Purification

Detail from 'Three Sunflowers', Vincent Van Gogh

Detail from ‘Three Sunflowers’, Vincent Van Gogh

He stood alone in the park, at the centre of an exposed, open space. Midsummer, beneath a noon sun. Willing it to happen.

Navy personnel in the Pacific told how the blast light from tests would show up the bones in their hands. The wind speed registers at 1,000kph, almost the speed of sound. A one megaton airburst kills every thing within three kilometres and everyone within a mile of the hypocentre is completely, cleanly destroyed.

Every clear morning he took part in the act. He travelled to the place by train, at speeds of 100kph, reaching the park between 11.30 and 11.33am, the discrepancy a failing of scheduling or growing weakness in his body movement.

Rain or cloud meant it was aborted – the undertaking required pure, vacant air.

Today a man shouted in the distance and, on the edge of his senses, he heard the alarm call of an ambulance.

He recalled that the doctor seemed disinterested at their final meeting. “It’s caused by an infectious agent. Some call it Koch’s bacillus.”

At that stage he had become used to the operator leaving the room, the click and blast of the X-ray machine, the no-feeling of ionising radiation striking.

Within a mile of the centre you would feel nothing, purification would come before the flash. Each thing clear and cleaned, circumstance and chance subjected to perfect science – the neutron strikes and the nucleus splits. 

Everything within three kilometres. He stood, waiting.

_____

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