The old man led the group of people around the outskirts of the park. He droned on as he walked and the people listened with rapt attention.
“It was one of those pulse weapons. You remember hearing about them in school, I’m sure. The damage was minimized, there was no fallout zone and the physical damage was limited to an area of about a 10 foot radius from the point of detonation. Those kinds of devices were designed to kill a lot of people but spare most of the surrounding infrastructure. The idea was to allow you to annihilate your enemies and then move right into their houses, drive their cars, pillage their artwork and possessions. All the factions had them. None had dared to use them. No one thought we ever would.
“Anyway, it was Halloween when the launch was detected. Everyone knew it was coming, and it was coming over the pole so we had about 20 minutes warning. Our scientists had even calculated speed and trajectory to determine where it would hit. We all knew it was coming here. Evacuation orders were all over the media and on the “alert system”.
“The point of impact was there, in the park, exactly where that flagpole sits. It dug a crater about 5 feet deep and about 10 feet across. I got here about an hour after the detonation. We had been positioned outside the immediate area and there were teams assigned to work inward from the periphery towards the epicenter. The thought process was that if there were going to be survivors they would be on the fringes, so that was where we concentrated the bulk of our rescue and triage efforts.
“I was part of the forensics team who came directly here. Our job was to ascertain everything that had happened, how it happened, and when it happened. It was crucial to understand the chronology of events and how things unfolded. My team worked outwards.
“When I got here it looked like a ghost town. Everyone had fled in advance. We found a lot of dead urban wildlife, squirrels, opossums, cats, birds and the like. No people though, until we found these guys.
“On the way in, from the perimeter, the bodies we saw had shown no signs of trauma. There was no blood or gore. It was like folks had just collapsed on the street, but not these guys.
“If you duck down a little and look across the park you’ll see what used to be a white block of flats over there. We found these guys on the couch in apartment 207 in that block of flats. They looked just like this. Only their bones remained. And, they had been affected like no one else. Their bones had somehow been affected by the pulse – converted to steel and fused together. No one knows exactly how that happened or why that happened. The name on the door at 207 was Olivera. We found plenty of personal belongings, mail, photos, and the like there with them. Investigators determined that the Oliveras were newlyweds, both in their late twenties.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions. What happened to their flesh? What happened to their organs? Why did their bones change to steel? Why didn’t they run? Why didn’t they evacuate like everyone else? Were they aliens with an advanced skeletal structure? We may never know the answers to these questions, but it seems pretty obvious, to me anyway, that they chose love over life.
“For the tour, I refer to the bones as steel but that’s not really accurate. They are an alloy that’s “steel-like” but nothing we’ve ever made here. It’s pretty indestructible. The council recently voted to put them in the park by the flagpole. These young folks and the flag should speak more about the horrors of war than any marble sculptures or granite walls. We expect to have them permanently positioned sometime next week.
If you want to follow me now, we’ll head across the park. The apartment building where we found the Oliveras has been converted into our museum and gift shop.
“You can get your souvenirs; post cards, key chains and bumper stickers. Apartment 207 looks just like it did when we found these lovers but their wedding photos have been put on display so you can see what they looked like in life. Audio tapes are available for a self guided tour but please remember, no flash photography is allowed and keep your voices down. This is sacred ground for a lot of us.”
A warm and heartfelt round of applause goes out to Karmen’s grandfather. Thank you sir for your generous contribution!