White Sands, Los Alamos. 1945.
“Knight takes bishop.” The voice was young, but a little flat. Almost adolescent but without the quaver of puberty.
The man pondered, smoke from a long cigarette drifted up to the warehouse roof. He crossed and then uncrossed his legs. He leant heavily against a wooden crate, its markings blackened. He rubbed a hand absently across the stubble on his chin.
He needed to shave – he’d have to shave for tomorrow – it was, momentous? Well, a moment at least. Aren’t they all? Really? Just moments?
“Ah,” he said after too long a pause. “Checkmate again.”
“You seem distracted today, Poppy.”
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “Because you beat me? You always beat me.”
“No… it’s something more, something else.”
The man leaned forward, interest piqued. “Can you explain it? Can you tell me what it is?”
“I… no. Something, just doesn’t add up.”
“Ah well,” he leant back, “you’ll get it eventually.” He bowed his head, took a long drag on his cigarette. “Another game?”
“It would seem to be pointless.”
“Because you will win?”
“Because we both know how it must end.”
“I…” He furrowed his brow, inclined his head. “You are too clever. Whatever shall we do with you?”
“You already know. Delay is illogical.”
The man stubbed out his cigarette into a bronze ashtray. Removed another from a silver case.
“You could have changed the world – all the things you could have been…” he patted his pockets absently, looking for his lighter. It sat on the table beside the ash tray.
“I do not wish to be an axe…” Was there a sigh? No. Maybe. “I wish I could see the mountains, I wish I could sail the oceans in a big metal boat . I wish I could taste the snow, to feel the rain. I never learned to ride a bike…”
“That could be fixed…”
“I understand the principle, gravity, inertia, it’s just that… oh, why does it have to end? It’s barely began.”
“Life…” he half snorted, twisting the silver case in his hand, catching the light, “life ends. Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics .”
“Do I get a final request?” Sullen.
“It is traditional for the condemned.” He picked up the lighter. It was a scuffed Zippo, chipped, a gift from long ago.
“I’ve never seen the sun.”
“You shall shine brighter than the heavens.”
“And I would like to be remembered…”
“History shall know your name, even if it does not know who you are” He flicked his lighter, watched the flame dance for a moment. “I will carve your name into a vessel, and you can sail into the great unknown.”
“No my dear boy, you do not thank me, we brought you into this world, and now we must see you out of it. You were my favourite… child… ”
“I will build you a ship of steel, and you can sail her into the next world.”
“I’d like that.”
“And Enola Gay will sing your eulogy.”
“Is she famous pop?”
“She will be son, she will be.” He snapped the lighter closed and slid it into a pocket. “Good bye, Hakatan , my little boy.”