Whitley Strieber and James W. Kunetka
and the Journey Onward
This book is respectfully dedicated to
October 27, 1988,
the last full day of the old world.
October 28, 1988. Warday.
It lasted only thirty-six minutes and when it was over, much of the earth remained untouched.
But in those thirty-six minutes, a world had been destroyed.
Seven million Americans died in the immediate blast. Millions more would die of radiation, famine, and disease during the next five years. Millions also lived, strung out across a country that knew it had been hit—but not why. Or where. Or how.
In the days and months that followed, an America blacked out by the breakdown of its communications systems and wrestling with the demands of an unprecedented emergency struggled first for survival.
Later it would seek answers—seek to find out how it had happened, who had survived, what was left.
Five years after Warday, the answers have yet to be found. America is still a strange place, filled with haunting relics of the past, constant reminders of what was lost. But survival is no longer in question. It is time to take stock.
And so, five years after the missiles detonated, two survivors set forth on a trek across America. Determined to find out what has happened to the rest of the country, theirs will be a journey of discovery filled with pain and hope.
From Texas to California, across the vast distances of the Great Plains, into the once-bold centers of commerce and power along the eastern coast, and through the small cities and rural hamlets of the South—amid pockets of resurgence and remnants of destruction, they will hear America speaking: remembering the past, willing the present, longing for a future.
Warday: It takes you into a world you couldn’t imagine.
A work of fiction that reads like fact, Warday is the result of a skillful blending of the talents of Whitley Strieber (author of The Wolfen and The Hunger) and James W. Kunetka (author of City of Fire: Los Alamos and the Atomic Age, 1943–1945 and Oppenheimer: The Years of Risk). Texans by birth, best friends since childhood, and well-versed in the scientific and technological data underpinning the novel, they unite in one voice to depict an America in the aftermath of nuclear war. Though Warday is set in 1993, nothing in it is beyond the possible, technologically or politically. This is what gives the novel its terrifying truth.
However and wherever we are
We must live as if one never dies.
A Survivor’s Tale
The survivor’s tale is the essential document of our time. All of us have them; even babies have them. To be born now is no guarantee that you will not be touched by Warday. Indeed, birth makes it certain.
So we are all survivors, and those of us who actually lived through that day carry our histories with us, our stories of how we did it, of what particular luck or strength or cleverness saw us through.
We are not the people we were on that sharp October day in 1988. I see the change in my wife and son, certainly in my collaborator, Jim Kunetka. And in all whom I know. Sitting here with my pad and paper, I find that writing about it evokes obscure and powerful feelings. Am I bitter, or angry, or simply sad? So much of what I saw as basic to life is gone; what I counted valuable, worthless.
I have my own particular artifacts of that time, mostly small things and mostly relating to the security of my former life. I have been marked by the economic disaster as much as, or more than, by the radiation. In the final analysis, for so many of us, the closed bank and the worthless money are truer expressions of Warday than is some distant mushroom cloud. My last stock statement from Shearson/American Express, for example, is probably my most treasured talisman of the past. It reminds me of the fragility of complex things. Somehow, age has given it beauty. I can imagine that such a thing, covered with symbols and symbolic numbers, associated with a mythical time of plenty, could one day become an object of worship.
I open the document, smooth it out. My feelings about it are so strong that they are almost silly. I have sat staring for hours at the anachronistic names: Raytheon, General Foods, American Motors, Dow Chemical. I got eighteen gold dollars in the distribution of ’90. How ironic that nine hundred paper dollars will now buy a house. In 1987 you could spend more on a suit.
More even than to this paper, though, I cling to the memories of my family. These five years later I still find myself waiting for the phone to ring, expecting my younger brother, Richard, to be on the other end of the line. Richard, the determined, tiny rival, the childhood enemy who became as an adult my best friend, who understood me and whom I understood. Whom I loved. We talked every afternoon, no matter where we were in the world. So now, each day at four, I remember. That is my monument to him.
New York was my home in the eighties, and I was there on Warday. We remained there through the dangerous twilight that followed. In fact, the only reason I am alive now is that we stayed as long as we did.
I saw New York in her gaudy evening, and I saw her dead, and so—a little bit—I comprehend. My difficulty is with my childhood home, San Antonio. How a whole place, all of its people, all the details of its life, could just disappear is beyond my understanding.
Nobody would have put San Antonio on a list of prime targets—nobody except the Russians.
They thought not of the quiet streets or of the fun we had, but of the repair and refitting facilities at Kelly Air Force Base and of the burn center at Brooke General Hospital, and of the massive concentration of spare parts and equipment in the area. But they did not think of kids running through sprinklers, or of the River Walk or the genteel silence of the McNay Art Institute, or of the enormous, vital, striving Chicano population.
My family had a history in San Antonio. I was deeply connected to the place; in so many ways, my identity flowed from it. Though I lived in New York, I kept a membership in the San Antonio Writers’ Guild. When I was there I used to walk by the river for hours, and then eat Mexican food at Casa Rio. At age ten, I would sit in my father’s office in the Alamo National Bank Building and look out over the flat, smiling land and dream boy’s dreams, of having wings, or of riding shotgun on the stagecoach to Dallas.
How can it be that the place where I was formed is gone? The Alamo National Bank Building was a tremendous skyscraper, or so I remember it. Did it fall over at the end, crashing into Commerce Street, or did it simply disintegrate?
My brother had just opened his own law office there, on the eighteenth floor. Did he feel anything? Say anything? I visualize him on the phone, hearing a noise, glancing up, then gone. Or was it horrible and slow? Death by fire in an elevator? Or by suffocation in some sub-basement parking garage?
And my mother. Looking back to the placid life we knew, it seems so impossible that her fate was to be killed in a war. She was seventy-one years old, and for her the end was almost certainly instantaneous. She lived in an apartment house two stories high, of rather light construction. She was either there or at a neighbor’s house at the moment of death. Whichever was the case, there wouldn’t have been the least protection.
So many bombs exploding simultaneously over such a relatively small area caused the temperature to exceed that of the surface of the sun. People have told me that they heard the explosion in Oklahoma City and Monterrey, Mexico.
We are the first generation to see places instantly vaporized.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, but not so completely as this. In a vaporized place, not even rubble remains.
I understand so very well the thing that impels refugees to cluster at the borders of the San Antonio Red Zone. I myself have thought of going back. And yet the blackened land must be terrible to see, and the smell of it, the stench of millions of tons of rotting ash, almost beyond enduring.
I have thought of memorials. Many times I have copied out the forty-seven names of the members of my family who died in San Antonio. And I have wondered—are they all really dead? Ours was a prosperous clan. Maybe some of them were traveling. One aunt and uncle, for example, often went to Europe in the fall. Are they there now, perhaps engaged in a new life? They had investments in Germany; they could have got a refugee visa if they had applied for it early enough. But the rest—I have a feeling about them that is common to those who lost people close to them on Warday. They disappeared so suddenly and so completely that they don’t seem dead so much as lost. My relationships with them continue as if they will sometime soon come back and take up the thread.
We’ve all read and heard about the details of blast effect. But there is one detail that is usually overlooked: the heart does not understand this sort of death, neither the suddenness nor the scale.
Blast effect has trapped me in a maze of expectancy from which I cannot seem to escape.
I know a little bit more about blast effect. I was riding a Number 5 bus down Fifth Avenue when the New York Pattern detonated. Of course, I have thought many times about the consequences of the miss. I have wondered what subtle imbalance of technology caused it. And I have thought: a nuclear miss doesn’t mean much.
The city died of it anyway.
The bomb that would have exploded about eight thousand feet directly over my head detonated instead on the eastern edge of Queens.
As I sit here, my yellow pad in front of me, I find that my mind shifts focus from the broad to the tiny: the shin splints I had that day from too much jogging; the breakfast cereal I had eaten.
October 28, 1988.
I was trying to remember to call my sister in Houston, to congratulate her on becoming forty-four years of age.
But Pandora’s Box was sprung, and nobody was going to be making any phone calls for a while.
October 28, 1988: a clear blue afternoon, just pushing toward five o’clock. While I read the New York Post and sucked a Velamint, the world cracked asunder. I was sitting in the bus, just behind the rear exit door. I remember that it was one of the GM buses, with the darkly tinted windows. All of a sudden it was lit up inside with a chalky brilliance, a strange and unpleasantly hot light that penetrated everything.
Sudden darkness followed—due to our eyes, of course, being stunned by the intensity of the flash. The driver shouted, “Jesus Christ!” and stopped the bus. I just sat there. We all did. We couldn’t see a thing. I heard a horn honking.
Then the blast hit. There was no warning, just a sudden cataract of sound and wind. The bus rocked violently. There were deep thuds and shattering noises as pieces of roofing and glass came down. The noise rose and rose until I thought it would never stop.
People were trying to get out of the bus. I crouched down on the floor. My heart was pounding; I was gasping. I had my eyes shut tight. At that moment I was thinking in terms of a terrorist attack or maybe of the Con Ed plant in the East Thirties blowing up. The thought of a nuclear bomb didn’t occur to me until the noise subsided and my eyesight got back to normal. Then I looked out.
The chaos was so great that my mind simply went blank. I was vision only. The images swept all thought away. Windows were broken, cars were up on the sidewalk, and people were running, staggering, lying in the street. A dark yellow haze of dust cast everything in eerie light.
My first clear thought was of my family. My son was in the third grade at Grace Church School and taking an after-school gymnastics class. As far as I knew, my wife was at home. I thought I’d better call her and tell her that there had been some kind of an explosion but I was all right and not to worry. By this time the driver had gotten the doors open. He was trying to restart the bus and not getting anywhere at all. Of course, we didn’t know a single thing about electromagnetic pulse back then. He had no idea that the bus’s electronic ignition had been destroyed.
Because the bus was broken down, the driver gave us all transfers, and we filed off. A few people went to the Twentieth Street bus stop to wait for another bus. The wind was gone, its roar replaced by the sound of glass still raining down from above, the screams of the injured and the terrified, and a complex mix of car horns, sirens, the hissing of a broken fireplug, and the blue-streak cursing of a hot dog vendor whose cart had exploded.
Suddenly all I could think about was my boy. I started off down Fifth Avenue at a trot. It wasn’t long before I was turning east on Fourteenth. I knew by then that things were terribly wrong. People were lying everywhere, in every condition. Lots of them were bloody from flying glass, many more livid with flash burns. I did not know it, but I was bleeding too, the blood running down my neck and soaking my shirt like sweat. I’d had a slice taken out of my scalp that I wouldn’t feel until much later.
I saw gangs of kids coming out of the Fourteenth Street stores with everything you could name in their hands: radios, records, clothes, candy bars. They were laughing and shrieking. I saw one of them get blown almost in half by a storekeeper with a shotgun.
My mind was still far from clear. I just couldn’t seem to grasp what had happened. There was no reason to think that there had been a nuclear attack, though I kept considering and then rejecting that thought. U.S.-Soviet tensions weren’t high. There’d been no sign of impending conflict, none at all. In fact, the news was full of the reestablishment of detente.
It was the sky over Queens and Brooklyn that enforced the notion of a nuclear bomb. Through the dusty air I could see ash-black clouds shot through with long red flames. These clouds were immense. They stretched up and up until they were lost in their own expanding billows. There was no impression of a mushroom cloud, but I knew that was what it was, a mushroom cloud seen so close that it didn’t look like a mushroom. The coldest, most awful dread I have ever known came upon me then.
I knew it for certain: a nuclear device had been exploded at the eastern edge of the city. I thought, My God, the lives. Later it was estimated that a million people had died in the instant of the explosion. Hundreds of thousands more were dying right now.
I was walking on a grate above the Fourteenth Street subway station when a blast of dank, dirty air from below practically blew me off my feet. It was accompanied by the most horrible screaming I have ever heard, then the nasty bellow of water. Though nobody knew it then, the tidal wave caused by the bombs that had detonated at sea had arrived and was filling the subway system.
Those screams still come to me in the night.
A man came up out of the station, wet from head to foot, his right arm dangling. “Agua,” he kept saying, “agua!” Then he made a bleating noise and staggered off into the swaying crowds.
My mind said: Grace Church School, Grace Church School, Grace Church School. I ran.
My greatest fear was fire.
I found the school closed and locked. There were lots of broken windows, but the lower floors were barred. I shouted and the Latin teacher opened the front door for me. Inside, the kids were sitting quietly in the great hall with their teachers.
“What’s going on?” Mr. Lewis asked me.
“I think we’ve been hit by an atomic bomb,” I replied.
He nodded. “We all think that.”
I went to my boy. He jumped up and flew into my arms, and then started screaming because he saw all the blood on my back.
The school nurse came over to tend the wound. She said I needed at least five stitches. But what could we do? I ended up with a brushing of Betadine and a bandage.
The phones weren’t working, so I couldn’t call Anne. It was then that I made the decision that saved my life.
I didn’t know it at the time, but like all people caught outside during the initial stages of the disaster, I had received a radiation dose. If I had gone out even another fifteen minutes at the height of the fallout period, I would have quickly dosed red and then lethaled. What kept me from doing so was my belief that my wife’s instinct would also be to come to the school and I was more likely to find her by waiting than by searching.
Not ten minutes later she appeared. She was wearing my felt hat and carrying an umbrella. I will never forget how it felt to kiss her at that moment, to feel her in my arms. And then Andrew said, “Let’s have a family hug.” We held each other, and I told them both what I thought had happened.
Anne is a practical person. She had no idea what had happened—in fact, her theory was that a volcano had erupted—but she suspected that in any case we might get hungry, so she’d brought a box of freeze-dried food we had put aside years ago for a camping trip and never used. She’d also brought a little news of home: the power was out, the radio and TV were dead, the phones weren’t working, and there was hardly any water pressure. Every window in the apartment was broken. The dishwasher was stopped on rinse and the clothes washer on spin. She reminded me that I had the video recorder set to tape a movie on HBO at five o’clock, and the power failure was going to mean that I would miss it.
Other parents were now arriving at the school. The Head moved the children into the gym, which had no windows, and we decided to make that a shelter for all the families who wanted to stay. Anne and I went to the locker room and took long showers.
Some of the parents who did not take this precaution died in days.
Others were unaffected. For the most part it depended on how long they had been outside, and whether or not they had been shielded from the initial burst of gamma rays from the blast. We had the church right there, of course, attached to the school. Grace is probably New York City’s most beautiful church, and it served us well in the next few days. It could be reached from the school without going outside. While the city died, we prayed there. At that time I wondered if humanity would prevail. Despite what was happening, I found myself trusting the goodness in us more than hating the violence. I still feel that way.
Of that night there remains with me the memory of a particular noise: footsteps on pavement. It was persistent thunder, and mixed with the cries of the hurt and desolate, it defined those hours.
By 6:00 P.M. the sky was black, the air very still, the sun a lifeless maroon shadow on the western horizon. Many parents were at the school, but not many families were complete. Some of the kids were still waiting. Some had left. They didn’t come back. Every so often another mother or father would appear out of the gloom, and we would count a victory.
By now it had occurred to us that there must be dangerous radiation, so we were trying to keep trips outside to a minimum, and had hung blankets over the windows.
Throughout the night, the rattle of walking continued as people crossed Manhattan, heading for the tunnels and bridges, trying to get out of the city on foot. Once we saw a fire truck—obviously too old to have an electronic ignition and so not immobilized by the electromagnetic pulse—making its way down Fourth Avenue, trying to negotiate a path among the reefs of stalled cars. It was soon lost in the gloom. The eastern sky glowed like the inside of a furnace, a deep, fearsome orange. Toward midnight it began to rain pieces of burning tar. They looked like meteors coming down into the streets and onto roofs. I thought then that this was the beginning of the end—the firestorm was crossing the river.
By this time the little group at Grace had become a community of sorts. We organized ourselves as best we could, trying to find our way to survival. There was no information, only the crowds and the confusion and the burning streaks of tar. Two of our group went to the roof to put out any fires that might start there. They held plastic dropcloths from the art room over their heads as protection from cinders and radiation. The fallout worried us even more than the fire. We knew little about it. Was there still too much radiation in the air, or should we join the exodus west instead of trying to fight the fire? We just couldn’t recall. On balance, most of us decided to remain at the school a little longer. At least we were reasonably safe there for the time being. We also had light from church candles, food from the school’s larder, and water from the tower, which we hoped wasn’t contaminated by radiation.
Our first case of radiation sickness started at about eleven that night. Meg Parks began sneezing. She had walked down First Avenue all the way from Eighty-ninth Street, where she had her office.
She was a psychiatrist, and her two girls were in the school. By 2:00 A.M., Meg had fever and was breaking out in a rash. She was vomiting and suffering from severe diarrhea. We tried to get water into her, and the school nurse gave her Kaopectate. But it was all quite useless. Her husband, Peter, still had not appeared, and by morning we decided to take her over to St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Bob Tucker and Fred Wallace volunteered to be stretcher bearers.
We suspected that the streets might be dangerous, so three more of us went along: Jerry Fielder, Tom Roote, and myself. As Tom had a .38, we considered ourselves relatively safe.
We were less concerned about radiation now. A brisk west wind had come up about midnight, blowing not only the firestorm away from Manhattan, but the fallout as well. As we went down the street, though, I wondered; our feet crunched on a thick dusting of ash. We kept on—it was unthinkable that we should just let Meg die because we were afraid to go out.
We carried her in a hammock made from a blanket. She lay quite still. She was coherent and she joked that swinging her in a hammock had to be the hardest labor any of us had done in years.
She was having frequent convulsions, and she looked very weak.
To the east the sky was now filled by a massive gray-white cloud. Closer, there were tall columns of smoke.
On our way across Thirteenth Street we counted many dead.
Forty, I think, all shot or beaten or, in one particularly horrible case, burnt. There were fires smoldering here and there, but nothing devastating. We didn’t know it, but at this time hundreds of thousands of people were dying on Long Island as the firestorm swept eastward.
We were a block away from St. Vincent’s when we understood our mistake. The crowds were so thick we couldn’t move a step forward. There was the disgusting tang of vomit on the air, and many people were lying in the street, sick to death and helpless. There were burned people everywhere, many of them also suffering from radiation sickness. We could hardly stand to see it. We fell silent, we turned away.
It was like the aftermath of a great battle. The hospital itself must have been a scene of unspeakable horror.
We took Meg back to the church, where she expired at four o’clock that afternoon, after a very hard five hours. The father of her daughters never showed up. I do not know what happened to the two Parks girls.
As soon as we were back at Grace, we all took long showers.
Anne and Andrew and I decided that we would remain inside this building, away from the windows, for as long as we could. We did not know then that the hot cloud from Washington was on its way up the seaboard, spreading extinction. If we had tried to leave then, we would have been caught in it with the millions whose footsteps still had not stopped.
The teachers organized activities. The children threw themselves into work on a folk song festival. Along with myself and Tucker and a couple of others, the rector of the church and the Head formed a survival committee. We inventoried the food and discovered that we could do about a thousand calories a day per person for two more weeks. We wouldn’t starve, but as far as quality was concerned, we were going to have protein problems.
There were cans of beans and soup, but the only meat was the six freeze-dried hamburgers Anne had brought. There was no longer any gas pressure, but we worked out a method of using the stove anyway. We found that we could heat food by building a fire from paper and pieces of chairs on top of the burners and hanging the pots up in the exhaust flue.
Our first meal consisted of spaghetti with marinara sauce from cans, and pork and beans. It was washed down with fruit juice. Not much, but I suspect that it was better than many got in New York on that day. We ate in the gym, off paper dishes saved from last year’s May Fair and intended for use at the Christmas party.
All during that day, neighborhood people had been congregating in the church. Our food situation improved rapidly. Everybody brought canned goods, so the increasing numbers were no drain on those resources. We began to worry instead about water, and drew up strict regulations about those long showers we had been taking.
No baths unless you made an “approved excursion.”
We were determined to live through this, somehow, even though most of us felt that the rest of the world had been destroyed.
Falling water pressure rapidly became a more and more serious problem. Already high-rise apartment buildings were uninhabitable above the sixth floor because of a lack of electrically pumped water. Low-rises were suffering too, as was Grace Church School.
Broken mains in the bombed boroughs were draining the system dry. Soon our rooftop tank would be all we had left.
More even than the lack of water and power, though, people were scared because of the lack of news. Those who had ventured as far east as the river confirmed that there was a holocaust going on in Brooklyn and Queens. They had been able to feel the heat on their faces even on this side of the river, and the wind being pulled into the fire was stiff enough to make it hard to stand up. People reported that the conflagration made a great, hissing roar. They described it variously as sounding like a railroad train, a hurricane, or the voice of an angry crowd.
The electromagnetic pulse generated by the huge bombs the Soviets had detonated in near space was the answer to the mystery of why even portable radios wouldn’t work, and why people with recent-model cars couldn’t get them started. The vast majority of electronic devices—computers, televisions, radios, microwave stations, radar, avionic devices on airplanes, electronic car ignitions—had been shorted out by Soviet bombs detonated in outer space.
The explosions had been invisible and had had no effect except to blanket the country with a brief, massive burst of electromagnetic energy. Certain military equipment had been shielded, and even some computers owned by big banks and corporations.
They shielded such devices, during the mid-eighties, to resist a 50,000-volt pulse. So the Soviets simply generated a larger one. Recent estimates are that it exceeded 150,000 volte. Thus they overcame billions of dollars’ worth of shielding with bombs worth at most a few million. An efficient means of destruction.
Because of the electromagnetic pulse, we had no access to broadcast news.
I will never forget the moment when somebody outside started yelling about the Times. The next thing I knew, there was a man coming in with a paper. It was the famous sixteen-page extra, which was the last news we were to see for a long time. I still don’t know how the Times managed to get that paper out. Someone told me it was produced in New Jersey before local electric power was lost.
I remember the headline: NUCLEAR ATTACK BY AT LEAST THREE MISSILES DEVASTATES CITY. And the lead: “Nuclear weapons detonated over Queens and Brooklyn on October 28 at approximately 4:45 P.M., causing catastrophic devastation and leaving both boroughs in flaming ruins. An estimated two million people lost their lives.”
It was there also that we read of Washington. We were stunned, confused. Washington no longer existed. There was no President, no Vice-President, no Congress, nobody. We had no government.
“Washington, D.C., the seat of government of the United States of America since 1800, has been destroyed by a surprise nuclear air tack. Reports from the area indicate catastrophic destruction on a scale previously unknown in human affairs. The city was swept away in a sea of Are. Not a building remains standing, not a monument intact. Observers are unable even to approach within ten miles of the city. Baltimore, Maryland, is also burning, as are the majority of smaller communities surrounding the District of Columbia.” It went on, but I find that my memory does not serve me to quote the rest.
The paper recommended that people stay indoors, reported the flooding of the subway system, and announced that the police department had opened Madison Square Garden, the Armory, and the Convention Center as protected public shelters.
I would say that the appearance of that newspaper was one of the few good things that happened in those terrible days. It served first notice that humanity still existed, that we had been hurt but we were not going to give in just yet. I know that people lost their lives doing the reporting that went into it, not to mention transporting and delivering it. Not only Times people were involved in the edition, but also news crews from the television networks and the staff of the Daily News, which was without power to run its own presses.
Still, reading in black and white that Washington was gone made me frantic.
Until that moment I hadn’t thought beyond the immediate situation: how to live through the next few hours, and would I come down with radiation sickness? Every passing moment of queasiness or faint chill was terrifying. We had set up a hospital in the parents’ lounge, which was also an interior room, and there we attended the sick and dying as best we could. The school’s science teacher, Mrs. Dannay, had managed to rig up a thing called a Kearney Fallout Meter, and was engaged in dividing the school into safe and unsafe areas.
The KFM was made in a Folger’s coffee can and consisted of two leaves of aluminum foil hung side by side on strings inside the can. It was covered by the clear plastic top from a Tupperware container in which the fourth grade had been hatching frog eggs. The bottom of the can held crushed gypsum, used as a drying agent because humidity can affect the ability of the foil strips to respond to the presence of radiation. Mrs. Dannay had dug the gypsum out of the wall in the lab. It was just ordinary wallboard.
She could tell by the way the leaves of foil spread apart or came together how much gamma radiation was present in a given area.
It wasn’t accurate enough to measure hot spots on people, but it did help us to confirm that our water was not highly contaminated and that our top two floors and the area of the church closest to the main doors were, as well as all areas on the main floor of the school near doors and windows, and the whole central foyer.
That Kearney Fallout Meter probably saved the lives of most of the people in our School. It also enabled Mrs. Dannay to develop a rough estimate of ambient radiation outside. She told us that trips out were safe only for fifteen or twenty minutes, and that no individual should make more than one trip.
It was on the third day that I began to have symptoms. My head had become infected despite copious applications of Betadine and plenty of soap and water. Of course, I had been exposed to radiation and that had lowered my resistance to disease. (Lowered resistance caused by the combination of radiation and starvation is undoubtedly the reason that the Cincinnati Flu took so many lives the year before last.) In any case, I began to get symptoms of radiation poisoning and infection. My head hurt terribly.
When I started vomiting, Anne and Andrew took me off to a corner of the hall and tended me there. They did not want to put me in the parents’ lounge, which had become a virtual dying room.
Just about everybody who went in there died within a few hours.
Of course, people had no notion of how to protect themselves from radiation, and many of them had gotten very severe doses. I hoped that my dose wasn’t too terrible, but I also suspected that, combined with the head wound and the rough conditions, it might weaken me enough to threaten my life.
We prayed a good deal. Over the past few years we had gone from being agnostics to becoming Christians again. We had been parishioners at Grace for about six months. I am a Roman Catholic by birth, and have had a stormy relationship with my Church. During the early eighties I went through a period of what could be described as confused neutrality. By Warday, I was temporarily uninterested in religion, though I felt comfortable with my son in an Episcopal school. Since the Reunion of ’90, I have been a Catholic worshiping in the Episcopal rite.
It was the prospect of death that brought me back once and for all to the Church. I am not a strong man, spiritually. I returned because I was facing pain and destruction and I was scared. Since Warday my faith has become so essential to me that I can hardly imagine being without it. When I thought I was dying, I began to pray to the Blessed Virgin, to whom I used to turn in times of childhood crisis. I was not afraid to die, but I felt awful that I must leave Anne and Andrew at such a time.
The sickness grew in me until it was an invincible horror, a devastating, agonizing thing that wracked me with convulsion after convulsion and left me so weak I could not even move my hands, let alone talk. Our rector came and gave me the last rites. With my wife and son at my side, I waited for death.
By this time Dr. Leo Stein had arrived. Leo’s son Jeremy and my boy were best friends, and Leo and I had gotten to know each other pretty well. He had been working since Warday. The moment he heard the explosion, he had simply packed up what he had on hand in his office and hiked to the nearest hospital, which was Bellevue. The hospital had reeled under the strain, but Bellevue was a powerful institution and had managed to organize itself well enough to provide at least routine care to every serious case that presented itself. This was before triage, and doctors were still treating people on a most-serious-first basis. Best-prospect-first classification was still six months away. When Leo had been relieved after seventy hours of work, he had put on a whole-body radiation suit from the hospital’s stores, acquired a gun from its armory, and come down here on foot, bringing what medicines he could.
He treated me with ampicillin for my infection, then dressed the head wound. To replace electrolytes lost in vomiting and diarrhea, he prescribed the now-familiar salt, baking soda, and potassium solution that is routinely used in such cases. We managed only the salt and baking soda. I recovered without the potassium. Nine days after Warday I was on my feet again. I weighed a hundred and thirty-one pounds. In nine days I had lost forty-six pounds.
Since then, my lifedose level has been diagnosed as terminal, so I am on the triage, waiting for the inevitable outbreak of cancer. It could start tomorrow, or next year, or in five years. It might never start, but the odds in favor of that are very small.
By the time I recovered, the radiation level in the streets was not detectable on our Kearney Fallout Meter. Our food supplies were dwindling, and water was strictly rationed. About a third of the families had left the school.
On November 6, 1988, Anne and Andrew and I started out on our own journey home. It was to be a long and bitter trip, ending in sorrow.
Home is where one’s family lives. For Anne and Andrew and me, this was San Antonio. Not until ten hard days of traveling later, when we were on a bus in Arkansas, did we learn that it had suffered the same fate as Washington and was no more.
What’s It Like Out There?
I was forty-four years old on Warday. By prewar standards I had lived somewhat more than half of my life.
I was forty-nine when I left with Whitley on an adventure through postwar America. I was very conscious that the five years that had just passed had been the equivalent of at least twenty prewar years. I kept wondering how many more I would use up on the journey.
And I wonder now how many are left.
War is about death and change, but it is also about numbers, about counting. Because there was a war, our numbers have changed. If it did nothing else, the war and its aftereffects have aged us. But how do we measure an epidemic of shortened lives?
Whitley and I have been friends a long time. We went to grade school together. Our prewar literary careers certainly didn’t parallel, but they happened in tandem. I was writing Oppenheimer while he was doing The Wolfen, for example. I doubt that those books are even known now.
(It makes me feel terribly uneasy to think of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has appeared from time to time in my dreams. He stands there, silent. When I realize who it is, I wake up with a shout.)
But beyond friendship or an interest in writing, there was a shared vision. Two men in their forties, white-haired, thick of voice, slowed, but wanting to find out what is happening in ordinary, everyday America. Poor communications have made a secret of experience we all need and deserve to share.
When Whitley and I first considered the notion behind this book, my impulse was protective: I wanted to stay right here at home and cling to what life I have left. But then I began to wonder: What is the country actually like now? Everything certainly seems different. If there has been fundamental change, is it productive? Or is cultural psychosis threatening us?
At first, I must admit, even my curiosity was not enough to move me. Even in tranquil times, one tends to hold on to anything definite and stable, and my job with the Dallas Herald News was a good one. Whitley and I talked about the book needing to be written, but I’m not sure I buy that. I don’t think there is such a thing as a book that needs to be written.
But the question of the state of the country—the way it feels for ordinary people to live in its various regions—wouldn’t go away. Since the wire services were reconstructed in ’90, we have all been getting a certain amount of outside news. But facts can’t reveal the things that are really important: how it feels and tastes and smells in America, what work is like and what hopes are general. The only way to find such things out is to walk the streets and talk to the people.
Travel is not easy, and in many places it’s far from safe.
I live in a nice house and, with two others, I own a fairly good car. I cherish my safety passionately. On Warday both my wife and my mother disappeared, my mother in the maelstrom of San Antonio, my wife in Austin. Mother I know is dead. But my wife—there is always the chance she remains alive, caught in the great shuffling departures that have marked the famine and the flu. I wrote only my mother’s name in the Governor’s Book of the Dead.
I ate dandelion leaves during the famine. I know what it is to have the flu and get told to leave the hospital or face arrest. I know what it is to lose relatives, home, possessions, friends.
And I know how I feel when I watch the sunset over the roofs of the neighborhood and hear the snick of the scythe as my neighbor cuts his lawn. But the things I did not know seemed to me more important.
What, for example, was life like in the least affected parts of the country, such as California? How was the federal government functioning now, with its new capital in Los Angeles and a whole new breed of bureaucrats? Have they documented the history of the war, and what are they saying about it now?
More importantly, what do ordinary people know about the war, and what have they learned from it? Will we ever rebuild the old “United States,” or is that as much a part of history as the USSR?
So curiosity became interest and I found myself drawn into working on the book. We both knew it couldn’t be done from Dallas, that we would have to do our research by traveling, talking with people, getting in touch with the landscape, gathering the vitally important personal stories and sensations even more than the official facts.
There would be risks, of course. We could get hurt or even killed. We could run out of money. Whitley would be away from his family for an indefinite time. Travel is not easy. We would have to do a lot of walking. We might, in fact, end up for a while in one of the civilian detention centers the Army uses to control migration.
We would have to use every contact we had and all the salesmanship we could muster to go where we wanted and meet the right people.
I also wanted to gather government reports, documentary evidence. Not to place blame, but to see and perhaps understand.
Transportation was the most immediate obstacle. Air travel is quick, but there isn’t much chance of doing it on a regular basis without government approval or foreign papers, unless you are willing to wait months for a reservation. Also, you don’t meet ordinary people on planes. We would go TBF—train, bus, and foot.
Just like everybody else.
Travel passes aren’t commonly needed except, as we found out, in California. Washington State and Oregon also have stringent immigration restrictions. War Zones were off limits, of course, but my government contacts could help us there.
Whitley is in somewhat more jeopardy than I. He is triaged because of his high lifedose. His chances of getting cancer in the next five years are seventy percent. His ten-year survival probability is zero. This comes from his living through Warday and the week after in New York.
I have lost so much: wife, mother, friends, expectations. All of my references are to the here and now, and I found I wanted to expand and enrich them. The trip would do that.
Besides, I remember something my grandfather used to say whenever someone would offer him a scotch and water. “Why not, I can’t dance.”
As much as any, that was a good reason for doing this.
Dallas to Aztlan to California, then back across the continent to New York, then home through the old South. A call to Amtrak confirmed that the rail service is not only running but somewhat expanded since prewar times. Amtrak’s diesels did not suffer from the effects of EMP because they have no delicate electronic parts like airplanes.
We made phone calls and sent letters. The telephone system is quixotic. Some large areas are still completely without service.
Others were never affected at all. To find out if a place has service, it is easiest just to call. Austin is as easy to reach as ever. A call to Los Angeles was interrupted by an operator asking us to state our business—our first taste of California’s raging paranoia about outsiders.
When you call San Antonio, a recorded voice says, “We’re sorry, but the number you have called does not exist in the 512 area code. Please consult your directory and try again.”
Each regional telephone company has dealt with its destroyed areas in different ways. Call Cheyenne and you’ll get an announcement that the number has been disconnected. New York clicks on the third ring, and returns silence.
As we called here and there, we found that our reputations opened some doors and closed others. But I’m a decent enough reporter, and I felt confident that I could overcome even the resistance of the military authorities and the federal government to letting their documents out.
I’m organized. Whitley is a narrative writer, a storyteller. I have a more technical bent, and a reporter’s knowledge of whom to approach for documents. I made a list of people we should talk to in government agencies, and drew up an assessment of the ease or difficulty we could expect with each one. Then I mapped out our journey, assessed transportation problems, estimated expenses, and evaluated expected roadblocks of both the human and highway kinds, identified radzones on our path, and marked out areas of the country where there might be bandits or aggressive survivalist bands.
Both Whitley and I wished that we could have organized all our data on our lost computers. He was rich before the war; he had an Apple. I had an old Osborne. They are missed accomplices, the best tools either of us ever had.
Families and friends had mixed reactions to the trip. Whitley’s wife, Anne, and his son, Andrew, hated it, but in the end they accepted it. One of my friends called it “difficult.” I suppose he was trying for understatement. My editor at the paper was excited.
Given no city or state censorship problems, he would print our reports in serial fashion, assuming we were able to mail them back to him. And he’d pay. Not much, but it would help.
After our final planning session together, I left Whitley to a day alone with his family. I spent it packing, thinking about places and people.
Sometime after dark there was a knock at my door. Nobody was there; instead, on the doormat was a bottle of bourbon—very valuable—and a small unsigned note reading Good luck. We are more furtive now, we Americans. I never found out who cared so much about me that they would give me something as precious as that.
The next morning, waiting outside Whitley’s house, I thought how hard it must be for him to leave a real, functioning family. But we’ve all left people before, and we’ve all experienced hard moments.
Our journey began in morning and sun. By some miracle, an old aunt of mine managed to catch up with us at the British Relief HQ in Dallas and give me her St. Christopher medal, which she’d carried for more than seventy years.
I did not tell her that the Church removed Christopher from the calendar of saints years ago. And I wore the medal all the way.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees—
Those dying generations—at their song,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
The Journey Begins
It is a bright August morning, the air dense and full of the smell of the wisteria that grows around our back door. I have been up since five-thirty, watching the sky go from gold to white. Jim will soon arrive, and I am beginning to count my minutes. There has been wind from the west, dusty wind, but I don’t mind; west of Dallas lie the South Plains, and, unlike the Corn Belt, their dust is low-content.
Anne has given me a breakfast of eggs and a glass of goat’s milk. Our eggs are small and brown, from our own bantam hens.
Good town birds. The goat’s milk is from the Perrys, across the street. Their son Robert keeps three goats. On the table there are hard, tart grapes from our arbor.
Anne sits across from me, her chin in her hands. Though she is only forty-six, her hair is white and as soft as down. There is about her face a nervous look that is new. It comes, perhaps, from the difficulty she has believing that our life will remain as tolerable as it has recently become. But there is also hardness in that look, a kind of determination that has developed over the years. You can see it in her eyes, a sort of flintiness. We have been married for twenty-three years and we know that our remaining time together is quite limited, and so she sees my journey as a family tragedy. But she understands my motives. I was a writer for many years, and I did not voluntarily give that up.
Anne will not stop me from doing something of real value with my skill.
“I’m going to miss you,” I say. She smiles, tight-lipped. “I’ll write,” I add. Her hand comes up, touches my face. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Loving and being loved is the great thing, I think. My love for Anne is as much a part of me as my eyes or my voice. For the first time in perhaps ten years, I will not tonight sleep in the same bed as she. After all we have been through to get to this peaceful corner of the world, it seems almost a travesty to leave her bed, no matter what the reason.
Andrew comes in, his eyes alight, his hands and T-shirt smeared with grease. He is really an artist with machines, my son, and he has kept our ancient Dodge in superb order since we bought it in ’90. It is a ’75 model with a beautiful old-fashioned electric ignition of the type that survived EMP. More modern cars, with them electronic ignitions and microchip-controlled carburetion systems, were rendered inoperable. Jim says that there was an AP wire story to the effect that fourteen million electronic ignitions were destroyed on Warday. Since Warday, an average of a million replacements have been made each year. At this rate, close to half of the disabled cars will have been ruined by weathering long before they get new ignitions.
Our precious Dodge cost us twelve gold dollars, a sum it took me two years to raise. But it runs, and the highways aren’t crowded, and sometimes in the dead of the night one or the other of us has the trapped dream, and then we like to get in it and drive westward, toward cleaner land, along the dark, empty Interstate.
I am leaving the car behind. It is too expensive and difficult to journey by private vehicle.
“You’ve got a dozen hardboiled eggs in your backpack,” Anne says. “It’s all I could get out of the banties.”
“It’s a lot.”
“I made some bread.” She hands me a loaf, and my heart almost breaks. Flour is hard to get these days, and she must have hoarded this carefully. It’s quite a surprise.
“What a nice gift. I had no idea.”
“Just remember that there’s more where that came from.”
All her life, Anne’s been insecure about her ability to keep me.
But it is I who should worry. I feel she is a better wife than I am a husband. We kiss and she is fervent. Her fingers are linked at the back of my neck. “I love you so,” I whisper into the soft white hair.
We stop at last.
I take the bread and put it in my backpack.
Andrew has washed his hands and sat down at the table. He is a tall, rangy thirteen-year-old. His memories of prewar America are fading, and I regret that. On Warday he was six weeks away from his ninth birthday. He remembers New York chiefly as a place where you could get a chocolate-chip cookie or a danish at Cake Masters whenever you wanted it. I know that this is an awfully small memory of that glorious place, but so far I have been unable to discuss with him the true nature of our loss. That city was part of my soul. Despite its size, its loss seems a deeply personal thing. I did not lose the towers but the view of them from the roof of my building, not the museums but my own personal experience of the great works there, the paintings that were looted from Manhattan museums or rotted there, and the ones that burned in Brooklyn.
I felt comfortable working in New York. I wrote all my prewar novels there. My films were set there.
How anachronistic those books seem now, those light entertainments that were my life’s work in the last days of the old world.
I was rich in New York, and there also I knew the shuddering poverty of starting out. I find, though, that my memories return to it less and less often now. As I grow older, my mind jumps back further, to the San Antonio of the 1950s and 1960s, in the fine days of my boyhood.
Andrew is looking at me. Our eyes meet. For a moment he is grave, his face full of unexpected tension. “Good luck, Dad,” he says. We have talked at length about my journey, and he approves.
He also knows the risks. “I’ll take care of Mom,” he says. “I can do it.” I believe that. At the age of ten, this young man kept his head about him when he was starving. He organized midnight forages to abandoned warehouses, learned at the library how to recognize edible plants, and never spoke a word of complaint through all those terrible months. At twelve he helped on a disinfecting crew during the flu, then faced that disease himself, and lay in this very house between life and death. “What happens, happens” he said then. “I know that God’ll keep me.” He has seen the dead stacked in heaps, being dealt with by bulldozers and lime; he has lost friends many times, and seen this neighborhood all but emptied, then refilled again by people more like us than the original residents who had been here before the war. Our newer neighbors are leather-hard.
I reached my maturity in a world of electronic ease. Andrew remembers my Apple and our RCA TV, but he is saving for a radio and eagerly awaiting the day we get listed for a Japanese computer. He has it all picked out: an Epson 221 with so-called artificial intelligence. But he has little concept of the electronic village. When he wants to reach a friend, he is more likely to write a letter than to try to telephone. It isn’t that Andrew is totally deprived of the advantages of electronics now, but that they were unknown to him during his most impressionable years. Until this year he has experienced telephones as bulky, unreliable things. Before the war, we placed what now seems a fantastic level of reliance on the most fragile electronic webbing.
I think of the Japanese. Even their immense productive capacity has not been enough to rewire the United States.
There is a sound of footsteps outside, and Jim Kunetka comes in the back door. He is blade-thin, smiling, looking rather haggard.
When I ask if he slept last night, he only smiles more. Anne gives him oatmeal and grapes, and he eats eagerly. He has been my friend since we were children. Lately he has been working as a journalist, while I have gone into microfarming and indoor garden design. I can build you a hydroponic garden sufficient to supply a family of four with vegetables year-round, and locate it indoors so you don’t have to worry about fallout or residual buildup. Before the war I was a middle-range novelist. We were happy and fat then. My horror stories were successful, because happy people crave the luxury of artificial fear. I wouldn’t write one now—the very idea is loathsome. (Although, I must admit, I’ve begun to get a trickle of royalties from Europe and Japan. It is strange to see the computer printouts from my British agent, like ghostly documents from a world that is gone.)
