Dear Nel Jia,

I keep remembering wild, unconnected images of you. They flash in my eyes when the sky lights up with flares. I remember the day we spent in Chengdu, high on the mountains, the fruits with jelly we ate at the summit, the summit itself in all its glory, with us on top of the world, looking down on the gorges and the cliffs and the creeks and the clouds. There we were, touching the sky and talking philosophy, religion, about life and about death.

I remember Gorky Park, when we sat down on a bench and I looked into your eyes and I told you I could see myself there, deep, as in very clear sea, waving and shimmering. And we laughed.
And we kissed.
I don’t know much about what it is that you see in other people’s eyes. You don’t get to see if they love you or not, I think. But there was nothing evil, nothing hidden in your eyes that day. There was no pity, no dullness, no cloud – they were clear and bright.
I saw a nuclear warhead dropped on Saynshand. I guided it down to be exact. I was supposed to run away without looking back, much like Lot fled from Sodom. And I ran as fast as I could, with radio traffic crowding in my ear phones. And then there was loud static and a sharp continuous beep, from the overcharged capacitors. I threw down my helmet and I turned to see it. The first wave was off and the EMP had hit my gear, frying all the electronics. Then I saw the second wave, the blast wave, rushing towards me. I couldn’t move for a second. I wasn’t afraid, just – it was so beautiful. It probably killed some three hundred thousand men, it leveled the city of Saynshand and it meant we now have no turning back from this war, no peace to come. But it was so beautiful. The light, the colored smoke, the rings of debris around the mushroom leg. I ran at the last second. I ran to the nearest foxhole, from the defenses we dug two days ago, and I covered my face. I was covered with earth and fine ashes a second later. They were burning hot, so I quickly shook them off and wrapped the sand scarf around my head. Then, slowly, I got out. The air was hot, I could hardly breathe. I took the gas mask of the backpack but it was not too much help. I dragged myself to the edge of the forest. The trees were scorched dry. I fell unconscious near our position so they picked me up and I woke with the improvised medic – a pharmacy student who had taken over the field medic’s duties. He checked me for radiation and took care of the superficial burns on my neck and my hands.
I’m alright.
„Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war” – that’s what we did. Much unlike Caesar though, we have seeded uncertainty instead of victory.
I’ll tell you one thing though: I don’t care if I come back to a world that ends, to a town scorched by the nuclear Apocalypse, to a ruin, if I come back to live even for just one last day – as long as you’re there.

Yours in body and soul, for the time remaining –
Darius Pavlovici Nettimans

Posted September 25
To Nel Jia Li