The cold seeps through him as he sits on the sand, making a slow march from his back down through his legs, and upwards towards his head. For the time being at least, he is frontally protected from the insidious penetration of the cold by a small fire, rapidly expending the little wood and few green branches he had managed to gather.

Winter wasn't supposed to be this cold, he was sure.

As the flames struggle upward before him, fighting a stiff breeze which threatens to drown everything in cold, he thinks about what happened to bring his life to this point. Of course, the bomb had been the start of it; as it had so abruptly ended so many lives, so it had ended any chance he had at life. Little Steph, one of the things that had been right about this world, his loving daughter: vaporised, along with the rest of Seattle, when the CAM warhead had struck all that time ago.

His brain tells him it has been but three weeks since that day when the War began, but every other part of him feels aged; he had lost any part of his mind that felt anything, otherwise he knows that would feel the pain too. He had been out of town that day, some kind of business at the Portland branch; as he sat at his desk facing the window, a sudden blinding flash had him covering his eyes for a moment. Every piece of electronic equipment in the office had been rendered dead by the flash, and a few people knew what that might mean.

Compressed anti-matter. Those bastards across the Atlantic had perfected their new weapon, and felt that somewhere in the States was a good place to test it.

He knew immediately that he'd never be able to get back into the state, but he tried anyway; his car wouldn't let him in (probably the electronics in there had gone too), so he ended up jumping on a bus. He was promptly deposited, about an hour later, at the state line, stopped by a police cordon. That confirmed it; nothing else would have brought out such a response. It could only be a CAM bomb.

So, that was it, then. The War with the Kingdom had started; the madman Thompson had decided it was time to drop the bomb that would end the world. The States would retaliate, of course; leaked documents had been splashed all over the news a few months ago about a secret research project into some new compressed form of anti-matter. "CAM", they called it, and everyone knew that the President was just insane enough to use it in a pre-emptive strike on the Kingdom. Looks like they had a project into this CAM stuff, as well.

And indeed, the bombs had flown across the Atlantic, vaporising Manchester and Leeds; the reply had been to annihilate much of the eastern seaboard, and so the two mad leaders successively ordered the destruction of each other's demesnes. Eventually, probably because the CAM had run out, the missiles stopped flying, and the smoking ruins of two countries were all that remained.

After about two weeks, he had finally been able to walk and hitch back to where Seattle had been. Those documents had been right about the power of CAM; nothing was left. Buildings, trees, people: in their place, nothing more than sand. The shop where Steph had worked was gone, along with the block and the streets around it; there wasn't even a strip of tarmac until a few miles out of downtown.

He didn't know why he'd come back. Perhaps he had some small, insane hope of seeing Steph again; deep in his mind, he knew that Steph was gone, but at that time he'd never admit to that. He had scavenged the suburbs for a week, seeing a few other people doing the same in that time, but he had spent most of that time alone.

The fire had burned down while he was lost in thinking. Now, a small pile of smouldering ashes sits in front of him; an occasional flicker of flame spurts up when an unburned piece of wood gathers enough heat to ignite. It's time to move on, find a warmer place to get some sleep, perhaps some food.

Sand. All that was left of his home.

Article dated: 22nd Sep 2006

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