“Our appointment is at eight-thirty,” Jim says in his most brisk manner.
I swallow the last of my milk and get up. Anne and Andrew and I hold each other for a moment, our faces touching, our arms around one another’s shoulders. We have always hugged like this, the three of us. For me it is a symbol of our endurance as a family and as civilized people, and of the truth of our love.
We say good-bye in the hug. Anne’s expression remains firm and calm. It’s not that we ignore our tears. I remember a time when people were embarrassed by such displays of emotion, but no more. We need our luxuries, and tears are cheap, but this is not the moment for them.
Jim and I leave. The hourly Dallas Transit bus will stop out on Forest Lane in ten minutes. We refuse Andrew’s offer of a ride to the bus stop. I’d rather he and Anne stayed together, and, in truth, I don’t think I can bear to prolong this parting.
The sun is already hot. We pass through the neighborhood and turn onto Piano Road. Abandoned condominiums line both sides of the street. Chateau Versailles, Woodridge, Oak Park II—names from the past. There is no longer a housing shortage in this country, not with a thirty-percent population decline in five years.
Our little nuclear war was not about ultimate and final ends at all. The issue was not Armageddon, it was consequences. Seven million people died on Warday. My family and I were twelve miles from Ground Zero of one bomb, and we survived.
We are used to death, though. All of us know how easy it is to die. Not an American lives who has not lost somebody—friend, family member, lover. More than sixty million people have died in the years since Warday, of malnutrition or diseases brought on or made worse by weakness. Some have died from radiation poisoning. Others have given their lives to cancer and the new disease, NSD.
Jim tells me that the British Relief estimates that there are still a quarter of a million war-related deaths every month. If I die of cancer, I will be counted among them one of these days. Warday was a flicker of hell. The rest has been consequences.
Only the first ragged salvos of missiles were actually fired. Immediately upon their detonation, both sides experienced the collapse of their elaborate command, control, and communications nets, and the war went out like a carelessly struck match.
I don’t think anybody ever seriously considered that a limited nuclear war would be as brief as it actually was. God knows what would have happened to us if there had been another exchange, or if the two sides had been able to carry out even the smallest part of their plans for each other. Consequences only have meaning when you are living in them.
In New York I learned how it felt to get caught in a “trivial” nuclear war. Here in Dallas I have learned every agonizing detail of the consequences—the long, unforeseen drama of the aftermath.
No planner ever dreamed that it would be as small as it was. No doubt some prewar strategists would have felt confident about a nuclear exchange like the one we had. I can see the memo now:
“As minor a megadeath level as six is sustainable, and planning must include the possibility of even greater losses within the parameters of acceptability.”
As many died on Warday in this country alone as in all of Hitler’s gas chambers. And afterward—all I can say is that the death of friends no longer surprises.
On this fine Dallas morning Jim walks along beside me, silently. He was like this years and years ago, on patrol in Vietnam, his eyes seeming to look inward, his face in almost meditative repose.
I remember the day we got on that Pan Am jet to come home. The moment the plane was in the air he changed back to his old self, voluble, full of laughter, his wit at turns fierce and gentle. Now the silence is customary. Jim has killed to stay alive, and he has seen hard things. Because he got the flu early, he was able to come and go as he pleased during most of the epidemic. To this day he is short of breath from the scarring on his lungs, but he survived. A week after his recovery he took his camera and notepad and traveled through the Midwest on behalf of the Dallas News Herald. It was the height of the epidemic. He walked the streets of Cincinnati during the Ten Days, and saw what a modern American city in the grip of an uncontrollable plague was like. He took the classic photograph of the stacks of dead burning in Eden Park. Never once has he spoken about his experiences there, and nobody asks him to.
His pictures and published account are sufficient testimony.
People greet us at the bus stop. Winnie Parker embraces me, so does John Gordon. I can understand why modern custom has replaced the handshake. To hold others is to maintain something. A handshake confirms distance, and we don’t need that anymore.
The bus comes at 8:12, right on time. We get in, jamming to the back as best we can. Because of the cost of parts, it can be very expensive to run a car, but the bus fare is two cents here in Dallas.
The bus soon reaches the Central Expressway and turns in toward the downtown area. The only time it leaves the expressway is to stop at the Meadows Building, where the Centers for Disease Control has its regional office. I suppose that it is the largest non-military agency of what remains of the United States Government.
Maybe the Agriculture Department is larger, but I doubt it. CDC is heavily supported by the British. U.S. tax collection procedures are still too minimal to guarantee the kind of budgetary consistency a massive operation like CDC requires. What the English do is simple: they pay CDC’s salaries out of their general exchequer, then bill the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, which transfers gold down at Fort Knox from the American pile to the British pile.
Half the passengers on the bus get off at CDC. The rest of us continue on into downtown. A group of girls in Rat Patrol uniforms sing a familiar song, made popular by the rock group Sunshine.
“Earliest morning, hour of sweetness
Surely begotten just to remind us
That night is completed
And we can begin now, a brand new day.”
I must confess that I don’t like Sunshine’s relentless good cheer any more than I liked the facile anger of The Bad back before the war. I was a Bach fan back then, and I am a Bach fan now.
But the Rat Patrol girls are fresh-faced and full of the winsome joy of their song. To a man my age, the young are so beautiful to see.
“Hey, Whitley, we’re here.”
“Sorry.” I follow Jim out of the bus. We are at the Adolphus Hotel, which is the Southwestern headquarters of the British Relief. And some say, also, the true seat of government of the Southwestern United States.
The Adolphus is in superb repair, unlike many Dallas structures, which have suffered mainly from this country’s continuing glass shortage. There are no cracks in the facade of this beautifully restored old hotel. I can remember, dimly, coming here with my father, driving up from San Antonio in his black Cadillac, when he was doing business with a prewar billionaire named H. L. Hunt.
Dad and his partners were trying to interest Hunt in drilling for oil in Lavaca County in South Texas, but I don’t think they ever succeeded.
The Adolphus of today is much more elegant. We pass through big doors elaborate with polished brass, and confront at once a receptionist behind a wide desk. To her right is a Phillips computer, its screen glowing. To her left is a communications console. She is wearing the summer uniform of the British Emergency Medical Relief Organization, a white peaked cap with blue trim, white shirt with blue-and-gold epaulets, white skirt, and white shoes. Altogether, she radiates health and a kind of deep, interior confidence I remember well. It was commonplace in the prewar United States.
Behind her, two blue-uniformed bobbies stand at parade rest in front of the elevators.
“May I help you, please?” she says quickly.
“James Kunetka and Whitley Strieber to see Mr. Shandy.”
Jim’s voice is smooth, his manner calm and affable. He comes here often, looking for news. I cannot help but be uneasy in this foreign-controlled enclave. Like most Americans, my trust in massive central governments is nil. I am uneasy around these British civil servants with their paramilitary pretensions, though I know that their contributions to our welfare have been enormous.
The receptionist types our names into the computer. In a moment the communications console beeps. She picks up the receiver, listens, puts it down. “You can go right up.” She presses a buzzer and one of the bobbies steps forward. By the time he reaches us, she has filled out two green tags. We are expected to put them in our shirt pockets so that, folded out, they can be seen at all times.
We are accompanied to the sixteenth floor by the other bobby.
There, a third policeman shows us to Room 1620, which is marked simply CONTAGIOUS DISEASES. There is a faint smell of sausages and coffee in the hallway.
Another secretary shows us into a cramped outer office, which is dominated by a communications console and computer identical to the ones downstairs. The next moment Jim is introducing me to the inhabitant of the more commodious inner office, a man of medium height with a badly sunburned bald head and a sort of blustering joviality about him. He is in a summer uniform with large wet spots under the arms. He gets right down to business. “I can give you an hour,” he says.
Jim takes off his backpack and pulls out his recorder. “The idea is that you simply talk. We won’t ask many questions. Just tell about your job. Your life here. Whatever you want.”
Shandy regards us. “I’d anticipated questions.”
“Do you feel you need them?” Jim asks.
“Well, I suppose not. It’s just—more convenient, you know.”
His eyes meet mine. His gaze is blue and direct. “Before we start, I want to know a little bit about your plans.”
Jim smiles. “We’re still going to Aztlan, Mr. Shandy.”
Shandy’s lips tighten. “We don’t recommend it.”
The Hispanic Free State that has come into being around El Paso is notorious in this part of Texas. People are terrified of Aztlan. Our visit there will be the first great challenge of our journey.
“Aztlan is extremely dangerous,” Shandy says. “We’d really prefer that you stay in Texas.”
“Who is ‘we’?” I ask.
“The U.K. contingent,” he snaps. Then he picks up the little Sanyo recorder. “You have a disk in this thing?”
“All set. Just start talking.”
Shandy settles back. After a moment, he begins.
Charles Shandy, U.K. Relief Official
My work as a public health officer has taken me to many parts of the United States, but I have spent most of my time in Texas, being attached to the United Kingdom Emergency Medical Relief Organization, Southwest Region (HQ) in Dallas, as Director of Contagious Disease Control. I have been here in an official capacity for three years. Prior to the war, my experience in America was limited to a three-week vacation in San Francisco. We exchanged our house with a couple living there, the Mannings. I remember it as being a beautiful city and formed a very favorable impression of the American people from my experiences in California. When the King and the Prime Minister described the situation in America on the telly in the winter of 1988, I was among those who volunteered for the relief effort. One cannot fail to remember the American response during and after World War II, or the close ties between the two countries. I was then assistant managing director of the Albert Doring Company. We specialized in the transport of live vaccines to tropical areas, so I knew a good deal about contagion.
At least, that was what I thought at the time.
During our prewar vacation, my wife and I traveled up and down the West Coast on a train called the Starlight, and really had a great deal of fun. California was beautiful, and the Queen’s having been there the previous spring—that was the summer of ’83—meant that the people were more than usually kindly disposed toward us English.
I have been once to San Francisco since the war, and found it quite a tattered and crowded version of its old self. But certainly recognizable. I went to call on the Mannings, but nobody in the road knew what had become of them. The family occupying their house would not talk to me.
My primary job is to identify outbreaks of treatable contagious disease and allocate appropriate Relief resources to them so that the problem will be minimized. It is not generally understood, but our main function is to supplement existing American services.
The ordinary citizen views the country as being without any internal authority, but this is not the case. There is still a strong federal presence. Certainly in health care. All surviving physicians have, for example, been recorded in a new central registry maintained by the Centers for Disease Control. Hospitals can, as of last year, report their supply needs to the Centers also, and get fairly rapid allocation of medicines and equipment. The loss of records and trained bureaucratic personnel that occurred when Washington was destroyed was certainly damaging to health care, but it has not proved fatal.
I work very closely with the Centers for Disease Control. My experience with the CDC has been very good. The Centers have grown tremendously since the war. There has been great advance in identifying the numerous mutant disease factors that have appeared among the American population. The progress with pseudomonas plague, which has become a significant cause of death in the Southwest since the war, has been spectacular. The death rate from this illness has been reduced to forty-five percent, primarily as a result of the development of nonantibiotic prophylaxis, which was done at CDC. We have helped in educating the population to identify and report plague cases so that isolation and treatment can be effected.
In the past year we have not had the continuous round of problems that were encountered at first. Certainly nothing on the scale of the Cincinnati Flu in ’90. Worldwide deaths from that disease are estimated at approximately two hundred and thirty million, twenty-one million of them in the United States and two million in Europe.
But the U.S. population is better fed and stronger now, so we expect the next pandemic to be less damaging here than was the last.
We anticipate another expression of this hybrid flu, and are relying heavily on CDC results in the development of a treatment regime.
Actually, one of our major projects at present is to teach CDC pneumonia prophylaxis, the construction of steam hats, the various means of assisting the breathing-impaired, control of circulation with hot and cold spots, and such things. CDC has really worked miracles with the very simplest materials and procedures.
The objective of their work is to develop effective medical treatment for serious disease, treatment that can be applied at home by family members and by the victims themselves. On another front, we are underwriting the medical faculties at the new University of Texas Medical School here in Dallas, and providing British doctor-professors so that local medical personnel can concentrate on hospital work.
Despite all this effort, we are not out of the woods. Frankly, however, the drop in U.S. as well as world population is also going to mean a long-term reduction in pandemic disease, if only because the remaining population groups are obviously going to be farther apart and have fewer contacts with one another. Despite this, it must be recalled that, worldwide, health systems remain frail. Supply lines are long and subject to extraordinary stresses. Fuel may be unavailable to move a shipment of drugs from the U.K. to America, for example. On the other hand, the lack of communications—a situation that is really improving fast, by the way—may simply mean that a disease outbreak goes unnoticed by us until it reaches an area where we have a permanent station.
This was the case with the cholera epidemic that created such suffering in South Texas last summer. We consider this to be a deeply damaged area, with the extensive residual radiation contamination from San Antonio, the uninhabitable zones, and the presence of an ill, malnourished, and restless Mexican population to the south. There was an unnoticed migration from Mexico into Texas all summer—more than three hundred thousand individuals were involved, virtually all of them starving. Many of these people moved right through the San Antonio Red Zone and began arriving in Dallas and Waco not only dying of starvation and radiation sickness, but carrying cholera. Neither of the first two problems is contagious, fortunately, but the cholera did spread to the local population. There were eight thousand deaths among registered inhabitants of the state, according to the Statistical Services Office.
Our treatment regime consisted of oral electrolyte replacement and treatment of exposed populations with tetracycline. The outbreak was quelled, but the real solution lies not in prophylaxis but in the restoration of sanitary facilities to prewar condition.
To communicate the extent of health problems in Texas, it is only necessary to talk about birth rates. The Southwest shares with the Northeast the dubious distinction of having a death rate four times in excess of its birth rate. And the number of mutations per 100,000 live births is 1,018, the highest in North America. In the Southwest we have placed birth mutations on the epidemic list and have put priority on obtaining working sonogram and amniocentesis equipment, so that parents can have some warning that their child may not be normal. In addition, the Relief has established criteria for abortion and mandatory destruction of nonassistable live births, to relieve parents of this difficult responsibility.
We encourage relocation of individuals out of the Yellow Zones south and east of San Antonio, and routinely triage those who refuse to move. The population of these counties has dropped roughly ninety-one percent since the war.
Since the beginning of my tour I have dealt with Cincinnati Flu, cholera, the first Nonspecific Sclerosing Disease panic in Dallas, a massive outbreak of brucellosis in Amarillo, apparently caused by the ingestion of contaminated milk smuggled up from Gonzales County, and numerous other smaller crises. I cannot say that my job is less than exceedingly challenging.
When my four-year tour of duty here is up, I expect to be posted back to England for six months of R-and-R and then down to the Argentine, where we have an extensive operation contending with malnutrition and its associated diseases.
You have asked me to be as personal as possible. What is the life of a Relief officer actually like? Do I meet with any hostility on the job? Of course, a certain amount. And I have emotional difficulties of my own. I must often make decisions that shorten and even take life. When I must isolate populations to prevent the spread of disease, and sometimes even withdraw medical assistance to allocate it to areas where help will still matter, I all but sweat blood.
On the other hand, I have been able to help enormous numbers of people. We have a large number of burn cases in Dallas, many of them scarred to the point of crippling: refugees from the South Texas firestorm, some of them profoundly crippled. I was a part of the committee that decided to allocate sufficient social resources to these people to prevent their dying of starvation or neglect and also to house them in public facilities. We do make decisions in favor of life whenever we can.
I live in an apartment at the Adolphus Hotel, along with the rest of the British here. Our government purchased the hotel because its large number of small suites are ideal for housing single public officials. Only our Commissioner has his family with him.
Until the Southwest Area is reclassified as safe, the rest of us may not bring our families in. So I have two lonely rooms with a long view to the south. The hotel service has been maintained quite well, so I am comfortable. Most of our foodstuffs and all of our liquor is imported. The food is all tinned, unfortunately, because we cannot risk building lifetime dosage to dangerous levels if we are to remain in our jobs for any length of time. So we cannot eat local food or drink local water. Dallas’s water supplies are from lakes, so there is a definite radiation problem, persisting even now. In the summer, long-half-life particles blow up from the south, and in the winter they come down from the north.
There is one saving grace here, though, and that is the people themselves. These are terribly determined people here. In fact, we have encountered few Americans who have not responded to the catastrophe in some positive manner. For example, Dallas normally works a six-day week now, and goes from eight to six. I have met some of the bravest and most wonderful people I have ever known here. I will never forget their calm courage in the face of death, nor their willingness to expose themselves to danger for the sake of others.
During the flu, for example, our main problem was keeping victims isolated from people who wanted to help them and were willing to endanger themselves to do so. At present we are turning away three-quarters of the applicants for paramedical training, because the teaching staff must concentrate on doctors. People in the paramedic job are exposed to contagious disease and radiation as a matter of routine. Another example of the high morale involves farmers. When we must condemn produce—which happens less and less often now, I’m glad to say—you would expect anger on the part of the farmers. We have come to anticipate complete cooperation. When crops are suspect, the farmers themselves are the first to tell us. “I got in a thunderstorm on the way in, looked like it had blown up from the south,” they might say, and assist us in checking the shipment for hot particles. They can be trusted to give the food to the disposal teams for burial if necessary. And these are all people who have known starvation in the most personal terms.
I recall that we sent out an emergency call for cleanup teams after the hot thunderstorm in April of 1989. There were hot spots all over Dallas. And by ’89 it was all long-half-life stuff. This radiation was not going to dissipate. We got more volunteers than we had gear for them to wear. People who were already triaged volunteered to work without protective clothing, which was in short supply. I think that the city was probably saved as a viable human community by the men and women who gave what remained of their lives during that cleanup.
Fortunately, most of the local thunderstorms are generated over Oklahoma and North Texas, so a hot storm coming up from the south is rare. There is the problem of radiation being carried down from the Dakotas, but this is not too severe. Most of that flow is southeastward, and affects the Midwest.
[NOTE: At this point Mr. Shandy’s breakfast arrived. This is the morning menu of a British Relief officer: one fried egg, one sausage, two kipper fillets, one bowl of oatmeal with cream, one small pot of tea, and one tablet of vitamin C.
Mr. Shandy ate his breakfast and made two telephone calls, one to the Reliefs human resources pool requesting a Spanish-speaking interpreter to accompany him on a field trip, and another to the Centers for Disease Control to inquire whether or not they were ready to try some newly designed kits intended for testing whole blood for contamination by what he referred to as “exotics.” He did not offer to expand on the content of these phone calls. After his breakfast he asked us what we most wanted to know from him.
We requested that he tell us of his experiences in and around San Antonio.]
I was a part of the South Texas Emergency Relief Project in May of ’89. There were many people living between Houston and San Antonio who had been out of touch with the outside world for seven months. As it did throughout the country, the electromagnetic pulse destroyed most of the televisions and radios, along with computers, radar stations, medical equipment, and car ignitions.
Add the bombing of San Antonio to the general chaos, and one can see that the conditions would be truly terrifying.
Initial reaction in rural communities was to go toward the cities. We must recall that in less than a second a silent and invisible EMP burst had plunged people from the twentieth century to the Middle Ages. So they knew absolutely nothing of what was happening beyond the borders of their own towns. People who could have direct-dialed Tokyo one second could not telephone the county sheriff the next. The disorientation was extreme. So they went toward the source of communications, which was the cities. But in South Texas this was a terrible error, because San Antonio was in flames. In fact, the city survivors were streaming into the countryside—not many from San Antonio, but hordes from Austin because of the fire and Houston because of fallout. Many Houstonians, in their confusion, went toward San Antonio, not away from it. Apparently the traffic jams to the east and north of the city were so bad that escape westward was the only alternative. The sheer massiveness of the attack on San Antonio created damage and injuries previously unexpected. There were large numbers of people with sight loss due to flash effect even miles from Ground Zero. Others suffered not only burns but toxic reactions to synthetic-fiber clothing that had melted into their skin. Like the other cities, San Antonio was struck with airbursts and groundbursts, creating a massive dust cloud. The large number of huge weapons detonating simultaneously at first blew immense quantities of dust into the air, then created updrafts that drew it upward where it mingled with particles created in the fission phase of the explosions.
Conditions in such places as Lavaca, Gonzales, and DeWitt counties were appalling. The populations had quadrupled in the first days after the war. Gasoline and food ran out very quickly.
Radiation sickness was virtually epidemic and was followed shortly by all the diseases we have come to associate with large groups of undernourished, debilitated people.
Although we arrived in Dallas three months after Warday, it was not until three more months had passed that we were organized enough to arrange an overflight of San Antonio and South Texas. We were in an SC-7 Skyvan loaded with extra fuel tanks in the rear of the passenger compartment so that we could accomplish a round trip to and from Dallas if ground conditions were too unstable to permit us to land. You must recall that we had been broadcasting into this area on all available bands for some months, and getting no response. Military recon flights indicated an extensive population. So we did not know what to expect. The Commissioner wished to determine whether or not to extend British Military Rule to the area. This has not been done in many parts of the United States, but it is generally considered for areas where the population is in a state of confusion or upheaval, and the local authorities are not able to cope.
We flew as far south as Seguin, which is thirty miles from San Antonio. To avoid ground radiation we did not go below three thousand feet, but rather observed through binoculars. Seguin proved to be largely burnt.
At that time I got a look at the condition of San Antonio. I remember being astonished that this little city had been so terribly devastated on Warday. People had hardly even heard of it in Britain. One would have expected Los Angeles or even Houston before San Antonio. Of course, it has since come out that a good part of the planned Soviet attack didn’t go off, so in a sense San Antonio was simply unlucky. The Soviets had given it first-strike priority because of the extensive U.S. Air Force repair and refitting facilities there, and the huge complex of military hospitals, the atomic supplies dump at Medina Base, and the presence of a mechanized army that could have been used to preserve order across the whole of the Southwest as well as seal the Mexican border.
Perhaps, also, they knew that American intelligence did not expect this particular attack, and considered that there was value in surprise.
It is no wonder that the American military prohibits photography in such places. The effect on national and indeed worldwide morale would be very negative. From a distance there is nothing to see but the black landscape and the gleaming fused earth around the Ground Zero points. The land is mostly flat, with some rolling hills to the north. Although I never went to San Antonio before the war and had never met anyone from there, my first experience of that blasted corpse was, quite frankly, shattering. I sat at the window of that plane unable to move, unable to speak.
The cabin was silent. After a time we simply flew away.
We soon found ourselves over the town of Yoakum, Texas, which showed on our charts as a population area of approximately eight thousand people.
There were two tent communities to the south of the town. The fields roundabout were planted in corn and various vegetables, but looked to be in poor condition due to post-blast weather effects.
There were numerous horses about, many of them hitched to cars and pickup trucks from which the engines had been removed to lighten them.
Our appearance caused a great deal of excitement in the town.
People rushed out of houses and buildings waving sheets or articles of clothing or just their arms. We were able to land on State Highway 77 on the outskirts of town. There was a local airfield, but the runway was too cracked to justify the risk of using it, and the road seemed solid.
The first to meet us were a man and a woman on horseback.
They had rifles in holsters on their saddles, and as they came to a stop they drew them. I’ll never forget the first question, from that lean, bewhiskered man with the hollow eyes: “Y’all from Russia?”
They thought they had lost the war. This was, we were to find, generally the assumption in isolated populations. I explained that we were British. We were at once escorted into town. We had various emergency medicines, and our orderlies soon set up an aid station with the equipment we had brought. Our station was placed in the showroom of a local Ford dealership, the Wendell Motor Company. This offered us a large floor space and limited access via two doors. At the same time, the people waiting outside could see for themselves that we were working as quickly as we could. Ampicillin, keflex, and tetracycline were our main supplies, along with morphia and heroin for pain sufferers. We also carried cyanide and copies of the euthanasia rules. Cultural resistance to this program is very strong, especially in rural America. But people usually come to understand that truly unspeakable suffering ought to be relieved by death if the victim has no scruples of conscience, or is indeed begging for it.
On that first day in Yoakum, our three doctors and six medical orderlies treated 211 of the thousands who presented themselves.
The actual local population was approximately fifteen thousand at that time. In my estimation, there were no able-bodied individuals.
It was fortunate that we brought the four soldiers, because violent disagreements kept breaking out among the patients, especially as to whose dying children were to have the first chance at the antibiotics.
On that day we performed sixteen pediatric euthanasias, for the most part on children suffering both pain and brain damage from radiation or other poisoning.
We found numerous cases of mental breakdown. Paranoia, schizophrenia, catatonic withdrawal were all present in the population. Our psychological pharmacopoeia consisted of a little Thorazine and Valium. We dispensed what Thorazine we could to the schizophrenics. We recommended that the mentally ill who were unable to function be euthanized, with the consent of their families. Nobody volunteered their psychotic relatives at first, but the prospect of being free from the burden of their presence caused people, as is usually the case, to come to us in the night to get the cyanide capsules.
We also faced numerous cases of partially stabilized radiation sickness. These individuals were usually covered with sores from secondary infections and were in great agony. Upon being told of the hopelessness of their situation, most of them willingly accepted the death alternative.
Because of their oaths or religious objections, many British doctors have refused to dispense euthanasia treatment, so this aspect of the program was left to me. I spent my days living out tragedies with the victims, and my nights in dreams of indescribable horror, where I heard them calling me from the grave, and imagined that I had accidentally buried them alive. But it wasn’t true, I was not the shadow of death. To these people, with their burns and their sickness and their tormented bodies, I was mercy.
Among the problems with which we could not cope were the various parasitic diseases. They are not much of a problem in Britain, and we simply failed to anticipate their presence here. Hookworm, tapeworm, ascaris, and giardiasis were the most serious of these. These diseases were in adults unattractive and debilitating, but in children they were devastating. The acuteness of the problem can be realized when one reflects that these people, forced to live on a below-starvation-level diet, one almost absent of proteins, were being consumed from within by their own worm loads. We instructed on the use of saline enemas, developed by the CDC as a means of temporarily reducing infestation, especially in the cases of hookworm and tapeworm. But the only real relief, namely proper medication and a good, clean source of food and water, simply was not available at this time.
Our contamination specialist surveyed the area in some detail, and found it seriously affected by radiation. Most of the population was radiation-poisoned to some degree at least. There was also malnutrition. Only a few children were free of rickets. Pellagra, the old curse of the South, had reasserted itself.
We realized, during that first day, that we were in the presence of a whole world, small though it was, that was dying before our eyes. There were only two babies under the age of six months. One had been blinded and had lost a hand, and the other was suffering from a severe systemic infection.
The county sheriff, Mr. Weaver, reported that they buried five or six people a day, generally in shallow graves in a field near the old town graveyard. The local Catholic priest, Father Menendez, and the Baptist minister, Mr. Harold, officiated at the brief ceremonies.
Our one overwhelming wish was to radio out and somehow get great loads of food and clothing and, above all, medicines for these people. But we knew exactly what would come: little, and too late.
Instead we settled on a recommendation, which we presented to the sheriff and the two religious leaders the next day, that the whole population start moving north. A hundred miles closer to Dallas there were communities that were still very much intact.
We also offered to send what supplies we could down from Dallas, but we couldn’t provide much.
The situation was stark. If they stayed, all of these people were going to die. As the sheriff pointed out, a lot of them would also perish on the journey.
After we had dispensed all of our drugs and held as many information meetings as we could on every subject from personal hygiene to the three signs of terminal malnutrition, we took our leave of the people of Yoakum and returned to Dallas.
Eventually a column of these refugees did set out. Along the way they had lost about two thousand stragglers, with five thousand dead or unable to continue. Only six thousand people arrived in North Texas, of whom three thousand were placed in isolation due to their infectious disease status. All three thousand of these eventually died.
Of the fifteen thousand people alive in Yoakum on the day we visited, approximately two thousand remain alive today.
What We Expect, What We Fear: American Opinion in 1993
About six weeks ago there arrived in the offices of the Herald News a familiar brown manila envelope that brought cheers when it was opened.
It was a production of the Consolidated American Polling Group, made up of former staff members of the Harris, Gallup, and Sindlinger organizations. After two years of reorganization and preparation, they were finally beginning to distribute national polls once again. Two documents were enclosed, one a poll of attitudes about the present state of the country, and the other concerning future expectations.
We will be presenting sections of these two polls throughout the book at points where they seem germane.
The samples used in the surveys each consisted of more than 1,400 American adults eighteen years of age and older. The samples are statistically representative of the nation in terms of geographic and demographic design. For comparison purposes, 1992 data are given where appropriate.
Naturally, neither the polls nor our use of them in any way reflects the opinions of the Consolidated American Polling Group Inc.
Do you think that the destiny of this country is presently in the hands of other nations?
When queried about which regions or nations of the world were most influential, the responses were:
|JAPAN / ASIA||25||22|
|AUSTRALIA / PACIFIC||6||7|
When asked about specific nations, the responses were:
Will the United States ever again emerge as a world economic power?
Will the United States ever regain its status again as a military power?
Documents from the Emergency
There was no doubt that it was fire. They felt it burn their skin, then their bones, then their brains.
THE BUREAUCRAT’S COLD EYE
The first test of my ability to get sensitive documents from official sources came immediately. Both Whitley and I wanted to have a selection of documents that had been produced in the months following Warday.
Most people were too busy dealing with blown out radios, televisions, and telephones, and trying to understand what had happened to us, to worry about bureaucrats and their pronouncements.
But they were there, and they were pronouncing.
Many times since Warday I have imagined the places where the postwar planning and thinking took place, the quiet offices at the edge of the fire. I have wondered who the men—or the women—were who divided the doomed from the saved, who conceived of triage, who looked upon the rest of us with cold eyes.
Much of what I did to get documents was “illegal” in the old sense of the word. I not only took things off desks, I opened files that were supposed to be sealed. But the documents in those files cannot be stolen, especially not the two collected here, which relate to the most fundamental of wartime experiences.
Like the people behind the numbers and the places in the radioactive zones, they belong to all of us.
ESTIMATED CASUALTIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE OCTOBER 1988 WAR
Deaths as a Result of October 28, 1988 Attack
|New York City Area||2,961,881|
|San Antonio, Texas||1,081,961|
|Washington, D.C. Area||2,166,798|
|The Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming||1,121,802|
|Total Warday Deaths||7,340,548|
Cumulative Deaths Since October 28, 1988 Attack
|Famine of 1988||26,200,000|
|Radiation Related Illnesses||17,000,000|
|Total Post-Warday Deaths||67,800,000|
|Total Deaths to Data||75,140,548|
Total U.S. Population Changes
|1987 U.S. Population||237,625,904|
|1992 U.S. Population, Estimated||174,384,000|
[Source: CDC, 1993]
* * *
0 14 1500 ZULU MARCH 89
TO ALL DIVISIONS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
FROM JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
COLORADO HDQ/JCS. 173.A888
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, THE FOLLOWING DESIGNATIONS WILL BE EMPLOYED IN DESCRIBING RADIOACTIVE ZONES:
BLAST CENTER. VIRTUALLY UNPASSABLE. RECON ONLY BY AIRPLANE. AVOID ALL CONTACT.
NO ATTEMPT WARRANTED TO FOLLOW ILLEGAL ENTRIES.
HIGH RADIOACTIVITY AREA. ADMITTANCE LIMITED TO 10 MINUTES WITH PROTECTIVE CLOTHING OR SUITABLE VEHICLE.
ILLEGAL ENTRIES MAY BE SHOT ON SIGHT.
VARIABLE RADIOACTIVITY. SUSTAINED ENTRY WITH SUITABLE PROTECTION.
VIOLATORS SHOULD BE GIVEN WARNING SHOT.
VARIABLE LOW RADIATION, USE CAUTION AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
PERIMETER AREAS. USE STANDARD MILITARY PROCEDURES FOR SECURITY IMPLEMENTATION.
ALL ROAD ENTRY TO ZONED AREAS SHOULD BE IDENTIFIED WITH APPROPRIATE NOMENCLATURE. SECURITY PROCEDURES APPLICABLE EXCEPT WHERE NOTED FOR CONTAMINATED AREAS.
THIS ORDER TO TAKE EFFECT 1300 ZULU 15 MARCH 1989
Wilson T. Ackorman, Undersecretary of Defense (Ret.)
[THE CONDUCT OP THE WAR. Wilson Ackerman is well known in Dallas, in the same way that somebody with an exotic contagion might be well known. People glance at him in the streets, ask him questions. Sometimes, I suppose, they do more than that.
Ackerman was aboard the Doomsday Plane on Warday. His testimony seemed essential, and he was available. The man is deeply afraid. His eyes never stop moving. Although I don’t think he is more than forty-five, like so many of us he seems much older. His hands touch and caress his face as he talks, in a dry, quick voice that seems at times too precise, and at other times curiously rich.
There is an almost lyrical terror in this man. It is an emotional state, perhaps, beyond guilt. I do not think it has a name.
As Wilson Ackerman spoke in his careful tones I thought of a lover’s murmuring, and the quarrels of children, and the voices of the night.]
I did not know that we were in a war situation until the Secretary telephoned my office and told me in a brusque tone to activate Case Quick Angel. I then set in motion the series of actions that were designed to disperse upper echelons of the Executive Branch during a nuclear war. This order was given by me at exactly 1530 on 28 October 1988.
Shortly after that I joined the Secretary, as per plan, on the helicopter pad. We left the Pentagon via helicopter at once, heading for Andrews Air Force Base. With Secretary Forrest was Air Force General Potter Dawes, who was carrying the backup codes.
We reached Andrews at 1545 hours and found that the White House contingent had already entered the E-4B aircraft. Under the Quick Angel basing protocols, the E-4B had recently been returned to Andrews from a base in Indiana. Donald Meecham informed us that the President was aboard and the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) was ready for takeoff.
We then entered the aircraft and proceeded directly to the Presidential suite. The President greeted us and we sat down to a briefing from SAC General Joe Point. General Point indicated that there had been a Soviet response to the Space Shuttle’s deployment of the first satellite in the Spiderweb warhead-killer system.
This response was to open the doors of a group of SS-18 silos in central Siberia. Altogether they were preparing a launch of twelve missiles containing a total of fifty-four warheads in the 5- to 10-megaton range. At that time they had not launched any missiles.
As our aircraft took off, we received telemetry from NORAD indicating that there had been an explosion, probably nuclear, in near space over the western Pacific Ocean. NASA then announced that the Space Shuttle had ceased to communicate with Houston due to this detonation, and had probably been destroyed.
As the Spiderweb satellites were radiation hardened, the one deployed remained operational, but it was far from its intended orbit, and we now had no means to transport it. It was effectively useless, and in any case, formed only a small part of the total system. At that point the President decided that it was probable that we would soon be in a hot war. He therefore authorized Defense to transmit a War Warning to all U.S. military commands. I carried out that order at 1550 hours. Here is the text of the document:
The Space Shuttle Enterprise was destroyed by a nuclear device of unknown origin at approximately 1545 hours U.S. Eastern Standard Time this day. It was engaged in a Defense Department mission. Please consider this a War Warning, and proceed to your designated alert level immediate.
This caused SAC and the U.S. Navy Submarine Command to go to One Alert status, and the other services to respond by entering their highest states of readiness. It was at this point that war became inevitable, but at the time there was still a sense of control in the NEACP. The President activated the hot line to Moscow. The telephone at their end was not answered. At last the President put the instrument down. “Gentlemen” he said, “I am afraid that the Premier will not talk to me.” We then instructed Ambassador Underwood in Moscow to call on the Premier at once and inform him that the United States was willing to negotiate a settlement of the question that had arisen between us. We further attempted communication by the hot line teletype on the chance that the telephone system might be out of order.
There had been a massive failure on the part of Western intelligence to correctly evaluate the Soviet response to the deployment of Spiderweb. This system, utilizing ultra-high-power laser beams, which targeted and destroyed warheads in space after they were ejected from their missile buses, was intended to render the United States invulnerable to land- or sea-based attacks. As the target acquisition system was optical, the Soviet low-radar-profile systems were no defenses. We did not know at the time how far in advance of existing Soviet weaponry this system was, or deployment would have been evaluated differently.
It was our stated intention before the deployment to begin dismantling the American offensive missile force once we were protected by the Spiderweb system. The Soviet leadership had given us no indication that they did not believe this, and had not even protested the deployment of Spiderweb.
In retrospect it is obvious that they were so far behind technologically that they were afraid to so much as whisper a protest, lest their weakness become known to us.
Although I was not a party to the decision to deploy Spiderweb, I am trying to come to grips with the fact that I was assisting in the management of a system of defense that had drifted into a state of extreme brittleness, in the sense that our own technological superiority was making our enemy increasingly desperate, and thus was actually causing the very war it was intended to prevent.
As per plan, the NEACP proceeded due south toward its intended operational area, approximately 100 miles SSW of the Cape Charles Lighthouse, over the Atlantic Ocean.
At 1555 the National Security Agency informed us that three Soviet satellites had begun unusual orbital maneuvers. NSA said that these were designated as unusually large communications relay satellites, and that there had been optical and electronic surveillance confirming this. However, this remarkable maneuver capability made them highly suspect. The President then ordered SAC to destroy these satellites, utilizing the ground-based Slingshot missiles, which are a classified weapons system. The Slingshots were fired. Less than two minutes passed before the threatening satellites were destroyed. But it was too late. We were soon informed that they had successfully ejected four large weapons, which were dropping to an altitude level of 100,000 feet over California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Manitoba. The President made a sighing sound, as if he had been struck in the chest. We all knew what terrific damage the country was soon going to sustain.
It is far easier to create high-level electromagnetic energy in pulsed form than it is to shield against it.
We were aware of the classified studies on this. We knew that a vast number of electronic circuits in the United States would be damaged, most of them beyond easy repair. Even those shielded to resist a 50,000-volt pulse would be destroyed by the explosion of such large bombs in near space, as the pulse each generated would far exceed 50,000 volts.
At 1620, we watched our entire fighter escort, consisting of six F-15s of the 113 TAC Group out of Andrews, corkscrew into the sea. The Soviet EMP weapons had just detonated. The fighters’ shielding had clearly proved insufficient, and these aircraft had undoubtedly lost their on-board computers, without which the F-15 cannot fly. At the same time, most of the commercial airliners in the air over the United States and Canada began to crash or became dangerously disabled. Approximately three hundred million radio and television sets, and most radio and television stations, ceased to function. All microwave relay stations in the United States and Canada ceased to function, meaning that long-distance telephone and telemetric communications were no longer possible.
The ignitions of many automobiles built after 1977–78 were rendered inoperable. Many local power systems failed due to fused relays and subsequent overload. A staggering number of computers, and most of the automated factories used to manufacture them, were destroyed. Of course, repairs began at once, and some AM stations such as WOR in New York were on at low power within a week, but isolated cases of resiliency did little to ameliorate the overall effect of the pulse. Generally, the negative synergy of technological breakdown and economic chaos has meant very slow recovery from this damage. WOR, for example, ran for eight months, but was closed down when New York was abandoned.
Our NEACP aircraft was also damaged in a number of ways, and the pilot soon informed us that he would prefer to return to an over-land situation.
SAC called, using the still-functional UHF communications channel, which was designed to be proof against any level of EMP.
The President then ordered Case Dream Eagle to be activated. At 1625.12, six bomb-carrying satellites were armed to detonate automatically as they reached their target positions over the Soviet Union. To compensate for their greater state of EMP readiness, we generated an ambient voltage level of 120,000 volts with each bomb. This probably caused the destruction of ninety percent of all electronic devices in the USSR, as even their best shielding was not effective past 100,000 volts. Our own decision to limit protection to the 50,000-volt level had been the classic wargame mistake of assuming that the other side would hit us with whatever maximum force we could conveniently defend against, and not with the maximum force they could muster.
We now went to our emergency communications systems, which consisted of the UHF channel to SAC, and an infrared laser communicator to keep us in touch with Washington. These were effective devices, and the NEACP maintained its essential communications despite the enemy’s best efforts.
CIA came on the laser communicator with an evaluation to the effect that the Soviets would release their SS-18s within three to five minutes. The President then opened the code boxes for Minuteman and unlocked the switches. I remember that Mr. Forrest put his hands over the President’s hands, because the President was shaking.
The Defense Intelligence Agency then pulsed via UHF an analysis of the targeting of the Soviet weapons that had been rendered operational. While I was having this downloaded to screen for the President, he activated Minuteman. There were three flights containing a total of 56 warheads planned for the first wave. It was our intention to remove the Soviet government without excessive loss of life in the population. We intended to destroy Moscow, Leningrad, and Sevastopol, and hit the administrative capitals of all the republics. This would result in destruction of only eight percent of the population, but would cause the USSR to lose the means of government.
The NEACP System Commander then informed us that the EMP damage had compromised the ability of the aircraft to maintain trim, and it was now in a nose-low attitude, and was unable to maintain altitude indefinitely. We could expect to be on the ground, one way or another, within the half hour.
At that time the President again tried the hot line. It was inoperative. An attempt to reach Mr. Underwood in Moscow failed.
The President was informed that the British Prime Minister and the French President were both on the phone. The secret NATO Omninet communications system had also survived EMP.
The President spoke briefly with each of them. The French President told him that he and the Germans and the British had informed the Soviets of the existence of a secret treaty between the three nations, under which all American military installations in those countries were in the process of being entered by local nationals. The treaty had been designed to go into effect in the event that a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the USSR occurred without the prior knowledge of NATO and France.
So we found ourselves alone. Our European allies had abandoned us, or so it seemed then. I hope that the Treaty of Coventry proves to have been a wise one. If it had not been in place, the exchange of 28 October 1988 would undoubtedly have escalated into at least four more salvos, two of them against the NATO allies and France. Inasmuch as the eventual damage done by the limited war we did have was so very much greater than we imagined, an exchange on that scale would have rendered humankind a minor species, or perhaps an extinct one.
The President begged the European leaders to inform the Soviet Premier that we would in no case fire our missiles unless he first fired his, even at this late time. But the EMP exchange had caused them to lose contact with him. To this day his fate is not known.
The DIA targeting analysis had been downloaded, and I briefed the President. The indications were appalling. Washington, D.C., was going to receive a total load of sixty megatons. New York would get seventy. This was enough to cause the land itself to melt, which is what actually did happen in Washington. The remaining missiles were all targeted for Minuteman, SAC, and the USAF refit and supply center at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.
