TheNeverPages Serialisation
Series 5, Episode 9

TheNeverPages - Series 5, Episode 9

Brekker’s Journal.

The clean-up operation is fully underway. I have supported their ideas and suggestions. I have even volunteered to help (it was actually invaluable to witness the devastation from ground level).

We have effectively evacuated the city. The relief convoys came in the night. Schools, nurseries, offices are all abandoned. I have walked around the city and saw in the school, books lying open and lessons half written upon the chalkboard. In offices, telephones left off the hook. The ferris-wheel stands empty, the carts at the top swaying in the breeze. I can see charring on them. The yellow paint burnt off from the blast.

An office of operations has been set up at the hotel. The entrance is still buffed and shiny, but the portraits in the reception hall have changed. Atmospheric distortion has warped the oils and sealants causing their faces to desaturate. Cold grey skin, their eyes drooping. The paint has run and coagulated in places causing the subjects to look like they are covered in boils and mutations – they are both fascinating and hideous. They strike a chord in my memory, but it is a chord to a song whose melody is only half recalled. I am fascinated by the paintings. I make excuses to inspect the offices so I can stand in the foyer and study these pained and mutated faces.

The evacuation of Pripyat extends in a thirty kilometre radius and nothing living (after workers have left) will exist within the plant. I have been informed by Stivya that all that is needed to watch the city is a single guard. The unfortunate will sit in a kiosk at the edge of the Zone of Alienation and watch. We have positioned the kiosk east of the town as the wind blows predominantly westwards. He should be relatively safe, save from boredom. I should like to meet him when he arrives and explain to him the magnitude of what happened here but I’m doubtful he would grasp it. Doubtful anyone can grasp the importance of this disaster. I expect I will never meet him anyway as I intend to leave soon. I will post notifications of his duties for him. Stivya will no doubt remain here to brief him.

The biggest challenge, in terms of engineering, is containment. Though Lucia has been filled with limestone and boron carbide, we still need to seal her completely. We need to build a secondary sarcophagus around her. This is highly dangerous work and, as many died in the disaster; it is difficult now to send workers to work! They demand improved conditions, safety goggles, lead lined tractors. I have acquiesced to their requests. They have panelled the tractors with sheet lead and they have constructed rudimentary goggles. However, due to the potency of the air around the disaster site, workers can only operate effectively for a matter of minutes. Any longer and they risk lethal exposure thus diminishing the workforce. They work in shifts of three minutes. They drive in, run out of their tractors, shovel some debris into barrows and run back to safety. Any sheet led that has not been panelled to the vehicles is panelled to the men. Each one charged with the construction of his or her uniform and they beat and shape the lead into helmets, chest plates, back armour and greaves. I have seen some men who refuse to do so, and others who cannot find lead (or who have had their own stolen) none of them last longer than a day on the site.

They are hosed, soaped, wire-wool scrubbed hourly and then sent back into work. I have arranged additional cigarettes and vodka to be rationed to the workers.

Lucia’s roof is the most dangerous duty. The men there have to clear the toxic graphite and radioactive dust and rubble. It is almost an alien landscape: silent, cold and grey. The men run up the stairs and onto the roof. The maximum ‘shift’ allowed is 45 seconds of work. Enough for two shovels worth. The operation is minutely slow. The men are brave. In thanks, and in order to entice more volunteers to perform this task, each man who completes five shifts receives a certificate of duty, signed by myself.

The reports of illness are rife, as expected. There is no real way to tell who will survive or who will die. Some men who were weak in life, survive many shifts on the roof of Lucia, many soldiers die the moment they set foot inside the Zone of Alienation. Many still come, though. They believe in the site, they believe in its purpose and they believe in Brekker.

Today I saw a boy of only seven working dutifully. I have seen him once before, a long time before this. I remember walking into the town and seeing him playing by the fountain. He held a cup and attached to it by string was a ball. He was attempting to catch the ball in the cup. I remember feeling pity and anger at that boy. Anger for his playing when there was a world around him to discover, and pity for his obvious lack of intellect.

Today I saw him working. He took off his little lead helmet and gave it to a worker without one and then he went about trying to shovel with a little spade and pail. The worker went to the roof. The boy’s duty was ineffective, but his gesture of comradeship was astounding.

It is acts like these that spur me onward. It is acts like these that galvanise my belief in my work. I am leaving Pripyat tomorrow to find a new site to build upon. I have, in my mind, a grand scheme, perhaps the grandest of all. I will walk out east, into the winds – east into the desert.

I have heard there lays a great crater, perfect for my specifications. I have heard also that nearby there is a little town in which I can live and work.

The town is named Couldwell. That is where I go.

If I have my way, I will eventually bring Pripyat with me.

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