Los Alamos Dreaming
by Ben Roswell

In Alaska, Hal dreams of bears, of wolves with bloody teeth. In the city, he dreams of stray dogs, lean and hungry. In the country, he dreams of foxes gnawing on his liver. In the desert, he dreams of coyotes. He imagines that if he were to go to Africa he would dream of hyenas or wild dogs or lions.

“Go to sleep Hal,” Snake says when he catches him staring out the window. “Nothing can hurt you here.”

But Hal is not so sure about that. There is something hunting him, he is absolutely certain. It is hungry for him. He knows he will taste like cherry coke and energy drinks and coffee. He knows he will be stringy and chewy. He knows whatever animal claims him will not sleep for weeks.

This is the Los Alamos disease: a propensity to see bears where there are none, where the locals say that there have not been bears for centuries. It infected the bomb makers like it was flu, or chicken pox, like it was the most contagious virus in the world. A bear is more understandable than a bomb, than a missile, than the things Hal has created and unleashed—so, the brain summons dogs, cats, wolves instead; things even people who never dreamed of atoms could understand.

“There’s a fox outside our window,” Hal says to Snake.

And Snake says, “Grey Fox is dead, Hal.”

“So, a wolf then,” Hal tries.

And Snake says, “Sniper wolf is dead, too.”

Snake dreams of PO Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico. He dreams he opened it up and looked inside. There is a little house with a little yard, and two perfectly golden suns that cast double shadows across the yard, multiplying the children playing there until there are a hundred of them, all laughing with the joy of this little miracle.

All the children born at Los Alamos were born to this address. All the children born over the course of the war could fit in a metal box, four inches by three.

This is something he has in common with them. Snake can trace his place of origin back to a decaying post office. He went there once. He opened up the door. Looked inside. There was nothing there but the cold metal desert of his childhood. There is no world in which Snake was born to a house with a white picket fence. There is no world in which Snake was born a real boy.

In the dream, Snake tries to catch the joy these of these PO box children. In the real-world, Hal, who has not slept in weeks, takes his outstretched hand. ◒

 

Ben Roswell is a multidisciplinary writer and designer interested in the intersection of queerness, history, and the numinous. He can be found talking about monstrosity and table top games on twitter @roswellwrites