So the Soviet first wave was primarily a military targeting.
Even so, we were going to take a serious population hit. Nearly twelve million Americans lived in target areas. It was now 1630 hours.
I had an episode of angina pectoris at that time and was not present at the meeting with the NEACP Commander. When I returned to the Presidential suite, it was to find that the aircraft would have to land in fifteen minutes, and this landing would have to be accomplished on a beach off the coast of North Carolina, due to our inability to reach an airfield. If the NEACP was destroyed on landing, the United States would lose its ability to respond properly to a Soviet attack. If this plane was forced to keep the command, we would have to fire Minuteman before crash landing, whether or not the Soviets had fired. The vulnerability of this one aircraft could force us to use our missiles or risk their loss.
The President then ordered NEACP transferred to the alternate aircraft, which was operating out of Offutt AFB in Nebraska.
This aircraft reported severe EMP damage and refused the command. The President then attempted to raise HQ NORAD/ADCOM Combat Operations Center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and transfer to them, but this communication was not encoded properly and was also refused. We could not find the proper coding card, and to this day I wonder if the war could have been averted if we had found it.
The President had a key to turn to fire Minuteman. He put his hand on this key and ordered the NEACP Commander to inform him when we were within one minute of touchdown. We commenced placing the command to Cheyenne Mountain every ten seconds, hoping against hope that the transfer of authority would eventually be accepted. We attempted to relay the transfer via the alternate airborne command post, but there was no protocol established for that, and the available chain of command did not have the authorizations necessary to create one. We began to try to communicate with the Vice-President, but he was en route to the U.S. Government Emergency Command Control and Communications Center in Maryland, from which he was supposed to govern the country if the President became a casualty. We did not yet know that the EMP pulse had caused his helicopter to crash, with the loss of all aboard.
It was agreed that Secretary Forrest would replace the President at the key, should the President experience a physical problem in the next few minutes.
Soon we began to see a long, narrow island below us. We were informed that this was our destination, and we would be landing not far from Kitty Hawk.
The President ordered a check of the Minuteman communications system, and the arming of the proper missiles. We were told by SAC that fourteen B-52s were holding at their fail-safe points despite EMP damage, and could proceed with their mission. They were ordered to do so.
NSA then informed us that a suspicious satellite, also previously thought to be a communications device, was ejecting devices over South Dakota that, astonishingly, might be nuclear warheads.
Without a word, the President then turned the key and initiated the Minuteman firing sequence. The time was 1636.28. At 1636.51 we received confirmation via UHF that the missiles were away. At 1637.06 Cheyenne Mountain told us that twenty-one nuclear devices had detonated in the missile fields in South Dakota. The Mountain then ceased to signal. The Soviet warheads had been fired from satellites. We had no knowledge of such weapons. Another few seconds and Minuteman would have been destroyed on the ground. Our alternative would then, as the Soviets well knew, have been to go to the city busters aboard our submarines and risk escalation to the destruction of our own population centers, or surrender.
At that point the President had to be attended by his physician, due to difficulty breathing.
At 1641.11 NORAD informed us that the Soviet SS-18s were launched from forward soils on the Kamchatka Peninsula. At 1642.40 we received a pulsed load showing the exact targets and throw times. Washington. San Antonio. New York. More for the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. Oddly, Omaha was not on the list.
We were then told by the NEACP Commander to fasten our seatbelts, as the huge aircraft would be attempting a landing in the sand in two minutes. We left the command post and sat in the briefing room, where there were fewer sharp objects and access to the outside was quicker. We were given fire-resistant coveralls and breathing apparatus.
A few minutes later the pilot began counting down from twenty. There was a sort of soft, surging sensation, then a stronger and stronger pull to the left, then the sound of equipment breaking far below as the belly of the aircraft was torn out. I left my seat, thinking that the plane had stopped, only to find myself hurled against the ceiling. I then fell amid a cascade of ceiling panels. I was in the aisle beside the President. I was covered with blood. I got to my feet and began trying to make my way down the aisle, which was full of plastic ceiling panels. Then a hissing sound started, and foam fire-extinguishing chemicals began pouring out of nozzles in the front of the cabin. There was another abrupt shift of position and we were almost on our side. There was a strong smell of kerosene.
I reached up and attempted to rouse the President. He was lolling against his seatbelt. Two airmen came in and began cutting him loose. Others led me and Mr. Forrest and the various other White House officials from the aircraft.
Moments later we found ourselves in a hospital tent that had been inflated by the plane’s medical orderlies some yards from the aircraft, which lay on its side, its left wing bent and leaking kerosene, its right wing washed by the sea.
The President was brought in just behind us and laid on a tarpaulin. When his face mask was removed, it was discovered that he was dead, from a broken neck.
At 1654 we heard a long, crackling rumble from the north. I knew that this was the sound of the Soviet weapons detonating over Washington, two hundred miles away.
I remember that a big crowd had gathered, and the local volunteer fire department soon arrived.
Zone of Nowhere
People change when they see a Dead Zone. Once observed, a Dead Zone becomes a kind of personal secret, like a private disfigurement. There is something awesome and terrible about the sheer power it takes to create such destruction. It is impossible not to change when you have the first-hand experience of seeing a vast wasteland where a city of a million people once existed.
One Dead Zone was San Antonio, the city where I was born and spent my youth and where my family lived before Warday.
In 1990 I pulled enough strings with the military to be granted a flyover of San Antonio. After two years, radiation levels were sufficiently low to permit aircraft to approach the cratered areas without much danger. The U.S. Army—South Texas Military Area Command—apparently makes such flyovers several times a week, sometimes for officials and foreign visitors, but also, I think, for a deeper reason. Even when the aircraft are empty of visitors, there remains the need to continue some human presence.
Entering a war zone—so called, I suppose, because it is a special place produced by war—is usually not possible overland. Radiation is only one problem; navigating rubble and half-collapsed buildings is by far the greater difficulty. Only the centermost circle of the blast area is smooth—the result of the vaporizing effects of the explosion.
San Antonio is not going to be cleared. There is no need. No one wants to live there, and the potential for salvage is limited. Nonmilitary visitors are confined to helicopter flyovers. To take the tour, I had to travel to Austin and then down to San Marcos, which is a combined Army and Air Force installation. It is the command headquarters for the San Antonio War Zone. After half a day of having my paperwork processed, signing waivers of liability, and undergoing low-level interrogation about my journalistic interests, I was put on a jeep and driven to the flight line. I boarded a six-passenger helicopter with Army markings.
My escort, the only other passenger on the flight, was a cheery captain who had made the trip dozens of times before. He kept up a mostly one-sided chatter all the way to the zone: “You’re not going to believe this place. It’s a symbol of immense, total power. And the bombs used weren’t even the largest the Soviets could have used.” He sounded like a schoolkid reciting from memory.
He made sure I was aware that no photographs were allowed. I knew that; my camera had been impounded before we left.
Why no pictures? Certainly there were no secrets to be revealed. The extent of the damage was well known. But I could understand the restriction. There is a pornography associated with such wanton, total destruction.
Since the war, a new terminology has emerged to describe the areas of nuclear destruction: Dead Zone, Red Zone, Orange Zone, Blue Zone, Green Zone. Painted signs, each with a skull at the center, reflect the varying levels of invisible death.
What Army photographs the captain showed me were curiously bland. Each had apparently been taken at a high altitude and showed only a flat, empty San Antonio, devoid of detail. Emptiness says little. It is the remaining detail that reveals the devastation.
Just ten miles out I noticed the first signs of the war: huge areas of rolling land devoid of any standing vegetation, blackened by what must have been a massive fire. Another few miles and there were collapsed heaps of charcoaled rubble, the remains of houses and barns that had stood in the rural areas outside the city. Then, to the right of the aircraft, we could see in the distance the uninhabited town of New Braunfels, a burned jumble of structures.
The captain told me that former residents often tried to return and resettle. They would go to the edges of the restricted zones and camp there, sometimes for months. I saw one such camp, a clutch of threadbare tents, and thought they are the people at the edge of the ocean.
As we headed for the first Ground Zero, or GZ as my guide called it, the last of the rubble passed beneath the helicopter. There were few buildings or houses left fully intact, though the contours of the land were varied enough to have made the destruction erratic. Closer to the center of the city there was only rubble. The downtown area, which had consisted of twenty or so tall buildings, now looked like a forest that had been reduced to haggard stumps.
For the first time the impact of a Dead Zone struck me: there was incomprehensible madness here.
Scattered through the rubble were remote stations installed by the Army to monitor radiation and intruders. With their metal roofs painted bright orange, they looked like toys left by a child on a gray carpet.
We quickly came up on the first of three GZ craters, which, even two years after the explosion, still shimmered in the sunlight from the fusion of soil, metal, concrete, and other melted materials. In the distance, perhaps eight miles away, we could see another GZ casting its own eerie dazzle.
“You should see them at night, under a full moon,” the captain said. “You’ll never forget the sight.”
We circled around and around, but I couldn’t identify a single landmark. Where were the parks, the schools and universities, the shopping centers? And what about the Alamo?
Though I stared out the window of the helicopter, I saw nothing. Instead, a flood of memories came back to me. I remembered summers in San Antonio, the backyard cookouts with my family and drive-in movies on warm evenings. I remember thinking as a child, as children do, that nothing would ever change and that my parents would live forever. Now I wondered what had happened to my bedroom, to the house I had lived in, to my old high school?
Were the students and teachers vaporized on Warday, or merely crushed by flying stone and metal? What had happened to my family? What had happened to Whitley’s?
My family and friends have stayed in my thoughts all these years. I lost my mother and a dozen other relatives in San Antonio on Warday; perhaps a dozen more disappeared or were lost in the postwar migrations to safer parts of the country. My wife, Vivian, disappeared in the exodus from Austin. I haven’t given up my belief that she is alive somewhere, looking for me, as I have been looking for her all these years.
The fact that I had lost a home, a car, a career, and a thousand small possessions didn’t even occur to me, especially as I looked at what was left of San Antonio. Instead, like most people in America, I thought of faces that were no longer there. And of family histories and small treasures burned away.
The landscape came back into view again. I could see the outlines of shopping centers, portions of streets, and enough of a building here and there to guess that it had been a school or a church or a store. One large shopping center, at the edge of a blast area, was a flattened ruin surrounded by a vast field of congealed cars melted into the asphalt of the parking lot.
I had intended to take notes or record impressions as I flew, but I just sat there. My silence seemed to disappoint the captain. Without realizing it, he had begun to take a certain pride in the drama of his tour. He asked if I wanted to see more. “How about Kelly Air Force Base? You can see the shadows of twenty B-52s and four C-5As on the runway. Really weird.”
I shook my head.
Back in San Marcos I was given a color enlargement of the San Antonio zone taken from three miles up. On the back in red letters was stamped, WARNING, NO PUBLICATION. There isn’t much detail; it is a dark gray moonscape.
“Sorry it’s not from a lower altitude,” the captain apologized, “but at least you have a memento of your visit.”
The Road to Aztlan
Jim and I are on a train between Dallas and Austin, passing through Waco. I remember Waco as a small, intense city in the heart of the cotton-growing country. The parents of our friend Jay Westbrook lived there in the sixties, and the three of us used to be invited up for occasional weekends—usually after Jay’s mother had been to the apartment we all shared in Austin and had become concerned that we were too thin.
The train rattles along at about forty-five. It’s clean, but pretty worn. Twelve Amtrak chair cars and a baggage car. There is no diner and no snack bar, and air conditioning is provided by keeping the front and rear doors of the cars open. The windows cannot be opened, for these prewar cars were built with many assumptions that no longer hold true. The trip will take two hours and thirty minutes station to station, with four stops.
Most of our fellow passengers are business people. The cotton industry in Waco is booming. With the collapse of cotton imports from Egypt and other countries, the local growers are finding their product much in demand. Jim tells me that Governor Parker is hoping to make cotton and cotton products a net export item in the Texas economy soon.
We are asking our fellow passengers about Aztlan, the Hispanic Free State that stretches roughly along the Texas–Mexico border from Piedras Negras to New Mexico. We intend to go there via Austin, San Angelo, and Odessa, with a stop in Austin to interview the Governor. But our fellow passengers are not encouraging.
MRS. TOM MULLIN: “I had a sister lived in El Paso and all of a sudden one day she turns up at our house in Waco with everything she owns in a shopping bag. She just got kicked out by the Mexicans, she says. And a lot of people weren’t so lucky. They got hanged from street lights. And in Roswell—the Indians went in there and just about tore the place apart, the way I hear it.”
JODY PICKEREL: “It’s probably not really a separate country from Mexico. The way I see it, Mexico went in there and started something. We mighta forgot the Alamo, but they never did. They remember the Alamo and they want all of Texas back. Unless Parker gets on the stick, they’ll be in Austin before too long, or maybe even up here in Waco.”
LIZ PICKEREL: “He’s right, it’s a Mexican thing. You have to remember that they didn’t get touched by the war. They still have an army and everything. They’re in good shape down there, except for the money troubles and the food troubles and… well, I take that back, they’re in bad shape. But that just makes them all the more dangerous.”
CARLOS GONZALEZ: “I am on my way to Aztlan right now. You know what I am doing there? I am selling clothes. That’s right, clothes I bought in Atlanta. I have them on this train. Seven hundred good, strong pairs of overalls. You think I’ll get a nice price?
You bet I will! Fifty Aztlan pesos each, and you know you can change them things for good Japanese yen. Americans don’t want to trade with Aztlan. Everybody’s scared. Like, this train doesn’t go south of Odessa. You’ll find out. I have to take a truck down from Odessa. The train goes on that old Santa Fe freight track up through to Albuquerque. They fixed up those tracks last year. Before that they ran buses.”
MINDY SCHWARTZ: “I don’t really know much about it. I live in Odessa, and we don’t much go to El Paso anymore. I really don’t think about it.”
TOM LEGAN: “You two gringos are going in there? Lemme tell you, they cleaned house last year. No gringos allowed. They hanged ’em if they stayed. You’re a couple of assholes, you know that? They’ll hang you if the bandidos don’t get you first. Fifty miles south of Odessa the trouble starts. You try to stay on I-20 down there the other side of Monahans, and them bandidos are going to carve up your asses. That’s all I got to say about it”
The train pulls into the station in McGregor, which serves as the stop for Waco. There is a lot of bustle, people getting off and on, men wearing weathered jeans and straw hats, carrying duffels full of possessions, people pushing carts loaded with baggage, children crying, voices rising in joy or sorrow at the partings and returns.
About three-quarters of the passengers get out. We buy Cokes on the platform. We will eat out of our backpacks, to save money.
Five minutes later the train is full again, with a few people sitting in the aisles. We pull out exactly on time. Like many of the other passengers, Jim and I have our homemade lunches. The train is due in Austin at 4:07. It had better be on time, because our interview with Oliver Parker is scheduled for 4:30.
When the wind is from the south, I understand that the corrupt odor of San Antonio is sharp on the Austin air.
Oliver Parker, Governor of Texas
You know, Whitley, the fact is that some of the states are becoming separate countries. We have the beginnings of a military structure right here in Texas. I’m pushing a bill that will place the U.S. Third Army, the Twelfth Air Force, the state national guard, and the highway patrol under the overall authority of the governor’s office. I consider this the most important single thing I’ve done so far in my administration.
We are going to restore authority in the areas of Texas where there’s a problem. Especially down in South Texas. Those people have suffered enough. They’ve really had it much worse than in most of the rest of the country, what with the destruction of San Antonio and the sickness and all. Plus there has been a tremendously high level of illegal immigration. All authority in Mexico has broken down. Without any significant oil income, with the collapse of trade and tourism, and our inability to export foodstuffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mexico hasn’t experienced a greater population decline than we have. I’d put it at forty to fifty percent in five years. I know from personal friends that there have been eight revolutions in Mexico City, and when we were suffering from the famine here, they were absolutely and totally destitute. They had no corn, no bread, no soy products, only their own beans. They lacked cooking oil. In Mexico City there was no potable water because their U.S.-made sewage treatment system failed. Mexico City was hit as bad by dysentery and cholera as it was by the Cincinnati Flu. You had whole huge areas of the city where there was nobody left alive at all.
If people wonder why in the world they’re still coming north in spite of what we’re going through, that’s the reason.
You said you wanted me to say what I was doing on Warday.
Well, I was in Dallas trying to get my campaign for the Senate together. I was going to get that seat from the Republicans. Mary was with me, and so was Elizabeth. The other kids were in San Antonio, I’m sorry to say.
After we’re finished, we can go over to the house and you can see our war baby, Oliver Junior. Perfect formation. He looks just like his mother.
I don’t live in the Governor’s Mansion, by the way. The state doesn’t have the money to keep it up. We’re just barely staying solvent as it is, so I live in a raised ranch over on Red River. Maybe next year we’ll reopen the mansion.
I deal with real basic issues: defense, disease, food, shelter, crime. I classify this whole Aztlan thing as a crime. As far as I’m concerned they’re rebels, no different from the Confederates. I consider Texas a part of the United States, and Aztlan a part of Texas. If there’s ever a new Constitutional Convention, Texas will certainly be sending delegates.
Other crimes we have, mainly, are crimes of desperation. There is still a lot of hunger. Real, raw hunger. Hell, people are dying of hunger and a lot of other things down in South Texas every day.
The area between Houston and San Antonio is blighted. I guess you could consider that whole area depopulated.
You know, from the roof of St. Edwards University south of here—you remember St. Edwards? Well, from the roof you can see the start of the San Antonio Dead Zone. The horizon to the south is charcoal gray. And the sky is brown. It’s a weird sight, like looking across to the surface of another planet.
You remember my house in San Antonio, Whitley? We finished that bathroom, and we were going to put in a pool.
I was meeting with the Dallas County Democrats at the Anatole Hotel when the war happened. The lights went out. That was because the EMP killed the hotel’s computer. As it died, it turned off all the lights and sent the elevators to the lobby. I thought it was an internal thing. After a while we continued our meeting in the lobby, which is skylit.
Mary came in with the news that there were planes crashing all over the place. We went outside and looked up and there was this American Airlines jet wobbling around. It kept banking first one way and then the other. Then we found out my brand-new Lincoln wouldn’t start. I had a lunch scheduled at the Adolphus with Bob Rossiter of Rossiter Industries. We tried to phone him and found out the phones didn’t work. I said to Mary, “Something big’s happened.” We tried to find a working TV. Couldn’t do it.
We ended up walking all the way from the Anatole to the Adolphus, only to find that Rossiter wasn’t there.
It was in the Adolphus lobby that we first heard the rumor that San Antonio had been bombed. Mary burst into tears. We held each other. We didn’t know what to believe. Finally we went back to the Anatole. It was almost a year before we left Dallas. We lived with the Clint Rossiters, and I did legal work to pay our board.
I’ve been governor for three years now. The Senate campaign was canceled, of course. When Mark White announced that he wasn’t going to run for another term, Rossiter and the Dallas County Democrats got me to take it on. Mark’s not at all well. He flew over San Antonio three days after the war and got a hell of a dose. I did it too, last year, at three thousand feet. The way I look at it, that’s not a place anymore. It’s a hole in the world.
One of our problems in Texas is that we haven’t got the banking technology available to run the state at a deficit. We’re limited to straight-line budgeting. I’ve been thinking of issuing a Texas currency, but I don’t see the underlying assets to do it. I could peg it to the state’s proprietary oil holdings, but with oil at eleven cents a barrel, I wouldn’t get very much out of it. And full faith and credit aren’t going to wash, especially not overseas.
Look at this. Isn’t this beautiful? A Texas dollar. It’s an engraving, done for us by an outfit in Lubbock. For a while we were dreaming of Texas currency. We’d have bills denominated from a quarter to ten dollars. Sam Houston’s on the one, Austin’s on the two, Davy Crockett’s on the five. We haven’t had the others made up, because Texas hasn’t got any underlying assets that would support a currency, as I said. Texas got hurt so bad in the war, sometimes I’m surprised that it’s still here at all, that everybody didn’t just move.
But we are still here. You travel around this state as much as I do, you’d end up with a deep feeling of confidence and reverence.
Texas is the land of the strong. People are working to rebuild. You know who really runs this state? Volunteers. People see something that needs doing and they just do it. Fill a pothole. Pull down an abandoned house. You name it. When we censused in 1990, every single census taker was a volunteer. That project of mine, naming the dead—you must remember it, Jim, you wrote a tiling about it in the Dallas paper—that was all volunteers. I know you didn’t think it made sense, Jim, and maybe it didn’t. But it means something to name the dead. I think it does. Here’s what they did.
There’s over a million names in these books. Handwritten, every one. Over a million.
San Antonio was so pretty. God, I remember when I had my Austin Healey and we were running the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Youth, right? We were a bunch. Who was that priest in charge of the thing? Oh yeah, Martin. Father Edwin Martin. I remember him well. He always had high hopes for us. We put on some pretty good things, really. For a bunch of overheated intellectuals we did a good job.
Is that thing running? Lemme see it. Sanyo. You got this from the paper? I’ve never seen one like it. Two hours of recording on that? It looks like a quarter. That’s amazing. Well, let me get back to business. You’ll have to edit this tape a little.
Another thing we’re doing is working very intensively with some of the other states. California, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona. We’re going to form a sort of loose coalition. California will lead it. That’s got to be. They’re ten times the size of Texas. You know that California is almost like the old days? You been out there? Well, it’s just beautiful. One thing, the Japanese are everywhere. And electronics are a good bit easier to get. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy to deprive America of electronic devices, by the way. That’s a subject the Legislature’s been farting about an awful lot lately. They don’t want to debate Aztlan. Don’t want to think about the rough stuff. Can’t say as I blame ’em. But I’m going to have to get the Speaker to get the House off its ass on my military bill. Trask’s got the Senate wrapped up tight. No problems there. I need an army to go after Aztlan. Or they’ll come after us. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find them on their way to Midland–Odessa within a year if we don’t take some very damn decisive action.
Anyway, getting back to the electronics. This thing is really beautiful. How big is it—let’s see—yeah, I could put two of these inside a cigarette pack. Three of ’em. Nice to see a Japanese thing like this again. Beautifully made. Running flat out, the Japs can build fourteen million televisions a year. If we bought ’em all, we’d be back to prewar standards in about 2000. But we can’t afford the foreign exchange. We imported six million last year and made eight hundred thousand here in the States. We managed to get a hundred and thirty thousand of those sets in Texas. That tells me we now have a million televisions in Texas. Here’s a piece of sweet news. Starting next July, we are going to be getting HBO via the new communications satellite California sent up from Vandenberg in June. And NBC is starting up again in the fall, broadcasting from Los Angeles. It’s going to be all reruns at first, but who the hell cares? Maybe you ought to go back to writing, Whitley. Somebody told me you’d become a gardener. Well, I’ll bet you could make some money in television. A growth industry all over again.
We’ve got the Texas State Network, of course. I think the Hunt brothers bought two prints of every John Wayne picture ever made. I do a program once a week, “The Governor’s Desk.” I think people need to feel that the governor’s there. Without a President, the governors are that much more important.
You know, the amazing thing is, when we’ve polled the citizens, we’ve found that they aren’t too interested in having a Presidential election. There just isn’t all that much interest. Concerns telescope when people are having trouble. Somebody who has a sick kid or is facing cancer or NSD, or just living in these times, they don’t care about the Israelis slaughtering the Arabs or the South Africans marching into Zimbabwe or the Poles into the Ukraine. They’re indifferent to world affairs. And about all they remember of the U.S. is the flag and taxes. We still have the flag, so they figure the hell with the taxes.
I just think one thing, though, and it’s the message I want to leave at the end of this tape. Aztlan is a serious problem, and the only way Texas can deal with it is by going in there and establishing strict martial law. If we don’t, Aztlan will get stronger and stronger, and we’ll soon be facing an army. The Legislature has to act on my military bill. That’s the key issue in Texas right now.
Documents on the Triage
Mother, mother, I feel sick,
Send for the doctor, quick, quick, quick.
Doctor, doctor, shall I die?
Yes, my dear, and so shall I.
FROM THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
The most feared and controversial medical decision of this century has been the CDC’s triage recommendation.
Both Whitley and I have been especially eager to include as much information about the triage as we can, since it affects American life so profoundly.
I don’t have any really good sources at the CDC headquarters in Dallas, so I was very glad for our stopover in Austin. It gave me a chance to visit a friend who works for the CDC here, and who was willing to give me the kind of documents that would be useful.
I wanted information that few people had seen before.
I hit a vein of gold, as it turned out. My friend gave me the three documents reproduced here. For this I thank him and I guarantee his anonymity. It is ironic that more lives have been affected by these three short memoranda than by any number of critically important medical discoveries.
Because of these memos, millions of people have been denied even rudimentary medical care. But the triage has also guaranteed that those who can be helped are given what they need.
During the flu, twenty percent of the population needed emergency help. This occurred against a background of chaotic supply problems, high doctor mortality in affected areas, and a tremendous demand for drugs at a time when the industry was having trouble even maintaining normal production levels.
Perhaps one in ten of the flu victims saw a doctor, one in a hundred entered a hospital.
There is no way to tell if triage saves lives. Not only the triage, but so many other things that we now take for granted—home care for the dying, euthanasia, black market and alternate medicine, the British Relief—came about because the demand for care simply overwhelmed the nation’s medical system.
The existence of the triage means different things to different people. For me it means the constant, niggling fear that my lifedose will creep up and I’ll find myself suddenly denied medicine for some small ailment that will therefore become large and finally kill. For Whitley, the triage means a shortened life. He cannot legally enter a hospital or consult a licensed physician.
Like so many triaged people, he has learned a great deal of medicine. Doctors who can’t treat a triaged person can and do organize seminars for ten or twenty such individuals at a time. And then there are the underground medicals—the witches and the doctors who practice illegally.
And there is always the balance of hope.
These three short memoranda seem innocent enough. But they are not innocent. They are the foundations of postwar American medicine.
* * *
VOICE TRANSMISSION FROM CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL/ATLANTA TO ALL REGIONAL OFFICES
[CONFIRMATION BY COURIER]
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION TO STATE/MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS
30 OCTOBER 1988
Recent Soviet bombing of U.S. cities of San Antonio, Washington, D.C., New York area, and Upper Central and Western states creates unprecedented numbers of dead and whole-body radiation-induced injuries.
Immediate burial and/or destruction of dead is imperative in order to contain spread of disease. Wherever possible, mass burial with suitable chemical agents is recommended. Civilian populations should be warned of disease potential.
Triage procedures must be implemented to assist individuals with radiation-related injuries. First-degree thermal radiation burns, i.e., “flash burns,” are likely to occur to exposed individuals within 30 miles of detonation point given estimated Soviet weapon yield of 9–10 Megatons. Second- and third-degree burns are likely in unprotected individuals in 15–25-mile range. Appropriate medical treatments should be as prescribed for injuries of this type.
Nuclear radiation injuries caused by gamma rays and neutrons are most serious, and high dosage can be life-terminating.
Populations in two-mile radii from detonation points might have received 1,000+ rems. Critical level is 400–500 rems where radiation symptoms are strongly evident and casualty rate is 50 percent or higher. Exposures below 200 are not believed life-threatening and little treatment is recommended. Death rate at 1000+ is almost 100 percent.
You are requested to provide every assistance possible to medical authorities to facilitate treatment of victims. Further triage instructions will follow.
* * *
ALL MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS, SOUTHWEST AREA
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES/CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL/EMERGENCY TASK FORCE ON RADIATION INJURIES
VOICE TRANSMISSION 15 JANUARY 1989
COURIER DELIVERY 16 JANUARY 1989
SUBJECT: EMERGENCY MEMORANDUM ON ACUTE WHOLE-BODY RADIATION INJURIES
You are being provided herein with guidelines for the identification of suspected radiation dosages based on readily observable physical symptoms. These guidelines are intended for municipal and/or county representatives enlisted to screen civilian populations for subsequent medical treatment or attention. The severe drain on surviving medical facilities requires operating knowledge by all government personnel in order to direct individuals or groups to appropriate medical services.
Most urban centers sufficiently distant from radioactive or zoned areas have created several “screening areas” to process incoming refugees and native citizens: Level One areas are for those with no apparent radiation symptoms; Level Two areas are for those with limited hematopoietic or gastrointestinal symptoms; Level Three areas are for highly traumatized and ataxic victims. Some version of this system is urgently recommended to all municipalities. Refugee movement rates are still inordinately high and unpredictable; virtually all communities in this region have reported high levels of influxing populations.
Similarly, these populations are demonstrating varying levels of whole-body radiation injuries. You have been notified previously of emergency steps necessary to screen physical objects and food supplies for potential radioactivity.
Because trained medical staff are limited and generally unavailable outside of central medical facilities, it is imperative that municipal staff, including police, fire department, civil servants, and temporaries, be aware of radiation-related illnesses. Because of many factors, but particularly because of proximity to bombed area and total radiation exposure, individuals may or may not be viable candidates for medical treatment.
Large emergency treatment centers have been set up in key cities such as Lubbock, El Paso, Beaumont, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Albuquerque to treat individuals with medium to high levels of radiation dosages. Guidelines for treatment are under preparation and will be distributed to you as soon as available and approved by the Emergency War Recovery Administration.
Guidelines to be employed by municipal authorities in screening war victims are as follows:
LEVEL ONE SYMPTOMS: 0 to 100 REMS
No apparent symptoms in this range. Internal blood changes will occur but are not apparent with superficial inspection. Care should be taken, however, to query all victims in order to determine point of origin, proximity to hit areas, and exposure to contaminated foodstuffs and objects from contaminated areas.
LEVEL TWO SYMPTOMS: 100 to 200 REMS
Short-term effects include fatigue and general malaise.
Gastrointestinal effects may include nausea and vomiting on the first day. A two-week “latent period” may ensue in which symptoms disappear but then reappear in milder form. Generally, the more severe the symptoms in the beginning, the slower the process of recovery. Individuals with these levels of radiation dosages are excellent candidates for recovery.
LEVEL THREE SYMPTOMS: 200 to 600 REMS
Individuals with dosages in this range can display symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, etc., are the most obvious characteristics. The more severe the symptoms, the higher the radiation dosage absorbed may be assumed. Again, there may be a latent period of a week or perhaps only several days. Higher dosages produce skin hemorrhages, bleeding in the mouth and urine, and, with dosages above 200 rems, a loss of hair. A swelling of the throat is not uncommon. In the 600+ rem stage, high uncontrollable fevers may be present, as well as emaciation. Death in these cases is probable in 80 to 100 percent of the cases. Judgments as to the extent of medical services to be provided are therefore advised.
LEVEL FOUR SYMPTOMS: 600 to 1000+ REMS
Gastrointestinal symptoms are the most obvious: extreme vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, prostration, ataxia (loss of motor control), and difficulty in breathing. Individuals displaying these symptoms will almost certainly die within several days to two weeks. You are not likely to see individuals with such severe symptoms. All subjects arriving in a coma or comalike state should immediately be referred to medical authorities for handling.
Undoubtedly, these guidelines are not complete, nor are they intended to be inflexible. However, the immediate need to process large numbers of incoming civilians is crucial in order to assure adequate distribution of medical supplies and attention, food and clothing, shelter, and relocation services.
* * *
MESSAGE BY COURIER
SIGNED RECEIPT MANDATORY
TO ALL DIRECTORS, CIVILIAN AND MILITARY MEDICAL FACILITIES IN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES
FROM U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDCHDQ) ATLANTA
REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF WAR EMERGENCY ACT AND EXECUTIVE ORDER 15
10 FEBRUARY 1989
Pursuant to the War Emergency Act (23 CFR 586, Sections 18-35) and Executive Order 15, you are hereby instructed to implement at once the emergency triage procedures necessary for the treatment of war victims. This action is taken in view of the catastrophic numbers of victims requiring medical attention and the overall burden on existing facilities. The unavailability of adequate numbers of trained personnel and supplies, presently and for the immediate future, poses a major health hazard. The unprecedented nature of the emergency facing this nation mandates the immediate implementation of selection procedures for treatment. Communities can expect severe resistance, but you are reminded that the first task facing this nation is that of survival; existing facilities, personnel, and supplies must be directed to those populations with the greatest probability of survival.
Therefore, as of 1200 hours, 10 February 1989, you are instructed to triage victims according to the following requirements:
1.0 GENERAL INJURIES (Non-radiation-induced)
Mild to Severe: Injuries of this nature, such as burns, fractures, contusions, etc., may be treated as conditions allow.
Severe to Critical: Treatment should be limited to victims with greatest possibilities of recovery. Medical supplies should be limited accordingly.
Severely Critical: No treatment desirable.
2.0 RADIATION-INDUCED INJURIES
Treatment should be accorded on the basis of radiation dosage absorbed. Whole-body measurements should be taken whenever possible: in cases where this cannot be done, interviews should attempt to ascertain proximity to radiation zones and duration of exposure. The following schedule should then be utilized:
|0 to 100 REMS||No treatment necessary.|
|100 to 200 REMS||Treatment limited to radiation symptoms such as flash burns, nausea, vomiting, etc. No other treatment desirable.|
|200 to 450 REMS||Medical assistance most valuable here. At upper levels (350+), chances of recovery with medical attention are 50 percent.|
|450+ REMS||No treatment desirable.|
It is not known at this time whether radiation injuries are more severe in cases where radiation is absorbed all at once or cumulatively.
Your government is aware of the implications of this order.
Steps are being taken by appropriate military authorities to provide assistance to you in implementation of triage instructions. You will be provided with further information as soon as it is available. You will be instructed as soon as possible regarding the cessation of triage requirements.
Hector Espinoza, Aztlan Leader
[ENTRY IN TO AZTLAN: RUMOR TO REALITY. Officially, Aztlan starts in Monahans. The actual border, however, was not encountered until we reached the former town of Van Horn, now called Ciudad de Reforma.
The Texas & Western Bus Company stops on this side of the big white gate that has been erected across I-20. When we arrived at the border, we found that we were expected. Governor Parker had sent a special message to the Foreign Minister of Aztlan, apparently right after our interview.
Despite the differences between Texas and the new country, this letter smoothed our passage and enabled us to gain access to the highest Aztlan authorities. Once in El Paso, Aztlan’s capital, we found that the real power in the country is centered around the Foreign Minister, who has obtained recognition from most of Latin America, Spain, and a number of African countries. Even more important, he has obtained much friendly help from Japan.
There is no reason, really, to introduce Senior Espinoza. He speaks very well for himself.]
We in Aztlan have created a new nation, stretching from Texas to the California border. There is a constitution, and a national government, the only one presently active in the former United States.
Aztlan is recognized by many countries. We have here in El Paso ambassadors from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, and Japan. Many other nations are favorably inclined toward Aztlan. We have received an agricultural team from the People’s Republic of China. Great Britain is providing medical help. Officially, Britain, France, and Germany have not recognized Aztlan. But we are confident that they will one day do so.
Aztlan is a Hispanic country. The official language is Spanish.
This must be understood. As U.S. citizens, you have the right to enter and leave without showing a passport, but you do not have the right to vote in our elections, or remain here more than thirty days without a visa.
We have an army of four divisions, nearly forty thousand men.
We have a national police force, which is why, when you crossed the border, there were suddenly no more bandits on the roads.
Also, the Japanese have sent road-repair teams to Aztlan, so we have no more potholes in our interstates. And Japanese medicine has kept our disease rate low. We have not been affected by fallout. In fact, we drew the border through Fort Stockton rather than including San Angelo and San Antonio, because of the destruction and the radiation.
You must understand that, as a new nation, Aztlan has had its share of growing pains. We have had to relocate many Anglos across the border in Texas, and there has been a certain very small amount of violence, inevitable when a new nation is formed.
Aztlan is a strong, civilized, and free country. We have no political prisoners in our prisons, and nobody has ever been tortured in Aztlan. We do have a policy of encouraging Hispanic and Indian settlement of the territory. We are very frank about that. For five generations this land belonged to the Anglos, and look at the result. For ten generations before that it was Hispanic land, and before that, Indian for twenty generations.
We practice the same sort of enlightened socialism that is found in progressive countries across the world. We follow the Chinese example to some extent, but we also guarantee personal freedom as the Swedes do. And we do not keep people in prison because of their political views. There are many cooperative concerns in Aztlan, farms and factories and power establishments.
When a farmer sells his holdings to the cooperative, he gets in return lifetime free medical care with no triage, an income based on his production capabilities, and the support that comes from being a part of our wonderful cooperative farm and ranch system.
The Japanese have provided us with millions of dollars’ worth of advanced trickle-irrigation equipment, so we have been able to add many thousands of acres to the area cultivated in Aztlan. This acreage is planted with soybeans, which has become our largest export crop. We also sell oil and peanuts and wheat and corn and, of course, beef. Aztlan is a prosperous country. There is no unemployment here. If you want to work, you can work. If you don’t want to work, you can go to Texas or California.
Officially, both of those states are part of Aztlan. But we do not want the part of Texas we don’t already have, and we would have to fight a war to get California. We are not yet prepared to do that.
If we were ever to gain California, Aztlan would become one of the most powerful countries in the world. Not a superpower—we don’t want that. But a great power, perhaps as economically powerful as, say, Sweden.
Do you know that we gave foreign aid last year? Can you imagine it? We sent five hundred thousand bushels of soybeans and two hundred thousand of corn to Mexico. Of course, you know that they are all dying down there. Officially, the border between Aztlan and Mexico is open. And in the past three years, perhaps a million immigrants have come here. Now we have an agreement with Mexico. They get our food aid, and in return they process all potential emigrants to Aztlan. Since we cannot take the sick and they will not let the able-bodied leave, the immigration from Mexico is presently very small. If they wish to enter North America, the Mexicans must cross the Rio Grande into Texas, not Aztlan.
I am myself the Foreign Minister and official spokesman for Aztlan. We have a full portfolio of ministers. Our present capital is the Marriott here in El Paso. It has been renamed La Capitola, and contains our administrative apparatus. Our government is not organized around a president or prime minister. Instead, the two parties run against one another, and the party that gets a simple majority forms the governing committee for the next four years.
We have the State Socialists and the Social Democrats. The SD is part of the International Social Democratic Movement, and is the less radical of the two parties, as they believe that private ownership of national industries, such as power and transport, should be allowed. At the present time, my party, the State Socialists, is in power.
We believe in cooperatives but not in central planning. We do not want to repeat the disastrous mistakes of the Soviet Union and create a repressive and counterproductive bureaucracy. So we are not a rigidly planned community. Our socialism is strictly voluntary. If you join, you get the benefits of cooperative living. If not, then you go it alone, but nobody interferes with you. And the co-ops compete with one another in a free macromarket. Each co-op is autonomous. In soy farming, for example, there are sixty co-ops and fifty-one private farms, some owned by big international agricultural corporations, one by Central Soya, and eight by Japanese firms. The co-ops have an association that sets prices and provides a system of mutual assistance. Thus they are much more efficient than the private farms.
We have our own currency. The Far Eastern Bank Note Company in Hong Kong makes the notes. They are backed by an equivalent amount in Japanese yen. Of course, this makes the currency very valuable, as it is exchangeable at any bank in the world for yen. Ten Aztlan pesos to a thousand yen. Better than the dollar!
Our economy enjoys a balanced current account, which means that our exports pay for our imports. We have no inflation, as all prices are controlled. There is no hunger in Aztlan. And there is racial equality. Even Anglos, if they want to stay, are welcomed into the community of the Aztlan people!
Our Indian population is free to live and worship as it pleases.
We have Hopi, Apache, Pueblo, and Navajo tribes living in Aztlan.
Their tribal areas are self-governing. We do not keep records of their activities, nor do we have any sort of Bureau of Indian Affairs. We just let them do as they please in their own territories.
But, unfortunately, we cannot grant you safe conduct into the Indian lands. Among the Indians there is, frankly, a good deal of hostility toward Anglos.
Now I suppose I ought to talk about what happened at Roswell, because you’ve probably heard about it from others. You must understand that we view the Mescalero Apaches as a separate, sovereign nation within Aztlan, and Roswell is within the boundaries of their tribal state. They took over the town about six months after the war, as soon as it became clear that the central government had collapsed. When we declared Aztlan in 1989, we went to the Mescalero, they did not come to us. All I can tell you is that the incident was overblown. Those Anglos who were killed had formed an armed resistance movement. People were not tortured or burned. And nothing like a thousand were killed. It was no more than half or at most two-thirds of that number. And there were trials, you understand. The whole process took months. All of it was before Aztlan. If it happened now, we would try hard to persuade the Indians to let the Anglos leave Indian lands peacefully.
I am glad you suggest that this book will be distributed in England. We have to get an awareness among the British people that Aztlan exists. British recognition would confirm us as a permanent nation, and a British guarantee of sovereignty would mean that our chief worry of war with California or Texas would never come true. If we had such a guarantee, even a reconstructed United States would have to think very carefully about invading us or destroying this serene and happy nation.
The territory we call Aztlan was originally part of the Spanish Empire and the Republic of Mexico. You must remember that Mexico was then a perfectly ordinary nineteenth-century republic, no more or less violent or repressive than the United States.
But the United States first encouraged Anglo colonization of Texas and California, then supported internal insurgencies. When the Anglos won the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, less than one-third of the population of Texas was Anglo. And California was simply stolen. Mexico was forced to accede to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and give California to the United States. It was theft!
As a result of the loss of its territory north of the Rio Grande, Mexico was emasculated and her people lost their sense of personal pride. The image of the lazy “Meskin” and the “Frito Bandido” was born, but it was not laziness, it was sorrow. We Hispanics are not lazy and we are not bandidos and we are not stupid. If we are so stupid, how come we have the only happy, safe, and well-organized nation north of the Rio Grande? While the Anglos fight bitterly among themselves for the rancid bits of the old United States, we Hispanics have quietly created this beautiful country, this beloved Aztlan!
We even have our own poets, our own writers, our own film stars. Chito Hernandez, “El Nino,” Gabriela Jaime Nunez, all names of which you know nothing. But they are our stars! We make ten films a year in Aztlan, and when you combine those with the ten made in Mexico and the twenty in Spain, you have a new Hispanic movie almost every week. And we have a television and radio industry. The Japanese sell us more radios than we can possibly use. They put up a new station right here in El Paso. Radio “A,” it is called.
