Tuesday, March 24, 1992

Hindsight Is Always 20/20

I got the idea for "Hindsight" when I was a young lad at the hight of the Cold War, but I didn't actually write it until after the break up of the Soviet Union. This was before the first Gulf War and the War on Terrorism. I made up for this by being somewhat vague in the naming of my superpowers in the story and still stand by the work as a "alternate reality" approach to Cold War fiction.
Even though the Cold War is over, we can still look at Cold War fiction as a way things could have turned out. At the same time, we look at it with a sigh of relief that the chances of such events happening now are far less than they were a few years ago. But we can't ignore the fact that nuclear weapons still exist in the world and many maniacal, third world leaders are still trying build or buy atomic weapons. Given this, the possibility of a terrorist supporting dictator using nuclear weapons for international and/or political gain could start a war that no one wants and no one would know how to stop.

The following is not about a terrorist act with nuclear weapons. It's about the aftermath of a nuclear war, not necessarily on our planet. How this or any other nuclear war starts is not at issue. What's at issue is the human cost of such a conflict.

Two helicopters flew toward each other over the frozen wastelands of the North. One from the West, the other from the East each baring the political markings of the superpowers they represented.

The Western leader sat in his helicopter drinking a glass of water and looking out over the ice and snow outside. A synthesized ping was heard in the small private compartment of the aircraft followed by the Western leader's somber command, "Come."

The navigator of the aircraft entered the room, "Three minutes until rendezvous, Sir."

Without looking away from the window, the Western leader said, "Very well."

The navigator returned to the cockpit, leaving his commander in chief to his thoughts and his conscience.

The Eastern helicopter, slightly larger than its Western counterpart, carried its leader over identical terrain on an intercept course with the Western aircraft. Neither ship was armed, only the few secret servicemen aboard each aircraft carried weapons.

The Eastern leader sat quietly next to his wife and young daughter in the traveling compartment when the navigator of the helicopter entered and gave the Eastern leader a message similar to the one received by the Western leader.

A little more than two minutes passed when the pilots of the aircraft could see each other in their windscreens. Thirty seconds later, the two rotary wing aircraft began to slow down as they faced each other over the ice, blowing gusts of snow into the air. They circled each other like two panthers, as if they were waiting for one or the other to make a suspicious move. They circled each other twice and landed, fittingly, with the Western helicopter to the West and the Eastern ship to the East.

When the blades of both helicopters slowed to a stop, their main doors opened, lowering small sets of steps for the two leaders. A few moments passed and finally, the Eastern leader came out of his aircraft. When he stepped onto the ice covered ground, the Western leader modestly peaked out from the door of his helicopter. He then walked down his own set of steps.

They faced each other for a good thirty seconds then, finally, walked toward each other through the snow. They stopped a few feet apart and looked into each other's eyes. They were both tired and fatigued. The Western leader, in an attempt to make himself and his counterpart more comfortable, said, "Are you warm enough?"

"Yes, thank you," said his counterpart.

"It certainly is cold."

"It is." They stood quietly, trying to think of something else to say before they faced each other with the truth of their visit. "Do you have enough food?"

The Western leader made a quick glance to his aircraft and said, "Yes, we're quite alright . . . for the time being." A quick and cold gust of wind blew past them. In an attempt to shield themselves from it, they both stepped a foot closer to each other. When it subsided, the Western leader asked, "Do you have enough food."

"Yes, we do. As well as some wine."

"Do you have anything with you now?"

The Eastern leader gave a shy smile and then reached into his pocket. He pulled out a bar of chocolate. A Western bar of chocolate. With a sorrowful smile he said, "Sadly ironic, is it not?"

With a similar, sorrowful expression, the Western leader said, "Indeed."

"Would you share this with me?"


The Eastern leader broke the candy bar in half with the wrapper still on it and gave a piece to his foreign adversary. For a few moments they ate a couple of bites of chocolate. He licked a smudge of chocolate from his thumb and asked, "Do you still have factories that make this in your country?"

"I don't know."

"I am forced to wonder how it all might have been. I have always admired your society."

Holding back tears, the Western leader asked, "Then why . . ." He tried to remember who fired the first shot. On which continent did the first salvo of missiles originate?

"Will you be alright?"

"I don't know. As long as we have food and fresh water, I suppose we'll be fine. And you?"

"The same. . . Actually, not the same."

The Western leader couldn't help crying, now. "What have we done?"

The leader of the Eastern superpower glanced around himself and very matter of factly, as well as somberly, stated, "We have destroyed our world."


"That," said the Eastern leader with regret, "is for the historians to figure out."

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