The stolen special atomic demolition munition did what during the Cold War was hoped would never happen. The SADM, colloquially known as a “suitcase nuke,” detonated. The resulting shockwave blew Emo and Stan back into the tunnel as they emerged from it. Habitual texting saving her eyesight as a spinal deformity preventing upward head movement preserved his.

Blackness surrounded Emo regaining consciousness. Pounding headache, tinnitus, and projectile vomiting making it a mixed blessing. A badly lacerated scalp under matted raven hair found by searching enameled fingers made sticky with blood. She was a paradox, Emo, running miles each morning, then crushing a quart of French pot ice cream. Mineral water at work, after hours Johnnie Walker Blue neat. Always in T-shirts, jeans, and Converse low tops, liking the feel of Mayfair hosiery against her skin. Ever demure, the pair of rugby players sleeping on Egyptian cotton sheets would have confirmed. If not for the incinerated rubble pile: once her condominium, now entombing them.

Stan was the only one who got her. They were two of a kind, just tolerating everyone else. Portly Mr. Jim, who sometimes got Emo to laugh, was the exception. “You get a pass, fat man.”

The twisted little man was afraid for his girl. The watch on his thin wrist showed that Emo had been out for a long time. A smile of relief dribbled when he heard her moan. First thought for him. Unbuckling, Emo slammed against the passenger door. Pulling herself up by the steering wheel, a flashlight dug from the glove box, then into the rear compartment. “Thank you,” she exhaled upon seeing his Jack-o’-Lantern face in the beam. Giving her man the once over, discovering all the restraining straps held. Checking her wristwatch, long ago stopped, time against him. Looking into her round, pretty, preoccupied face, Stan knew it too. Debris smashing the remaining intact window forced the issue. “I am going for help.” Finally out, Emo was met by an Otto Dix nightmare.

A horribly injured woman, sinking a de-gloved finger into an ash-clogged eye socket, wailed that it had been an atomic bomb. The escapee from an abattoir shuffled away. Hours for Emo to return to Stan. Finding him in a bad way, looking into the gray face, words spoken slowly, “Some dick blew it all up, Stan. Like the History Channel.” Her face bleak, petite body trembling, “No commercials though.” He tried to smile: Emo clicked the light off.

Stan was fading, like the yellowing beam of light. Emo saw it. Tube of glucose expended hours ago, blood level crashing, doses of medications missed. Seizures and cardiac problems inevitable. Momentarily looking away, Emo turned back, pale face set. Positioned next to the little man, hearing labored breathing, erratic pulse felt, manicured fingers torn and split, brushed across his cracked dried lips. The light beam faded to nothing, though not before half-closed, glazed, unfocused eyes captured. Emo sensed the shaved round head nodding once in the affirmative.

Pulse bounding on the verge of hyperventilating, so focused, it was as if she was a witness to it. Emo hesitated, moved, was committed. Surprised by the force of the struggle. Her youth prevailed. In the dark holding him, guttural through clenched teeth, “Don’t hate me.”

Months later recovered, buried side by side in a mass grave, their wristwatches displayed in the memorial place. One stopped at 8:16: time of the attack. The other—crystal broken—showing the time a little past 11:00.