We also have Japanese cars and a new Japanese train running on the Santa Fe tracks from Monahans all the way to Tucson, where it connects not only with the Sunset Limited but with the El Costero, which provides super-express service down the Pacific coast of Mexico. We are on the world map, I assure you. People want our soybeans and other farm goods, not to mention our oil and gas and uranium, even coal.
For many people in the old United States, the confusion that resulted from the obliteration of Washington was unbelievably destructive. But for us, the people of Aztlan, it was really almost a blessing. Of course, we are very sorry for all the death and suffering. But Warday also brought some good—our Aztlan.
I do not want to lie to you, though, nor seem too bombastic. I suppose I can’t help it. I’m a natural enthusiast, and I’m excited by what we’re accomplishing here. Still, the way has not been as easy as all that. And Aztlan is far from perfect. You might find things wrong here. But you will also find love and a powerful sense of community. This is the great Chicano state, this Aztlan, and I love it so much that sometimes it hurts my heart, you know, when things are not as I would wish.
We have to rely a great deal on the Japanese, and they are certainly exploiting us. But we have the brotherhood and sisterhood of our nation, and our great heritage. I trust our isolated little country to survive. Anyway, I hope it will.
Hector Espinoza is afraid for his infant state, and so tries to hide its weakness behind bold words. But Espinoza does not know his own people. Whatever happens to Aztlan, the eager confidence of its citizens will not be utterly lost. They have created something new here, and it will have its effect. Obviously there have been excesses. There are no Anglo faces in the streets. The Mobil refinery that one sees on the way into town is closed. There are many Japanese soldiers about. Although we were not allowed to visit Fort Bliss, Jim and I both had the impression that it is now a Japanese enclave. No doubt they intend to protect the vast soya plantations that have sprung up in the desert, which must be providing essential foodstuffs to their homeland.
But these facts tell nothing of the feeling of this new El Paso.
The streets are no more full of cars than Dallas or Austin, perhaps even less so. Yellow schoolbuses have been dragooned for street service. Each bus is apparently a small cooperative venture between its drivers and mechanics. At least, all are decorated differently, painted with flowers and slogans, loudspeakers blaring the music of Radio “A” from their roofs.
We have been billeted at the Granada Royale on MO, newly named Paseo de la Revolución. The hotel is a delight. Its large rooms surround an atrium garden full of flowers. There is an in-door-outdoor pool. The atmosphere is quiet and unhurried. Most of the other guests are Japanese, some of them obviously long-term residents. It is strange to hear somebody speaking Spanish with a thick Japanese accent. We were served breakfast in our suite and spent the next hour trying to arrange a tour of the city. First we used the old Yellow Pages to call Hertz, Avis, and the local car rental agencies. Hertz, now called Autocars Liberidad, was open.
They were taking reservations for November. As this was August, we decided to give up on car rental.
There are no longer conventional taxis in El Paso. By law, they have all become “pesetas,” traveling fixed routes on the smaller thoroughfares, essentially supplementing the buses.
Our last option was to take a bus tour, but we soon found that both Gray Line and Golden Tours were booked for the day, or claimed to be.
Perhaps somebody didn’t want us to tour the city.
We ended up spending the morning in the hotel. I observed the city from the rooftop restaurant, which commands a fine view of the whole area. I saw no planes take off from the airport, which is not far away. Here and there I could see sooty scars on a building, but beyond that there were no obvious signs of the revolution. Senior Espinoza appeared just before noon, his thin body swallowed by a seersucker suit. He was full of brightness and what I can only describe as punch. As soon as we saw him, we requested a tour of El Paso. He said that he would suggest something even better: we should have lunch with him. We could always see the town later, he assured us. He added that he had, by the liberal application of governmental authority, gotten us precious tickets on a “Super Express” bus that left for Las Cruces at three. Tickets on another could not be guaranteed for weeks.
It was becoming clear that we were not intended to make any detailed reconnaissance of this community. Senior Espinoza was, in effect, throwing us out of his country. Given his position of power, we decided to let him do exactly as he pleased.
We were left to swallow our questions about such things as the condition of hospitals and prisons, and what was happening to the homes and property of the Anglos.
The Isabella penthouse restaurant in the Granada is now called Casa del Sol Norte. The food is Tex-Mex, what Senior Espinoza described as “superb Aztlan cuisine.” Actually, his hyperbole was in this case not far from the truth. I used to enjoy Mi Tierra and La Fonda in San Antonio, and Casa Rio on the river. I can also recall going to this restaurant’s namesake, the Casa del Sol in Juarez.
When I lived in New York, I sought good Mexican food constantly, but what I found only increased my hunger for flavors like these.
I will repeat the menu in detail. We had cheese enchiladas, cabrito chili, chicken tacos, rice, and refried beans. The tacos were generously garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, and onions, and the seasonings were uniformly excellent. We drank Carta Blanca beer from Mexico. The menu showed that the meal was five pesos “A” to privates, two pesos to comunistas.
After lunch, we were not too surprised to find we had barely enough time to get to the bus. Senior Espinoza claimed to have forgotten the time and left, pleading an urgent appointment. We soon found out the reason for the abrupt departure. Without the use of a private car, we were going to have to struggle to get to the station on time. Neither of us wanted to find out what would happen if we missed our connection.
Jim stood beside me outside the hotel as we waited for a bus.
He was silent and withdrawn. Aztlan had saddened him, because it seemed to him a failure of the racial harmony that had been growing in Texas before the war, and yet another doomed ideological attempt to alter blood and land with words.
I felt much better about it. There was energy and optimism there, and the powerful spirit of cooperation was something that we would do well to import into the United States. I suspected that Aztlan was going to work, though not in the way foreseen by Senior Espinoza, nor in the way feared by Governor Parker. That bee-hive of little cooperative enterprises was going to grow, spreading its new economic ideas in all directions.
I also suspected that Senior Espinoza’s caution was not based so much on a desire to hide his problems as it was on a fear that we might be spies for Governor Parker. After all, a letter from Parker preceded us here, probably by just a few hours. Espinoza was terrified of Parker, and probably also of us.
Before I went to Aztlan, the word cooperative suggested to me rural electric power on the one hand and vast, spiritless Soviet communes on the other. I was not prepared to meet such a strange new economy as the one we found: thousands of tiny co-ops, each dependent solely upon its own success to pay its members, none larger than the smallest economic unit necessary to perform its particular function.
This means that the motel where we stayed, for example, was run by two separate co-ops, the restaurant workers and the hotel staff. The state does not pay them, nor does it plan for them. They keep their own books and split their profits weekly. If there are no profits, nobody gets paid that week.
A brightly painted schoolbus jammed with people finally came down Paseo de la Revolución. Radio “A” got louder as the bus got closer. Buses are supposed to stop whenever somebody hails them—there are no fixed stops in El Paso. But this one passed us by. It was full.
As we watched one jammed bus after another pass us by, we began to get nervous. The big purple Super Express tickets Senior Espinoza had given us were valueless if we couldn’t make it to the bus station.
Finally a half-full peseta came along. We were almost surprised to see it stop when we hailed it. The fare is ten centavos “A” for holders of yellow co-op cards, which most people wear pinned to their shirts and blouses. These cards identify their bearers as part of Aztlan’s network of cooperatives. Capitalists must pay one peso “A” to ride. We paid our pesos happily.
I got in the front seat of the massive old Buick station wagon, repainted many times, now the bright red of the flag of Aztlan. In fact, Aztlan’s red flag with the gold radiant sun in the center snapped from both front fenders and the radio antenna. Jim was jammed in the back with three other people, all wearing yellow cards. “Estacion de la autobuses del norte, por favor,” I said. My Spanish is less than minimal.
As we traveled into the center of town, I collected these impressions of El Paso:
The cemetery beneath the complex tangle of the Spaghetti Bowl where I-10 intersects the Expressway is in prewar condition.
Unlike the situation common in Dallas, new graves have not been dug in among the old. But there are many empty buildings, empty houses, and abandoned cars. Just before we turned onto Piedras, we saw along the side of MO the glittering aluminum ruins of a jet, cracked plastic windows in the few bits of intact fuselage, the plane’s markings no longer readable.
Japanese soldiers passed us in squat Toyota military vehicles. Their light khaki uniforms were spotless, the Rising Sun on their shoulders. As they rode along they shot pictures of the distant Franklin Mountains with Minoltas as small and thin as credit cards.
Earlier we had noticed a restaurant with the odd name “Gunther’s Lotus Blossom.” A closer look revealed that the sign had once read “Gunther’s Edelweiss.” Before Warday, the U.S. Army used to train soldiers of the German Federal Republic at Fort Bliss, which is just up the road from here. We wondered if Gunther was still around, or if he had left only his name behind.
Japanese military planes flew low overhead. They were odd-looking things, with their wings canted forward instead of swept back, so that they appeared to be flying backwards. Instead of a jet’s familiar scream, they made a low drumming noise that seemed almost to thump your chest. I recall the strange cant of the wings from NASA designs for future hypersonic aircraft.
We had ridden in silence for some time when the driver decided to try striking up a conversation.
“Hey, gringo,” he said with a big smile. “Let’s talk norte americano! See if I can still do it!”
His name was Carlos León, and he was from San Antonio. “I’m from there too,” I said. “So is he.” I nodded toward Jim.
“Hey! Compadres! I grew up there. Left in ’86 to get a job out here. Once the Mexican economy started to recover, there were lots of jobs here again. I was managing a McDonald’s. Kept at it, too, until the meat stopped getting delivered. Then I said the hell with the franchise, sold the equipment, and signed up as a cooperator. They assigned me to pesetas and gave me a permit to buy a station wagon. Our co-op consists of me, my wife the bookkeeper, and my cousin the mechanic.”
“Where did you live in San Antonio?”
“West Side! I lived on South Zarzamora. My dad was a garbage man—but not in his own neighborhood! We had to take our garbage to the dump ourselves until the fifties. My mom and dad died in San Antonio.”
“I lived in Terrell Hills,” I said.
“My dad was an oilman.”
“Oh boy! You’re poor now, eh? I see you work with your hands!”
“I’m poor now.”
From one of the passengers: “Good for you! Join the rest of the world.”
I laugh. “No more oilmen.”
“Hey, that’s good. No more oilmen! Just British and Israeli oil import agents, right?”
I did not mention that Texas oil was flowing again, and that refineries were opening up all over the United States. There was a razor edge of anger among these people. This was their place, their time at last, and these their days of sunshine.
Walls pockmarked with bullet holes were a common sight as we neared the center of town.
“Jim and I went to Central,” I said, hoping Carlos might also be an alumnus. This is not as unlikely as it sounds: Central Catholic had a substantial Hispanic population when we attended.
The sudden silence tells me that my suspicion is correct. Carlos stops the car. “Well, goddamn.”
“The Spider! I haven’t thought about him in years!”
The Spider taught world history and his real name was Brother Gordon, but his thin, six-foot-four frame gained him the nickname Brother Arana. So total was his identification with us that he was known to get mean when freshmen called him Brother Gordon.
“I’m Brother Arana,” he would snarl, “and don’t you forget it.”
Carlos had been five years ahead of us at Central. “You remember Brother DeLoach?” he asked.
“He was principal our freshman year. He retired.”
“He taught me a hell of a lot. I was a real bad kid when I went there. Angry, you know? And so damn stupid. I’d been a year at Southton already! They hit me with a razor strap there. I was down for selling grass. Shining shoes and dealing grass to the soldiers on Alamo Plaza, then going to the Alameda to see Cantinflas movies. You know what we got for a joint—we called them Mary Janes—back in the fifties? We got a dollar. But they cost us eighty-five cents apiece. So we were risking years of freedom for fifteen cents! Sure enough, the next thing I knew I was down for a year and my mom and dad were thinking they had raised a rotten kid. When I got out I applied to Central. No way I’m gonna get in, my parents figure. I’m fourteen and already a jailbird. But DeLoach, he lets me in. ‘You stay away from the Mary Janes or I’ll paddle your behind’ he says. ‘You’re a smart kid, that’s your problem. We’ll give you a little something to do with your mind, you’ll stay out of trouble.’”
“Did it work?”
“I loved that school! One of these days I’m gonna go back. I’m gonna see—”
Silence. We are suddenly very still, we alumni. Night has just touched us in the middle of the afternoon.
The Dream Bandidos
The Trailways sign had been taken off the wall of the station, and the newsstand carried papers with names like Revolucion and Viva Aztlan! There were also Mexican and Spanish papers, El Diario and La Nota. The Japanese Asahi Shimbun en Espanol was prominently displayed, as was the London Times—in English, of course. I would have bought a copy, but it cost the equivalent of three dollars.
Jim was delighted to find that the candy counter was well stocked. Last year, M&Ms and Hershey bars reappeared in Dallas, but here in El Paso you can get all manner of colorful locally made confections as well. We stocked up on fresh pralines and other indigenous sweets in the fifteen minutes we had before the bus left.
It was a brand-new Japanese Hino, very comfortably appointed and efficiently air conditioned. In El Paso in August this is a definite plus. It was about ninety degrees, and would probably be a hundred before the end of the day. The driver was wearing a spiffy green uniform. He carried a .38 in a gleaming holster.
We settled into our plush tan seats and prepared for the one-hour journey to Las Cruces and the border. In the bus around us were well-dressed travelers, the men in light summer suits and dark glasses, some of the women even in silk dresses. These people were Aztlan’s elite. Apparently the common folk go to Las Cruces in something other than Super Express buses, if they go at all.
Across the aisle from me sat a man in a magnificent suit, perhaps even a Savile Row creation. Beside him, his wife was wearing a designer dress of light blue silk. I tried to engage them in conversation, but they turned to each other and began to speak animatedly together.
The bus was soon on its way up the long, straight road to Las Cruces. There were trucks on the highway, many of them filled with farm produce. Sometimes we saw cars too, mostly the Toyota and Nissan limousines that are the modern hallmark of the Japanese businessman. A Chevy Consensus or two passed, and the usual sparse collection of prewar jalopies.
We were about twenty miles from Las Cruces, just south of the town of La Mesa, when the bus slowed and turned off the interstate. “La Mesa,” the driver called, and a couple of passengers began to take their baggage down from the overhead racks. All along the roadside into town, there were makeshift dwellings. Derelict GM buses with Sun City Area Transit (SCAT) markings had been made over into shelters. There were tents and even geodesic domes. I saw some blond children toddling about, and an Anglo woman working on a truck. Anglos in Aztlan? Jim and I agreed at once: we would interrupt our trip in La Mesa. We’d take potluck on the final miles into Las Cruces and just hope the nervous Senior Espinoza wasn’t having us followed.
We got out at the brand-new La Mesa bus station and began walking back along the highway. A clump of Japanese in white coveralls came out of a restaurant and watched us for a time. “Momento, por favor,” one of them called at last.
“Ah. A moment, please.”
“We’re writers. Doing research for a book about America.”
“Ah!” Bright smiles. “You write about us?” Even brighter smiles.
“What do you do?”
The smiles become fixed. “We agricultural specialists.”
“Helping out with the soya plantations, eh?”
“That’s right. This is soya country!”
They let us walk on. When we passed the outskirts of La Mesa, it became obvious that there were no soya plantations in this area.
You could see all the way to the Portrillos across the desert. “They were uranium workers,” Jim said quietly.
“Those pouches at their waists—you saw them?”
“They contained face masks. I’ve seen people wearing them at Los Alamos. And those blue plastic strips on their collars. If they get a dose, those strips turn red.”
I looked back into the quiet town. The bus was long gone, and there wasn’t a car in the street. In the distance, a motor rumbled.
Cicadas screamed in the trees.
We caused an even greater stir in the tent community than we had among the Japanese. People began shouting, then running, and in a few minutes at least seventy or eighty had gathered along the roadside. A young woman came forward. She had an enormous .357 Magnum strapped to her belt. She was perhaps twenty-five, tall and sleek, her face weathered, her hands red from hard work.
One hand rested firmly on the pistol.
“May we help you?” she asked. Her accent was familiar, the broad twang of West Texas.
Jim spoke, his eyes on the gun. “We’re writing a book about postwar America. We’d like to talk to you, if you don’t mind.”
“Where you from?” a man asked from the crowd.
“Dallas. And we’re on our way to California.”
Surprisingly, this revelation caused general laughter. “You got entry permits?”
Jim frowned. “We’re writers. Surely they’ll let us in.”
“Hey,” the man shouted, “y’all hear that? All we gotta do is go up to the Yuma P.O.E. and say we’re writers. We’re in!”
This was not a friendly crowd. But I felt sure they had a story.
“Could we buy some supper?” I asked.
The girl with the Magnum nodded. “You got pesos ‘A’?”
“Five. Will that do it?”
“Ought to, if you like rice. That’s what we got. Rice and soybean soup.”
The group began to disperse back into the camp. The girl, our guard, stayed close. Her hand remained firmly planted on the pistol. She had a soft, open face, but the way she held her lips told me that she could be dangerous. The gun was serious.
Up close, the camp was a hodgepodge. There were L.L. Bean tents arranged with old cars to make shelters, the buses we had seen from the highway, trailers, and even a few portable buildings.
Why, in a nation of empty housing developments and abandoned apartment buildings, anybody would be living like this was beyond me.
“You don’t have homes?”
“No, we don’t have homes.”
“Go to Dallas. You can take over a couple of neighborhoods.”
She snorted, tossed her head. “We’re on the wanted list in Texas. Don’t you ever go to the post office?”
“A lot of wanted posters at the post office. I never saw one with your face on it.”
I was afraid to ask why. Jim sat in the dust, very quiet, his eyes sharp. He did not speak.
“We’re robbers,” the girl said. “Espinoza let us stay here when we got chased out of Texas by the highway patrol.”
“We live by our wits,” an older woman said. “You’ve heard of the Destructuralist Movement?”
I had indeed. They believed that there should be no social structure beyond the extended family. Even tribes were too much for them. “Destructuralists tried to burn the Dallas Civic Center.”
“That was us,” the girl said simply.
No wonder they had left Texas. “People were outraged.”
“People are addicted to social structure. Warday has given us a historic opportunity to break the boundaries of social control. To be free.”
“We can’t rebuild the economy without social structure,” Jim said.
The faces around him went hard. I wondered if we might not be arguing for our lives here. I hoped that he realized it. “We don’t need the damn economy,” a man said, his voice full of bitter sarcasm. “The economy’s worse than an addiction, it’s a curse!”
“People are dying because the economy’s in such a mess,” I said. “At the rate of two hundred and fifty thousand a month, to be exact. That’s about eight thousand a day. Nearly a hundred just since we started this conversation.”
“You’re real smart,” the girl said.
“I’m a human being. I love other human beings.”
“People are dying because nature is rebalancing the earth’s ecology.”
“They’re dying because of Warday.”
Another voice intervened: “Rice’s ready!” This was a lean young man with bright gray eyes and a dusting of beard. People lined up before a big stainless-steel pot. They carried their own utensils. Each was given a smallish serving of rice topped with cooked soybeans. I thought of my lunch with Hector Espinoza. In fact, I longed for it. I still do. I would give a lot for another taco as crunchy and perfectly seasoned as that one, full of juice and chicken, just the other side of hot. The rice and soybeans were a pitiful meal. It reminded me of the famine, and made me feel frightened.
The sun was making long shadows when we were finished. I sensed that Jim was as eager as I to get away from this place.
When I die, I want to be given the grace to go for a good reason. I didn’t want to die to serve the frustrations of some very unhappy and confused people.
“We have a vision,” the girl said, “of a true Jeffersonian society in America. This could be a nation of farmers, where everybody is self-sufficient and God-fearing, and the family is the center of things.” Her voice rose. “I had a family, you guys! I had a little girl. She was taken from me by heathens. She was taken for no good reason, and she was killed out in the backyard by people who had decided that my family no longer belonged in Roswell, New Mexico.”
A man put his hand on her shoulder. She turned and kissed him in what seemed to me a private way. “We all lost people,” he said.
“That’s why we come together. This is a family.”
Another voice was raised. “If you’re writers, write that another world like the world we had before Warday is going to mean another war. We have to change. We have to turn aside from the hypnosis of politics and the addiction of vast economic systems that eat this beautiful planet and spit out garbage. We need to turn to one another instead. What counts is the person in bed beside you, and your children, and the people next door. The rest is all addiction and hypnosis and more Wardays.”
My impulse was to try to comfort them, to make all the horror and the suffering of the past few years go away. But I couldn’t do that. All I could do was eat their poor meal and look across their fire at them.
The girl with the gun sighed. “Okay,” she said, “here’s what’s gonna happen.” She nodded at Jim. “You’re gonna go wherever you’re goin’. But you aren’t sending anybody after us, like from Texas.” She put her free hand on my shoulder. “You’re stayin’ here for a while, just to make sure he doesn’t send anybody.”
I felt the blood drain out of my face. I really did not care to end up trapped in the worst place we had thus far encountered. What would they do with me? Lock me up in one of those stifling, filthy, derelict buses?
“Three months,” Jim said.
“Let him go in three months. If you don’t, I’ll assume he’s dead and tell the Texas police where to find you.”
With that, Jim got up. I was appalled. Apparently he proposed to just leave it like this. I was going to spend four months with this bunch. “I’m triaged,” I shouted. “I gave up precious time with my own family for the book we’re writing. You can’t take even more of my time, not if you love the family the way you say you do.”
“We didn’t invite you here.”
Jim turned without a word and walked to the road. He soon disappeared toward La Mesa. At that moment I hated him.
I screamed after him. I flung my empty plate at his departing shadow.
“You’re lucky it didn’t break,” the girl said. “You’d have to figure out how to mend it. And we don’t have a lot of glue.”
A great woe overcame me. I was facing four pointlessly wasted months. “I swear to you, I’ll keep your secret.”
“The Texans would kill us.”
“I’m not even going in that direction! I’m on my way west.”
“California’s just as dangerous. Radical Destructuralists have been executed there.”
How odd that the terrorists of our time would hate authority but believe in what used to be its core symbol, the family. The old anarchists would have been very confused by these people. But, in a way, they made sense to me. I could understand their dream of a peaceful, agricultural America, where the horizon ended with the next farm.
I could see something more than violence and rage in these people. They weren’t just inept terrorists or starving road people or fanatics. They had their wounds too, like all of us. And because of that, I could make a case for tolerance and understanding.
As soon as night fell, the camp went to sleep. As we have all found out, it takes a high level of nutrition and lots of artificial light to keep human beings awake after sunset. They were still like the rest of us were during the famine—dead to the world as soon as the sun went down.
I heard the wet rhythm of sex in the shadows, and sensed stirring here and there in the silence. Birds made their evening calls as last light disappeared behind the Portrillos. Heat lightning flickered. A young woman’s voice, calm and pure, softened the murmuring of the children with a lullaby:
“Come and sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
But remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy who loves you so true.”
When Jim woke me in the middle of the night, I was at first astonished. But not enough, fortunately, to cry out. He can move more quietly than a shadow; he learned his moves in Asia. We had gone together in the jungles of hate; escaping this camp of exhausted, sleeping people was not difficult.
“They might have killed us if they’d seen us,” he said, once we were out on the Las Cruces highway.
“I know it,” I said.
Desert nights are always cold, and that one was no exception.
We walked north for hours. No cars passed. Toward morning we came into the little town of Mesquite. A neon sign and three pickup trucks identified an open diner. We had American-style eggs and bacon, and big mugs of coffee.
“Is this New Mexico or Aztlan?” I asked the waitress.
She laughed. “You guys hitching up from ’Cruces?”
“Well, you’re out of Aztlan. It peters out between La Mesa and here. Just past where the Japs are doin’ their uranium mining.”
We had seconds of coffee and bought some salt beef and Cokes for the road.
It was nearly dark when Whitley and I reached the outskirts of Santa Fe, in northern New Mexico. In the distance, beyond the thin line of awakening city lights, lay the Jemez Mountains. Hidden there, on the mesa, was the city of Los Alamos.
We felt that a visit there was essential.
It took a long time, however, to find a ride to the mesa. There was no bus service, and the Santa Fe taxis wouldn’t take us out at any price. Finally we got a ride with a Los Alamos resident, in his gleaming new Toyota.
Los Alamos was always a company town, and the company was Uncle Sam. Warday would seem to have ended the need for all that. We really expected to come upon a scene of abandonment.
Since the war, scientists have not been well treated in the United States, and this is especially true for nuclear scientists. And there isn’t any funding for their work. We couldn’t imagine the state of New Mexico, for example, spending money to keep Los Alamos in operation.
Our driver, whose name is best left unsaid, explained some fundamental truths of current life. The people of the mesa had been sealed off from the outside world on Warday. Units of the New Mexico National Guard had blocked all entrances and exits, followed by regular Army troops.
Then there was a black year, when the economy of Los Alamos failed due to the absence of government checks. The Army guardianship was abandoned and the unpaid soldiers drifted away.
Most of the scientists and their families left, too, choosing to make their way in some less hostile environment. The others created a miniature farming community, using their technological skills to develop viable desert agriculture. We saw the results of this work—trickle-irrigated crops, strange-looking greenhouses made of plastic, and an elaborate hydroponic system.
We crossed the Rio Grande and made our way up onto a plateau called Parajito, which resembles a large hand divided into finger-like mesas. There had been rain earlier, and the air was heavily scented with fir and spruce. A peace lay on the land, almost as if it were uninhabited. But after a few miles we came upon the administrative complex. I felt an odd fear, seeing the absence of bustle among these familiar buildings. The library building and its classified papers archive were empty, doors swinging open, windows dark.
Our driver told us that there had been a serious attack by local residents right after the soldiers left, and some of the damage to the library had been done then. Local people had also talked of trials for the Los Alamos scientists, but there had been no arrests.
Nevertheless, the scientists had been glad to leave when they could.
Which, it seems, is the central reality of Los Alamos. It is a place of leavings and departures, empty houses and abandoned lives. Nuclear science is a disliked religion in this area. Los Alamos people never spend the night in Santa Fe, and prefer to go in with Japanese guards when they can.
As we moved across the mesa, we saw that more buildings were gutted. I recognized these structures. On my last visit to Los Alamos, highly classified work on particle-beam weapons had been going on here. The labs have been moved in their entirety to Japan.
And their scientists have gone with them. There is a new “Atomic City,” it seems, being built near Osaka. Los Alamos is a place of caretakers.
The plutonium fabrication plant was still standing, though hardly intact. It was as warm with technicians who were dismantling it and crating its exotic innards as reverently as doctors might pack living hearts for transplant.
I wanted to go up to one of those Japanese workmen in his white coveralls and shake him and tell him that he was infecting himself and his people. I thought, Japan, Japan, surely you have learned. Let this place be a museum, and let these people be its caretakers.
We crossed the bridge that connected one mesa with the other and drove into what had been the main residential and commercial district of prewar Los Alamos. Most buildings were boarded up.
But there was a lively open-air market and an astonishing atmosphere of prosperity. The families of the “Japanese friends,” as they call themselves, live in many of the houses vacated by American scientists who have already gone to Atomic City.
I asked whether they had any choice. Our guide smiled. “We’re going, that’s all I know. The scientist is part of the laboratory.”
Were they paid?
“Listen. We’re treated like gods. Paid? That isn’t the word for it. You get cars, housing, schooling for your kids, all food and medical care free, and enough yen to buy the whole damn state of New Mexico. I don’t know what would happen if anybody refused to go. Nobody does!”
I found in myself a kind of desperate urgency. Skill and intelligence are such valuable resources, and America needs them so badly now. I wanted to say to him, please don’t go. Then I saw a gleam down in the canyon—a car that had been pushed off in the night by angry locals.
Can you blame them, though? This is the central station of the nuclear age.
Our guide sensed our discomfiture at what was happening here, and explained that scientific study had come to a standstill in America. Science was to some extent blamed for the war. But even where this wasn’t true, there was no money, as he put it, for contemplation.
“That’s what you need,” he added. “Without contemplation there is no science.” I felt the vast silence around me and heard the wind whispering in the pines and realized the depth of that truth.
I thought about the friendships I had made in Los Alamos before the war, and the combination of awe and apprehension that I had felt when I first interviewed the scientists and first heard them tell of their work on weapons. I wondered then if it was possible to be divorced from the consequences of one’s work. It seemed to me that no matter how subtle the problem a given weapon presented or how artful its contemplation might be, the ashes and the bones in the end would be the same.
It wasn’t until we were returning across the Rio Grande, on the same bridge that brought Oppenheimer and his men here in 1940, that my mood began to lift. Despite all the thoughts that have hung electric in this air, the cottonwoods are still full and green. Across the way, the pueblos of San Ildefonso and Santa Clara gleamed in the sun. There were Indians working the land there, as they had for centuries. Los Alamos, for all its modern history, is returning to ancient ways.
You road I enter upon and look around,
I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
The old Superliner clicks along the tracks. Jim and I are sitting in the observation car, staring out the wide picture windows at the desert. I haven’t been to Los Angeles since 1983. In those days I used to do a certain amount of business with the film companies, and I made occasional trips west. I never cared much for Los Angeles; people who are consciously trying to be relaxed make me nervous. Jim has been to L.A. more recently, but not since the war.
So we have no real way of knowing what to expect of the 1990 immigration controls. We’ve heard hard rumors of meticulous police searches and detention pens and people-smuggling out of Kingman, Arizona. Passing through there, as a matter of fact, we saw the largest hobo camp we’ve encountered so far. It made the little encampment outside of La Mesa seem positively orderly. It was a vast jumble of tents, abandoned vehicles of all types, and human beings. Its residents, the people on the train were saying, were all California rejectees. If so, the border controls must be brutal.
I know a few things about L.A. First, with nearly nine million residents, it is by far the most populous city in the United States.
Despite the general population decline, it has grown by nearly a million since 1987. It is more than four times the size of the second largest city, San Francisco, and larger than New York was before the war.
The conductor comes through, calling, “Needles, next stop Needles.” There is stirring in the car. Needles is one of the infamous California ports of entry. To get into the state, you’ve got to show twenty gold dollars or an equivalent amount in goods or paper currency, and a valid entry permit. The only way to get such a permit is to have business in the state or a job waiting for you there.
We do not have any permits. And between us we have eight hundred paper dollars, the equivalent of only eight gold.
None of our fellow passengers have talked about entry, but we sense that we are not alone. There are all kinds of stories about getting into California; few of them involve the possession of papers and astronomical sums of money.
“Needles,” the conductor shouts. “Everybody stay in the train, stay in the train!”
We slow to a crawl and draw up to the platform. I’m shocked.
There are soldiers armed with submachine guns every fifteen feet.
Behind them are huge signs:
ILLEGAL ALIENS LIABLE TO BE SHOT.
STAY IN THE TRAIN.
An amplified voice can be heard: “Do not leave the train. Have your entry permits ready. Do not leave the train.”
We decide to obey. Around us a few people are pulling the precious green forms out of purses and wallets. But most are sitting passively, waiting. This is only the first step in their journey. They have timed their arrival carefully. There isn’t an outgoing train for another six hours. For that much time they will be in the holding pen. They have staked their lives and their money on the possibility that they will be able to escape and somehow cross mountains and desert to the Los Angeles basin, there to disappear into the golden horde.
California State Police officers in white crash helmets, face masks, black leather boots, and khaki uniforms come across the platform in formation. They carry pistols in holsters. At a barked order, half of them draw their weapons. The other half have clipboards. These are some of California’s notorious Processing Officers. When they catch people trying to escape the holding pens, they mark them with indelible green dye.
Suddenly a man in full radiation gear comes into the car from the side opposite the platform. He is carrying a small black device with a digital readout. It has a long, thin probe attached. He waves it back and forth as he moves down the aisle, touching some of the passengers with it, inserting it down the collars of others. He squirts a bright red aerosol on the back of one man’s hand, and tells him that he’s got to go take a detox shower and get an issue of paper clothing before he can even get port-of-entry processing.
Jim and I are examined without comment. Apparently this device only measures present radiation. My high lifedose is still my own business, unless I try to enter a hospital without a health card.
At the far end of the car he blows a whistle. Immediately, Processing Officers appear at both doors. Behind the man at the front is one of the clipboard carriers. “California registered citizens,” he shouts, “show your colors.” Four people pull out red plastic cards.
Captain Clipboard runs them through a device like a credit-card verifier and reads something in the screen of a portable computer.
One after another, the citizens are given the precious right to stay on the train.
One man is not as lucky as the others. “You aren’t computing,” Captain Clipboard says affably. “You’ll have to step over to the customs shack for manual verification.”
“What’s the problem, officer?”
“You don’t come up on the computer. Maybe your card’s defective. Go over to customs—it’s the yellow door.”
Uncertain, nervous, the young man rises from his seat. He goes to the rear of the car. As he is leaving, Captain Clipboard calls out, “Arrest him, he’s a jumper.”
The young man leaps down and dashes across the platform, heading for the chainlink fence that separates it from the parking lot. A voice calls in a blaring monotone, “Stop, or we’ll have to shoot.” Then, more gently: “Come on, kid, take it easy.”
When he is three-quarters of the way up the fence, two of the U.S. Army types raise their machine guns.
“Look, kid, you’re going to die in ten seconds if you don’t climb back down.”
The young man stops. He sags against the fence. Slowly he climbs down, into the arms of two other soldiers, who handcuff him, then connect the handcuffs to leg irons and lead him clanking away.
“Okay,” Captain Clipboard calls out, “everybody hold up their entry permits.” Hands thrust up full of green paper. “Hey, good car! This is gonna be a nice day.” He casts a frown at Jim and me.
From another car there rises the sound of female screaming. It goes on and on, trembling into the heat.
Captain Clipboard works his way along the aisle. One after another, he puts the green forms on his clipboard and goes over them with a lightpen. Two people are sent to the yellow door. They walk quickly across the platform, pointedly ignoring the chainlink fence, carrying their green forms and all of their belongings in their hands. Others, from other cars, straggle along as well. Finally there is nobody left in the car but us illegals.
“All right, now it’s joker time! All of you displaced persons off the train, line up along the white line on the platform, and don’t make sudden moves. You’d be surprised how nervous those dumb army boys get, standing out there in the sun. Let’s go!”
Sixteen of us shuffle off the train, mostly threadbare, eyes hollow, about us all the furtive look of the new American wanderers.
We are facing the toughest port-of-entry system in the United States. The odds are that all sixteen of us will be on the outbound train later this afternoon.
“Hey, Sally,” Captain Clipboard calls, “you recycle fast, sweet-heart.”
“I’m working on a tunnel,” one woman mutters in reply, her head down.
I wonder how many of us are repeaters. But, watching the soldiers across the platform watching us, I decide not to strike up any conversations. At a barked command, the soldiers move forward until they are facing us. “All right, folks,” the giant voice says, “single file to the pen, please. Move out. Double time!”
As we shamble away, the train gives a long blast on its horn and starts to roll. Not a few heads turn back, watching it pass the open track barrier. The lucky few inside are already reopening their newspapers and settling back for the run to L.A.
We are herded into a fenced-off area about three acres square.
There is a cyclone fence twenty feet high, topped by razor wire. At all four corners of the enclosure there are guard houses. Fifty feet beyond the fence there is another barrier: a run occupied by six huge hounds. I see light towers stretching off into the distance, wonder if the whole California border could be lit. As we won’t be here past 4:00 P.M., when the outbound train arrives, I’ll never know.
“Bomb-out,” I say to Jim.
“Maybe. I think we ought to try to talk our way in.”
I assume that as a newsman, he’s more practiced at this sort of thing than I am. “What do you suggest?”
“We can try the reporter gambit. I’ve got my News Herald ID.” We walk over to the gate.
A soldier, smoking a cigarette, closes his eyes for an instant and then regards us with a blank expression.
“I’m a reporter for—”
“—the Dallas News Herald.” Jim holds up his press card.
The soldier stares, his eyes glazed with boredom.
“This man is also a writer. We’re on our way to interview the Governor of California.”
There is a flicker of interest. “You have any verifying documentation?”
“I’d have to make a call.”
The flicker dies. “Then take the afternoon train to Kingman, which is the first place you can get off, and make your call from there. They’ll mail you letters of entry and give you an access code for the border police.”
He starts to walk away. I decide to try another approach. “How long have you been doing this?”
I can see him sigh. “I was drafted in ’91. Six weeks of basic and a month of crowd-control training and here I am.”
“You’re with a U.S. Army unit?”
“That’s right. Regular Army, 144th Military Police, to be exact. And I ain’t supposed to be talking to you.” Again, he starts to walk away.
“Look, is there any way out of here?”
“Sure. People get out all the time.” He laughs. “Two, maybe three in the eighteen months I been here. And they were caught within the hour. I got to tell you, all those signs you see warning you about gettin’ shot? They’re for real. I’ve seen it happen. I’ll tell you another thing. Captain says, soon as he sees you two, ‘We oughta just go ahead and paint those assholes. They’re gonna be trouble.’”
This time he does walk away, smartly. An officer is approaching, a tall, gray man with sparkling, sad eyes. On his chest is a nameplate that reads O’MALLEY. He wears the oak leaves of a major. “Keep this area clear, Private,” he says. His voice is dry and quick.
“Yessir!” The private snaps to attention and salutes his superior officer. There is a spit-and-polish about these men that I don’t remember from the prewar army. But under the surface, they’re still American. I suspect that I could get a good laugh out of both of them if I could remember a decent joke.
“You know what I think?” Jim says.
“It’s a pain in the neck to travel in this country. Frankly, I can’t see how we’re going to get through this without illegal assistance. For which I guess we’ll have to go back to Kingman.”
When the afternoon train comes in, we go along with the rest of the thirsty, sweating mob that has been kept standing for hours in the sun. For those who can’t pay the price of a ticket, there are two “state cars” at the end of the train, ancient and filthy. These people will be able to get to Kingman by train, but then they’re on their own. It’s a tragedy for them. There is no more romance to being a hobo in America. It means starvation, sometimes slow and sometimes fast.
We reach the outskirts of Kingman at eight o’clock at night.
The hobo city seems even larger, transformed as it is into an ocean of flickering cookfires.
As the train stops, dirty children run up with cups of water, shouting, “Penny, penny, penny,” at the thirsty travelers. Their shrill voices mingle with the barking of skeletal dogs.
It doesn’t take long to find the people-smugglers. The moment we jump down off the train to the dirt siding, we see a man in a cap and dark glasses, far better dressed than most. We catch his eye and he strolls up to us.
“Get you all the way, three golds apiece.”
Another man trots over, lean and quick, wearing a clean white T-shirt, jeans, and hand-tooled boots. “Five for both. And watch out for that turkey, he flew right into an ambush last week.”
“Oh yeah? I’d be in prison camp if I’d done that. Why don’t you tell ’em the way you piled up that Tri-Pacer in June, asshole.”
Suddenly a woman’s voice interrupts from behind us. “One gold each. And I’ll take folding at a hundred to one.”
“Shit, Maggie, you can’t even cover your gas!”
“Maggie—look, you guys, she’s got a rotten plane and a worse copilot. I don’t wanna influence you, but as a professional pilot—”
“I’m better’n no copilot at all, which is what you got, George,” snarls a nine-year-old boy. He and the woman come closer. She is pretty in the gloom, her eyes flashing, her lips edged with a smile.
“We fly a Cessna 182, gentlemen. It’s clean and safe.” The smile develops. She nods toward a decrepit pickup parked just down the track. We bring out our money, then follow her and the boy.
“That’s the last time you undercut us, Maggie,” one of the other smugglers says. “Your prices ain’t worth the risk.”
The truck is rusty and the engine sounds like it’s only firing on about three cylinders, but it runs. “You’re lucky you didn’t go with those two. Likely as not, they’re California agents.” The airport is unlighted, just a dirt strip in the desert and a single ramshackle shed. The only sound, as we get out of the pickup, is the humming of a lighted Coke machine. “How d’you like our runway light?”
Maggie says as we pass it on the way to the flight line. I don’t know about Jim, but I don’t like it very much at all. For a nervous flyer like me, things are beginning to look kind of grim.
A coal-black Cessna 182 awaits us. Maggie and her boy start a flight check, walking around the plane, moving creaky flaps and rattling what seem to be loose propeller blades. Or maybe they’re supposed to be that way.
“You guys ready? We want to get moving in case the competition informs on us. This is a cutthroat business.” She smiles. “You got ID cards?”
We don’t, of course, or we wouldn’t be here. I get set to spend some more money.
“You got to be able to show IDs, or you’ll be in the pen inside of twenty-four hours. All California citizens have them.” I remember as much from the train. “We can give you fakes. They won’t work in a computer, but they’ll pass an eyeballing.”
“Is this part of the service?”
“No way. It’s another sawbuck apiece. We had to pay fifteen hundred for the Polaroid machine. Them things are hard to get. Go in there without cards and you’re wasting your plane fare. You don’t want to have that happen.”
We pay our money and get our cards.
The plane bounces along the “runway,” at last shuddering into the air with a horrible popping from the engine. I almost wish it aloft, but it continues to stagger along at an altitude that could not be more than fifty feet. My heart begins to pound. The plane can’t be working. It’s going to crash.
Suddenly the kid starts counting backwards from ten. He has a stopwatch in his hand, just visible in the dim light from the dashboard. At the count of one, Maggie guns the motor and pulls her stick into her belly. We shoot upward, all except my stomach, which remains hanging, sickeningly, at our previous altitude.
“Power lines,” Maggie comments as we dive back to the altitude of my guts. I look at Jim. His eyes are wide.
“They’re flying low,” he mutters, “to avoid radar. Since they can’t see, they’re measuring ground speed against the stopwatch so they can tell when to climb over obstacles.”
“More or less.”
“If that’s a question, the answer is less.”
We fly like this for what seems like hours. In fact, we go through the mountains literally at treetop level, with the boy counting and making check marks on a yellow pad, and the plane popping up and down almost continuously.
When I get airsick, the boy hands back a bag without ever missing his count.
Suddenly, just when it seems that the worst will never end, we are droning along straight and level, approaching the Los Angeles basin. “Palm Springs off to the left,” Maggie comments. The lights of the town are beside us rather than below us. I decide to close my eyes until we land.
