLR)
Ominous. That was the word Barry was looking for. He had been contemplating the nature of the notecard, and finally settled upon this word as an apt description. Still, he was confused. VLR? What the hell was that supposed to mean? The best idea he had was Very Ludicrous Resistance, but that didn’t make very much sense. Barry wasn’t the most creative of thinkers, not yet. He wasn’t sure if the resistance was serious, or that they even were the resistance. It could have been a gang, but any serious gang would have just killed him on the spot.
The notecard said to meet at 18:48 the next day. Exactly 24 hours since it had fallen into Barry’s hands. The exact amount of time to excruciate Barry over his decision. If Barry were to ignore the note, there was the extreme possibility that the resistance would find him and do whatever they deemed necessary, however terrible or benevolent that may be. If he ran, well, he had nowhere to go so that wasn’t really an option.
All his family and friends lived in the same neighborhood as him, the same neighborhood his kids would grow up in, and the same neighborhood those kids kids would grow up in. Or so he thought. This left the third, and final, option. Meeting the resistance at the specified location at the specified date and time. All this deliberation, but Barry knew he had made his choice the moment he entered the alleyway.