Atomic City: Bastard Bend (Part One)

“Look, son, we need to know what happened that night.  Help us understand why people died out there.  You walked away with those scars, but they were taken from their families.  We don’t suspect you of anything, but you are holding back.”

The young man was obviously listening, but remained quiet and deep in thought.  Occasionally he looked out the window at the city.  There weren’t many buildings as tall as this one and there was a view broken by rooftops and spires.  However, his mind was further away, in space and time.  The events left a somber man out of an already stolid youth.  He reacted to various questions and comments, but remained unvocal.

The man leading the interview began pacing the room, taking in deep breaths to calm his nerves.  He knew that the young man was not ignoring him, but taking time to consider everything asked.  The silence indicated that he was organizing his thoughts before responding.  They continued to ask him questions to feed the narrative developing in the man’s mind.

Returning his gaze to the room, he began scrutinizing the wallpaper.  It looked like a black velvet with gold designs.  His mouth twisted in disgust at the gaudy decoration.  Without looking away, he reached into his backpack, pulling out an old lighter.  Among everyone packed into the room was his mother sitting across the little table.

“Oh, Wainridge, you promised to quit.”  Her voice quavered in disappointment.

He continued to stare at the wall, pulling the lighter from its case, carefully dumping spare flints from the cotton inside into the case.  The spring holding in the flint came out with a few twists, the worn down nub bounced onto the table.  Retrieving a fresh flint from the case, dropping it into the tube, and replacing the spring was done slowly and deliberately.  No one present spoke, staring at the silent process.  The hand slipped back into the bag and withdrew a tin of fluid.  Filling the cotton took only a moment, and the tin was returned.  The device was reassembled with a sigh and the young man finally began to look at each person in the room.

He caught the gaze of the pacing man, staring intently while reaching over to the recorder, stopping it with a click that caused a few people to jump from the loud noise.  They had been so involved with the scene before them, that all were unsettled.

“Before this begins,” he said, “everyone will swear their solemn oath to never share this story without my approval.  If you feel you cannot, please leave now.”  A few nodded and immediately exited.  The questioner followed them, locking the door after their departure.  Those remaining each gave their word to silence.

Wainridge pulled a fresh package of cigarettes from the bag, unwrapped them, and slowly took one out to light.  After hours of listening to the questions, the audience began to lean in to hear the story they were waiting on.  Several of them had waited years to hear this, their minds drifting back to that night.  Tears began to well up at the thought of having resolution to what happened to their loved ones.

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