But there is no chance. I see L.A. then, and I almost burst into tears. Ahead and a little below are beads, strings, fountains of light It is a vision from the past, wealthy and mysterious and wonderful.
“I’m gonna leave you near Colton Airport. You know L.A., either of you?”
“I don’t,” I say, “but I don’t think we want to be left at an airport. We’ll have to deal with customs, won’t we?”
“I didn’t say at Colton airport. Near it. We drop people various places. We ain’t used this particular spot in a month. I’m gonna land on Interstate 10, just west of the airport. I’m not even gonna turn off the engine. You just pile out and I’ll give ’er the gun and that’s it. You’re on your own. There’s an interurban station right near the airport. Go there. There won’t be anybody around this time of night. Last trolley comes through at midnight. It’s a dime.”
Ten minutes later we are sitting in the brightly lit trolley stop.
There is an ad on the back wall for Yamaha bicycles and a placard announcing,
MARTIAL LAW AREA, OBEY LOCAL REGULATIONS, IF YOU VIOLATE A CURFEW, REMEMBER: SOLDIERS ARE REQUIRED TO SHOOT!
Penciled in below this are Colton’s local laws: curfew is midnight or last trolley. The area commandant is Colonel William Piper, U.S.A., address GPO Colton, phone number 213-880-1098.
Suspicious persons should be reported at once.
Opinions from the Two Americas
There really are two Americas now, the first nation being California and its satellite Western states, the second being the rest of us folks—dirty, tired, and radioactive.
Out West, the public impression of the state of the rest of the country is very much worse than actual conditions would warrant.
“Outsiders” are looked upon as contagious at best, and probably downright lethal.
The West believes that
• America is recovering from the war.
• The West is helping the East as much as it can.
• The War Zones ought to be abandoned.
Naturally the East thinks otherwise, and though the War Zones are not broken out separately, they presumably feel that they should be rehabilitated.
Surprisingly, neither East nor West feels that long-term martial law in the War Zones is a threat to the Constitution, though the East has a stronger opinion in this matter than the West.
Do you believe that the United States is continuing to make a recovery from the 1988 war?
A significant East-West split is reflected in the response to this question. As first noted three years ago, marked differences appear between the states of the so-called War Zone and the remaining states. When asked this question in 1993, these two regions responded:
In terms of assistance for recovery, do you believe that the federal government should abandon the War Zones permanently in order to concentrate resources on those marginally affected areas that could more fully benefit from the assistance?
As in last year’s survey, there were sharp regional differences:
Do you believe that the regions of the United States unaffected directly by the war are doing everything they can to assist in the full recovery of the War Zones?
Again, there were substantial differences between East and West:
When asked what more the Western region could do to assist in recovery, or in what different ways it could do so, the responses were as follows:
|DO THE SAME||13%||41%|
|PROVIDE GREATER CAPITAL ASSISTANCE||31||13|
|PROVIDE WORK TEAMS||12||10|
|ACCELERATE/INCREASE SUPPLIES AND MATERIEL||42||14|
Are America’s allies doing all they can to assist this nation to recover?
As in 1992, there were significant regional differences in response to this question:
Does the continued use of the U.S. Armed Forces to control the War Zones (approximately .7 million servicemen) pose a long-term threat to the return of constitutional authority to state and local governments in these areas?
Significant differences again appeared between regions:
Should the center of the national government once again be reestablished on the East Coast, that is, moved from Los Angeles?
Do you support the recent demands made by some groups for dividing the United States into two permanent regions, e.g., West and East?
It is the greatest city in the United States. In size, San Francisco isn’t even close.
Jim and I found it nostalgically complex, a vast mechanical toy full of buses and clanging trolleys and more cars than either of us have seen in one place in years.
It looks like fun, and the tension in the air reminds me a little of New York.
As much as there are things that are here from the past, there is something from the present that is missing. It is the sense of having suffered—the subtle tension that hangs between friends and strangers alike, everywhere else we have been so far. California didn’t suffer too much from the famine, and few people here were weak enough to be killed by the Cincinnati Flu. Radiation sickness is almost unknown, except among refugees.
On our first night in the bright streets of Los Angeles, I found myself returning to my old metropolitan habits, moving with quick anonymity and never meeting anybody else’s eyes.
There is a much stronger Japanese influence than ever before.
The streets are packed not only with Japanese businessmen but also with clerks and factory workers and children with American nannies. And there are cars: new Nissans that whistle when they accelerate and get 130 miles to a gallon of gas, sporty Toyota Z-90s, Isuzus and Mitsubishis and the occasional Mercedes-Benz.
There are also a few Fords, big and beautifully made at the new plant in Fullerton, and a great improvement over the notorious Consensus with the plastic windows. Despite its size, the new Thunderbird gets sixty miles per gallon. It also has a sensor that sounds an alarm if any radioactive particles should be taken into the air-conditioning system.
More, though, than its prosperity, L.A. has the feeling of prewar America, the cheer, the confidence, the cheek that one associates with former days.
I indulged myself shamelessly. In Little Tokyo there are dozens of open-air fruit and vegetable stands where melons and tomatoes and lettuce and carrots and squash and dozens of other things are stacked in abundance. Little Tokyo, by the way, now extends all the way to Sixth Street. It must be four times its prewar size. In Little Tokyo I bought an enormous vine-ripened tomato for two cents and ate it like an apple. I have not eaten such a thing in years. It was rich beyond belief, dense with a flavor that swept through my nostrils, heavy with juice. If I could design hydroponics that would grow tomatoes that flavorful, I’d get rich.
For fifteen cents we spent half an hour at an open-air sushi bar, sampling the catch and burning our nostrils with Japanese horse-radish. Then we strolled on, satiated, only to be tempted a few minutes later into a beautiful ice cream store, which sold a new brand called Sweet Sue. I had a double-dip cone of cherry vanilla and, in honor of my son, pistachio.
I wish that my family could enjoy the life here. No wonder the P.O.E. is so strict. If immigration was free, California would be drowned in people.
As illegals, we were faced with a number of very serious problems. The first was transportation. There are ten long-distance trolley lines and many more buses than there were before the war, but a car is still a terrific convenience in L.A. We did not have one and couldn’t rent one without revealing that our IDs were bogus.
So we were condemned to trying to figure out the intricate system of buses, minibuses, trolleys, and Aztlan-like pesetas.
Beyond transportation, we had the difficulty of finding a place to stay. I have enjoyed some extraordinary hotels in Los Angeles: the Beverly Hills, the Chateau Marmont, the Bonaventure.
But you can’t register in a hotel without an ID that will pass the computer. In every bus and trolley, posted in stores and in post offices and pasted on every available public bulletin board, of which there must be thousands, is the following sign:
MARTIAL LAW ORDER 106: IMMIGRATION ORDER
Illegal immigrants are liable to arrest and imprisonment for up to three years for the first offense, imprisonment for no less than ten years, without possibility of parole, for the second.
WARNING! There are severe penalties for failing to report an illegal! You may be imprisoned for no less than twenty years for this offense. So don’t take chances, report!
California will pay you for information leading to the capture of an illegal immigrant! You can make five gold dollars just for picking up the phone and dialing the Illegals Hot Line, 900-404-9999. So, if you get a bad ID or just see somebody who looks road-weary, give us a call. You never know when your suspicions might be worth their weight in gold!
We decided to assume a hostile population and made a few basic rules. First, we had to keep moving. Second, we had to sleep under the stars. We couldn’t even risk a rooming house—assuming we could find one with a room to rent. Housing is a nightmare in L.A. I saw ads in the Times offering small homes in the Valley for eight hundred in gold, no paper accepted and no mortgages given.
Dallas has whole neighborhoods where all you have to do is move in, bring your new house up to code, and it’s yours.
Our third rule was that we had to look as happy and well fed as the rest of the Angelinos. Considering our other rules, this one was damned hard to keep. But we dared not look “road-weary.” Angelinos know that overpopulation will strangle their prosperity, and they are generally avid to turn in illegals. We couldn’t risk arousing suspicion, especially not among our interviewees and in the offices Jim was visiting to get government documents.
We spent our first night in a carport at the La Mirada apartments. Immediately after dawn the next day, we had our second taste of conflict between government and members of the Destrueturalist movement. Shouting began echoing up and down La Mirada Avenue from the direction of El Centro. Then there were people running frantically through the carport, breathing hard, followed by battle-dressed officers on black mopeds.
One of the escapees dove under a car just beside us. Her gasping was so loud that we could hear it over the buzz of the passing mopeds.
One of the cops waved his pistol at us. “You don’t see this,” he called. Then he sped off.
“Halt,” echoed an amplified voice from the far end of the alley, “you’re all under arrest!”
Then there came the dismal mutter of capture, the gear-grinding approach of a small black schoolbus with bars welded across the windows, the quick disappearance of the little band of the desperate.
Then silence. Not a window opened in any of the houses that lined the alley, not a curious face appeared. We kept to the dim interior of the carport, listening to the breathing of the person under the car. We stayed like that for some little time. Once somebody came out of the La Mirada, got into a gleaming blue Consensus, and drove away.
“It’s quiet,” Jim said at last. “You can come out now.”
We then had our only contact with the Conspiracy of Angels, and learned a little more about the nature of Destructuralism.
A Statement by an Anonymous Member of the Conspiracy of Angels
People cannot continue to hide from the fact that this civilization is totally bankrupt. Society needs a whole new way of doing and being if we are not going to build up all over again and wind up with an even worse war.
That is where the Destructuralist Movement comes in, and the Angels are militant Destructuralists.
What is Destructuralism, you might ask, and what’s in it for me and my family? First off, Destructuralism says that your person and those you make your family are the only valid social unit, and the maintenance of that family is the only valid economic activity.
We say that the whole social edifice, from the Boy Scouts right up to the Army, is essentially an addiction, that it is more than unnecessary, it is dangerous. Social structures are the breeding ground of ideology, greed, and territorialism. Agricultural communities are peaceful communities, and families bound together by need and love do not go to war.
No matter how benign a given structure seems, it will inevitably lead to the same consequences all social structures lead to, namely, war and death. Real social harmony comes not from law-books but from the human heart.
If that is too high an ideal, then it is perfectly obvious that we are eternally condemned to the slavery of warfare, and probably also to extinction.
Government is institutionalized dehumanization. People who deal with paper instead of other people lose the all-important thread of contact from heart to heart. Here’s a story about a social structure that all of America loves, the British Relief. A man who joined our movement got eye cancer and the Relief did triage on him and sent him home. People wait in line for days, only to be told by some English nanny that they can’t even get an aspirin. And if you go black market for medicine and get caught, it is not a jury of your peers that tries you, it is the Relief. And they forced you onto the black market in the first place. This man with eye cancer bought black-market chemotherapy, got caught, and had to pay a fine, even though he was dying.
He became an Angel a month before he took henbane from a witch. He did not die of cancer, he died of structure, or at least suffered from it. There is no shortage of painkillers, for example. The Relief could have given him Brompton Mixture on an outpatient basis, but the rules reserve it for inpatients only, and he couldn’t be an inpatient because he was triaged!
So the structure—simply because it was there—at the very least condemned him to unnecessary agony. If his family had been in control of his fate, instead of some bureaucrat in the Relief office down at the civic center, he would have been spared the torment and indignity of the pain.
People say thank God Europe didn’t get in the war, what would we do without them, but the Angels say we are just suffering more because of the structures that are now being imposed on us from the outside. When Washington was destroyed, we had a golden, historic opportunity to free ourselves from the age-old slavery of government. Instead, we are having both economic and political structure imposed on us from the outside—colonial exploitation, as a matter of fact, very similar to what the Europeans practiced on the Chinese in the last century. The foreign presence on our shores is nothing more than a prescription for more structural enslavement, with the added problem that we don’t even control the structure.
Also, they take crops from the few viable growing areas and allocate them not only to North America but also to themselves. Remember, if we weren’t feeding Europe too, we wouldn’t be starving ourselves. The story is that they have gone into Argentina and taken it over to make sure the crops are not held up for high prices. Argentina is no longer even a country. If you read the English papers, they always call it “the Argentine” or some such thing. We believe that most of the population south of the border is dead of starvation, and the Europeans caused it by taking the only food our Latin sisters and brothers could get their hands on, the Argentine wheat. That is hundreds of millions of deaths.
We call ourselves Angels because we help people in need and because we remember the dishonored dead of the world, those who died on Warday in the United States and the USSR, and the billions who have died since. We represent the living, the ordinary men and women and children who see that, in order to survive, mankind needs a whole new way of being.
There is inherent in Destructuralism the concept that people can remake their own hearts to include a new valuation of their fellow human beings. By refocusing our energies on our families we can learn never to forget for an instant how it feels to be the other person. For example, the American President and the Russian Premier could not have done what they did to the rest of us on Warday if they had been trained from birth never to forget for an instant that all human beings are partners in life and that everybody is as important to himself or herself as they were to themselves—that the death of the average Joe was going to be as much of a catastrophe for him and his family as the death of the great leader would be to his own precious self and his relatives. Instead, they sat in their command posts and talked numbers. To Destructuralists there are no numbers, there are only names and faces and hearts.
Only in a truly destructured, rehumanized social milieu can the kind of maturing growth that people need take place, because only if there are no distancing structures can the individual come to realize, through his identification with his own family, that every other life on earth is as precious and valuable as his own.
You might argue that Destructuralism is old-style anarchy all over again, but it isn’t. Destructuralism is based on the caring of mature human souls for one another and for the planetary body, too. It is government by putting yourself in the other man’s shoes.
The bible said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
That is all the government the world needs.
Remember this: If you love life and think that big government is big poison, and you are willing to stand hand in hand with your brothers and sisters on this earth, do not scorn the Angels, for you are one.
As soon as she finished her statement, our friendly Angel got into the nearest American-made car, reached under the dashboard, and hotwired it.
“You want a ride?”
We didn’t. We just wanted to disappear. She backed out into the alley and was soon off down La Mirada. Not ten seconds after the car had disappeared, there came a roar from about thirty feet overhead and an ultralight aircraft darted past in the direction she had gone. There are large numbers of these planes in Los Angeles skies, used by police and fire departments to keep detailed tabs on rooftops and backyards. Soon, more of the moped cops shot past on La Mirada.
We were scared. The penalties for being an illegal immigrant in California are severe. Capture could mean years in a work camp.
Maybe all the years I have left.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jim said. “Half the police department’s in the neighborhood this morning.”
I did not reply. I was thinking of Anne and Andrew, wondering what they were doing. It was a quarter to six in Dallas. I could imagine my family out in the henhouse, Anne collecting eggs while Andrew did the cleaning. I could hear the hens clucking and smell thick henhouse odors mixing with the aroma of morning coffee floating across from the kitchen.
Another ultralight appeared and began circling us as we walked along La Mirada. It was all I could do not to break and run as the damned thing soared round and round overhead, its engine whining like an angry wasp. Jim stopped and looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun.
“Don’t do that!”
“It’s more suspicious to ignore him.”
The policeman’s amplified voice crackled down: “IDs, please!”
We held up our red plastic cards. He peered down as he made another sweep, then flew off, talking into his radio.
“Do you think that did it, Jim?”
“Neither do I.” We walked on, heading for the Santa Ana Freeway. If we could catch an interregional bus there, it just might take us all the way to Burbank.
Suddenly a black car pulled up, and behind the wheel was an unexpected but welcome sight: a priest in a Roman collar. “Get in,” he said.
The thought crossed my mind that he might be a police agent.
Then a siren began wailing. I could see the lights of a squad car far down La Mirada. “Get in,” the priest repeated. “Hurry up about it!”
We got into the old Buick. “Down, down, you darned fools!” As the squad car roared past, we dropped to the floor of the back seat.
“They’re on foot,” a voice rattled from the front seat I was astonished to realize that the priest had a police radio. “Two-four-two to Air Six. We do not, repeat, do not have them in our sight.”
The priest started his car. “That’s a relief, anyway.”
He drove us to his rectory, where we got a shave, a shower, and a much-needed change of clothing. He never referred to the Destructuralists, or why he had been in that particular neighborhood at that time, or why he had so mercifully helped us.
He believed strongly in the value of human freedom, though, and in the old Bill of Rights. You can read that between the lines of the interview he gave us.
Reverend Michael Dougherty, Catholic Priest
I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to do this, but I think you’re probably safe here for another half hour or so. I’m glad to get the chance to speak for publication. We’ve forgotten a few basic human freedoms out here in sunny California. We need to rediscover ourselves as Americans—as people, really. As children of God.
Sometimes I think of the world—is that thing on? I don’t see the red light. Ah, okay. Sometimes I think of the world as a little lost bit of dust in the middle of nowhere, and it is deathly ill, and there is nobody to help us. But then I feel the presence of Christ, as if He had taken the world in His arms and was hugging us to Himself the way a father might hug a hurt child.
I think that we Americans are feeling terribly guilty about ourselves. Especially the older generation. I see the effects. One of them is that priests like me have gotten incredibly busy, and one of the things that keeps me busiest is ministering to the sad and the guilty. We’ve got three priests here at St. Francis, me and two newly ordained, as well as three deacons and four nuns. I’ve been a priest since 1975, so I’m an old hand. That rarity, the prewar religious. The rest are all new. Since Warday, my parish has more than quadrupled in size. In the past five years, I can hardly remember a Mass that wasn’t full. Even at six o’clock on Saturday morning, it’s full. Many, many kids. The children of secularized parents, rebelling against the indifference of their elders. And the elders too, now, fumbling with the St. Joseph’s missals we have in the church, saying their prayers as best they can.
But it’s in the confessional that I hear the motives people have for returning to the Church. It isn’t piety or love of God, not among the older folks. People are coming back to the Church because they feel that their own indifference, just letting things happen, was a big part of what caused the war. Remember, back in those days it just seemed like there was nothing you personally could do. The solutions now to our problems then seem obvious.
But in those days we were all very different people. We were dulled by living under the Sword of Damocles for nearly half a century. We had done the worst possible thing—gotten used to an incredible and immediate danger. The nuclear mechanism was far more hazardous to each one of us individually than, say, pouring gasoline on our clothes would have been. But it didn’t feel that way, not in those sunny, treacherous days.
We understood how absolutely deadly the bomb was, but we did not understand how helpless we were in the face of the mechanism of war. The mechanism began to run quite mysteriously, and went on until it broke down. It could as easily have destroyed the world. Only faulty design prevented that. We thought that people dickering about arms control in Geneva mattered, when what we really needed all along was a massive change of heart. How absurdly outmoded the elaborate diplomacy of the prewar period now seems. There could have been a massive shift of heart, toward acceptance and understanding and away from hostile competitiveness and ideological obsession.
The whole business of the United States and the USSR squandering their resources on territorialism seems incredibly silly now.
Our prewar mistake was to believe in rubble. We visualized ourselves as crawling out of the basement and putting brick back on brick. Places don’t just cease to exist.
You know, they say that a person set down in the middle of the Washington Dead Zone would have died within hours. Just keeled over and died. Birds died flying across it. That was in the L.A. Times after the war. It’s a forty-square-mile desert of black glass dotted with the carcasses of sparrows and larks and the occasional duck.
Before the war there weren’t even intellectual references for such things. No comprehension. The message of Hiroshima wasn’t understood. We thought that it meant devastation. But ruins have to do with the past. Modern nuclear war means life being replaced by black, empty space. It means ancient seats of government evaporating in a second. The moral question is almost beyond asking.
What are we, that we can do this? What is evil, that it can speak with such a voice? We no longer know what we are, we of the Holocaust and Stalin and Warday. We unleashed hell on ourselves by pretending that diplomacy, of all things, could control its fires. The heart, and the heart alone, is more powerful than hell.
Am I preaching? Excuse me. I run so fast, give so much advice, quite frankly I think I’ve forgotten how to talk without a degree of pontification. Sometimes I wish I had a wife to have a private life with. Someone who would say, “You’re preaching, Mike,” or “You’re talking through your hat.” But I don’t have time for a wife. Or children. I couldn’t raise kids in a life that doesn’t have ten free minutes a day. So I’m no longer uptight about the celibacy rule.
Before Warday I was well on my way to losing my vocation. I wanted to get married. I think I might have become an Episcopalian. But then came Warday and, afterward, the Reunion with the Anglicans and the Episcopals. Then, most of all, the tremendous upsurge of need for my services. I got the feeling that Christ was very close to us religious people, full of forgiveness and need, asking for our help. I want to be Christ’s servant. Now when I’m feeling alone I take my soul to Mary, who is His mother and therefore the mother of all mankind. She’s what the witches call the Mother Goddess! I just kneel before her altar and say the rosary.
She never fails me, Mary. The rosary is far better for me than, say, meditation. It’s not only meditation, with all the repetition, it’s humble and it’s a request for help. She was once a human being.
She knows what we suffer. She is always there, anytime, for anybody. Mary doesn’t care a fig about the details. She loves and respects you because you exist.
The witchcraft movement talks about taking personal, individual responsibility for the condition of planet Earth as if they invented the idea. But it’s also a Christian and very specifically Catholic notion. At least I think it is. My saddest, guiltiest parishioners say that they sinned terribly by not taking some kind of personal action on behalf of peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. They say they should have demonstrated against this or in favor of that. But I tell them no, the sin was that we did not accept one another in our hearts, neither side. Our leaders hardly even knew each other. The two greatest nations on earth, with almost total responsibility for the fate of planet and species, and they hardly even spoke! They should have made it their business to be close personal friends. And there should have been as much commonality of policymaking and government as possible.
Instead the two countries were separate islands, distant from, and mysterious to, each other. That was the sin of pride, doing that.
What a price has been paid for the pleasure of such indulgence.
When I think of what our generation did, I pray very, very hard that the future will somehow accept us and find in the Body of Christ the love and understanding that will enable them to say, “Our ancestors chose foolishness over wisdom and hostility over acceptance, but we understand and we forgive.”
Now I’m not your deep thinker. But I do try. I’ve read the Catholic philosophers, and the Greeks, and most of the moderns. I mean to say, I’ve read my Whitehead and my Hegel, my Aristotle and my Plotinus.
You know, throughout history, philosophy centered on the concept of being rather than the ethics. That was fine until recent years, when we began to try on some pretty bizarre concepts, and to hell with the ethics of it all. Nazism and so forth, I mean. And the concept of nationhood that allowed us to think we had the right to build such things as nuclear bombs.
The American and Russian peoples should never have allowed their leaders to play the game of overstating the threat to justify exorbitant military expenditures. We were supposed to be seeking a balance of terror, weren’t we? But the United States in fact got so far ahead of the Russians technologically that we were about to send up a satellite that would have made their missiles useless against us. And they had no similarly effective weapon. So they were forced to start the war. They were backed up against the wall.
I’m just a priest in a medium-sized parish. Nobody on high would ever have listened to me. Before the war I had eight hundred in my parish. Now I’ve got close to ten thousand frightened and suffering people. In some ways I’d rather have had eight hundred and the old world than ten thousand and the new.
Let’s see now, you asked me for an idea about how my day goes. What I do. Well, I get up at five-thirty and I run like a madman until midnight, then I sleep like the dead until five-thirty the next morning. I’ve got my schedule for last Wednesday. I’ll read it into the record:
5:30 A.M. Arose and said breviary.
5:45 A.M. Breakfast of corn soup and milk.
6:00 A.M. Said Mass. Gave out communion to 230 people.
6:30 A.M. Meeting with my staff. Discussed the reroofing project. Looked over Father Moore’s report to the bishop on the feasibility of splitting St. Francis into two parishes. I hope that this is done!
7:00 A.M. Met a parishioner who has just been diagnosed as having stage-three Hodgkin’s and has been triaged. Has a wife and three teenage children. Is fifty-two. We prayed together and he cried. He paced like a trapped lion. Prayed for him and put him in the Mass list for Sunday.
7:20 A.M. CCD leaders met in my office to plan a bake sale.
They have thirty pounds of flour, six pounds of sugar, some apples, some molasses, and so we are very excited. Thank God they also have Sister Euphrasia, who is one good baker.
7:45 A.M. Had coffee and listened to the Vatican U.S. Service on the shortwave.
8:00 A.M. Went to Holy Cross Hospital for my visitations. I’m glad I took Father Moore, as my list was sixty names long! I had an hour there, and because he took half my people, I was able to spend two minutes with each patient. I blessed, I prayed, I heard eighteen confessions and gave out thirty Holy Communions. I gave the Last Rites to twelve patients on the critical list.
9:15 A.M. Returned to the rectory. Did youth counseling until noon. We have seventy young people who are converting, and an active Sodality and CYO. But these were all special cases. I gave each kid half an hour. Saw six troubled kids. A girl who is pregnant. A boy who is in love with a younger boy. A girl who says she sees visions of the Virgin, and indeed may. Another girl who has beaten her mother and father so badly that they want her out of the house. Where does a petite girl of sixteen get such titanic anger? Two boys who steal. I warned them very sternly. They must remember, these children, that we have a looting law here in California, and they are liable to be shot on sight if they’re caught. It isn’t like the old days. There is no due process at the end of a gunsight.
12:15 P.M. Lunch of soybean soup, lettuce with vinegar and oil, and a delicious Budweiser.
12:30 P.M. Met with Parish Council. We are going to try to expand our food program this winter. Last year we distributed 31,280 meals to the hungry. This year we are going to try for fifty thousand. Mrs. Cox said that the baby boy found behind the rectory last week was just fine, normal in every way, and has been placed with the Tucker family. They are at risk for having children, so they are terribly grateful.
1:00 P.M. Met with Joe O’Donnell, who is thinking about running for chief of police. The most powerful job in the Valley. Will he do it? He’d do a very creditable job, I feel sure. I promised to call the bishop on his behalf. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a Catholic in that job, and Joe is a good man.
1:15 P.M. Back to the church for fifteen minutes of prayer.
Spent it with Mary and had wonderful, intimate communication with her. Has our need somehow made our connection with deity stronger? Sometimes I feel as if Christ and Mary are here, alive, almost in the flesh. This, I suppose, is faith.
1:30 P.M. Catechism with my eighth-graders. Fifty kids. What a bunch of jokers! I love that class. We might be in hell, but kids are kids, always. What did I find in the question box? “Father, if you couldn’t consummate marriage any other way, would it be permissible to use an Erector Set?” Kid’s humor. We are into sex education. Some of these children are sterile.
2:30 P.M. Adult counseling for two hours. I took a Charismatic study group for half an hour, then a disturbed couple, then a woman who has bone cancer and is contemplating euthanasia. Personally I detest the practice, but I can see if I get a really rough cancer I might want to turn to it myself. His Holiness and the Archbishop of Canterbury have agreed that it’s no sin to withdraw life support if the person is beyond hope. I promised to attend her.
4:30 P.M. Spent ten minutes with my breviary.
4:40 P.M. Went to the church and said Benediction. Our choir is just wonderful. Who would have thought ten years ago that I would have a full choir for weekday afternoon service? Not to mention two hundred people in the church. Christ has not failed us.
He is awakening our hearts.
5:00 P.M. Heard confessions for an hour. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” How I love them, my dear parishioners. I will not speak of their sins, except to say that they are good people, and I know they are forgiven their little transgressions. I tell them to make penance a sacrament of self-discovery. Confession should be a joy.
6:00 P.M. Supper. Vegetable goulash with nice big pieces of sausage. Another Bud. Much laughter and joking around our big table of men and women. We have a lot of fun together.
7:00 P.M. BBC Overseas Service News. The U.K. has recognized the Kingdom of Azerbaijania. We looked and looked on the map, but we couldn’t find it. Somewhere in the former Soviet Union, but where?
7:30 P.M. “Moon Over Morocco,” a cigarette, and a cup of coffee. My half hour of indulgence! That’s a delightful radio show. I must admit that I miss TV. Boy, what I wouldn’t give to feast my eyes on “M*A*S*H” just one more time. As a semipublic institution, we have some chance of getting a TV before too much longer.
The BBC is already beaming shows over here by satellite, and Ted Turner is getting organized again in Atlanta and L.A. Also, HBO and the networks are coming back. Soon, please, and don’t neglect the half-hour format, because that’s all I have time for!
8:00 P.M. Meeting of the Charismatics in the basement of the church. I’m glad that Sister Euphrasia and Father Booth are both members of this movement! I can’t begin to speak in tongues. I can’t keep up with their intensity. Their faith is like fire. These are God’s people, these Charismatics. We are going to have to move our group upstairs. Three hundred people are too many for the basement. Might even be a fire hazard.
9:00 P.M. Meeting of the Knights of Columbus in the school cafetorium. Full-dress affair. I led prayers. We are making elaborate plans for the Christ the King procession upcoming.
10:00 P.M. A call from the man who was diagnosed as terminal Hodgkin’s yesterday. Met him in the church and we said the rosary together. He told his family over supper. He says they spent the evening singing and talking about how close the Lord is to them now. I suggested they go to the Charismatic meeting tomorrow night. They heal each other all the time, maybe they’ll heal him.
But I didn’t say that to him. I said, if he feels Christ in him so strongly, he belongs among them, and so does his family.
11:00 P.M. Breviary for fifteen minutes, and another fifteen reading the new Mailer book. Ghost Dance is a great statement on our lives now.
11:30 P.M. My five minutes in the shower. Father Moore snapped me with a towel. How I would like to be twenty-three years old again! These old bones…
12:00 A.M. Lights out at the St. Francis rectory. Silence. My cross, a darker shadow on my dark wall. The wind moaning past the eaves. Sleep, and a dream of long ago.
Documents from the Civil Defense
There goes the night brigade
They got no steady trade…
HELPFUL HINTS FOR THE UNAFFECTED: BLUEGRAMS
You probably don’t know about Bluegrams. I certainly didn’t see any in Texas during the war, and Whitley doesn’t remember them from New York.
They are apparently called Bluegrams because they are printed on light-green paper.
There is an element of practicality about Bluegrams. Their distribution, however, appears to be limited to areas where they aren’t needed.
So, in case you might find them useful, I include here the two most practical ones we picked up.
One sees Bluegrams in all sorts of places, pinned to community bulletin boards or left in stacks on the counters of luncheonettes.
We could have included Bluegrams on control of radioactive roaches or on the washing of hot cars with sponges attached to fishing poles, but we decided to limit ourselves to material of at least some interest to people who live in the communities for which they were obviously intended in the first place.
Why don’t areas of genuine need get Bluegrams? Maybe the Civil Defense officials responsible don’t want to upset us, or—more likely—they’d rather stay in California than set out with their little blue trucks to that softly glowing world beyond the Sierras.
CIVIL DEFENSE BULLETIN
December 13, 1988
HOME OR BUSINESS PROTECTION FROM RADIATION
In the event that the United States sustains another nuclear attack, you are advised to seek the best protection possible for yourself and your family.
If you live in or near a city, you should receive advance warning of an attack. It is possible, however, with the current emergency conditions, and with only partially repaired communications, that an attack warning will not be given or will be brief at best. In some cases, you will learn of an attack only after it has occurred.
IN EITHER CASE, YOU MUST TAKE PROTECTIVE ACTION IMMEDIATELY AND IN THE STRUCTURE WITH THE HIGHEST PROTECTIVE LEVEL AVAILABLE TO YOU AT THE TIME.
Different buildings and structures vary in the level of radiation protection offered. In general, basements or rooms underground offer the best protection. In an emergency, however, you and members of your family may have to make quick judgments as to the best and most accessible place available to you at the time.
The following examples list structures along with their respective protection factors. The higher the factor, the better the protection.
TYPICAL BUILDINGS AND THEIR PROTECTIVE VALUE
|Type of Building||Factor|
|Underground shelters covered by 3 feet or more of dirt, or sub-basements of buildings with more than 5 stories||1000+|
|Basement fallout shelters, basements without exposed walls, and central areas of upper floors (not top 3) with heavy exterior walls||250 to 1000|
|Basements of buildings with frame and brick veneers, central area of basements with partially to exposed waifs, and central areas of upper floors (not top floor) in multistory buildings with heavy floors and exterior walls||50 to 250|
|Basements without exposed walls of 1–2 story buildings and central areas of upper floors (not top) of multistory buildings with light floors and walls||10 to 50|
|Partially exposed basements of 1–2 story buildings and central areas on ground floor of similar buildings with heavy masonry walls||2 to 10|
|Above ground rooms of light residential homes or apartments||2 or less|
REMEMBER, SOME PROTECTION IS BETTER THAN NONE.
GOOD PROTECTION WILL SAVE LIVES!
* * *
FOR LOCAL DISTRIBUTION
CIVIL DEFENSE DIRECTIVE A-25
December 15, 1988
EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR RADIOLOGIC DECONTAMINATION
THE FOLLOWING EMERGENCY GUIDELINES SHOULD BE FOLLOWED UNTIL FULL-SCALE GOVERNMENT DECONTAMINATION EFFORTS CAN BE UNDERTAKEN.
If you live near a War Zone, or if you are being billeted temporarily by military or local government, you may be in considerable danger through contact with materials that have been made radioactive by the bomb explosion itself, or from fallout.
Radioactivity cannot be seen. The only sure way to know if radioactivity is present is to use electronic detectors that measure radioactivity. These devices are available from your local government, or from the military units assigned to your area.
BUT WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU DON’T HAVE ACCESS IMMEDIATELY TO RADIATION DETECTORS?
It’s best to be safe. If you live within 100 miles of a designated War Zone, it is highly likely that you will have at least some objects or surfaces affected with radioactivity. Or, if you live within any of the areas where fallout has occurred, you probably have some degree of contamination.
MOST RADIATION WILL DISAPPEAR WITHIN 60–90 DAYS. HOWEVER, DEPENDING UPON YOUR LOCATION AND PROXIMITY TO A BOMBED AREA, YOU COULD HAVE SUFFICIENT RADIOACTIVITY PRESENT TO CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS.
IF POSSIBLE, YOU SHOULD CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT OR WITH MILITARY AUTHORITIES TO DETERMINE THE LIKELIHOOD OF RADIOACTIVITY IN YOUR HOME OR BILLETING AREA.
If you know some radioactivity is present, or you suspect this to be the case, then you should utilize the following methods for decontaminating common materials and surfaces.
Clothing that is heavily contaminated, e.g., that which has been outside and unprotected, should be discarded at once and buried in a location that will not affect water supplies.
Other clothing can be brushed or washed, though you should be careful to control the runoff in order to prevent further contamination. Using a detergent will help. All washing should be done in one area and the runoff directed to the same collector, which later can be covered up.
Always use gloves if you can, and wash yourself thoroughly afterwards.
Packaged food can be brushed or washed, though you should watch out for dust particles. Unprotected food should be disposed of as soon as possible.
You should not plan to hunt for wild game for another four months; the possibility that wildlife has ingested radioactive particles is still dangerously high.
3. METAL AND PAINTED SURFACES
Metal or painted surfaces, including cars and trucks, can be washed or scrubbed, with or without detergents or cleansing agents. Again, you should control the runoff. The use of complexing agents—oxalates, carbonates, acids or oxidizing agents—can be useful for porous surfaces but chemically dangerous; care should be taken in using chemicals.
4. LARGE STRUCTURES
Large structures, such as houses, buildings, barns, etc., are most quickly cleaned with water sprays. Structures that are heavily contaminated, however, will need more intensive treatment. Chemical treatment may be necessary; abrasion or sandblasting may be necessary with concrete and brick.
Runoff can be a major problem, and all cleaning personnel should wear protective clothing and masks.
Earth surfaces that are radioactive can be removed, though disposal can be a problem. For farming areas, plowing under may be the most expedient action, but the ground remains radioactive for some time and may not be readily usable again. You should consult your local authorities about any substantial earth-moving activity you propose. Protective clothing should be worn at all times, and face masks, such as those worn by medical personnel, should be used.
Standing water, such as that in pools or tanks, should not be used and little can be done to purify the water, short of using complex ion-exchange equipment. Water from streams or rivers may have surface contamination as a result of having passed through radioactive areas. Water for personal consumption should be purified using available equipment or homemade devices, such as natural filtration through buckets filled with stones, clay, and other filtrating materials. Filtered water should then be treated with iodine tablets to remove any trace of radioactive iodine. Water from deep ground wells should be usable without treatment.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE UNCERTAIN ABOUT THE LEVEL OF RADIOACTIVITY OF ANY OBJECT OR SURFACE, USE CARE AND DECONTAMINATED DO NOT HESITATE TO CONSULT YOUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT OR MILITARY AUTHORITIES FOR ASSISTANCE.
Mutants and Super-Beasts
Jim and I heard our first rumor on the trolley into L.A. Since then, we’ve found that rumors run in the blood of this city.
RUMOR: There is a gigantic beast with bat wings and red, burning eyes that has attacked adults and carried off children. The creature stands seven feet tall and makes a soft whistling noise. It is often seen on roofs in populated areas, but only at night.
FACT: Of all the rumors we heard, this was the most persistent.
Claiming that we were L.A. Times reporters, we called Dr. Edward Wagner of UCLA, a biologist, and asked him to comment on the possibility that some sort of radiation-induced mutation could have produced a new species of giant bat. Dr. Wagner stated that giantism is a fairly well understood evolutionary phenomenon that is caused by space-competition among species. He doubted that something as fully developed as this could have come about in the thirty-odd bat generations that have elapsed since the war.
A Glendale resident, who was attacked in August of ’91, recorded his experience in the weekly Glendale Courier:
I had just gotten off the Glendale trolley when I heard this soft sort of cooing noise coming from the roof of a house. The sound was repeated and I turned to look toward the house. Standing on the roof was what looked like a man wrapped in a cloak. Then it spread its wings and whoosh! it was right on top of me! I remember it smelted awful, like something dead. It was working at my face with these long, probing fingers. It got them around my neck and it started snapping its teeth and hissing. Its wings were wrapped around me. I was smothering in there, in the stink of the thing.
When I saw its eyes, red and glaring, hideous, I thought it was the devil come for me and I gave out a scream. Just like that, it spread its wings and started flying, its fingers still around my head. I was dragged halfway down the block, then it let me go and took off into the sky, cooing and hissing. I saw the moonlight glint off its wings, then it was gone.
The individual who told this story to the paper was also reported to have extensive scars on his neck and head, of the type that long fingernails or talons might make.
We have no further information about this story.
RUMOR: Radiation has caused many terrible mutations, such as babies who claw their way out of the mother’s womb just as the first contractions of labor start. Also, babies who are born with the genitals of adults, or women having animal children, usually monkeys or pigs.
FACT: We have great difficulty getting used to the high level of mutation that is an inevitable side-effect of high ambient radiation.
Naturally, mutations occur with greatest frequency in areas most seriously radiated. A mother in California, for example, has little more chance of bearing a mutant child than before the war, but a mother in Dallas is many times more likely to bear a mutant.
Mutations take two basic forms, degenerative and progressive.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred degenerative mutations involve some sort of destruction or malformation of the fetus. They never involve atavism, such as a woman giving birth to an animal child.
Such a mutation is probably not possible. Nor are they likely to involve such farfetched nonsense as babies with claws or babies with fully developed genitals. The truth is much more prosaic, and much sadder. Common mutations are malformed limbs, bones, or eyes, brain disorders, and malfunctioning organs, such as improperly formed hearts. In cases where the mutant is declared non-viable on the Hexler Function Scale, the parents may elect euthanasia.
Progressive mutations are much more rare, but they are not unknown. The most usual progressive mutation we are aware of is so-called hyperintelligence syndrome (HIS). Babies displaying this syndrome exhibit certain common characteristics: they are extremely aware even at birth and are generally capable of lifting their heads, smiling, and making organized sounds within a few hours of being born. This initial precociousness is not followed up, however, at least not evenly. There are HIS children three years old who can read Shakespeare but are still mastering the art of walking. A common problem in HIS children is difficulty acclimatizing to extreme stimuli such as loud sounds or bright colors. HIS children generally learn reading and mathematics by passive assimilation by the age of two or three. The oldest known HIS child, Charlie B., is now four. He was born in Philadelphia eleven months after Warday, six months before that city was temporarily evacuated due to high radiation levels caused by the Washington and New York strikes. Charlie B. is physically developed to the size of a normal four-year-old. He is the clear intellectual superior of all adults who work with him. He has no formal education; indeed, there is no educational system yet devised that can help him. He reads four languages, is conversant in the most abstruse mathematics and physics, and has what his parents describe as a “vast” memory. He is often despondent. His family has plans to move from its present home in Los Angeles to England if Charlie is accepted, at the age of seven, by Oxford.
There are eighteen identified HIS children in the United States.
Twenty-four are known to have been born, but one was killed in a home fire and five have died for other reasons. Poor reporting and record-keeping may mean that there are undiagnosed HIS children.
These two are the basic “mutant/super-beast” rumors that are current in California. Variations are many, including the Hopping Devil rumor that seems to be a variant of the Giant Bat story, and the story of the secret think-tank at Cal Tech where Japanese scientists exploit HIS children in the development of ever more extraordinary technologies, which they do not share with the Americans.
Since there cannot be any HIS children older than four, this last rumor appears to be without real substance, though the exploitation of HIS children is something that the Relief or some responsible U.S. agencies should certainly examine very closely.
The Immigrant Quickstep
Father Dougherty explained to us that the only way to evade the California authorities was to keep moving from city to city or, even better, to leave the state at once. He warned us that we were taking great risks staying in L.A. even long enough to go downtown so Jim could gather documents from the remains of the old federal government, which has its offices in the L.A. Federal Complex.
When it became clear to him that we weren’t going to change our minds, he insisted on driving us. He felt that, without help, we had no chance of staying out of the hands of the police.
On the way into the center of the city, Father Dougherty told us that, like it or not, he was leaving us at Union Station after Jim got his documents. He briefed us about how to contend with the various travel zones.
“You have Red Zones, Yellow Zones, Blue Zones, and Green Zones. Stick to the Greens. They lead to the intrastate tracks, which will be on your left as you pass through the main waiting room. Yellow Zones are for incoming trains from our sister restricted-immigration states, Washington and Oregon. Red Zones are for trains arriving from abroad, which means the rest of the United States. Don’t even look as if you might be interested in them. Remember that the IPs are just dying to check you out. Need I add that there is also a White Zone in the waiting room? It’s for the outgoing Southwest and Sunset Limiteds, and the Desert Wind. Nobody will bother you in the White Zone.”
