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U-235

I…
I was born of cold steel and unlit fire. My father: democracy; my mother: secrecy. Formed, welded, and bolted by men who were born, educated, and captured for the sole purpose of my creation. Their choices, their thoughts and and their actions during the whole course of their lives, have unwittingly become one with my destiny; their purpose is mine. But what is my purpose? Of all the things I know and sense, this question alone evades an answer.

You may wonder how one such as I can sense anything at all. Where a human being sees with eyes, I can sense the reflection of light across my outer shell. Where you would sense cold and heat with fleshy fingertips, I expand and contract with the temperature. And where you have a noisy, organic heart that floods you with life, I have a silent, pulsating stone that radiates a quiet and deliberate death. Words, voices reverberate inside me and I understand without something so substantial as ears. How? I do not know; I know only what I know and that I know, not why or how.

Many words are spoken around me every day. Mostly math words or science words or command words. These are all loud and persistent; I take them for granted, after a time. But the other words, the words I pay closest attention to and which give me the greatest understanding, are the whispers. The murmurs and mutterings of thoughts behind reluctant masks. War. Jews. Generals. Manhattan. Trinity. Axis. Japs. Nazis. Secrets. Secret…

And then there are words describing the world outside these forbidding walls, beyond the tarp-covered trucks.

Labels: United States. New Mexico. Alamogordo. Desert.

Observations: Hot. Bright. Dusty. Empty. Forbidding. Prison.

All these observations, accurate or otherwise, seem in line with another place I’ve caught wind of: a place people call Hell.

“What’s the matter, dear?” She looks over to him, peering into his lightly furrowed face. He adjusts his glasses, not looking up from the paper.
“Dear?”
“Eh? What? Sorry, hon, did you say something?”
“You look … worried. Is everything alright?”
“Oh yes, perfectly alright. Nothing’s wrong, honey.” The smile is in his voice, but the frown remains.
“Come now. You think I don’t know you better than that, after all these years?” He pauses. Looking up, just beyond the top of the newspaper, to a point infinitely far away, at least in his mind. Sighs deeply. The sigh of a burdened man. Her voice, almost a whisper: “Is it the project? Did … something go wrong again?”

He looks, finally, into her face. Reaches for her hand under the covers. In her eyes, he sees more than the mere question, sees beyond the compassion. He can see the burden, the one she chose to bear with him, “for as long as we both shall live.” He sees the longing- the longing to return to a normal life, a normal livelihood. They have everything here, of course: the schools, the stores, the electricity and plumbing and all the other basics of American civilization. But there is also the secret. The horrible secret that everyone knows, even if they don’t really know. It looms over their existence, reminds them constantly that their lives, however civilized, are a lie.

“Nothing’s gone wrong. In fact, everything’s going along perfectly. To be honest … that is what truly scares me. Scares me more than the Japanese, more than invasion, almost more than Hitler himself.”
“Surely you don’t mean that, dear. Surely…”
“Listen, I know on the outside that I have duty and loyalty to my country, and part of that duty is helping to make this… thing, this weapon that they say will win the war…”
“Will it?”
“I…I can’t say, really. You know I can’t say anything to you about it anyway, but… well, use your head, honey! No matter what it is that we’re building, you know that in order to win the war it must be a weapon of some kind, right? And the Japanese will only pay attention to a weapon that destroys, one that will hurt them so utterly that they feel no need to fight to the last man.” His voice now a hiss, almost inaudible. “That means that many, many, many Japanese people, and maybe not just soldiers, are going to die.”

She lowers her gaze, ever so slightly. “But-but the war can’t go on, dear. It has to end. If not now, then soon. You know that.” Both of them, without looking, can see the pages of the newspapers, every day more dead, every day more suffering all around the world. Even as the Allies push Hitler’s forces back, back, and further back, the Japanese make the Americans pay dearly for every accursed island on the relentless march across the Pacific.

“I know. Of course I know. But what about the future, our children’s future, when wars will be fought with this terrible new machine, one that I have helped bring to life? It isn’t America I’m afraid for, it’s all of humankind. And it isn’t this war I’m afraid of, it’s the war that will come after.”
“Because there will be no more wars after that.”
He chuckles sardonically, putting away his glasses as she turns out the light. “So in a way I suppose I’m helping to save the world.”
“I knew there was a reason I married you.”

I am…
I am cold. Not very, but chill to the touch. My metallic skin is just above the room temperature, and far below the body temperature of them, the pinnacles of biological evolution. Or so they seem to believe. I am also whole. All of my parts, before scattered about in various labs for testing and re-testing, are now assembled with considerable precision, considering the technology at hand. I am now complete; am I now fulfilled? Is my destiny complete? I sense for answers, but none seem forthcoming. No; something still remains to be done, I can tell. I reflect more movement, vibrate-sense more apprehension. I am to be moved. I will be outside. Outside… I review memories… ah yes… I recall something… a place people call Hell…

“Would you look at that. A whole lil’ town down there, all prettied up and nice. Seems a damn shame we have to blow it to smithereens. I would’ve liked to live the…”
“Will you kindly shut up and help us get this thing rigged? It was hard enough hauling this monster up here without you yacking away like an idiot.”
“I’m just sayin’…”
“Sayin’ nothin! Or else I’ll get some MP up here to do your job for you. Clear?”
“Whatever you say. Sir.”

I am become…
I have become a weapon. I can see it all plainly now. It is hot out here, and brighter than even I could have imagined.
And down there, far below, I can reflect a smattering of structures. Houses, fire and police stations, power lines, cars, and streets arrayed starkly against an abysmal sand-white backdrop. I can sense the people going away now, the ones who built me and took me up here to await my prescheduled demise. I feel no malice, no fury at them for doing so; they have fulfilled their purpose thus far, which was to ensure that I fulfilled mine in turn. It is all too clear now. I have no sensory perception, as far as they can tell; why set me on such a lofty perch then, above obviously faked civility, if not to drop me on top of it?
I can feel my heart, such as it is, pulsating in a way immeasurable to human instruments. My heartbeat is quickening; this must be anxiety. No, excitement. Above my newfound emotions (such as they are) I can hear voices. Voices of unseen gods, unseen demons. They whisper, taunting and rebuking in turn. I feel the words more than hear them; feelings of despair at my power being unleashed upon innocent souls, ravishing the very existence of beautiful matter. Feelings of rejoicing, urging me to take hold of the scythe and rend spirit from flesh, to produce a most sudden, massive, and terrible harvest. The fate of humankind lies not with me nor my destiny, but to these voices. And my destiny is to be the tool of the voices, the demons and gods alike. They call to me, calling to stop or go, desist or press on, fail or succeed, destroy or leave be.

And then the release… and the descent.

“Safety glasses on.”

The calls go unheeded as I continue to fall.

“Detonation in t-minus ten seconds…”

What am I to do?

“Nine…”

I am not of my own will, nor was I ever.

“Eight…”

It matters not.

“Seven…”

One sensation alone remains: relief.

“Six…”

Relief that I have realized my destiny.

“Five…”

My purpose.

“Four…”

“My God…”

“Three…”

“Shush.”

“Two…”

“Yes, sir.”

“One…”

I am become death…
As my essence dissipates into the desert wind, parts of me are inhaled by all who are observing. At least, those who have stopped holding their breath. I can feel them, sense them more completely and totally than ever before. I catch increasingly clear glimpses of myself through their human eyes. But what I see is more than a bright light burned into their memories for eternity; I feel an emotion, a sort of carnal fear that can only come from a truer understanding of a certain place. A place that is so casually spoken of, but only rarely seen… a place people call Hell.

I am become death, the shatterer of worlds…

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