Bill Parker had not seen his kid brother Pete for some time. He applied for the permit and had to wait until permission was granted. Life today was just not the same any more. His country was breaking down and nothing was easy, not even a simple visit to a brother, especially if they lived out of town. He remembered when he was younger. You just jumped in your car and drove off where your nose lead you. It made no difference where. Today it did. Things were different today. A few changes had occurred over the last couple of years.
He had to drive through the old town where he grew up with Pete and mum and dad. That was now in the zone, so there was almost no traffic on the road. He looked across the land at the side of the road and could see the ocean in the distance. He remembered how it used to be. People crowded on the beach, sitting on their towels. It was fun with mum and dad. You changed into your bathing trunks and off you went into the sea. Even then it was not really the cleanest water for swimming, but who cared. As soon as you got home in the evening mum made sure you had a bath. Afterwards the basin was full of sandy residue. He missed that today. Pete was just learning how to swim and only went in the water with his swim help, two coloured plastic covers for his arms. Dad would blow them up and then he could float. He never did learn how to swim, perhaps if there had been more time.
It all looked so bare now, no movement and no people on the beach. The little shops selling snacks and sweets were gone forever. The fun fair was the first to be demolished. They just came along and scooped it away with a crane. There was no electricity, so they cleared it away. Afterwards they started scooping the first layers of the land away. It resembled one big building site and Bill was sure everything would be all right; it would be just a matter of time. Some of the buildings had been left standing resembling stone memorials.
When the accident happened Bill was away, he had joined the army wanting to learn a trade, and hoping to be able to visit other places. His mum and dad were proud of Bill. He remembered seeing them together for the last time, mum, dad and Pete waving at the station as he boarded the train. He still had the letters they wrote to him and in the meanwhile had his own letters again, without any answers. One day the letters stopped coming and he was told his army days were over. The officer did not call him into his office. It was a large hall and many of the soldiers were sitting there waiting to hear why they were there. On that day there were suddenly many orphans in his army unit and they were all sent home.
He left the zone and turned inland. Now the road was in a much better shape. It was a new one, built in the last year. He saw the buildings ahead; it was a large complex that had been built. After showing his permit at the gate he parked his car. He walked over to a large white modern building, Pete's new home. He looked up towards Pete’s window, but there was no Pete waving to his big brother, although Bill knew he was there.
“Hello Mr. Parker” the nurse said “I am sure Pete has been looking forward to your visit all week.”
“Yes I am sure” answered Bill. Bill was certain Pete was not looking forward to the visit, because it was not possible that Pete knew what was going on around him. He was one of the boys that the radioactivity hit hard; all because one of the workers at the power station fell asleep on the job. They call it the zone today, but Bill thought a better name would have been the deadlands. Mum and dad died two days after the accident, as most of their neighbours. Some were saved, like Pete, although Pete only saw the world through bandages. He only ate through a tube supplying liquids to his body.
Bill entered the room.
“Hi Pete” he said, knowing there would be no answer. “I drove past our beach today, you remember. That really brought back some memories” and Bill stayed an hour with Pete and then left.
At least Bill still had some memories, he was sure Pete had none.
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