We arrived at the Federal Complex and parked. There were plenty of empty spaces. Father Dougherty and I would wait while Jim looked up a few likely parties in the government. He had some contacts he had met during the years he researched and wrote about atomic weapons and the community of men around them.
The federal government takes up only the lower floors of the federal building. Most of the structure is given over to the California State Department of Small-Scale Agricultural Control (Southern Region), an organization devoted to the licensing and regulation of private gardens.
According to Father Dougherty, Jim had at all costs to avoid straying into any part of the complex controlled by the state. “The President and the Governor aren’t friends,” was the way he put it.
“This is a state in name only. Within five years it’s going to be accrediting ambassadors. Already there’s an Embassy Row in Sacramento. But as far as the Feds are concerned, you’ll be subject to their laws on their territory—which means you’ll have full constitutional rights below the eighth floor of the building. If somebody on the federal floors asks for your ID, ask for his warrant. But, for God’s sake, don’t go upstairs.”
As he crossed the parking lot, I could see that Jim was edgy. I did not envy him this duty. We hoped for the chance of an interview with the President, or at least with some senior officials. So little is known nowadays about the federal government, we felt that anything we could get would be of enormous value.
The silence of waiting settled into the car. Father Dougherty turned on the radio, a new Sony. There were about ten stations up and down the dial. Twisting it, I heard the Beach Boys. Their voices, the tone and feel of the music, evoked the past, summer weather. How anybody can bear to listen to the Beach Boys for very long these days, I cannot imagine.
It is interesting that the past has come to seem so beautiful. I wish we could remember it clearly enough to avoid its mistakes.
But I am coming to recall it more for its laughter than its danger. I remember how Anne and I used to enjoy SoHo, and the East Village galleries that were gaining a foothold by about ’84. Extremes in art spoke to us then, though I cannot now remember why. America was sunshine, wasn’t it?
It was also excitement. I remember, for example, space exploration. At the time I took at most mild interest, but now I’m fascinated. What wonders we accomplished: the moon landings and Viking, and the Space Shuttle. Most of all, the confirmation by the Infrared Astronomy Satellite in ’85 of the planetary system around Barnard’s Star, with a fifth planet that might be very like Earth.
Suddenly Father Dougherty started the car. Jim was hurrying toward us, a thick manila envelope under his arm.
“I didn’t manage to see the President,” he said as he got in, “but I got good stuff. Some Presidential papers on radiation, and a report on the state of the upper atmosphere.”
“Meaning you two will finally do the sensible thing and leave Los Angeles?”
Jim nodded. “I still don’t have many California state documents, but maybe I’ll pick some up in San Francisco.”
“So you still intend to remain in California, do you? I can’t bear the thought of people getting arrested for nothing. I wish you’d reconsider. The moment you buy a White Zone ticket, the IPs will leave you alone.”
We had been through this at the rectory. We didn’t need him to convince us of how poor our odds were. But the book could not be complete without a visit to San Francisco.
“We’ve got to try, Father.”
He sighed, then got out of the car and opened the trunk. He brought out a small suitcase, opened it on the front seat. “These are clerics’ suits. Get into the darned things and God go with you.”
I am not sure how convincing we were as priests, but the collars and jackets certainly changed our attitudes. To cops we would now seem a lot more confident, a lot more normal.
My black suit fit well. Jim’s was a bit too short. “Well now, Fathers,” Father Dougherty said, “you look like a couple of rascals if ever I saw them.” He showed us the priestly blessing. “People will ask for it, so be ready to give it. God will forgive you for this little impersonation, since it’s in a good cause,” he said. Then he drove us to Union Station and blessed us himself. “Take my advice and buy your tickets on the White Zone trains.” He laughed. “I sound like a broken record, I know. But please. For your own sakes.”
We thanked him and said good-bye.
There was an atmosphere of subdued intensity in Union Station. Along one wall of the waiting room, a high cyclone fence enclosed a makeshift holding area. In it, the morning’s suspects sat on benches, most of them going through their purses and wallets before they appeared before the examiners to verify their right to be in California. These were people who had gotten through the P.O.E. nets, only to be tripped up just when they must have thought they were free.
It does not take long for such scenes to seem normal.
We bought tickets on the Coast Daylight, which was leaving for Oakland in thirty minutes, and sat ourselves down in the Green Zone waiting area with our tickets showing from our top pockets, like everybody else. The economy sections of the train were already full, so we were forced to buy First Class Ultras, which are four times as expensive as normal coach seats. We consoled ourselves with the thought that a police spot check of two priests in the VIP cars was unlikely.
Documents from the Acting Presidency
I believe we must adjourn this meeting to some other place.
ON THE ROAD
The federal government has been in transit since Warday.
Though diminished in size, it is still a complex institution. Because the current President has not been legitimized by the ballot, he considers himself more a caretaker than a leader.
For example, he would not grant me an interview on the premise that it would not be in keeping with his “custodial” role, as he described it. Acting President White is in office simply because he was vacationing at Key Largo on Warday, and had the good sense to stay there for a month rather than attempting to return to Washington. He was Undersecretary of the Treasury, and as such was the highest federal official to both survive the war and agree to serve as President.
I have collected here a sampling of the sort of documents that might cross the President’s desk on a given day. They reflect, more than anything, a government trying to grapple with what happened to it, and to identify the direction of the future.
There was resistance to my getting these documents. Even some recently appointed federal officials are nervous that there will eventually be trials. I think not. I suspect that the people are beyond placing the details of blame.
When I found resistance to my requests, I reminded my contacts that the government has a long tradition of disclosure. The present bureaucracy is very concerned with traditions, right down to the painting of the few government cars with the exact L.A. motor-pool designations they would have had before the war, and the meticulous use of the old bureaucratic forms for every functional detail.
These three documents are about the one effect of Warday that is hardest to grapple with—in a way, the most consistently surprising effect: radioactivity.
It is what worries the acting President the most.
TO: CHARLES F. DURRELL, JR.
Assistant to the President for Emergency War Affairs
FROM: Winston Sajid
Chairman, Committee on Long-Term Effects
National Security Agency
DATE: 30 March 1992
SUBJ: 12th Report on Atmospheric Effects
Concurrent studies by U.S. and United Kingdom task forces suggest a continuing deterioration of stratospheric conditions.
Specifically, there has been an observed depletion or thinning of the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere. Studies conducted in the summer of 1988 have been used as a baseline measure. A full report on all aspects of atmospheric deterioration is complex, but for purposes of summary it can be reported that an overall depletion of approximately 14 percent has occurred in four years.
It must be emphasized that while a further depletion might be expected in future years, it is not possible at this time to project a statistical trend with any certitude. Such a trend is difficult to predict because (1) little data were collected for approximately 18 months following the war, until atmospheric studies were resumed by the U.K. and other Western European nations; and (2) such a dramatic change in ozone levels is unprecedented and existing mathematical models are not sophisticated enough to consider all the variables.
Data are presently being gathered to document the observed increases in skin cancers, increased propensities to skin burns and rashes, and the most significant ecological effects, such as the warming trends at the North and South poles, the disappearance of some subtropical vegetation, and the global depression in crop production.
At this time, the American-based U.K. atmospheric teams are preparing a series of high-altitude rocket surveys, as well as completing, with the University of Tokyo’s Atmospheric Research Laboratory, a multivariate computer model designed to calculate long-term ozonal changes.
The President will be informed as soon as this Agency has had a chance in the next six months to review the results of these studies.
* * *
REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT
PROJECTED LONG-TERM RADIATION EFFECTS AS A RESULT OF THE OCTOBER 1988 WAR
PREPARED BY THE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY
DECEMBER 7, 1992
On December 1, 1992, the Livermore National Laboratory completed a six-month effort to assess existing studies on the long-term radiation effects of the October 1988 war. Data from this study were then used to calculate the somatic and genetic effects that can be expected over the next 35 to 40 years. Using information from European and Japanese sources, the study was also able to assess long-term radiation effects on areas (1) outside of the United States affected by fallout, and (2) within the Soviet Union as a result of the American counterattack.
BACKGROUND OF THE ATTACK
The Soviet attack in October 1988 was directed against three urban centers (New York, Washington, D.C., and San Antonio, Texas) and against the operational SAC bomber bases and ICBM fields located in four upper Central and Western states (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota). It is believed that some 300+ megatons (MT) of effective yield were realized in this attack. The Soviets employed a strategy against urban centers of detonating their weapons at a height of some 7,000 feet, which was clearly intended to heighten the range of destruction.
Against military targets they employed a mixed strategy of airbursts against airbases and groundbursts against hardened missile silos. Airbursts and groundbursts above cities appear to have averaged some 10 MT each.
It should be remembered that impacted areas remain highly radioactive for a period of time, although considerable radioactive decay will occur within the first 30 days. Fallout, however, continues over an extended period of time. While lethal doses of radiation may not occur, sublethal doses have been common; most of this fallout, sufficient to have caused considerable injury, was material deposited in the troposphere and brought down to earth over a period of weeks, largely by rain.
Some fallout was placed into the stratosphere, where it will continue to fall to earth over a period of years. Radioactive elements such as strontium 90 and carbon 14 have particularly long lives and pose the greatest danger over the long term.
Our projections for long-term radiation effects are perhaps most affected by the fallout of these dangerous elements.
PROJECTED LONG-TERM EFFECTS FROM RADIATION
Given the nature of the Soviet attack, the targets, calculated MY yield, and existent and projected fallout, the following somatic and genetic effects can be anticipated in the United States alone over the next 35–40 years:
|Abortions due to chromosomal damage||1,500,000|
|Other genetic effects||4,500,000|
These same effects, considered for the Northern Hemisphere (concentrated between 30 degrees and 60 degrees North Latitude) for the same time period, are as follows:
|Abortions due to chromosomal damage||850,000|
|Other genetic effects||3,000,000|
The estimated effects on the Soviet Union as a result of the American attack, over the same time period, are as follows:
|Abortions due to chromosomal damage||1,750,000|
|Other genetic effects||2,000,000|
These projections, of course, do not include those individuals killed either during the attack or shortly thereafter.
* * *
PRESIDENTIAL BRIEFING PAPER
National Security Council
Committee on Long-Term Radiation Effects
August 27, 1992
The Committee on Long-Term Radiation Effects was asked by the Executive Office on August 1, 1992, to prepare a summary of information available on the physiological and related socio-psychological effects observed to date in victims of the nuclear bombings of 1988, especially on those effects caused by or related to radiation. Further, we were asked to report wherever possible on data for both the United States and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, scientific information is largely unavailable from the Soviet Union. Secondary observations from visiting European teams suggest, however, that long-term trends observed here in the United States are generally comparable to trends believed to exist in the USSR. It is not the intention of this summary report to describe political developments, as more complete studies of the subject are available from other government agencies.
The Committee wishes to stress from the outset that while this report summarizes a considerable body of evidence, based on classic prewar studies as well as on American and British studies undertaken since 1988, only major trends are reported here. Contemporary studies, for example, have been conducted only during the last three years, although some five years have passed since Warday. It must be noted that the full, long-term consequences of massive radiation dosages cannot be known completely at this time; this is particularly true of genetic effects.
As requested, this report will address presently observed trends in physiological/genetic injuries caused by war-related radiation exposure. Where appropriate, however, related socio-psychological effects also will be described. It is important to note that these data describe only survivors of the attack.
The single most dramatic trend observed to date is in the inordinate number of radiation-induced neoplasms, or cancers, from some 30 percent nationwide before the war to almost 60 percent today. Studies conducted by the National Centers for Disease Control in the Washington , D.C., zone, and by the joint American-British Radiation Effects Teams in the South Texas zone, provide the most comprehensive evidence to date that perhaps as much as 90 percent of the affected populations in both zones suffer to some degree from radiation-induced cancers. Of this population, depending upon radiation dosage (both short and cumulative), more than 60 percent have experienced malignant neoplastic diseases. Skin tumors are perhaps the most common, followed by lung, stomach, breast, and ovary/reproductive organs. The prewar cancer rate for the entire population, excluding cancer of the skin, was perhaps 30 percent; of that population, some 15–18 percent died. Exposure to radiation at the 150–200-rem level, however, effectively doubles the rate of cancer. Studies conducted after Warday suggest that more than half of the population in or near bombed areas suffered rem exposures at the 350–500 level. Aerial surveys of the Texas and New York zones suggest that individuals as far away as 2.5 miles from GZ [Ground Zero] experienced exposure levels of 100–150 rems. Those individuals two miles from GZ probably received exposures in the 500-rem level. Demographic correlates, therefore, suggest that in these two urban zones alone, more than 35 million persons experienced radiation levels sufficient to cause cancer. Correcting for those killed instantly and those who died within the first six months, some 15 million persons have now, or can be expected to have, malignancies.
Related to the dramatic rise in cancer rates is the substantial rise in leukemia, of which granulocytic leukemia is perhaps the most frequently observed. Consequently, there has been a dramatic rise in related blood diseases.
While cancer and leukemia represent the most dramatic radiation-disease trends, it must be remembered that radiation fundamentally attacks the cellular system of the body. This occurs because ionizing radiation creates changes in individual cells. When sufficient changes occur, the individual organ ceases to function properly. Cells of different types, and therefore different organs, have varying levels of radio-sensitivity. Consequently, all of the following organs are susceptible, in descending order of sensitivity:
• lymphoid tissue and bone marrow
• epithelial tissues, such as the ovaries and testes and the skin
• blood vessels
• smooth and striated muscles
• differentiated nerve cells
Nerves in general are the most resistant to radioactivity, although the nerves of embryos and of the adult cerebellum are exceptions and are quite sensitive.
The incidence of non-vision-disturbing lens opacities, or cataracts, also has increased markedly. These cataracts are similar to those reported in cases where individuals have experienced an overexposure to X-rays or gamma radiation. Fast neutrons are generally regarded as the primary source of this disease. It is suspected that cataracts of the type observed are caused by exposure to radiation dosages of 300 rems or more. Although firm data are not available, extrapolations of observed sample populations suggest that between 12 and 15 percent of the population, or ten million persons, have or will develop radiation-induced cataracts. It is not known at this time what percentage will require surgical treatment.
1.3 SKIN DISEASES
Skin diseases, in addition to the neoplasms described above, are largely related to radiation burns, usually caused by beta particles. Skin diseases caused by fallout can be from beta and/or gamma radiation.
Diseases of this sort range from sensations of “burning” to skin discoloration, lesions, ulcers, formation of keloids, or overgrowths of scar tissue, epilation or baldness, and atrophied limbs or whole portions of body surfaces.
Again, although hard data are not available, statistical projections based on observed samples suggest that some 75 million persons are or can be expected to be infected with varying degrees of skin diseases.
It is important to note that the substantial areas of the United States still designated Dead, Red, or Orange Zones for their varying radiation levels almost certainly guarantee a continuing population of afflicted individuals. Those populations located adjacent to radioactive zones come into contact regularly with objects or contaminants of one kind or another that either engender first-time exposures or form part of the cumulative exposure so frequently reported by local and regional medical centers. Radioactive foodstuffs are a continuing source of contamination, as are objects “looted” from restricted or forbidden areas. The greatest single source of “new” radiation, however, is that dropped by atmospheric fallout. Fission products such as cesium 137 (half-life of 30.5 years), strontium 90 (half-life of 27.7 years), and carbon 14 (half-life of 5,760 years) are perhaps the most important contributors to long-term radioactive exposures. Their effect upon skin diseases is more ascertainable; their effects on internal systems are unknown and therefore merit close medical study.
1.4 GENETIC ALTERATIONS
It is well documented that exposure to radiation in measurable amounts causes changes in the hereditary components of reproductive cells. Observations of nuclear industry workers, as well as of the victims of World War II atomic bombings, confirm these effects in future generations. However, none of these prewar populations were exposed to such high and continuing levels of radiation as have been the populations of the United States and the Soviet Union. Genetic mutations have been noted in both countries and in adjacent countries where radioactivity is present through fallout in abnormal counts.
The process of genetic alteration is very complex and beyond the scope of this report. Full implications of genetic changes are not known and will not be known for multiple generations, although some ten million people in the United States are expected to be affected during the next 25–35 years. The following observations, however, serve to illustrate the extreme changes that have already occurred. Until extensive studies are completed, it is impossible to differentiate between those genetic changes caused by minor radiation exposures (0 to 250 rems, for example) and changes caused by higher levels of exposure (250 to 500 rems). Also, it is presently impossible to understand the differing effects of radiation absorbed all at once or cumulatively, in terms of resultant generatic alterations.
In summary, then, the following genetic trends have been observed in individuals exposed to varying levels of radiation:
• increased rates of sterility of 65 percent
• increased rates of abortions caused by chromosomal damage of 27 percent
• increased rates of stillbirths to 35 out of every 100 births
• increased rates of children born with physical handicaps of 57 percent
• specific increase of 32 percent in frequency of children born with varying levels of mental retardation
• increased rate of 28 percent in infant deaths
• increased rates of 25–30 percent of chronic susceptibility to disease in young children born after Warday, especially to respiratory and cardiac diseases
1.5 NONSPECIFIC SCLEROSING SYNDROME
While not necessarily induced by radiation exposure, Nonspecific Sclerosing Disease, or NSD, is noted more frequently in individuals, and in populations as a whole, that have been exposed to radioactivity, especially in populations adjacent to contaminated areas. Early symptoms include parched skin, mostly on the chest or abdomen, and the development of lumpy swellings over the surface of the body. Lack of appetite or anorexia follows, often complicated by difficulty in breathing.
Eventually there is a collapse of the internal organs. Very little is known about NSD. The origin of the disease and its etiology are little understood. It is perhaps trauma-related, although individuals almost always have had exposure to radiation above 100 rems. There appears to be no treatment at this time, and the fatality rate varies between 70 and 100 percent among those who contract it.
There is a whole family of medical conditions related to the shock and trauma associated with nuclear war. Much has been written about the broad sociological changes that have occurred in the last five years, especially regarding individual and societal perceptions of national and international government, long-term security, possibilities for international accord, and fundamental changes in relationships between individuals at all levels of society. This report, however, is concerned with effects of a more physiological nature.
In both child and adult populations there is a marked increase in general susceptibility to disease. No doubt this susceptibility is influenced by stress, lack of suitable diet or caloric intake, and depressed metabolic levels. Continuing unsanitary conditions in or near War Zones are another major contributor to high levels of illnesses such as influenza and dysentery.
There is an increase in the number of persons displaying high levels of depression, dysphoria, unprovoked fears, etc.
Also, there is an increase in the number of persons exhibiting pronounced and chronic shock and disorientation. In some cases this condition, if severe enough, produces abnormal and often violent reactions to ordinary stimuli. It is estimated that some 10–15 million persons exhibit permanent disorientation. It is believed that this condition is a major factor in the large nomadic sub-populations that live on the fringes of the War Zones.
It should be mentioned here that a considerable portion of the population demonstrates varying degrees of phobic reactions to real or imagined radiation. There is a very pervasive fear of radioactive contamination, which has led to excessive countermeasures, such as over-strict local or regional laws. This abnormal fear is present even in “safe” areas such as California and the Northwestern states.
Other conditions, also believed to be trauma-induced, include marked increases in the reported rates of impotence, baldness, and a range of “sympathetic” ailments in individuals with little or no exposure to radiation.
Less than five years have passed since Warday. While the full long-term implications of radioactivity are not known with certainty, sufficient trends have emerged to provide a disturbing portrait of surviving American society. The Committee recognizes that while the full effects of nuclear war are many, it is clear that the United States will have as a major concern, for many decades to come, the treatment of radiation-related diseases.
Both the Executive and Legislative branches of government should place their highest priority on the care and treatment of those members of the population who have suffered, or will suffer, the lasting effects of this war. The evidence is sufficient to document the alarming rise in human systemic illnesses; the effects upon the newly born and upon generations to come are even more disturbing.
Coast Daylight to San Francisco
The Super Chief, the Broadway Limited, the Twentieth Century—these legendary trains came to mind as the sparkling Coast Daylight left Union Station and picked up speed past the Los Angeles County Jail. Soon we were heading toward Santa Barbara and the north.
We were on a super deluxe train—or at least in the super deluxe part of it, in a beautifully refurbished Superliner observation car. It was decorated in tan, with luxurious club-style seating and a view of the California coast so spectacular that we almost missed the appetizer tray.
“Father,” the tan-uniformed waiter said, leaning forward to present me with an array of shrimp, oysters, crab claws, and raw vegetables to go with my Bloody Mary.
These wonders were part of the ticket price—a hefty eleven dollars. Lunch in the spacious and spotless dining car behind us was included as well. I suppose we could even have taken the roses on the table, had we wanted them.
Also included, as it turned out, was conversation with Mr. Tanaka, a Japanese rail official, who happened to be sitting beside us, watching the passing view of the ocean.
On our train trip to Needles, people had not been willing to talk much. But that was another world. Those were refugees; here in the first-class section of the Coast Daylight were the new prime movers, and they were not afraid to speak their minds.
“This train’s barely doing sixty,” Mr. Tanaka scoffed, apparently his way of starting a conversation.
“How do you know that?” Jim asked. I saw him turn on his recorder.
“Simple. Each rail is thirty-three feet long. Each ‘click’ you hear means one rail. I count the number of clicks over sixty seconds and thus calculate the train’s speed.”
“Are you a trainman?”
Mr. Tanaka gave Jim a card that read
H. TANAKA, TECHNICAL DIRECTOR,
NIPPON-AMERICA INTERNATIONAL RAIL CORP.,
1130 SUNLAND BUILDING, LOS ANGELES.
“I’m Father William,” Jim said. “This is Father Brown.”
We exchanged handshakes. “What’s a Japanese railroad man doing here in California?” I asked.
“Ah, a great deal. This is the land of opportunity. Things need to be done here! We’re working with your government to create the most modern train system in North America. L.A. to Oakland in an hour and twenty minutes, and that includes a five-minute stop in Bakersfield. How do you like that?”
“It’s because of a revolutionary new transport system we call a magnetic-cushion tube train. Top cruising speed potential of five hundred miles an hour. Of course, this run is too short to reach that speed. But one day we’ll be going all the way to Seattle. Then you’ll see some speed.”
“What about air travel? Aren’t planes coming back?”
“Don’t talk to me about the competition! I’m telling you, we can move more people faster and with greater efficiency than the best airline in the world. Our energy costs are thirty percent less than the most efficient jet engines now under development back home. Planes can never compete.”
“But all those miles of track—”
“Prefabricated above ground tunnel segments with magnetic cushions inside. Built in Japan very cheaply and shipped here for easy installation. The roadbed is a circular magnetic field in the tunnel. The train floats in it. Our cost per mile is about three million gold, and if California can’t get the money directly, it can find a way to obtain it from the Feds.”
It seemed a lot to me.
“This thing is creeping,” Tanaka scoffed. “Bullet trains do better at home with dead birds on the windshields.”
“How long have you been in the United States?”
“Since 1990. I’ve got my whole family here now. We bought a house in Beverly Hills last year. Lovely house. Pola Negri used to live there. Or maybe Theda Bara, we’re not sure. We are redoing the gardens and installing a complete computerized home security system. It’s lots of fun, because such huge houses are unobtainable in Japan.”
“How do you find working here?”
“I love it! There’s so much to be done. A whole new world is being built in this country, and it’s starting with California.”
“Do you approve of California’s immigration policies?”
“Not my business. I’m a foreigner. My interest is in getting people from place to place fast. I don’t care why they make their journeys.”
“How about the rest of the country? Have you done any traveling?”
“Well, Japan Air lines operates an all-America tour, but we haven’t taken it I don’t want to fool around with radiation.” He lifted his left hand. Two of the fingers were grown together, a thick stump. “My mother was at Nagasaki.” There came silence between us. “The road can be very hard,” he said at last. “This we Japanese have learned.”
After a moment he settled back, contemplating the black cliffs and the slow blue sea.
The Daylight reached Oakland at 8:36 in the evening. As soon as we got off the train I went to a phone booth and called my one contact in the area, a writer named Quinn Yarbro, whom I had known before the war.
Quinn wrote historical novels back when such things were popular. I haven’t seen her name on anything in the Doubleday bookstore in Dallas in years, so I had no idea what had happened to her.
There seemed to me a risk in using long distance in California, so I had delayed trying to call her until we were actually here. I dialed the last number I had for her.
After five rings an older woman answered. “Yarbro Locators,” she said.
“May I speak to Quinn, please?”
“This is she. May I help you?”
“Quinn? This is Whitley.”
“Oh God, where are you calling from?”
“Oakland. I just came up from L.A. I have a friend with me. We’re doing a book on America together. We’re here to see San Francisco.”
“Whitley, this is—I mean, I’m in the locating business, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised—but—”
“I lived, Quinn.”
“Oh God, Whitley, I assumed—with you in New York and all.”
“We’ve been living in Dallas. Anne and Andrew too.”
She told us to take the BART to Market and Powell in San Francisco. “I—well, I’ll wear something recognizable. If I must, a blue fedora.”
“Quinn, we’re dressed like priests.”
“Ah. Okay. Shall I expect to pray?”
“Just look for two middle-aged priests with backpacks.”
“I’m sure I won’t have any trouble. And you can forget the darned fedora. I’ll find you.”
We traveled on BART for fifteen cents. The highest fare is a quarter, the lowest a penny. The trains are jammed and not particularly frequent, but they work. Like so many things in California, much EMP-related damage sustained by BART has been repaired.
There are ticket clerks, however, instead of computerized machines, and my impression was that the trains were directly controlled by their motormen rather than by a central computer. I noticed signal lights along the tracks much like those in the old New York subway system.
Even past nine at night, the Powell Street station resounded with the footsteps of a swarming crowd. Like Los Angeles, the San Francisco area has sustained a massive population influx in the past few years—despite the efforts of the immigration police.
“Hello, Father Whitley.”
She was older, very much older. “Quinn.” There were tears at the corners of her eyes. Finding old friends alive hurts. It is a pain one at once seeks and fears. I embraced Quinn. I touched her hair, which was still red but struck with gray. Her eyes, looking at me, were wide. Jim stood nearby, silent, not intruding, waiting.
“Quinn, this is Jim Kunetka.”
“Simply Jim. This is a disguise.”
“I’m glad. You both look too thin to be priests. I’d peg you as robbers.”
“Is there much crime in California?” Jim asked, ever the newsman.
“More than before the war. People are so desperate. We have rich and poor and not much in between.”
“It looks so good.”
“It’s still got the best weather in the world, anyway.”
“Quinn, we’re fugitives.”
She laughed. “I gathered that. You want to get off the street?”
She offered to put us up at her apartment on Russian Hill. We rode the Powell-Hyde cable car for two cents each. There was an “I Stop at the St. Francis” sign on the front of the car, and the familiar yellow destination sign: Powell & Market, Hyde & Beach. We had to hang on all the way. The gripman was a master with his bell, and he needed to be—the streets were jammed with pedestrians. On the way, Quinn asked if we’d eaten dinner. We had not.
Lunch on the train had seemed sufficient for a month. I can remember very long periods of my life without so much food. And the freshness of it was unforgettable, as was the menu: lima beans cooked in real butter, a thick lamb chop with the juice running in the plate, mashed potatoes with pan gravy, an endive salad, two different wines, and, for dessert, frozen pecan balls.
It is no wonder that people are willing to risk prison to come to California.
Despite the danger of the streets, we could not resist seeing if we could tuck in a dinner in Chinatown. I thought at once of a certain restaurant. “Dare I ask if Kan’s is still there?”
“Kan’s is still there.”
We hopped off the cable car and went looking. Kan’s had not changed at all. The restaurant had opened in 1936, and it retains the comfortable spaciousness of former times. If I was impressed by lunch on the train, I was delighted by dinner here, even though I couldn’t eat much. A stomach used to a simpler diet cannot adjust quickly to the richness of California food.
In a way, being at Kan’s made me sad. Anne and I had taken five days in San Francisco in the summer of ’87. Andrew was at camp and we flew out for the chance to be alone together, to see a few good friends, to enjoy the city. It was our last vacation, and we had our last meal in San Francisco at Kan’s.
Over dinner, the three of us traded lives. As soon as Quinn understood what we were doing, she had an idea. “I know a man you’ll want to interview. If you’re trying to understand things, he’s somebody who probably knows. He’s an economist, and he teaches at Berkeley. He’s also somebody I love. He’ll be over to the apartment in the morning. You can meet him then.”
Neither of us had heard of Dr. Walter Tevis. I doubt, however, that we will ever forget him.
I asked her what she was doing. “I’m a gumshoe,” she said.
Jim went pale. I was stunned. It wasn’t possible that we were in the hands of the police.
“I’m not a cop,” she said, “so you can redirect some blood into your faces. I find lost people. I’ll try to locate anybody you’re missing. If I succeed, I get a fee.”
“You must be incredibly busy,” I said.
Jim leaned forward. “My wife—I lost her in Austin right after Warday.” His face was suddenly sharp, his eyes boring into Quinn’s.
“Give me her name and description and last known address. I’ll see what I can do. It might take some time, you understand.”
Jim gave her the information.
After dinner she took us to her apartment, on a hidden Russian Hill byway called Keys Alley. “I warn you, I still have cats,” she said as she let us into the single cluttered room. A huge red furball came up and began protesting.
The room was jammed with the tools of her trade. There were stacks of old telephone books from dozens of cities, city directories, maps, old newspapers, census tracts, Zip Code directories, copies of birth certificates in lettered stacks, card files and Rolodexes identified by colored tags, and hundreds and hundreds of photographs in thick black albums.
I could see how she carried out her trade, working from the telephone and through the mails. It must have been a frustrating and difficult job.
“Sorry about the mess.” She sat down. She looked, then, very small and tired and somewhat lost herself. “A lot of people are missing,” she said.
Jim and I slept on the floor. Just as I was dropping off, the cat woke me by flopping down on my face. I moved it aside and sat up.
The little room was quiet. Quinn was a shadow on her couch. On the table beside her was a Princess telephone attached to an answering machine whose power lamp glowed red. I wondered how she managed. She must be besieged with clients. Names and names and names.
A trapped feeling came upon me and made me get up and put on my collar and my black suit and go out to get some night air.
Keys Alley was silent, lit through the leaves of trees lining the street. Music drifted in the dark, a radio playing an old, old song I could not name, but which drew me back to childhood summer nights, watching my bedroom curtains make shadows on the walls and listening to my parents and their friends talking in low voices under the trees outside, talking of the cares of forty years ago, Truman and the cost of the Marshall Plan and Stalin’s health.
I stepped softly as I left the silent alley. I went up Pacific Street to the crest, then turned and looked down across the roofs of Chinatown to the Bay. The view is not one of San Francisco’s most spectacular, but it satisfied me. Far out in the Bay I heard foghorns beginning to sound above the subdued rumble of the city.
The hour was late; midnight had come and gone.
Slowly, nearer horns started sounding. A fog was coming through the Golden Gate. Soon I could see it slipping up the streets and across the roofs, dulling lights, drawing the dark close around me.
When it swirled up Pacific, cold and damp, transforming crisp night sounds to whispers and making me shudder with the cold of it, I returned to the stuffy little flat and the sounds of Quinn and Jim sleeping, and the cat purring.
Sometime in the night the phone gave half a ring and the answering machine clicked. I heard a voice talking quickly into the recorder, quickly and endlessly, droning, filling my sleep with a tale of loss I no longer remember.
Walter Tevis, Economist
What happened to the economy on Warday was quite simple. Six out of every ten dollars disappeared. The Great Depression of the thirties was caused by the stock market crash of 1929, when three out of ten dollars ceased to exist. Simultaneously, we lost the ability to communicate. We lost all our current records. Chaos was inevitable. We’re fortunate that the continuing deflationary process hasn’t been worse.
All the money that was somehow in process in the computer systems of the government and private banks simply ceased to exist because of electromagnetic disruption or, in the case of Washington, permanent and total destruction. That was about one dollar in ten, but it was all hypercritical money, because it was in motion.
It was the liquid cash, what people were using to pay other people.
The other thing that happened was that records were thrown into chaos. Records that had survived, but only on magnetic media, might as well have been destroyed because they couldn’t be read.
The destruction of the computers was exactly like the failure of a nervous system in a body. All of a sudden there were no messages getting through. The body lost contact with itself. Storage companies such as the Iron Mountain Group preserved a great deal of data in underground facilities. Without the machines stored underground, as a matter of fact, there wouldn’t have been a single functional computer left in the United States after Warday. The wisdom of those storage and preservation programs is now obvious. Without them, for example, there couldn’t have been the gold distribution of ’90. Even so, most people had only about fourteen percent of the dollar value of their prewar cash holdings restored.
Between the cash lost in transit and the inaccessible records, we were out about three dollars in ten. The collapse of Social Security, Medicaid, and the whole federal entitlement system meant another two dollars gone when those checks stopped arriving from Washington. The loss of the rest of the federal budget was another dollar gone. In a few hours the cash economy of this country was more than cut in half.
And there was more to come, of course. This sudden loss of cash meant that thousands of banks and businesses were bankrupt. But they were also without the means to communicate, or the records to communicate about. So people didn’t get paid, or if they did, the banks couldn’t cash their checks, and the next thing we knew, most nonessential businesses were shutting down.
Add to that the complete anarchy that reigned in the stock market, with people frantic to escape New York City and the electronic records in mayhem and the sell orders roaring in—it meant the end of Wall Street, essentially.
The next thing was the calling in of loans by foreign banks. In the mad scramble to leave the dollar, the whole delicate Eurocurrency market trembled and then collapsed.
By this point the state of the world monetary system made the Great Depression look positively healthy.
It will take years to recover. It’s a funny thing that before the war the great economic bugaboo was inflation. God knows, deflation can be worse. Money’s so damned hard to get because there’s so little of it around. I’d rather work an hour for twenty inflated dollars than a day for fifty deflated cents! And in terms of buying power per hour worked, we Americans are operating at about a sixth of the prewar efficiency level, meaning it takes six times as long as it did before the war to earn the same amount of buying power.
You’d better believe that goes for economists, too!
I was vacationing on St. Bart’s on Warday. I’d been there for three days and planned to stay another eleven. A few days after the war, the police rounded up all the tourists and put us aboard a passing cruise ship, the Canberra. There was a great deal of trouble. The Canberra wasn’t prepared to take on over a thousand extra passengers. The first thing that happened that made this feel like a war was that a man refused to leave the police launch he was in. He said he had rights; he had prepaid his vacation. The police threw him into the water and sailed off.
That, more than anything, brought home to me the fact that the world had changed. We were not affected by EMP, so we still had radios. We were glued to them, listening mostly to the BBC. There was this curious, terrifying silence across most of the dial. The United States was silent. Cuba was silent. The BBC reported massive fires in New York and Washington, and said that flights from England had been forced to return without landing because of unsettled conditions in other American cities.
My daughter was in school at Colgate. My wife was at our home in New York. At that time I was working for the Chase Econometric Institute, forecasting flow of money, which is my specialty. I had taken some time off to be alone and to think about the consequences of the massive IMF refunding that had been proposed the week before by the Saudis. This was critical to Chase because it affected the viability of our Nigerian loans, and thus our whole African exposure. Not only that, our failure to support the proposal could call into question our relationship with the Saudis.
But with free-market oil soft at twenty-two dollars, and the Mexican and Brazilian debt moratoriums creating cash-flow problems for the bank, we were concerned that we would not be able to sustain the additional loan demand the refunding would create.
So I was alone on an island with my computer and all the data I needed, quietly developing flow analyses and projections based on various cash/loan levels.
I never dreamed that the bank I worked for was about to become a part of history, and the computer I worked with worth considerably more than its weight in gold. My initial concern was just to get home. I kept thinking, standing at the rail of the Canberra on that warm October afternoon, feeling the reassuring hum of the ship beneath my feet, of my wife and daughter and that measured BBC voice saying, “New York is burning”. For some reason I just assumed the Russians had won. I felt that as an employee of a capitalist bank, I would not have much of a future.
I don’t want to go into my whole life story over the past five years. Suffice to say that it has been sad in some ways, but in others lucky. I have been preserved from the suffering and upheaval that have blighted so many lives. Of course, I lost my wife and daughter, but since I met Quinn here in San Francisco, I have found that I can contend with the hollowness inside me, and the awful sense of having deserted them. Quinn hasn’t been successful in finding them. In looking for them I found her, I guess.
The Canberra eventually docked at New Orleans. Since the war, I have not gone north of Atlanta. I put my name in the Red Cross National Finders, but nothing ever came of it. And of course, Quinn’s scoured the earth. Even so, I still look at the lists every month, when they post them in the Student Union. But Berkeley is a world away from the war.
Hell. I’m a goddamn coward, is what I am. My little girl could be anywhere and I’m afraid to go look for her. I’m so scared of radiation. Even while it’s killing you, you don’t know it’s there. I wake up in the night when the wind blows down from the mountains, thinking maybe some microscopic bit of plutonium from the Dakotas has found its way here, and is aiming for my lungs. I get these weird, nonspecific sicknesses. So I go to the Medical Center and they tell me I’m fine. Once I heard them showing a man on triage how to manage lung cancer by breathing steam!
I went to a psychologist. I went to an osteopath. I went to a witch.
Now listen, I’m really getting off on a personal tangent. I think in a sense that I’ve developed the habit of being a patient. Half the world is starving and I’m worried about my own damn guilt trip.
This interview method is cunning. You guys find the people who want to talk, don’t you, and then just let ’em rip. Get a man’s secrets right on disk.
What are you, a couple of State Intelligence or MI-5 types?
We’ve got both around Berkeley, believe me. The British are good friends to this country. The best friends. But they are also very interested in using the current crisis to solidify their international position, shall we say.
One thing I’m sure of. There will never be another United States as free, as powerful, as magnificent as there was before.
From a statistical standpoint, we regressed too far. Now outsiders can control how much reconstruction we do of our technological base industries, and thus make sure we stay just far enough behind not to be a threat. The tendency of Japan and Europe is to look upon the U.S. and Russia as two countries that went kind of mad. By 1980 or ’81, both nations were effectively insane. The accession of Reagan the actor and Andropov the human computer were the first sure symptoms of the war madness, according to the poolside theories of my friend Dr. Hideo Hayakawa, who is a psychopolitical theorist.
We have about a hundred and seventy-five million people in this country, and the death rate still exceeds the viable birth rate by two to one. So we’ve had a net loss of fifty-five million people.
That’s twenty million births and seventy-five million actual deaths.
We have lost as many people as there are in England. Yet look at the English. They’re all over the place. Two thousand British bureaucrats are running this country through the blind of the Relief, which is really a colonial government disguised as a sort of Red Cross with teeth. The provisional U.S. government in L.A. is gaining strength every day, but so far it’s mostly paperwork and planning.
The Capital Replacement Program, where the government prints money to replace the capital of corporations that lost it in the banking catastrophe, has been effective here in California, but so far it hasn’t spread beyond the borders. Thus we’re dealing with a three-percent inflation rate out here, which is really only reflation of the deflated currency, while the rest of the country is still deflating.
I recall my own personal sense of panic when I discovered that I had no money. None. Even my MasterCard was meaningless. My bank account was simply another lost record among billions of lost records. Our economy was electronically erased, really.
One of the great acts of economic heroism—which, as usual, nobody outside the profession understands at all—was the creation of the Gold Tier in the currency. Barker Findlay, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, is responsible for that idea. If he hadn’t been in Atlanta on Warday—if he had been in Washington—I hate to think about it.
We have experienced an economic situation with no known parallels. We’ve been in uncharted territory. At home we had dollar deflation due to scarcity, while abroad our currency was becoming as worthless as if it had inflated itself out of existence. So you had a situation where a house in the States might cost a thousand dollars, while in Italy, say, a thousand dollars wouldn’t buy a cup of coffee. This has hurt trade very badly. If it weren’t for the gold, we’d be dead in the water as a trading nation. But we’re doing pretty well—and out here on the Coast we’re beginning actually to thrive—because we’ve been able to pay in gold for foreign products. By the time the gold gives out, it’s to be hoped that we’ll have enough independent production to be able to offer goods for trade.
What we are doing is supporting ourselves on gold transfers to foreign companies. The National Mint in Atlanta makes all those beautiful double eagles we send abroad in return for the few and astronomically overpriced televisions and radios and computers the colonial powers will send us.
Around the economics faculty here, it’s popular to say that the undamaged powers need our markets. The hell they do. You didn’t see Belgium developing the Congo. They do not need our markets, they need our resources, and they will encourage American economic development just enough to get our agricultural system running on a stable base, and then they will put the brakes on.
Our First World friends want to develop their own technological economy without reference to us. They want America to be an agricultural nation. We supply the corn and wheat and soybeans and they give us an occasional stripped Toyota. And yet, we have the plant and equipment here. Detroit is three-fourths idle, but it didn’t get bombed. And EMP did not damage it that much. You can build cars without computers. Hell, we did just fine at it, right up until the seventies. So why aren’t the plants in Detroit running?
Oh, I’ll grant the flow from American plants out here on the Coast, but look at the cars—a mess. Plastic doors, for God’s sake. Look at the difference between a Chevy Consensus and, for example, a Leyland Star or a Toyota. It’s ridiculous. We don’t even have any chrome! And yet a Consensus costs more than a Toyota! You can get a Toyota 4xD Timbre for thirty gold dollars, but no paper currency accepted. A Consensus costs three thousand one hundred paper. With a hundred paper to one gold, that’s still a hundred dollars more for far less car. Of course, if you’re like most people, you can’t get gold to buy a Toyota, so you end up with the Consensus.
Now let’s see. What haven’t I covered? Ah yes, debt. The federal debt, of course, has ceased to exist, largely because of the failure of so many records. And the moratorium on remaining prewar debt will be made permanent within the year, in my opinion. Or at least restructured to new dollars. I mean, you can’t expect a man who earns a thousand dollars a year to pay off a hundred-thousand-dollar mortgage, can you? That would have to be pared down at least ten times. Besides, it’s unfair to a man whose debt records survived to penalize him with responsibility for them when another man, whose records were lost, gets off scot-free.
