(Chapter 3: Lunch Break)
From civilization to Armageddon in thirty minutes! That's the face of nuclear war.
When the novel, Brighter than the Sun, was written, people had thirty minutes to get out of the way. There was a chance that some had a place to go to. An emergency broadcast system had been built in those days to provide the needed warning.
In the now five-minute war, from launch to impact, no escape is possible, not even a warning. If you are in the target zone, count yourself lucky. Nuclear war results in universal extermination, one way or another. Survival means death by starvation. When the fallout blocks the sunlight, food production stops. No winner will leave the scene, or have a safe place to go to. No historians will record in the end what it was all about. Nor will anyone likely know how it started. The human journey will simply end, and all life will end with it, unless the future is restored that seems so much like but a dreaming now. The future rests on the Principle of Universal Love, not self-love, but the universal love for humanity as a higher concept.
Indeed, humanity is dreaming, being fast asleep in apathy, cultivated impotence, and expressed indifference, or all of these combined. Nevertheless hope remains. The humanity that might have prevailed during rescue missions in the past is still a potential force standing in the background that should be mobilized in the present for war-avoidance, and towards a human future, by simply eradicating the cause for war, purging the system of oligarchy and empire from the mental horizon and thereby from the fabric of civilization.
The dialog presented here is of the 3rd chapter of the novel, Brighter than the Sun, by Rolf Witzsche.
"It's a miracle, Harry! A world-record!"
Harry smiled. "No, Paul! It's merely the first time we've got out of O'Hare without a line-up. We'll be in Seattle before the noon flights arrive."
I agreed. I liked Harry. We hadn't flown together before, but I had heard good things about him. When I volunteered to substitute for the Chicago - Vancouver run, I had no idea that this was my opportunity to meet him. All I had in mind, was to get as fast as possible away from the sweltering heat that had transformed the East Coast into a steam-bath, and of course away from anything whatsoever that was even remotely connected with the seminar which had just ended. Who else, but the government would have thought of holding a seminar in Miami, in July? The subject was as hot and dreadful as the weather, a course on civil rescue procedures for the eventuality of a nuclear war! Vancouver's 'perpetual' rain and relative isolation seemed like paradise suddenly. And beyond that I was looking forward to being with my family again. It had all been arranged. We would meet in Vancouver for a visit with Frank. The occasion was Frank's birthday and a three-day hiking trip to Garibaldi Park. The anticipation of this hike into the mountains had made the depressing two weeks in Miami almost bearable. I played a game with myself. When the topic of the course became too frightening, I imagined the four of us and our children camping among glaciers and mountain lakes, with a peace surrounding us as pure as the sky.
Spending two weeks in a classroom, for eight hours a day, had made me want to fly again so badly. I would have done it for nothing. Well, it turns out that one can't do that. One also has to accept the money that comes with it. I was lucky on top of all that. I got a direct route via Chicago and Seattle to Vancouver.
"United 023 Heavy! ...How's the weather at 40,000?" Seattle tower called in as we approached. We had confirmed our projected arrival at 11:37 as per schedule.
Harry made a gesture of approval.
"United 023 Heavy to SEATAC - Harry says it's smooth up here..."
"Hey, is that Harry Sallinger you're referring to?" SEATAC came back.
"The very same. The one and only, the original, the..."
"Would you give him a message, that Felix got the trailer hitch for him that he was looking for."
Harry grinned and switched his mike on. "I heard that, Felix! That's great! Thanks a million; over and out!"
He turned to me with a big smile. "I was lucky that I didn't lose my whole trailer last weekend when the mounting bar cracked. It nearly broke off, coming down from Snoqualmie Pass. Somebody might have been killed had the trailer gone wild!"
It turned out that Harry and I had much in common. We both loved mountains, photography, music, opera. We had talked about hiking most of the way out from Chicago. Having been born in Seattle, Harry knew every mountain of the Pacific Northwest that was worth climbing. When I told him about our planned trip to Garibaldi Park, he smiled. Naturally, he knew that area too.
"Will you stay right at the lake on the battleship islands, or camp at the meadows?" he asked.
"The lake, I would think," I replied. "Frank knows someone who owns a float plane. He'll fly us in, in total comfort, and pick us up three days later...."
"A bunch of Sunday climbers, eh!" he remarked.
"It will be a family affair, with kids! We have a four year old daughter, who isn't quite ready yet for a ten hour hike."
"That's not much of an excuse," Harry grinned. "A guy like you should be able to carry the kid!" he joked. "But jokes aside, you'll love it, let me tell you! I've hiked in several times with my son. It's beautiful there. The meadows, the lake, and you'll love climbing the Black Tusk. It's an easy climb with a nice chimney. And then let me tell you about the glacier, a feast for the eyes...."
"I'm sure we'll have a good time there," I interrupted him. "It wouldn't even matter if the place wasn't that great. It will be fun, and more so with both our families together. We've known each other for years now. We always enjoy being away from it all in the mountains. That's where I bumped into them in the first place. I met Frank one morning in the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, where I live..."
"Somewhere near Milner Pass?" Harry asked.
"There is a trail that goes from the 12,000 foot level, right near the parking lot...."
"Yes, Harry, that's where I met Frank; at the end of the trail, on the lookout hill, searching for his 28-mm lens. He looked terribly distressed. He said it had slipped out of his hands when he swapped lenses. I helped him look for it. It's the natural thing to do...."
We were interrupted at this point by Rosalinde, Harry's favorite flight attendant. She had come onto the flight deck asking if we wanted coffee or tea.
I ordered milk!
"Would you rather have a glass of cold apple juice?" she replied. "I have great biscuits to go with it."
I said yes, to the whole package.
Ken Collins, our flight engineer declined also.
"One apple juice coming up," she remarked as she left the flight deck, as cheerfully as she came.
"I was lucky to have found Frank's lens," I continued. "It had tumbled behind a rock. You should have seen Frank's face. The camera had been a birthday present from his wife. He was so pleased to have his lens back that he invited me to his trailer where I met his wife Jennie. Actually he wanted me to see the motor home he had built, a converted school bus. He was proud of it, and rightfully so. Even the wood paneling was made by hand, of narrow cedar strips, covered with four coats of varnish. The old school bus was a real cozy home...."
"Did you just say that his wife's name is Jennie?" Harry cut me off.
"Yes. Do you know them? Frank is also a pilot."
"Frank and Jennie! Hmmm! The combination sounds familiar. I met a couple like that at one of the conventions. She has dark hair, if I remember correctly, and a nice smile. Frank would be somewhat taller, with a freckled face, full beard. Am I right? I think he was working for CP-Air when I met him."
"Absolutely. But that was a while ago. He hasn't got the beard anymore."
"Oh, what a shame! Still, they are both very nice people."
"That's an understatement, Harry!"
"We really should get together for a visit," said Harry, "your family, his, and ours. You should all come to our place, for a week perhaps, for two if you can spare the time. I would give you a personally guided tour of the entire Northwest. I would show you Seattle as you've never seen it...."
"That sounds great!" I interrupted. "Let's do that. I'll talk to Frank about it. I'm sure, he would love to see you again."
Harry grinned. He always grinned when he was delighted with something.
From the political and romantic fiction novel by Rolf A. F. Witzsche
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