Jornada del Muerto (UG)

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Official UnderGuide Entry

It is the morning blue hour in the Jornada del Muerto – one expects it to be twilight here.

It is not.

Across miles of alkali flats (for our canvas is broad1, stretching for miles, as befits the moment), there should be nothing at all, for nothing at all is what can live in this waterless desert appropriately named 'the day's journey of the dead man'.

There is something here. Something that fits the time and place, the instant.

Something that fills the July air with an unbearable heat, less oven than fiery furnace.

Something that sucks the dry sand upwards into a ball of fire, gold, purple, green, white.

Every living mind focused on this event is aware of symbolism. There is nothing but symbolism today, here at the Trinity site.

Symbolism, and the need to be as far away as possible.

It is exactly 05:29:45:016, Mountain War Time, in the Jornada del Muerto. Building above the flat surface of the land is a dome, about 200 meters wide, a man-made sun, lighting the nearby mountain range with a clarity beyond day.

The sun is rising south of Albuquerque this morning.

There is no sound. Sound travels too slowly.

There is only light, and heat, and the promise of death.

Ten miles away - for indeed our canvas is broad - peering out of his bunker, J. Robert Oppenheimer gazes with professional satisfaction upon a blazing ball filled with green, liquefied sand.

At that exact moment, the words of the Gita come into his mind, fast as thought, faster than sound, faster than the light that blinds in this trackless waste. The words come faster than he can speak them, casting their timeless atomic shadow on his mind:

'I am become Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds.'

It is 05:29:45:016 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, 16 July, 1945.

Above the desert looms the face of Death.

1This story was written in response to a Stretcher Challenge.

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