Judgement Day

By Andrew Looney

And the bombs were detonated. Man's cities were swept away in huge fireballs, erupting into mile high mushroom flames. People at Ground Zero died instantly in a bright flash of searing white heat. Those within a few miles of the blasts were able to behold the awesome power of man's most destructive weapon, though almost immediately their eyes were burned out of their sockets and their skin caught fire. Those still further away were spared quick death, and were left alive for days or weeks until the radiation made their flesh rot and fall away from the bone. God glanced down from his throne in heaven, and then turned his attention to more worthwhile projects.

And Hank's T.V. went dead. He grumbled, pulled himself out of his reclining chair, and started switching channels. They were all dead. He pounded the Television with his fist. No change. All it showed was snow, and the only sound it produced was a loud crackling hiss. Hank twisted the antenna around. The T.V. still did not function.

Hank went outside to find out what the distant rumbling was, and why the ground had shaken, and whether or not these events had anything to do with his broken T.V. He was surprised to see many dark clouds in the sky, and a bright orange glow visible in about the location of the nearest town.

"I wonder what's goin' on down there," thought Hank.

Hank's small cabin was located very far up in the mountains. His nearest neighbor lived seven miles from him, and the town was over twice that distance. Even on very clear days, such as this one had been, the town could hardly be seen. Hank went back inside.

The T.V. had not changed, so Hank fixed himself some dinner. After he had eaten, he tried again to make the T.V. work, but he was not successful.

"Dangit! I'm missin' all my shows! It better work tomorrow."

But it didn't work tomorrow. It didn't work the next day, either. Outside, it was high noon, but was no brighter than twilight. Soot and ash and nuclear fallout were rising into the atmosphere and obscuring the sun. Even though it was August, the weather was getting colder.

Normally, Hank didn't go into town more than once a month, and he had just gone the week before. But he wanted to know what was happening, and he had to get his T.V. fixed. He put the busted Television set into his Toyota pickup truck and rumbled down the unpaved road to the valley. He was surprised at the various signs of destruction that he saw on the way, but when he reached the town, he was numbed with shock.

The town was gone. It had been replaced by a vast expanse of rubble. Hank wandered among the ruins of the buildings, very confused and somewhat unhappy.

"I guess they dropped one of them A-Tomic Bombs," he said aloud, though there was no one to hear him. He looked around for the T.V. repair shop, but the destruction was so complete that he could not find it. It was utterly silent, but the stench of burnt death hung heavily in the air.

Hank slowly climbed into his truck and drove home.

From that time on, Hank spent most of his waking hours reclined in the old blue Laz-E-Boy, staring at the flickering white screen of his T.V. After the batteries went dead, he watched the dark, empty screen. About once a day, Hank went outside to sit at the grave of his wife, Cora. She had died six years ago. He talked to the slab of stone, and reminisced about the good times they had shared.

"Heh,heh... and after that we played cards with the Thompsons and whupped 'um good. Yep. Ya know, I sure do miss you, Cora. I don't really know what to do anymore, what with the T.V. broke and all. I'm getting real lonely, Cora."

Each day it got colder, and Hank's visit with Cora grew shorter. The nuclear smog was absorbing most of the heat from the sun, as well as the light. Hank had to put on all of his winter clothing, even his long johns. When it started snowing, he stayed in all of the time. He was losing his grip on reality, and didn't even notice that the snow was gray. He ate very little. He spent all of his time in his easy chair, bundled up in all of his blankets, staring at the black T.V. screen. He began worshiping the empty screen, and praying to it, asking only that it show him something.

"Please, please, dear sweet T.V. Just one little show. Just give me one tiny little program. A commercial! Please, let me watch a commercial. I'll never ask for anything else again. Show me something! Anything!"

The wind howled outside his house, and the gray snow piled up against the window. Hank didn't notice. He was slipping away, dying of malnutrition, hypothermia, and radiation sickness. At last he faded into his final unconsciousness. And he dreamt that it was warm and sunny, and that his T.V. was working again. It was showing all of his favorite shows. He was happy. Then the heavens opened up, and one thousand angels came down, and carried him forth into a glorious land. Cora was there, and he took her into his arms. Then they went to a big armchair on a cloud and watched T.V. together for the rest of Eternity.

This story appears in My Secret World. Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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