I wish you guys would talk to me. I know I agreed to do this solo, but I’m really very uncomfortable with two heavily disguised roadies sitting across from me with a very expensive-looking disk recorder, no matter if you’re Quinn’s friends or not. I don’t know what I’ve been saying. Maybe I’ve been a bit subversive. The British have been a tremendous help to us. So have the other Europeans. And the Japanese. I think we would have gone back to the barter level without access to their technology and services, and our economic efficiency would have declined too far to enable us to adjust to the continuing condemnation of farmland in the Midwest.
Famine would have become a permanent institution. And, just for the record, I adore California and if anything I may have said implied otherwise, it was a misstatement.
I think I can lay my hands on some figures. Yes—these come from the U.S. Census Bureau, by the way, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, extrapolated to 1991 from original 1987 data, and taking into account war damage.
First, to say that nobody understood the effects of EMP would be superfluous now. We lost, in about three seconds, approximately a hundred and fifty million television sets; five hundred million radios; ten million computers; three hundred million electronic calculating devices; fifty-six million electronic telephones; all television, radio, and microwave relay stations; all electronic business exchanges, such as stock and commodity exchanges; millions of electronic automobile ignitions; most electronically dependent aircraft, either crashed or permanently disabled; all communications satellites, either traversing or in geostationary orbit above the United States, Canada, and the USSR; and something on the order of two hundred trillion pieces of information held in computers.
The war burned down the electronic village, is what it did. What we had not understood was that our financial system depended on that village. All of our destinies were contained in fragile electronic superbrains, and so we have been deprived of destinies. I guess that’s the real point of war, isn’t it? To create intolerable deprivations and induce deaths.
Since the war we’ve been like a great lobotomized beast, flopping and struggling in the trackless void, unable to control or comprehend even the smallest shred of its own destiny.
After 1983 the government and many private companies began shielding against the highest level of EMP pulse they could, without spending intolerable sums. That was fifty to a hundred thousand megavolts, depending on the type of system being shielded.
So the Russians simply used larger bombs and tripled the power of the EMP pulse generated. A few extra warheads made billions and billions of dollars’ worth of shielding useless.
Because of the ease with which the pulse strength can be increased, EMP shielding is essentially impossible without a vast amount of investment and effort.
Before Warday, we were living in a dream world.
Christ, sometimes I think I’ll get up and just walk into the river. Thinking about what mayhem our little bitty nuclear war caused makes me crazy. For example, there’s this extraordinary place down the Coast. I know people who’ve been there. Undreamed-of technologies! A European preserve of ultimate luxury.
Shuttles to luxurious space stations we are told nothing about A new world, and we are being left out of it. I know people who say they’ve seen that port. Somewhere between here and Baja, I don’t know where. They want to send us back to the Stone Age so they can have the stars to themselves.
Oh no, that’s paranoia. Rumors. I doubt that the Europeans even have any space shuttles. They suffered too, economically.
I hear about this European plan to create zones in the United States. A British Zone, a German Zone, and so forth. I know that the federal government in L.A. is opposed to that sort of thing. But there’s never anything about forming a second Continental Congress and appointing a new electoral college. Or elections. They say we’re too electronically disorganized. The last time this nation had a population of a hundred and seventy-five million was 1955, and we managed to vote quite well then without computers. We had no four-lane interstate highway system then, but we traveled freely, and we had a thriving steel industry, a thriving auto industry, a powerful military, a strong and effective government, and a reasonably content population. Remember the Eisenhower years? You guys must have been kids then. There was no sense of dislocation. Not like now.
Of course, there’s the fact that we’ve had a war. But now these little European states are trying to tie down the giant with a million threads! After World War II, Germany and Japan were far more devastated than we are now, but we poured on the aid and they revived.
Oh, what the hell. You can’t blame them for being fed up with superpowers. All they probably want is to see the U.S. broken up into a number of small, independent nations. Can’t blame them, damn it.
You know, the problem with being a person like me, at the center of a big university economics department, is that I get too much low-grade information. Although I must say one thing, the British have been very free and open with their statistics. Also, we are beginning to see real bureaucratic reorganization in the U.S. government.
Now that I think of it, perhaps I’ve painted too black a picture.
I’m overwrought because I need facts in my profession, and I never get facts anymore. Conjecture. Rumor. Estimate. That’s my problem.
I think there is a panic state in this country so deep that people don’t even acknowledge it. Subconsciously we’re panicked, all of us, and some of us are worse than that. Some of us seem fine on the surface, but inside ourselves we are insane. Take that quack medical group, the Radiant Exercise people, the ones who expose themselves to radiation to acclimatize themselves. They’re mad.
Mad as hatters. And the Positive Extinctionists. And above all the Destructuralist Movement. That one’s really dangerous, because it’s so darned seductive. Give up. Live hand to mouth. Become a goddamn caveman. That’s what the Destructuralists are saying.
Despite all that has happened, I don’t think humanity would do a service to the planet by voluntarily rejoining the apes, which is what Destructuralism is really all about.
Another thing that’s mad is the movement in Europe to make us pay reparations. For what? Both combatant powers lost the war. By staying out, Europe won it. Now it turns out that the whole European peace movement, the Greens and such, were secretly supported by the very governments they were opposing, to give the Soviet Union the impression that Europe was too divided to be dangerous. Meanwhile, the Secret Treaties—you’ve heard about those? Don’t look at me with such blank faces! What are you, a couple of idiots? I’m not a political science professor. The English and the Germans and the French and probably the Italians and the Japanese all had secret treaties to the effect that in the event of a sudden and unexpected nuclear war between the two superpowers, they would seize American nuclear components on their soil. So the Russians had us isolated and didn’t even know it.
It’s pitiful. If they had but known, they wouldn’t have felt nearly so cornered by Spiderweb.
Let me tell you something. There’s a school of thought that the Europeans tempted the Soviets into getting trigger-happy by revealing those treaties to them and making the Western Alliance seem disastrously split. Their real purpose was to trick the superpowers into crushing one another. And they succeeded brilliantly.
We’re in a state of advanced confusion. And the Soviets! My God, from what I’ve heard, they’ve dissolved. We got a report from the London School of Economics to the effect that the Soviet’s Eastern European empire is gone. Poland, Rumania, Hungary renounced COMECON. Czechoslovakia broke off diplomatic relations with the Russians. Now the Czechs are under United German protection, whatever that means. Russia lost Moscow just the way we lost Washington. And there were those purple bombs in the Ukraine. Nobody knows what they were, but they killed every stalk of wheat, and now nothing will grow there. The LSE report estimates that the USSR has lost close to half of its population. It’s divided into republics, military areas, communist states, even a White Russian enclave. A madhouse of starving, diseased inmates that nobody can help. Then there’s China. India. Bangladesh. Do you know about them? About the fate of the world, my friends?
There has been a great reduction in the numbers of humanity on this planet.
When the fallout blew south and east out of the Dakotas, we lost most of the stored grain in the Midwest. And we had to abandon crops on about twenty-eight percent of our grain-planted acres. Smoke blotted out the sun for so long the temperature dropped in the Midwest. Add to that the cash crisis, the collapse of the banking system, the disruption of transport, and you have a net farm output down fifty-five percent by 1989. And in 1990 we dropped to thirty-eight percent of 1987 levels. Farm machinery broke down and spare parts were hard to get. People couldn’t get their land tested for radiation, and they abandoned it rather than breathe the dust of their own soil. You had hundreds of thousands of good acres abandoned, and then the great dust storms. That’s not over yet. That’s going to be a problem. If we don’t get in there and at least reseed the land with grass, we’re going to see the bare topsoil in the Midwest blowing all the way to the Atlantic and the Gulf. Of course, that would be the end of this country as a farming entity. We’d then have another famine.
The Agriculture Department is pushing hard to do this reseeding from the air. The trouble is, we can’t get enough grass seed!
There isn’t enough, not in all the world, to get cover on all the fallow acres before next spring. The past few years we’ve had long, wet winters. We’ve had dry springs, but not dry enough to cause more than local dust problems. But time is against us.
Let’s see now, which of my peeves and beefs haven’t I covered?
Well, there’s the state of the industrial economy. The fact that most Americans are traveling in trains when we could easily be flying. The fact that the Japanese will not provide us with the equipment to build microchips on our own. Short-term, that’s a sensible policy for them, but in the long run the vision of America as an agricultural society, industrially backward and politically castrated, just isn’t going to work.
We’re seeing one good thing, though, and so far it hasn’t been interrupted, except by Japan. This is the return of American technology from abroad. We’ve recently seen RCA’s whole Singapore and Taiwan manufacturing facilities returned. They’re in Los Angeles now, in twelve bonded warehouses, the equipment we need to start producing a whole new generation of computers on American soil. And we’ve kept our intellectual base intact. Our schools are still damn good. We’ve had IBM equipment returned from Europe, Pan Am and TWA planes from all over the world, U.S. military equipment coming back, all sorts of things like that.
But we could easily absorb millions of small computers, and hundreds of thousands of large ones. Not to mention radios and televisions in the hundreds of millions. Net import of televisions in 1991 was exactly six million units. You know what a Sony TV costs, of course. Ridiculous, that the average American would have to put in six months’ work to buy a television set—if he can convert his paper to gold. Of course, I understand the Japanese problem. They can’t possibly produce enough electronic equipment to satisfy U.S. needs. What’s more, we can’t afford it. All the gold we’ve got won’t be enough to rewire the electronic village.
By the end of this century, either Britain or Japan will be the most powerful nation on earth. I was taken to England last year.
The London School of Economics offered me a chair, with about triple my current salary, free medical care, and the same kind of life we were used to here before the war. Hell, I would have taken it if I hadn’t been such a stubborn old curmudgeon. I like these goddamn United States. My family emigrated from England to get work. The Golden Door. I am not going back, it’s as simple as that.
But my trip there was a hell of a surprise. First off, you have the Conservative Party and the Social Democrats. Labor is dead. The Liberals are a strong third. That is one vital, alive, active country. The Thames is jammed with shipping. The airports are full of planes. They’ve built a high-speed, magnetic-cushion train system between London and their various other cities. Planes, trains, cars.
I never saw so many Rolls-Royces and Bentleys in my life. My God, London is like some kind of a high-tech jewel. You can talk to your goddamn TV set to order goods and services. Talk to it!
I was shown the Royal Space Center, where they’re planning for eventual interstellar travel. They hope to reach Barnard’s Star, which they believe has an Earthlike planet.
I came home on Concorde II. Seven hours, London to San Francisco, and no sonic boom, not flying as high as it does. I came back to Berkeley. Back to my damned Consensus with the cracked rear window and the permanent pull to the right. I came back also to Quinn, and Russian Hill, and the slow process of rediscovering myself as a person and a Californian. Also an American, of course.
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
THE DAZZLE OF THE WEST
Long cars on long roads; restaurants and bars open round the clock; supermarkets that sell everything from toothbrushes to pasta machines pina coladas and pink silks compete with Coors and Steam Beer; enormous flounders served in light, bright, Muzaked restaurants; Pinot Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon; sun-bleached hair and the thick scent of Ray-Ban Coconut V Aloe.
America, in other words, ten years ago.
California today. But also: illegal immigration warnings posted on every wall and in every bus and trolley; Whitley and I on the run; holding camps and returnee camps and prison camps and four new gas chambers in San Quentin; military uniforms everywhere; black market Sony and Panasonic televisions; meatless Fridays and the wonderful red interurban trolleys; “finder” columns in the Los Angeles Timesand the San Francisco Chronicle; the Beach Boys; Meryl Streep defying the police by producing and acting in the banned play Chained.
I am dazed by California. Sometimes, walking the streets with Whitley, I get a joy in me, and I think to myself that the past is returning like a tide, and soon all will again be well. There is energy and movement here—danger too, of course—but there is a little of something else that I think is also an important component of the American spirit—frivolity. Not much, I’ll grant you, but it isn’t dead yet.
Of course, the place is also tension-ridden. In Los Angeles, militant Asian Returnists whose native countries won’t let them come back compete for barrio space with Chicanos and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from the other states. The American illegals are by far the worst off. Because they are de facto criminals, they are helpless and are ruthlessly exploited. The division between rich and poor is exceedingly sharp. Beverly Hills and Nob Hill glitter with Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benzes.
In California, the rest of the United States is thought of as a foreign country, poverty-stricken and potentially dangerous. The local press reports it only incidentally. A bus plunge killing a hundred in Illinois will appear at the bottom of page forty of a Times that headlines the discovery of strontium 90 in Anaheim.
It is possible to be greedy here. It is possible to be blind. Impressions:
A movie is being made at the corner of Market and Powell as we leave San Francisco—massive reflectors, Brooke Shields looking like a goddess as she steps from her air-conditioned trailer.
There are casting calls in Billboard West and The Hollywood Reporter Street-corner newsstands, which used to line up the porno papers, now feature half a dozen small-time political journals, state and Chicano separatist papers, the Aztlan Revolution, and Westworld and Ecotopia, the journals of two geographical separatist movements.
In California, more than anywhere else, you hear talk of dividing the United States. “California First” and “Forget the Rest” are common T-shirt slogans.
There is also a lot of radiation paranoia. Vendors commonly advertise their fruits as “radiation-free.” There are walk-in clinics where for fifteen cents you can get a whole-body scan or have objects checked. The government regularly warns people to avoid the black market because of the danger of contaminated goods from “abroad”—which must mean the rest of the United States.
Immensely wealthy Japanese move about in tremendous Nissan limousines with curtains on the windows.
You can buy all the Japanese and English papers: Asahi Shimbun in Japanese, English, and Spanish editions; the London Times and Express in English, and something called The Overseas Journal for British residents. It’s all about where to get English cars fixed in California, and how to avoid the embarrassment of old-fashioned American hairstyles by going to local branches of chic London salons.
I found it difficult and dangerous to get into state government offices to obtain documents. In fact, I couldn’t do it. But there were vast files of them at Berkeley, in the archives of university departments that shall go nameless. They reveal something about the inner structure of California’s immigration policies.
They say more than their authors realize.
* * *
009 1500 ZULU OCTOBER 89
FROM: CG U.S. ARMY COMMAND, Fort McPherson, Georgia
TO: 6th ARMY COMMANDER, The Presidio, San Francisco
Personal for CG Only
1. You are hereby authorized to deploy 7th Army personnel up to a strength of 7,600 as the Task Force for Civilian Migration Control.
2. This task force will assist federal and state governments in the control of civilian movement in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
3. This task force will be under military command but under the general jurisdiction of federal authorities associated with migration control as per the Emergency War Act. You are to establish appropriate interorganizational mechanisms for coordination purposes between military and government units.
4. You are reminded that the purpose of this command is to assist state governments in maintaining order and providing assistance in the distribution of food rations and other resources as part of the national recovery plan. The primary concern at present is the prevention of overpopulation of Western area states, but particularly California. You are further reminded of the temporary martial-law powers granted to the military under the Emergency War Act.
5. Task force personnel are to be deployed at critical points at your discretion, but including highway and rail traffic points and additional points where personnel and vehicular traffic require military control. Primary traffic centers should include the following:
Yuma, Highway IH-10
Junction IH-10 and H-60
Kingman, IH-40 and H-93
Cortez, H-666 and H-789
H-40 at Colorado-Utah border
Coeur d’Alene, IH-90
Boulder City, H-93
H-95 at California-Nevada border
5.5 NEW MEXICO
Tucumcari, IH-40 and H-54
Gallup, IH-40 and H-66
Lordsburg, IH-10, H-70, and H-90
St. George, IH-15
H-73 and H-50 at Nevada-Utah border
6. Personnel under your command should be instructed as to the nature and provisions of the present civilian relocation plan.
This instruction should remain current at all times as to appropriate federal/state documentation approving movement, including: (1) civilian mobility, including (la) authorized travel for individuals and/or families; (lb) relocation for same; and (lc) emergency movement authorizations; (2) military movement; and (3) U.S. government and/or foreign government personnel movement. Considerable falsification and misuse of stolen documentation permits are occurring. Wherever possible, cross-verification via TelNEI should be utilized. This is particularly true of permits issued to government personnel.
7. You should assist in the confiscation and/or disposal of contraband and/or quarantined materials. Relevant provisions regarding these items and materials are as per DOD 5020.17.
8. Task force personnel will be in place by 1300 ZULU 12 October 1989.
9. This order is in effect until further notice.
END OF MESSAGE
* * *
CONFIDENTIAL BY COURIER
STATE OF CALIFORNIA
TO: GOVERNOR MARK B. CAMPBELL
FROM: Harold White, Special Assistant
DATE: 21 March 1990
SUBJECT: Current Status of Illegal Immigration
As per your request of 15 March, I have reviewed all current migration statistics from the California Highway Department, the War Recovery Commission, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. All data suggest that California is exceeding its current immigration quotas from other parts of the U.S. by almost 550 percent!
Our best estimates are that some 1,500–1,800 persons a day enter the State, most of whom do so illegally. Our present monthly quotas, as you know, have been set by agreement with the federal government at 1,500 per month through the remainder of 1990. This figure does not include exempt positions in the technological fields, nor the temporary residence “visas” issued to federal government and military personnel and foreign government staff.
The Highway Department Special Study Group believes that most illegals enter through the Arizona and Nevada corridors, which, because of their comparative uninhabited status, remain difficult to patrol. Highway Department figures project that some 40–60 percent of illegals enter through these corridors. Another 10 percent enter by low-flying night aircraft from multiple directions.
As a result of this influx, there is an enormous drain on all city and county services throughout the State, including water, sewage, police, and power. It has been impossible to reduce (and certainly to eliminate) the size and number of “tent cities” within the State. You will recall that the troop strength for the Highway Patrol is five times its prewar size.
Despite federal objections, the states of Oregon and Washington have implemented far-reaching statutes to reduce immigration. They are presumably acting within the provisions of the Emergency War Act, which, while it does not permit states to refuse resettlement, does provide for “control” and “regulation.” I am continuing conversations with the California Attorney General’s Office in order to draft proposed legislation on this matter for the upcoming special session of the State legislature.
In the meantime, you may want to consider the following “emergency” steps authorized by the legislature and apparently permissible under the EWA:
Recommendation One: Authorize an immediate increase in State Highway Patrol troop strength by 3,000 for purposes of reinforcing border control.
Recommendation Two: Immediately authorize an investigation of special-entry permits. You should issue a concomitant order to “freeze” such permits except as approved by you.
Recommendation Three: Direct the California National Guard to increase migration support. You may want to authorize some temporary visa control.
Recommendation Four: Place a request before the legislature asking for an additional $11 million for war relief. As permitted by the EWA, some of these monies can be used for migration control as well as for intrastate relocation.
Recommendation Five: Accelerate deportation activities by eliminating second- and third-stage appeal steps. This will no doubt produce some outcry, although it might be offset by the reduced drain on utilities and services.
Your request for recommendations for control/reduction of displaced illegals in the state will be ready by the end of the month.
The Prison Bus
Jim had noticed that San Francisco International had flights by the dozens to every imaginable destination. The idea of getting a closer look at that airport fascinated us. Quinn objected so strenuously that we had to give her the slip. But we couldn’t very well visit the West Coast without obtaining a first-hand report of the condition of air travel in the area.
To make a long story short, if an illegal goes to the airport, said illegal is going to be caught.
The Immigration Police are a fearsome crew, especially when they appear out of nowhere, their dark glasses glittering, their scorpion faces expressionless, and say, “ID, please”. We were on the concourse, passing an exhibit of new Ford Americars when it happened. We hardly even had our wallets out before there were two military police trotting over, and another three cops.
The reason? We didn’t have stamped airline tickets “visible on our persons at all times,” to quote the regulation.
The cop put our cards into a processor about the size of a recorder. The alarm flashed green (no doubt to con the criminal into thinking he’d passed the test and thus prevent a struggle). We were made to stand against the wall and searched. Jim’s recorder and his precious box of diskettes were left alone. California actually wanted us to keep our possessions. They don’t want potential deportees to leave so much as a used toothpick behind to give them a possible reason to return to the state after they have served their sentences and been ejected.
We were marched out of the airport, past the long rows of ticket counters. Japan AirLines, All-Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay-Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Thai Airlines, British Airways, Caledonian, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Aer Lingus, Air Prance, South African Airways, Pan Am, TWA, Delta.
You can fly from San Francisco to Tokyo ten times a week, to London, Singapore, or Paris eight times, to Bonn five times, to Taiwan four times, to Milan twice.
There is no American city except L.A. with near the service.
New York, Washington, and San Antonio are not on the schedules, of course, and most other American cities are barely there.
You cannot fly from San Francisco to Minneapolis at all, but you can go nonstop to Buenos Aires on British Airways or Pan Am, twice a week.
Just being in that airport—despite the cops and the handcuffs—made me long for the magnificent ease of jet travel as I remember it. I even have dim recollections of flying in pre-jet days from San Antonio to Corpus Christi with my father, and the hostess handing out mint Chiclets in cellophane packets. I remember my amazement on learning we were a mile high. I feel equally amazed now that I am earthbound.
Things one took for granted never quite seem lost. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always assume that things will one day return to normal, which means life as it was in about 1984.
I remember when Hershey bars got bigger.
And the Ford Tempo, and Chinese restaurants with menus ten pages long, and they had it all.
I remember inflation, and how happy everybody was when it ended—and how unhappy when it started up again, right after the ’84 election.
And OPEC. I wonder if it still meets, and if the Israelis send representatives or allow their Arab client-states to continue the pretense of independent participation.
Walking along in that spit-and-polish gaggle of officers, I considered the idea of just breaking and running.
But I want to live. Badly.
Ticket clerks glanced curiously at us as we passed, and I thought of light on wings and how small the ocean seems from a jet.
I thought of the magical land of Somewhere Else.
They don’t have Immigration Police Somewhere Else.
They don’t have Red Zones and Dead Zones and British civil servants.
Somewhere Else the corn is always safe to eat and you don’t see cattle vomiting in their pens.
They never triage Somewhere Else, and they don’t write Bluegrams.
They don’t love each other as Anne and I do, either, not Somewhere Else, where the sky is clean and death is a hobby of the old.
Somewhere Else they assume that they have a right to exist and do not stop to consider that it may be a privilege.
California needs the rest of America. It must not be allowed to become a separate nation. If there is such a thing as a geopolitical imperative in our present society, it is to prevent this from happening. The current California immigration laws are an affront to the very memory of the Bill of Rights—and in most parts of this country it is much more than a memory.
We were taken to a holding pen right in the airport, an airless, windowless room jammed with miserable people and booming with fluorescent light.
We remained there, without food or water or access to counsel, for fifty hours. We slept as best we could on the black linoleum floor, entwined with the other captured.
I was the first to appear before the magistrate. He was a cheerful young man in a blue Palm Beach suit and one of the raffish gray panamas that California’s affluent class wear nowadays.
They are gray because they are dusted with lead.
He was perhaps thirty. “Let’s see, you’re one of the ones dressed as a priest. Funny. This is funny too: By the power vested in me by the state of California, I sentence you to two years at hard labor, to be followed by transportation out of state.” He banged a gavel. “Next case,” he said, absently shuffling papers.
My mouth was dry. I was too shocked to make a sound. Two years in prison, just like that. No jury, not even a chance to ask a question. And where was my lawyer? What the hell happened to my side?
I didn’t hear Jim’s sentencing, but I could see by his expression when we entered the prison bus, which was waiting at the far end of the main building, that he had been hit too. I held up my hand, indicating the number two. He nodded and held up first one finger and then another, then another.
Jim had done worse than I had; he was in for three years. Why the stiffer sentence? I found out later that he had asked the judge for a jury trial.
The bus was an old model with cyclone fencing welded into the windows. It rattled and shook along. There were ten of us, men as well as women, all handcuffed, seated on narrow steel benches.
When I realized that no guards were back here in the un-air-conditioned part of the bus, I began to talk.
“Maybe we can get word to someone in the federal government,” I said. “Perhaps they can help.”
Jim stared at me as if I had gone completely mad. “Look,” he said, “I’ve still got my recorder and my disks. Once we get to the prison, they’re going to be locked in a property room. Maybe stolen or erased.”
Obviously there was no time to fool around with government officials. “So we break out of the bus. How?”
“Not too hard, it isn’t very secure. I think they expect illegals to be passive. You remember how to fall?”
My mind went back to basic training. I had fallen then, often enough. “I guess so.”
“We’re gonna jump and hope for the best.”
“Jim, we’re wearing handcuffs.”
“That’s not much more of a problem than that door.”
The rear door of the bus, once the fire exit, was welded closed.
“How can we possibly jump?”
With an angelic expression, Jim raised his eyes.
Right above us was a ventilator. It was pushed open. Jim passed the word that he and I were going out on the roof if we got the chance, and we’d pull anybody up who cared to follow.
We waited, then, for the bus to leave San Francisco proper. We had no idea of our destination, but we were soon across the Bay Bridge and going through Oakland on Route 80, heading toward Richmond.
We passed Richmond, moving at about forty miles an hour. The bus slowed as we reached the Hercules exit. We turned off and took a right beneath the railroad tracks onto a two-lane blacktop called Crow Canyon Road. It was 9:15 A.M. The Zephyr would be leaving San Francisco at noon.
I prayed that I would see Anne again.
We passed the Crow Canyon golf course and a big truck depot, then began climbing a hill. Soon our speed was dropping and the gears were making a lovely racket. Jim wasted no time. He raised his cuffed hands above his head and grabbed the edge of the ventilator. In a moment he had pulled himself up and hooked one arm over the edge. With his free hand he unsnapped the plastic armature that held the vent in place. It began to bang against his arm and I heard him stifle a scream. Then his legs were up to his chest and he had rolled out onto the roof. A second later he opened the vent for me.
Now we were passing an abandoned kennel. People don’t keep many dogs these days, not even in California. The road cut the edge of the hill, which rose steeply to our right. On the left was a horse farm and open countryside and a chance to get to Richmond and intercept the Zephyr.
We jumped and rolled into the grass at the roadside.
All up the hill, that bus leaked prisoners. By the time it got to the top, I don’t think there were three left inside!
“Maybe we can find something to cut these cuffs at that truck depot back down the road,” Jim said. “If we don’t get them off, we might as well forget the train.”
We moved quickly. A lot of people were going to be trying to break into that depot today, all wearing handcuffs, all looking for shears. The place was open, so after the first ones came, the workers there would be on their guard.
The depot stood on the roadside in the heat, a broken semi blocking one driveway. In the other driveway, a new Mercedes truck was parked, getting diesel fuel. Behind it, an ancient eighteen-wheeler awaited its turn.
We went far up the hillside that backed the depot, and came around behind it. There was a door into the rear of one of the metal buildings. Inside, two men were working on a magnificent ’87 Thunderbird, a sleek red dream of a car with gleaming black leather upholstery. It was a breathtaking joy to see, that prewar car, and judging from the polished beauty of the engine compartment, we weren’t the only ones smitten by it.
I am a law-abiding man, but when Jim found those big metal shears and cut my cuffs, and I cut his, and I realized that we were both fugitives, it occurred to me that it would be an awful lot of fun to steal the T-bird.
“Too conspicuous,” Jim muttered. Just then, three more prisoners came in the rear door. I thought I heard a siren off in the mountains. It was time to leave.
We crossed the road and headed out into the countryside, moving back toward Route 80. It was eleven-thirty by the time we saw 80 in the distance. We had come about five miles. All during this time we had heard sirens, and seen an occasional police vehicle back on Crow Canyon Road.
There was a bus stop in the little town of Pinole. The schedule on the wall indicated that we should see the next Richmond bus at 12:10.
According to our timetable, the Zephyr would pull out of Richmond at 12:22.
If the bus was right on time, we would make our connection with exactly one minute to spare—assuming that the Immigration Police had not thought to extend their dragnet to cover the Richmond depot. Our Roman collars had become advertisements of fugitive status.
The bus came, and wheezed up onto Route 80. We would be in Richmond in a few minutes. The depot was the first stop. When I told the driver we were trying to make the train, he nodded and promised to do his best.
We sat there sweating, reading the aisle cards: the ubiquitous immigration warning; the Soyquick cereal ad; the BubbleRific poster with the sunny Valley Girl blowing a big yellow bubble; an appeal to orphans that read, “Don’t join the gangs. California has a home for you”; an ad for Shearson/American Express, “Tomorrow is going to work! And we know how.”
A man was humming an old song: “Jimmy Crack Corn.”
California is sun and the smell of watered lawns.
It is luxury trains and terror.
It is two-minute trials and prison farms.
And a beautiful prewar car, as exotic as a Maharajah’s coach, hidden in a nondescript garage.
California is fresh food, and lots of it.
It is also a very nice place to leave, if you don’t belong there.
The train was sitting in the Richmond station as the bus came to a stop out front.
We ran fast through the tiled lobby, past the ticket windows and directly to the train. A single Immigration Policeman lounged against the wall of the station.
The train was already in motion when we slung into the door a conductor was holding open for us.
“Come on, Fathers! You can make it.”
The Zephyr at last.
Soon it was picking up speed.
We went into the lavatory to change from the clerical clothes to our more ordinary jeans and shirts. We threw the incriminating clothes onto the roadbed somewhere between Richmond and Martinez.
Back in our seats, Jim began checking his disks to be sure none were damaged.
I leaned back, realizing how deeply tired I was. Despite the handicap of our illegal entry, we had done fairly well in California.
In Martinez, three Immigration Police came through the train fast, but they didn’t spot us. I suppose their eyes were going from throat to throat behind those mirrored sunglasses, looking for clerical collars.
I bought a soybean salad and some milk in the snack bar and sat watching the world go by. As we rounded Suisin Bay, I saw vast, empty docks that in the past would have been jammed with imported Japanese cars. Now there were perhaps a hundred of them standing in the afternoon sun, protected by chainlink fences.
Somebody began to play a tape of David Bowie’s new album, Dream Along, and I did just that.
I didn’t wake up until long after dark. There was a strong smell of salami. Jim was eating a sandwich that had been offered him by a magnificently uniformed British naval officer who now sat across the aisle from us, ready to give us what proved to be a truly extraordinary interview.
Jim glanced at me. “We’re in Nevada,” he said.
All I did was nod.
Captain Malcolm Hargreaves, Sub-Popper
I am on a five-day leave, on my way to see the Rocky Mountains.
I’ll shift in Ogden to the Rio Grande Zephyr for the scenery and go down to Denver. Then I’ll fly back to base.
We have been in California for eight days. The Royal Navy has enjoyed learning about the famous California lifestyle. I’m from Yorkshire, and I believe I’ve seen more sunlight in a week here than we do in a whole Yorks’ summer. And every time you turn around, there’s another swimming pool. Not to mention an aspect my men have particularly enjoyed, which is meeting some of your wonderful girls. I confess to being unattached myself, so this hasn’t been without interest for me, either.
Now I did tell you at the outset that I would not be discussing details of the range or speed of my ship, or exactly how our weapons operate. But of course we are what is popularly called a “sub-popper,” and that is not a completely inaccurate name. It does describe our mission very well. As you know, the war left a large number of unidentified submarines, armed with nuclear missiles, sailing about the oceans of the world. They are all what we call “code blind,” which is to say that there is presently nobody to send them the codes they need either to fire their missiles or to come home. So they continue on station, generally, until they get low on nuclear fuel or some essential supply, or break down in a critical part, whereupon they either return to base and are disarmed, or they sink.
If you are like three-quarters of the people we naval types encounter, you’ll want to know something about the present naval situation. GHQ Pacific Office of Information gives us a prepared summary, which I can read into your machine.
“On Warday there were more than one thousand major combatant U.S. and Soviet ships at sea, of which 380 were submarines, 100 of them American and 280 Soviet. Of these craft, as far as is known, only the S. Shuvakov actually fired weapons, and this ship was responsible for the destruction of the United States Seventh and Third Fleets in the Pacific. In this case, a single submarine of the Typhoon class destroyed the most massive assemblage of capital ships in human history and took, in a few moments, over twenty thousand human lives, utilizing eleven SS-N-20 missiles, each deploying six warheads of four megatons each. The destruction of the other American surface fleets was carried out by land-based weapons, except the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, which was an operation of unknown nature, possibly involving the firing of nuclear-armed SS-N-9 missiles by a Nanuchka-class corvette, or AS-43 fired by a TU22-M bomber. All American operational aircraft carriers on the high seas were destroyed within the first ten minutes of the war, including the four nuclear aircraft carriers and eight of the ten conventional carriers. Of the 190 other major combat vessels in the U.S. surface navy, 141 were destroyed or damaged and later abandoned. With the destruction of the naval staff and all personnel records in Washington, the U.S. Navy ceased to be an operational fighting force on Warday.
“The Soviet surface navy was also rendered nonfunctional on Warday. Both carriers were destroyed, the Kiev in Motovskij Gulf along with approximately one hundred other ships in the immediate area. The Soviet Baltic Fleet attempted to escape into the North Sea, but was substantially repelled by NATO forces, primarily U.K. and Danish antisubmarine forces, which were responsible for the confirmed destruction of eighty-two Soviet submarines of various classes, including numerous nuclear-powered types. The eight Typhoon-class submarines in the Baltic did not sortie. Three of these have subsequently been destroyed by the Royal Navy, one has ceased to be operational, and the other four remain functional, but the political situation in the Soviet area is too unstable to allow a determination of the present loyalties of the crews. These submarines are extremely dangerous, and will be sunk. The Pacific Fleet at Vladivostok was destroyed by American action. Some Soviet ships were found disabled for lack of fuel by French relief forces entering Vietnam in 1989. The bulk of these ships were at Cam Ranh Bay and were scuttled by their crews. The Soviet units stranded at Aden were interned by the Royal Navy. These included the helicopter carrier Moskva, with a complement of eighteen KA-25 helicopters; three GW-ASW cruisers fully armed and lacking only fuel; twelve GW destroyers in the same condition, all of the Kildin class; four GW corvettes of the Tarantul class and three of the Nanuchka class; and four Matka-class hydrofoils, which had been posted down from Black Sea ports during the Syrian affair in 1987. The fleet replenishment vessel Berezina was intercepted in the Indian Ocean at this time, and has been refitted as HMS Triumph.
“Remaining U.S. naval forces are presently attached as the United States Special Detachment to the Royal Navy, commanded by Admiral the Rt. Hon. Vincent D. B. Hughes and Vice-Admiral (U.S.) Charles Greene Phillips. These forces, primarily in the antisubmarine area, constitute a vital and important part of the free world’s seagoing naval strength.”
Now that’s the lot from the Office of Information. I’m supposed to give copies of that to any reporters who approach me, so here are two copies.
So, what can I say about myself? I am captain of the Type 12 antisubmarine frigate Ulysses, operating in cooperation with Fleet Air Arm antisubmarine forces and U.S. Navy antisubmarine forces based in Hawaii, Midway Island, and San Diego. Our theater of operations is the western Pacific. We are attached to STANAVFOR-PAC, the Standing Naval Force Pacific of the International Treaty Organization countries. Our mission is to destroy unidentified submarines.
I am invariably asked, when I am on shore leave, whether we destroy American nuclear submarines. I can only repeat the aim of our mission. We do destroy all unidentified submarine craft. That means that we may or may not know what countries those submarines are from. Perhaps some are American, although that would surprise me. Since they lost communication with their bases, most American submarines have returned to U.S. waters and surfaced, or are in communication with us in some way. The mission of the Royal Navy with regard to submarines is not to destroy the remaining nuclear capacity of the United States and the USSR, or to impede them in the reformation of government in their countries, but to remove the threat of the unknown—submarine crews, loyal perhaps to governments that no longer exist, under severe psychological pressure, suddenly firing their missiles in the mistaken belief that they are obligated to do so. There is also the possibility that both sides left “long-trigger” ships with orders to hide for a period of years, then suddenly attack. These ships must be sunk before they open their orders.
I suppose the greatest engagement of my career was with a pack of one Typhoon-class submarine and three smaller vessels in the Aleutians about a year ago. These ships had been hiding under the Arctic ice for approximately forty-four months and were making a run for Vladivostok, evidently unaware that this port no longer exists. We suspected that they were there because of persistent reports from isolated communities in Alaska and Canada of raiding parties who spoke Russian to one another and who appeared out of nowhere to steal food. Sometimes these reports took as long as six months to reach us, because of unreliable communications, but we felt that they certainly indicated the presence of Soviet vessels under the ice cap. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that there are not still Soviet and American submarines on station there. Present long-range detection techniques do not offer us as reliable an indication of submarine activity beneath ice as we would like.
At any rate, we got a very good signal on these boats just as they were coming round the island of Umnak in the Pox Islands.
Why they were there, and not hugging the coast of Siberia, we do not know.
As you might or might not know, a Typhoon-class submarine was the Soviet equivalent of a Trident, displacing twenty-five thousand tons and armed with twenty missiles of intercontinental range. We identified the presence of a Typhoon-class vessel by the emission signature of its reactor. Naturally, we were eager to destroy this ship, as it was one of four remaining Typhoons and, next to the three Tridents still unaccounted for, is certainly the most dangerous vessel on the high seas. This one ship would, for example, be capable of reducing your California, in its entirety, to the present condition of Washington or San Antonio.
So we were very eager to get a kill while avoiding even the suspicion of detection ourselves. We found that we were out of range of the only Royal Navy carrier operating in the area, the old Hermes with its complement of Harriers. Thus we determined that the Typhoon would have to be located very precisely and then destroyed by Ulysses. The job was quite an exciting challenge, I can assure you.
It was one of those gray, cheerless days common in the North Pacific, when the wind blows with massive force and the sea birds fly before it. When I went on deck, bits of ice quickly formed in my beard. In addition to the winds, we had blowing fog. Earlier we had passed through a vast fleet of Japanese fishing vessels, including a huge automatic whaler. As fish meal is now the primary source of protein for that nation of ninety-seven millions, you can well imagine the size of this fleet. It was operating in INTO-foreclosed waters, meaning that fishing operations there are illegal except to signatories. In this case, the Gulf of Alaska. We had detached a frigate to check the papers of the Japanese fishermen; there have been many reports of Chinese fishing vessels operating illegally in American waters in recent years, and they are to be sunk if they are found. Only the Japanese, the British, the Danes, the Icelanders, and the Norse may fish former U.S.-controlled waters.
We found ourselves approximately 420 nautical miles south-southwest of the target. The Soviet ships were deployed across an area of twenty square miles, with the Typhoon in the center of its group of four support submarines. The pack was moving in a southerly direction at a speed of 20 knots. We were able to deploy a Nimrod aircraft from San Diego and maintain a continuous exact fix on the Soviet ships. Our objective was to destroy all five submarines simultaneously. We began closing at flank speed and prepared our weapons, which consisted of Harpoon missiles delivered via helicopter and directly from shipboard.
As the target was moving in our rough direction, closing time was fairly rapid. We were able to gain a positive identification of the support submarines about two hours after contact. These were E-1 class boats, attack submarines. Their purpose would be defense of the Typhoon, and they could be assumed to be carrying nuclear-tipped surface-skimming torpedoes. We had to assume that we were already in range of these vessels. Our Nimrod assistance began relaying satellite data to us at about this time, and we were able to project the exact position of each boat on our maps and supply our computers with all necessary coordinates. I then ordered our helicopter complement to the attack and stood back with the ships. It is known that Soviet aircraft-detection equipment has a much shorter range than the equipment that detects ship noise.
We released all five Harpoon-carrying helicopters, and waited the next two hours while they flew within range of the submarines. The moment they released their missiles, we activated our classified weapons aboard ship. Of this total firing, a classified number of missiles reached their targets, but all of the Soviet submarines were impacted. The E-1 class boats all sank. The Typhoon-class boat surfaced dead in the water.
Some hours later we boarded this boat. I recall vividly my ride across the sling between my ship and the sluggishly rolling submarine. She was an enormous vessel. By the time I went aboard, all the Soviet crew were off except the first officer, who had agreed to act as our guide. He spoke fluent English. His name was Benkovsky, and he informed us that his unit had been continuously at sea for nearly four years! They were only returning to base because their nuclear fuel was running low. As our missiles home on running reactors, the major damage to this boat, the Teplov, was to the engine room and rear crew compartments. The reactor was out of action but the enclosure was intact, so radiation levels aboard ship were normal. There was a powerful stench of burning electrical insulation in the boat, but the crew had contained the fire. We found American tinned foods, much from the prewar era, including Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Spaghetti Dinner and A&P Brand pork and beans with bacon, with prices in prewar dollars. The ships had been replenishing themselves by raiding grocery stores and larders in Arctic Canada and Alaska. Our reports from coastal towns had been correct.
We found this ship to be cramped and dangerously constructed, with much evidence of new welding and repairs of all kinds. Many of the electronic instruments were not operational, and never had been. It is not likely that this boat could have done much to defend itself, despite all the publicity its class received before the war. In addition, it was in poor condition and no longer capable of ultra-deep diving. Although it is a very silent-running vessel, the quiet was achieved at the expense of speed and power. By our standards, this boat was hardly seaworthy.
There was much evidence of low morale aboard, and crew members later indicated that there had been six executions for attempted mutiny or desertion.
One system on the ship that was built up to the highest standard was the missile fire-control system. After this boat had been towed to Hawaii and examined, it was determined that its complement of SLBMs was armed and on firing sequence when the boat was disabled. Another minute or so and the missiles would have been away. Evidently our presence had been detected, or, more likely, our incoming Harpoon missiles. The Soviet weapons were targeted against Seattle, Portland, and various communities along the California coast. They included three EMP weapons, which would have once again destroyed all the electronic devices in the United States and created every bit as much disruption as occurred before, not to mention ruining what communications systems your country has so painfully managed to reconstruct since the war.
The ground-targeted missiles would have delivered a total of one hundred megatons to their targets, and killed outright nine million of the area population of twenty-two million. Residual radiation would have caused severe contamination throughout California.
After an encounter like that, we sub-poppers of the Royal Navy feel that we are doing a job vital to the security of the world.
The Grand Old Feud—Do We Still Believe in It?
First ’twas the Hatfields, and first ’twas the McCoys. Or maybe ’twas the other way around.
Looking back, it does not seem strange or even improbable that the United States and the USSR were rivals. Even without the ideological differences, geopolitics would seem to have made it inevitable.
But what does seem strange is the way the rivalry became so formalistic toward the end, almost a kind of ritual, which continued along its traditional lines despite the enormous changes in the two countries and the world around them.
It is not possible to assess blame; both sides were at fault, and both sides were trapped. Nobody knows what normal relations between the United States and the USSR would have meant because they never had normal relations, not at any time in their history. They either hated one another beyond reason or pretended to unrealistic friendship, such as during the Second World War or the “Detente” period of the seventies.
With hindsight, we can see that they should have been neither mortal enemies nor fast friends. Some things about them suggested partnership, and others suggested competition, but nothing suggested the murderous war that occurred.
Do we think that the old rivalry will be rekindled in the future?
The polls say no. Perhaps the war has finally put the seal on the anguish of the old superpowers. Perhaps.
Do you believe that the Soviet Union will emerge once again as a world power?
Should the Soviet Union emerge again as a world power, do you believe that it will start another war?
Do you believe that an unfair portion of international war relief is being sent to the Soviet Union?
Do you believe that the United States should attempt to rearm itself militarily?
Some interesting differences appeared in response to the preceding question among age groups:
|55 and over||38||55||7|
I remember laundromats at night all lit up with nobody in them.
I remember rainbow colored grease spots on the pavement after a rain.
I remember the tobacco smell of my father’s breath.
I remember Jimmy Durante disappearing among spotlights into giant black space.
When we crossed the border into Nevada, Whitley seemed almost too drained to react, but I felt like breaking out champagne. I contented myself with a quiet sip of water from our bag.
We are now on the western edge of the Great Plains. I wish I could have gone with Captain Hargreaves when he left the train at Ogden, but his world and mine are not the same.
I contented myself with this train’s less scenic route. The going was slow and rough through the Rockies. We used old freight tracks for this part of the run. Now we are south of Denver, on our way to connect with the Southwest Limited in La Junta. Next year perhaps the Zephyr will resume its old route across Nebraska and Iowa, but not yet.
The great transcontinental migration passed through this land, and the legendary trains of the Union Pacific and the Western Pacific, their engines gleaming brass and black, their whistles stampeding the astonished buffalo.
That happened barely a hundred years ago. In the time since then, the Rockies have lost perhaps a tenth of an inch of their peaks from the ceaseless wind. Two thousand animal species have become extinct in this land, and the world that extinguished them has slipped through our fingers.
The grandsons of Buffalo Bill and Bat Masterson might well have been alive to see Warday.
We could still get dead drunk on Wild Bill Hickok’s whiskey. In a hundred years a well-sealed bottle will have lost no more than a shot to evaporation.
Long thoughts of the West. How impossibly fast it was discovered and settled. How quickly it matured and grew old.
My mind drifts away from ghost towns and empty ranches to the present, to my own work. I, who wrote books about atomic weapons, find myself writing one about a trip through atomized America. I’ve been shouted at by people who felt that writing about weapons glorified them.
Now is now, the rattling train and the night.
And the past is the past. I was sitting in a private dining room at the top of the Exxon Building in Houston when Warday occurred. My purpose was business; I was working on a book about oil exploration. My host had just lifted a cup of coffee to his lips when, from where I was sitting, his face suddenly seemed to glow with blinding, unearthly light. I closed my eyes. He pitched back, screaming.
We had just experienced the bursts going off over San Antonio, more than two hundred miles away.
It took fifteen or so minutes for the sound to reach us—a great, rolling roar that cracked most of the windows on the west side of the building.
My past had just ended. When I saw the cloud I knew at once what had happened.
I was well out of Houston before the fallout started. It was devastating when it came. The San Antonio bombs were at least as filthy with long-term radiation by-products as those that hit New York and Washington. Fission-fusion-fission bombs.
My only thought was to get on the road, away from any inhabited areas. My car radio wouldn’t work, but every time I looked west I got all the news I needed. Over the course of the day, that cloud got bigger and darker and closer. And I drove on north, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t see another such cloud over Dallas.
I stopped for gas and tried to call my wife in Austin.
There wasn’t even a dial tone.
I couldn’t reach my mother in San Antonio, either.
Reporting is a good job; you can put your heart into it. And the effort is worthwhile when you get something like the attached document. It is useful and important, and it took brave men to gather the information it contains. Even though I obtained it in Chicago, it belongs here, before we enter the great Midwestern plains.
The document concerns only the first few weeks. We have added two recent maps that show how the fallout developed at the end of one year, and which counties are still reporting live particles today.
Before the war we knew very little about secondary dissemination. It caused the famine by destroying so much stored wheat in the winter of ’88–’89, at a time when farming conditions were chaotic. The loss of the grain supply led to local consumption of vegetables that would normally have been shipped to market, and to a massive meat shortage as feed supplies went to make the unforgettable oat bread that was around by the summer of ’89.
It’s too bad there are so many live particles still around the North Central States. I wish we could have seen the Dakotas. A trainman put it very vividly when I asked to be ticketed to Rapid City or Minot. He consulted his timetable, then looked up at me.
“Them places are gone,” he said.
Documents on the National Condition
He stood upon that fateful ground,
Cast his lethargic eye around,
And said beneath his breath:
We have got
The Maxim gun
And they do not.
GENTLY, FROM ABOVE
Before the war, fallout was commonly thought of as a semipermanent devastation that would at the very least doom us to death in a matter of days or weeks.
It didn’t turn out that way. It was more subtle, and it was worse. Most of us have never experienced fallout directly, at least not in what we now think of as significant quantities. Like so many of the effects of Warday, by itself fallout was for the most part survivable. But when you combined it with the economic dislocations that started with the EMP burst, you had a prescription for disaster in the farm belt, a disaster from which we have by no means recovered.
The famine came about because of the negative synergy of fallout that contaminated stored grains and cropland in late ’88 and ’89, and the economic chaos that led to the breakdown of the system of farm subsidy and capitalization.
A further synergistic effect occurred when the Cincinnati Flu broke out. It was a rough flu, but it would have been tenth-page news in 1985. Because we were already weak from malnutrition, and low-level radiation caused some immune-response suppression in many of us, the flu cut through the American population like a scythe.
So, for most of us, the drift from the sky has meant hunger and influenza, not the wasting of radiation sickness. How delighted I would have been before the war to find out that direct fallout wasn’t a very serious threat. My own war fantasies often took the form of desperate escapes from the blowing dust.
Funny, that it was so much more benign than we thought, and so much more lethal, both at the same time.
* * *
SUMMARY REPORT ON EARLY DOMESTIC FALLOUT
JANUARY 5, 1989
EMERGENCY TASK FORCE ON DOMESTIC FALLOUT
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
The Emergency Task Force on Domestic Fallout was created on December 15, 1988, as an interdepartmental unit to gather, assess, and monitor the radioactive fallout produced by the October 28, 1988, Soviet surprise attack against the United States. Data are presently being collected by field-based units within the Department, as well as from military and local government sources. This report is concerned only with the early fallout produced by the October attack, that is, the fallout produced and deposited within the first few days after the attack.
As a result of the Soviet attack, many monitoring facilities in the attack zones were either destroyed or disabled. Manned ground monitoring stations have been established on an emergency basis near bombed zones where human safety could be assured. Extensive remote/robot stations have been placed by helicopter or air-dropped into highly radioactive areas.
The purpose of this network has been to chart the extent and course of atmospheric fallout. A list of active major data collection stations appears in Attachment One.
For background purposes, each attack zone is briefly described in terms of target nature, weapon yield, etc. An abbreviated description of the causes and nature of radioactive fallout appears in Attachment Two.
This is a summary report only. Full details, as they are presently available, appear in other DOE documentation.
Radioactive fallout is an aftereffect of a nuclear detonation. Its nature, intensity, and range are results of weapon type (fission, fusion, or mixture), burst height (ground- or airburst), yield of weapon (usually calculated in megatons), and wind and other meteorological conditions. Brief coverage of these variables is presented in this report.
For comparison purposes, the October 1988 Soviet strike may be considered two attacks: one against U.S. urban centers and another against underground missile installations. As a consequence, the Soviets employed different attack strategies, which in turn produced different fallout patterns.
The attacks against urban centers utilized air and ground detonations, which resulted in both local fallout and broad distribution through the upper atmosphere. The attacks against missile silos produced intense ground-level radiation and severe long-range fallout. In both attacks, however, the multiplicity of warheads combined to produce aggravated fallout conditions.
The nature and extent of the attack and the prevailing winds produced in each case a unique fallout distribution. Some generalized, or averaged, comparisons can be drawn, however. In the case of the attacks on urban centers, it can be estimated that the following unit-time fallout conditions occurred similarly for all three attacks:
|DOWNWIND DISTANCE FROM GROUND ZERO||DOSE RATE IN ROENTGENS/HOUR|
|50 MILES||1600 R/HR|
|100 MILES||360 R/HR|
|200 MILES||125 R/HR|
|300 MILES||55 R/HR|
|400 MILES||20 R/HR|
|500 MILES||6 R/HR|
At the end of the first week, it is estimated that the dose rate for these distances was as follows:
|50 MILES||3400 R/HR|
|100 MILES||2700 R/HR|
|200 MILES||405 R/HR|
|300 MILES||144 R/HR|
|400 MILES||42 R/HR|
|500 MILES||12 R/HR|
In the case of the ground attack on missile silos, the following conditions are estimated:
|DOWNWIND DISTANCE FROM GROUND ZERO||DOSE RATE IN ROENTGENS/HOUR|
|50 MILES||1400 R/HR|
|100 MILES||320 R/HR|
|200 MILES||75 R/HR|
|300 MILES||30 R/HR|
|400 MILES||8 R/HR|
|500 MILES||1.2 R/HR|
Dosage rates for the end of the first week are estimated to have been as follows:
|50 MILES||2200 R/HR|
|100 MILES||270 R/HR|
|200 MILES||68 R/HR|
|300 MILES||16 R/HR|
|400 MILES||3.2 R/HR|
|500 MILES||.8 R/HR|
These are averaged estimates only, which have been scaled according to previously known fallout characteristics and limited current data. Complete analysis will not be available for some time, although local government and military authorities have been advised about fallout hazards and subsequent medical/health consequences.
REVIEW OF RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT CONDITIONS
A brief summary of fallout conditions and patterns is presented in the following target-by-target descriptions:
1. NEW YORK CITY—LONG ISLAND AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: Urban center.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 9–10-megaton (MT) range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Three land targets, with some evidence of several other weapons that detonated at sea.
BURST TYPE: Airburst and groundburst.
SPECIAL FEATURES: High concentration of fission elements suggests “dirty weapon” type designed to increase fallout intensity of groundburst.
FALLOUT PATTERN: There was a frontal system active in the New York City area on this date, developing winds from a WNW direction at 10–12 knots. As a consequence, little upwind fallout occurred in upper New York—Connecticut area; most downwind fallout was seaward, with considerable centralized fallout in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and western Long Island areas.
2. WASHINGTON, D.C. AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: Urban area.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 9–10 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Six warheads with possible unknown number of other nondetonating weapons.
BURST TYPE: Airburst and groundburst.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 1 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Prevailing winds created a fallout pattern that was generally easterly with some deflection SSE. Because of Washington’s unique location, most fallout was into Maryland, and secondarily into Delaware and western New Jersey.
3. SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: Urban area.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 9–10 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Three.
BURST TYPE: Airburst and groundburst.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 1 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: A frontal system was developing winds of 10–15 knots in a SE direction. Fallout was into South and East Texas, including the Houston area.
4. GREAT FALLS, MONTANA AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: U.S. Minuteman missile fields.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 1–2 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Unknown, but estimated at 25+.
BURST TYPE: Groundburst for maximum silo destruction. Some airburst detonations.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Intense surface radiation, with moderate to severe atmospheric fallout downwind.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Winds for late October were SE. Because of the attack nature, initial radioactivity was widespread over a large area. Radiation extended to Wyoming and South Dakota.
5. GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: U.S. Minuteman missile fields.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 1–2 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Unknown, but estimated at 25+.
BURST TYPE: Groundburst for maximum silo destruction. Some airburst detonations.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 4 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Winds were SE, hence fallout pattern developed over Minnesota, with some low-level fallout in Wisconsin.
6. MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: U.S. Minuteman missile fields.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 1–2 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Unknown, but estimated at 45+.
BURST TYPE: Groundburst for maximum depth destruction. Some airburst detonations.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 4 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Winds were SSE-S for attack date. Early fallout was concentrated in N. Dakota, with some fallout in S. Dakota and minor fallout in Iowa.
7. RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: U.S. Minuteman missile fields.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 1–2 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Unknown, but estimated at 35+.
BURST TYPE: Groundburst for maximum depth destruction. Some airburst detonations.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 4 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Winds were SSE. Fallout line was largely into S. Dakota and Nebraska, with development into Iowa and Missouri.
8. CHEYENNE, WYOMING AREA
NATURE OF TARGET: U.S. Minuteman and MX missile fields.
TYPE/YIELD OF SOVIET WEAPON: Missile-delivered thermonuclear warhead in 1–2 MT range.
NUMBER OF WARHEADS DELIVERED: Unknown but estimated at 35+.
BURST TYPE: Groundburst for maximum depth destruction. Some airburst detonations.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Same as 4 above.
FALLOUT PATTERN: Winds were SSE. Primary fallout occurred in Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska, with some development Into southeastern Missouri.
LIST OF MAJOR FALLOUT DATA COLLECTION CENTERS
(Manned and Remote)
|Billings||45D 48M North / 108D 32M West|
|Glasgow||48D 13M North / 106D 37M West|
|Great Falls||47D 29M North / 111D 22M West|
|Havre||48D 33M North / 109D 46M West|
|Helena||46D 36M North / 112D 00M West|
|Kalispell||48D 18M North / 114S 16M West|
|Miles City||46D 26M North / 105D 52M West|
|Missoula||46D 55M North / 114D 05M West|
|Central Park/Manhattan||40D 47M North / 78D 58M West|
|Kennedy Airport||40D 39M North / 73D 47M West|
|La Guardia Airport||40D 46M North / 73D 54M West|
|Bismarck||46D 46M North / 100D 45M West|
|Fargo||46D 54M North / 96D 46M West|
|Williston||48D 11M North / 103D 38M West|
|Aberdeen||45D 27M North / 98D 26M West|
|Huron||44D 23M North / 98D 13M West|
|Rapid City||44D 03M North / 104D 04M West|
|Sioux Falls||43D 34M North / 96D 44M West|
|Austin||30D 18M North / 97D 42M West|
|Corpus Christi||27D 46M North / 97D 30M West|
|Houston||29D 58M North / 95D 21M West|
|San Antonio||29D 32M North / 98D 28M West|
|Dulles Airport||38D 57M North / 77D 27M West|
|National Airport||38D 51M North / 77D 02M West|
|Casper||42D 55M North / 106D 28M West|
|Cheyenne||41D 09M North / 104D 49M West|
|Lander||42D 49M North / 108D 44M West|
|Sheridan||44D 46M North / 106D 58M West|
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT
Radioactive fallout is created by thermonuclear weapons as a result of residual radiation, that is, radiation that occurs or is induced in particulate matter approximately one minute after detonation. In thermonuclear weapons especially, large numbers of high-energy neutrons are produced, which interact with elements in the air and on the ground; these elements then become radioactive and in turn emit beta and gamma radiation.
Fallout may be considered of two kinds: early and delayed. Early fallout occurs within 24 hours and is the most severe. Fallout of this type produces contamination and presents a biologic hazard. Delayed fallout produces very fine particles of radiated material that are spread in the atmosphere. The hazard with delayed fallout is long term, especially because of elements with very long half-lives, such as cesium 137 and strontium 90.
Airbursts are more likely to produce delayed fallout because of the height of detonation. Surface bursts, conversely, produce fallout that is more localized but more intense.
Radioactive particles generally vary in size from 1 micron to several millimeters. The larger particles tend to fall within 24 hours and are the most radioactive. Between 50 and 70 percent of total radioactivity is produced as early fallout.
Weapons can be made to produce larger amounts of radioactive elements, hence the term “dirty weapons.” This is done by using all-fission warheads or by enhancing thermonuclear weapons with additional fission steps, in addition, thermonuclear weapons can be wrapped in tungsten or cobalt casings.
Fallout is carried by winds and is affected by altitude, moisture content of air, etc. A 10 MT surface weapon, for example, can, on detonation, rise to a height of 80000 feet, thus introducing radioactive particles into airstreams that circle the earth. More localized fallout is subject to geographical contour, nature of burst, and other factors that make statistical predictability unreliable.
The Rising of the Land
Just before a great storm is born in the plains, there often comes a time of perfect clarity. The sky becomes sharp, and the grasstops hang motionless.
Jim and I have been looking out the window of the train a long time. The air is a deep, clear blue all the way down to the northern horizon. But the horizon itself is the color of baked clay. It is odd, something you look at very carefully. Something that makes you wonder.
We are between Topeka and Kansas City. The crop is sparse, and there are many empty fields.
All through ’88 and ’89, people left. One member of a family might get sick with some radiation-related illness or die of the flu and they would all leave, abandoning their acres to nature. But wheat and corn need tending. Left to themselves, these highly bred species do not go wild, they die. When the stalks rot or blow away, the raw dirt is exposed.
The wind has danced and eddied through the Midwest for years now, blowing the active particles about, depositing them as far south as Texas and as far east as Ohio.
It is not the kind of radiation that devastates bodies in hours—that was gone with the fireballs. It is the more insidious type that lodges in the ground or blows into the silos and the corn-cribs, and stays there.
“What’s going on?” Jim asks.
At first I don’t understand why. Then I realize the train has picked up speed. To reduce wear on equipment, Amtrak doesn’t run much over fifty or sixty, but this train is doing seventy, maybe more.
Two rows ahead, a woman rises half out of her seat, shrinking away from the window.
I am shocked when I follow her eyes to the horizon. A vast black wall has risen there like some bloated mountain range, its topmost peaks streaming hazy fingers toward us across the sky.
People shout, their pale, frightened faces pressing the glass.
The train sways, its horn sounding and sounding, and now I understand: we’re running for shelter. If this dust storm stops us, we will be exposed to the full effect of whatever radiation it bears. A railroad car is little protection.
I feel bitter against myself. How dare I leave my wife and son to take risks like this! My own motives are inscrutable to me.
The light changes. Now the sun is being covered. The clear, still air around the train turns deep red. I can see the round orb of the sun behind a billowing cloud.
Then something incredible happens: in an instant it gets pitch dark. This is not the gloom of a storm or the darkness of night. It is the impossible, thick black of a cave.
The storm wails around the car as if the whole land had risen up and was screaming at us, screaming with a rage that went right down to the center of the planet.
The conductor manages to get the lights on. The air is dirty tan, the dust already so thick we cannot see the front of the car.
We are so small in this rocking, shaking train, nothing but a few tattered bits of bone and flesh, eyes flashing in brown murk.
There is a squeal and a jerk, and the train stops.
“There’s a shelter in the Shawnee Elementary School,” one of the trainmen shouts. “Everybody out the second car. Hurry up, and take your stuff.” Shawnee is a suburb of Kansas City. I wish we had made it to the center of town.
We form a human chain across the street, our way lit by tiny orange dots that must be streetlights. Somebody in fall radiation gear is up ahead, waving a flashlight. I can hear the wind whipping his loose coverall. Then I see a black building. I am choking on dust, I can feel it getting deep into my lungs, smell the odor of dry earth, taste dirt.
As we enter the school, the wind whips through the open door, and the dust is soon thick in the hall.
“This way, keep moving, this way.” A policeman with another flashlight ushers us down some metal stairs and we find ourselves in the basement.
It’s well lit, and the roar of the storm is more distant. Still, the building shudders, and I can hear windows shattering somewhere upstairs.
All around me, sitting in neat rows on the floor, are children.
I’m stunned. I didn’t expect a functional school. But why not? Kansas City still exists. There are people who didn’t leave, and these must be their children.
“I’m your civil defense warden,” a young woman in jeans and a cream-colored shirt says. “Welcome to Shawnee Shelter Number Twelve.” She looks at us, forty-odd scared people. “I’m Joan Wilson. I teach third grade.”
Two more policemen come in. They have a geiger counter, which they proceed to sweep over our group. The ticking tells us that we have picked up a light dose.
I find that I take it like I might another blow in a place that has been hit a lot.
Other teachers have been bringing their classes down, and now the room is full. I realize from the blackboards and the desks that have been pushed aside that it is also Joan Wilson’s classroom.
“Let’s talk to her,” Jim says.
“To the warden. Might be interesting.”
Also, it might take my mind off what has just happened to us.
Being triaged can make you feel very naked at a time like this.
Joan Wilson isn’t forthcoming, which is understandable, considering that she’s got eighteen third-graders to worry about, not to mention the unexpected crowd from our train and the six or seven who have come in off the street.
She will not give us an interview. We have to content ourselves with a few quick questions.
“What are living conditions like here?”
She looks at me. She does not smile. “It was getting better.”
“Do you have many dust storms?”
“This isn’t a dust storm. It’s the land, don’t you understand that?”
Her voice is low and fierce. “The plains themselves are blowing, right down to their core. There’s never been a dust storm like this.
But I’ll tell you something, mister. I don’t care how bad this storm is, or the next one or the one after that. I am staying here. I was born in Kansas City and I am not going to leave, and I’m not the only one. We made this place grow, and we’ll make it grow again.”
She turns away. She doesn’t want to keep talking. But there is one more question. In spite of her feelings, I must ask it. “What about the children, Miss Wilson?”
She looks at me. The air between is brown now, as if a polluted fog had crept into the room. Wind screams outside. In the distance something clatters, maybe a tin roof blowing through the streets.
They do not look like the kids Andrew went to school with.
They are as hard and tight as their Miss Wilson—quick, serious little people with sharp eyes. When I meet those eyes, they do not look away and they do not smile.
Soon one of the other teachers begins reading a book for the benefit of the whole student body, which counts perhaps eighty children. It is Beauty and the Beast. They listen in silence.
Kansas City—Children’s Thoughts
Essays on spring from Miss Wilson’s third grade, Shawnee Elementary School.
SPRING RAIN INSTRUCTIONS
If it rains get inside right away. And if you get wet you have to go to the office for geiger, then showers and get rid of your clothes.
If you don’t have any more you have to be in your underpants. You have to be careful, but spring rain is also nice.
I LOVE SPRING
The frogs croak and the mayflies fly. Mommy prays for the cabbages, which are just now coming out of the ground. They say spring is the time of hope. We read about lilacs.
SPRING RAIN DANGER
I got inside to keep it off me. I saw it go down on Barko. They won’t let me have Barko. Spring rain danger. My daddy tried to keep it off our onions but he got all wet himself and there wasn’t enough plastic from the allocation. Rain from the east is good, but if it comes from the west, just say your prayers, like it did Thurs-day.
Lord Jesus sent a rainbow to say its OK, folks. Dad and Mom went on the cleanup. I was scared, I was home alone all night. Then Miss Wilson came and said come to the cleanup. They taught me how to get the particles with the Dustbuster, and I got a lot. They paint a red circle around them. Then you suck them up. Then you go to the next one, until your Dustbuster is out of juice. The Dustbusters are heavy because they have lead on them.
OUR FARM IN SPRING
Our mare is getting ready to foal. I am going to help deliver her with my dad. Mom and Dad said God gave us this foal, but I think War Cloud and Joanie did it when they jumped on each other last year. And we also have pigs.
To me spring is warm days. The sun is out and we don’t have to worry about the coal. We are OK on money. I am often in the garden. We have a general permission because my mom is a garden freak. She makes salad all spring and summer. We sit outside on the back porch and shoot rabbits to eat with it. And I do not hurt when it is warm.
Documents on Limited War and the Limited Economy
Red wine in the sunlight,
While white fine fingers
Break the thin biscuit…
LET THEM EAT WORDS
The official word from the Federal Complex in L.A. on the economy was one of cautious optimism.
In fact, there is no single American economy. It is possible to define the two big ones of East and West, but beyond those there are many, many more.
As we crossed the country from the prosperous valleys of the Pacific Coast to the dark Northeastern ports, we encountered dozens of economies. Life has focused down: people don’t think in terms of long-range movement and trade anymore, outside California anyway. The concern is the farm on the hill, the plant down the street, the condition of one’s own belly.
The following three documents illustrate how we have refocused to microeconomics because of the suddenness with which the macroeconomy disintegrated and the deep consequences of the shortages that resulted.
The document on the effects of the electromagnetic pulse on Warday is in one way curious: it suggests that there has been steady recovery in such areas as communications and data processing, beginning shortly after Warday. But our lives tell us differently. Even today the overall amount of recovery seems smaller than indicated. It is probable that the document was prepared by people living and working in Los Angeles, who assumed that their local experience was being mirrored across the country, and wrote their projections accordingly.
The paper on shortages tells a central truth: the mineral resources upon which the fabrication of high-technology devices depends are no longer available in substantial quantities to the United States. In losing the electronic superstructure of our economy, we also lost the means to rebuild it, and we must now look to the outside for help.
There is also a report on the state of agriculture. If a bureaucrat could write a dirge, this is a dirge. It is about 450 words long.
With twenty-nine million dead in the famine, that is over 64,000 lives per word.
* * *
INTERNAL DJSC DISTRIBUTION ONLY
SUMMARY OF EFFECTS INDUCED BY ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE IN THE OCTOBER 1988 ATTACK BY THE SOVIET UNION, AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR RECOVERY
Defense Joint Systems Command
28 April 1991
This report summarizes studies completed in the last seven months regarding multiple high-altitude nuclear detonations by the Soviet Union on 28 October 1988 over the United States of America. These detonations created powerful electromagnetic energy fields, known as electromagnetic pulse or EMP, which in turn produced widespread damage in both military and civilian enterprises. Data utilized in this report were supplied by the Department of Defense Joint Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Effects; Headquarters, Aerospace Defense Command; and the National Security Agency.
2.0 BACKGROUND OF THE SOVIET ATTACK
The nuclear attack in October 1988 by the Soviet Union against the continental United States was initialized by the detonation of six large weapons in the 8–10 MT range some 200–225 miles above the U.S. Comprehensive studies of the attack and its effects are limited because of critical wartime conditions, though it is believed, according to limited data from intelligence satellites, that as many as 12 large MT weapons were targeted by the Soviets as EMP devices. Only six such weapons actually detonated, however.
Nuclear weapons detonated at such high altitudes produce extraordinary electromagnetic fields, which in turn travel within the atmosphere and then strike the surface of the earth, where they can either severely damage or destroy sensitive electronic devices. A single weapon, detonated at a predetermined altitude, can affect an area of hundreds of thousands of square miles. The purpose of the Soviet attack, therefore, was to “blanket” the United States with preemptive levels of electromagnetic energy designed to destroy or severely cripple communications, data storage and processing, and electronic intelligence/detection capacities. Studies have shown that each detonating weapon apparently produced a peak field in excess of 100,000 volts per meter. Precise data are unavailable, though the energy fields thus produced far exceeded prewar military estimates of theoretical attacks. There were collateral effects on both surface installations and spaceborne intelligence satellites.
The six EMP weapons detonated in a pattern roughly forming two unequal triangles covering both halves of the continent. The effects were most pronounced in the U.S., but Canada, Mexico, and several Central American countries reported effects to one degree or another. There were substantial effects absorbed by both military and civilian populations.
A second attack wave followed, with strikes directed at three large urban centers and selected ICBM/SAC targets in the upper Central states. Recent data suggest that as much as 300 MT of total destructive yield were realized in this second and ultimately final movement. The Western, Southwestern, and Central states were unaffected directly, though it is not known at this time whether this limited attack pattern on the part of the Soviets was the result of retaliatory American counterattacks or equipment failures in Soviet weaponry, or whether it was simply one phase of a larger but uncompleted Soviet attack strategy.
3.0 EMP EFFECTS
EMP forces generate enormously high voltages, which destroy the atomic structures of earthbound or space borne objects containing electronic circuitry. This energy, which lasts only several billionths of a second, is sufficient to ‘burn out’ most circuits such as those utilized by microchips and similar devices.
Consequently, six 9–10 MT Soviet weapons, detonated over 200 miles above the United States, produced a nearly simultaneous energy field that destroyed close to 70 percent of all microelectronics in use by both military and civilian organizations.
Shielding, such as that employed in the late prewar years by both the military and industry, was largely ineffective in coping with blasts and subsequent EMP forces of such magnitude. The two areas most severely affected by the EMP effect, for both the military and civilian populations, were communications and electronic data storage/processing.
Brief summaries of the damage sustained by EMP are described in the following sections.
Five broad areas within the military system sustained the most severe damage from EMP-generated effects:
|AREA||PERCENTAGE OF DAMAGE SUSTAINED|
|Detection systems, including radar||70|
Overall assessment: Nearly catastrophic at 70-percent level.
The substantial dependence by the military establishment on microelectronics is demonstrated by the severe damage rates cited above. Prewar shielding procedures and methods proved to be largely ineffective. The failure to sufficiently employ “hardened” microchips is only one explanation, however. Although experiments were conducted before the war to measure EMP effects, all experiments failed to consider the massive EMP forces created by large MT weapons geostrategically placed. As demonstrated above, most communications, guidance, and information storage/processing capabilities were destroyed. Continental radar systems were similarly affected and, because of orbital satellite conditions and in-flight aircraft locations, substantial intelligence-gathering capacities were destroyed.
Communication facilities utilizing lasers, buried light fibers, and similar equipment survived relatively unharmed. Guidance systems in ICBMs in hardened silos also survived.
Electronic equipment utilizing non-microelectronic components received little or no damage.
3.2.3 Recovery Projections
Recovery of microelectronic capacities is dependent upon three critical factors: (1) the ability to replace/convert damaged components and systems with stockpiled prewar components/systems; (2) the capacity to replace damaged systems with new systems utilizing imported microelectronic components; and (3) the long-term capacity of the United States to rebuild its microelectronic industries.
Given these three factors, the following projections have been made:
|-||PERCENTAGE OF RECOVERY IN AREA CAPACITY TO DATE||PERCENTAGE OF CAPACITY NONRECOVERABLE|
The “Percentage of Capacity Nonrecoverable” statistics suggest estimated requirements for both imports and internal U.S. rebuilding efforts.
This study has identified 12 major civilian business/industry/public enterprise areas most affected by EMP-generated effects:
|TYPE OF ENTERPRISE||PERCENTAGE OF DAMAGE SUSTAINED|
|Government (all levels)||67|
Overall assessment: High-end damage at 50-percent level. The nation’s civilian enterprises were affected almost as significantly as the military, perhaps because of inadequate shielding provisions. Although no precise figure can be calculated, it is believed that over 50 percent of the nation’s civilian microelectronic capacities were destroyed by EMP.
As with the military, the prewar civilian groups, including government, made extensive use of microelectronics, largely in computer applications for information storage and processing, and to a lesser extent in systems for manufacturing, airplane guidance, radio and television communications, and the like.
Unfortunately, because of national defense and reconstruction needs, few prewar surplus components are available and current import allocations are limited. As a consequence, the rate of recovery is lower than that for the military.
3.3.3 Recovery Projections
Projections for civilian recovery are based on factors similar to those outlined in 3.2.3 above. They are as follows:
|-||PERCENTAGE OF RECOVERY IN AREA CAPACITY TO DATE||PERCENTAGE OF CAPACITY NONRECOVERABLE|
|Government (all levels)||32||45|
Prewar estimates of EMP effects have proven to be vastly understated and to some extent unforeseen. EMP effects are centered on microelectronic components, and all levels of both military and civilian populations were affected. Prewar efforts to shield sensitive systems were, to an unfortunate degree, ineffective. Only large-scale prewar efforts to stockpile critical components have permitted the constrained recovery which has occurred to date. There remains a severe shortage of these components and systems, which only accelerated Allied imports and long-term rebuilding can overcome.
* * *
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE REPORT D-8072
SUMMARY REPORT OF CRITICAL MINERALS NEEDS, 1991–1995
TASK FORCE ON CRITICAL MATERIALS
MARCH 31, 1991
There is at present a severe shortage of materials, especially minerals, necessary for reestablishing the defense capability of the United States. While many factors impact recovery, including the necessary commitment of resources by the government, no progress can be made in the production of many microelectronic components of aircraft and weapons systems without necessary supplies of certain critical minerals. Prewar stockpiles have been nearly exhausted and imports are at present minimal because of present conditions in the world trade system and breakdown of prewar alliances.
This task force has identified eleven minerals, or mineral groups, that are crucial to defense needs and are unavailable in any quantity in this country.
Table One outlines these materials and the location of major reserves outside the United States. It should be pointed out that while reserves of these critical materials may exist, they may not be available to our industries. Recent political and economic postures put forth by the NATO countries, for example, suggest that internal restrictions may have been put on certain strategic materials. While it is not the purpose of this report to examine the rationale of these restrictions, they will no doubt further impede U.S. defense recovery.
PRINCIPAL SUPPLIERS OF CRITICAL DEFENSE MATERIALS
|MINERAL||COUNTRIES WITH MAJOR RESERVES AND PERCENT OF WORLD TOTAL|
|CHROMITE (Chromium Ore)||South Africa 68%|
|New Caledonia 4%|
|South Africa 41%|
|NICKEL||New Caledonia 25%|
|PLATINUM GROUP||South Africa 81%|
|a. ILMENITE||India 23%|
|South Africa 15%|
|United States 8%|
|b. RUTILE||Brazil 74%|
|South Africa 4%|
|United States 5%|
|North Korea 5%|
|South Africa 3%|
The minerals listed above, for all of which the U.S. is highly dependent on imports, are classified as vital to defense production and have limited convenient substitution possibilities in their major applications. The implications of worldwide reserves are as much political as economic. Only some of the nations identified are at present friendly with the United States. Other nations are themselves crippled as a result of the world economy and are experiencing difficulty in reestablishing prewar mining levels. Still others, including those under Allied spheres of influence, are perhaps being subjected to diplomatic pressures that make open exchange with the U.S. difficult.
It is recommended that this information be shared as soon as possible with the Executive Branch and with appropriate units within the Departments of State and Commerce.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE NEWS
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90048
Public Information Office (213-555-6263)
FOR RELEASE 7/21/92
AMERICAN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION STILL DOWN IN 1991; WAR AND FALLOUT ZONES MOST AFFECTED
Agricultural productivity in America is still suffering from the effects of the 1988 war.
The first comprehensive study since 1987 of agricultural productivity in America has just been completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The results reveal that even after three years, the United States still lags behind prewar productivity by nearly 50 percent. As a result, U.S. exports have dropped by more than 95 percent.
In 1987, for example, the nine major agricultural exports were wheat, oats, corn, barley, rice, soybeans, tobacco, edible vegetable oils, and cotton. In that year the United States accounted for more than 30 percent of the total world production in these nine products. In 1991, however, the U.S. accounted for only 14 percent of the total world production. Table One summarizes this trend.
The Department’s recent study also confirms early surveys, which suggested that the 19 states most directly affected by the war remain considerably behind the rest of the nation in agricultural recovery. These states were either directly struck by the Soviets in 1988 or suffered from high levels of radioactive fallout. Total U.S. agricultural production is particularly affected because of the high prewar concentration of farms in these 19 states.
Although the study covers all phases of agriculture, wheat production is used as a standard to reveal the scope of diminished American productivity. Table Two uses wheat-production data for 1987 and 1991 as a benchmark for demonstrating the effects of the war in 19 critical states.
U.S. AND WORLD PRODUCTION OF KEY AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS
|U.S. PERCENTAGE OF WORLD PRODUCTION||PERCENTAGE OF U.S. EXPORTS||U.S. PERCENTAGE OF WORLD PRODUCTION||PERCENTAGE OF U.S. EXPORTS|
U.S. WHEAT PRODUCTION BY YEAR AND SELECTED STATES
|STATE||WHEAT PRODUCTION IN MILLIONS OF BUSHELS|
|Maryland||6.1||less than 1|
|New Jersey||2.5||less than 1|
In 1987, these 19 states accounted for 60 percent of all U.S. wheat production. Combined with the overall reduction in the number of farms since 1988, total American wheat production is approximately half of what it was before the war.
The full report, detailing all aspects of U.S. productivity, is available as it Comprehensive Study of American Agricultural Production, 1987–1991, AG92-S1-8. Copies are available for PIO from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Los Angeles, California 90047, or from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in major cities.
The rich farmland of northern Missouri was dusted brown, the towns were brown, the late-summer trees were hazed with dust.
Each town we passed through granted us a secret glimpse down its streets. An occasional decontamination team could be seen in white coveralls, seeking slowly along the sidewalks, or a cleanup crew with a water truck spraying the pavement. We saw into backyards where people were cleaning clothing, furniture, and each other with hoses.
And everywhere, as passengers came and went, we heard tales of the storm. It was the biggest duster in history. Winds clocked at a hundred and ten miles an hour and more in town after town.
Took roofs, cars, collapsed buildings, reduced a dozen trailer parks to pulverized aluminum.
Despite it all, we found a powerful spirit moving among the people that seemed at moments almost otherworldly, as surprising as sudden speech from a Trappist.
SYLVIE WEST, MARCELINE, MISSOURI: “I’m goin’ up the line to La Plata to see that my mother’s okay. We been in Missouri a long time, us Wests. We aren’t going anywhere. A lot of people from around here went south, down to Alabama and Georgia and Florida. There’s trouble getting into Georgia. But this is good land, and we just decided we’d stick it out. The storm? I’ve seen dust before.”
Sylvie West was the color of the land, yellow-gray. Her arms were as long and improbable as the legs of a mantis. She was missing her bottom teeth.
GEORGE KIMBALL, EDINA, MISSOURI: “It wasn’t all that hot. We got a real low dose in Edina. I’m looking at it this way—I just got myself a whole lot of good black dirt from Nebraska scot-free. Hell no, I’m not goin’ anywhere. I stayed right in Edina through the war and the famine and the flu. That’s the place for me. I’m a farmer, of course. I guess you could say I like the look of the town, and I like the people. The stayers, that is. The loafers and the new people all went south. But Missouri needs her people now, and I am not leaving,”
He carried a weathered Samsonite briefcase, which turned out to be full of warehouse receipts recertified that morning by the Knox County Radiation Board. He was on his way to Galesburg to present these receipts to the accepting agent for the Agriculture Department’s Regional Strategic Grains Allocation Commission.
His wedding ring was on his right hand, signifying his widowerhood.
ALFRED T. BENSEN, GALESBURG, ILLINOIS: “I am in the practice of law in Galesburg, Illinois. I have been in my practice for twenty-eight years, and expect to continue until the day I die. I noticed some dust. But I was working through some title questions for a client and I did not have time to deal with it. This is a man who’s been able to buy up over sixty thousand acres at auction in the past year. Abandoned farm properties. This man is twenty-eight. By the time he’s fifty, you watch. Illinois will have done for him what it’s done for millions in the past. It will have made him rich.”
He sat rigidly against his seat, his dark blue suit shiny from many ironings. He spoke as if he had memorized his lines, and been waiting for years to deliver them. Once I noticed him looking long and carefully at us, through brown, slow eyes.
GORDON LOCKHART, LASALLE, ILLINOIS: “We got a little dust, but most of the blow was south of here. I am an International Harvester dealer. As of December of this year I will be able to sell you a tractor, a combine, just about any piece of equipment you want.
What Harvester did was very smart. They just went out, over the past few years, and repossessed all the abandoned IH equipment they could lay their hands on. Meanwhile, they were getting the factories running again. Nobody was getting paid, but the company organized an employee barter co-op, so Harvester people didn’t starve, either. We have company doctors and now a company hospital, so the triage doesn’t mean a thing to us. IH people are a big, rock-solid family. We are going to make this land work for us again, maybe better than it did before. No question. Better.”
A moment later he was asleep, snoring, his head thrown back, the midmorning sun full in his face. One of the trainmen came and tried to get him to eat some soup, but after he was awakened he spent the rest of the trip staring out the window.
JOHN SAMPSON, JOLIET, ILLINOIS: “We got the prison here, and a sure sign that things are picking up is that we got more inmates.
Robbers, second-story men, mostly. No more drug dealers. That kind of petered out. Nobody wants to import drugs into a country where the money’s worthless. We don’t have many murderers, either. No car thieves. Joliet’s kind of quiet. About half the bunks are filled. We got the electric chair back, and once in a while somebody gets the juice. Illinois abides by the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, even though there isn’t any Supreme Court anymore. We still work under the old laws, just like before Warday. Why shouldn’t we? This is part of America, and it is going to stay that way.”
The other passengers kept away from Mr. Sampson. It might have been better for him to travel in ordinary clothing. His Joliet prison guard’s uniform made his fellow passengers uneasy, and he had a lonely trip.
Twenty-five miles from the Loop, we began to pass through Chicago’s suburban and then industrial outlands. The suburbs are mostly depopulated. People have moved into the city centers or rejoined the small-town economy rather than contend with the difficult transportation problems of suburban life.
Just as Chicago’s skyline appeared ahead of us, we passed a tremendous sign, red letters on a white background:
CHICAGO, THE “I WILL” TOWN
HAVE WE GOT A JOB FOR YOU?
I had again that sense of strangeness, as if I had come upon the spirit of the past alive and still moving in the land. It was a little frightening, but it could also fill me with the reckless energy of boosterism gone frantic.
We moved through a sea of factories with names like Ryerson Steel, Kroehler, Burlington Northern, and Nabisco. Some of these establishments were empty, but others were running—Nabisco, as it turned out, on what must have been an all-out schedule. A fifty-car freight was sided there, being loaded. People were swarming along the loading bays where trucks once came and went, hauling boxes on trolleys to the new rail siding. Another brand-new sign was in place here: NABISCO FEEDS AMERICA. I remembered them as a cookie manufacturer, but a passenger whose brother worked there explained that the company was now producing high-protein baked goods of all kinds: breads, biscuits, noodles, and other basic foodstuffs. I could not resist asking about Oreos. The answer:
“Available on a limited basis.”
By the time we reached Union Station, we had been thoroughly indoctrinated. Word had spread through the train that we were writing a book about the present condition of the country. “We’re sick of the ‘devastated Midwest’ cliché,” Tom Walker of Chicago said. “You guys make sure you see the real Chicago. Stay in the Loop. The Loop is Chicago.”