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And the Sun Came Up Tremendous

Inspired by the events of July 16th, 1945

By Amanda StarksPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Photo of the Trinity Site test, 12 seconds after the explosion, July 16th, 1945

In memory of the 12 girls who were among the first victims of the atomic age.

The screen on Mara's smartphone screamed beams of blue light into her eyes as she doom scrolled through social media. It was 4:13am, and she was still laying on her side in her bed unable to let go of the news headlines whipping past.

THE 21ST CENTURY COLD WAR IS HERE: HOW TO BE PREPARED

WORLD LEADERS ON EDGE AS THREAT OF NUCLEAR ATTACKS ESCALATE

WORLD WAR 3 IMMENIENT?

It was pointless to be doing this: holding tight to the news media with poisoned claws, but logic seemed to have escaped alongside her sleeping schedule.

But what if it happens here? That question kept haunting her. From her day-to-day routines, to her job, to her school...everything felt like it was on the precipice, teetering on needlepoint and ready to fall off that cliff at any moment.

Mara had never been a victim of nuclear war-fare, nor had her parents, grandparents, or their grandparents. That was only read in the history books and seen on re-runs of war documentaries in other countries. Not here. Not ever.

It was 4:13am, and Mara finally put her phone to sleep, her bedroom going completely dark in the absence of light.

That was when the sun came up tremendous.

Flinching from the sudden onslaught, she threw back her comforter in frustration before marching to her window and pulling back the curtains, squinting into the glaring light.

"What asshole left their headlights on now?" She grumbled as she scanned the driveway outside her window.

The only car in the driveway was her own, and the bright light was not coming from any vehicle. The sky itself was bright, as if someone had simply flipped on a switch for the sun.

She tilted her head up to look at the horizon, only to feel her heart shrink, sink, and collapse into the bowels of her guts at the sight of a giant mushroom cloud rising over the roofs of the neighborhood, spreading like the gentle unfurling of a newborn butterfly's wings.

It was just like those documentaries, but instead of pixels on a screen, this was on the other side of her window.

"Holy shi-"

A shockwave of air hit her apartment, invisible in the chaos of the horizon. She was unable to react in time to throw her hands in front of her face before the window imploded and shattered, throwing see-through daggers at her exposed flesh.

Mara was sent flying, the floor vanishing from beneath her. With great force, she was thrown to the opposite side of her bedroom wall, a sickening thump following the contact. She slid ungracefully to the floor, gasping and crying as her face began to sting and her vision blurred.

It didn't feel real, and yet her body still screamed.

Then Mara's apartment began to tremble, as if it was shivering from a sudden cold chill. Mara's heart rate skyrocketed as she looked around at her shelves, watching in horror as her trinkets and favorite books were bounced off their perches. Family photos hung onto the tacks on the walls before swinging to their final end on the floor alongside the splattering of glass and blood.

Frantic, she tried to scramble to her phone, only to have her whole body be thrown into disarray once more as an earth-shattering bang shot through the air. She clutched her ears and shouted with alarm. Her ears felt like they had been ripped into and emptied.

Mara was suddenly reminded of a memory of diving into the deep end of a pool when she was a child, wanting to touch the bottom of the concrete pool. Instead her hair had been caught in one of the filters, and she had been trapped, thrashing helplessly several feet beneath the surface.

Her lungs had burned, fighting against the restraints beneath her bones. Her vision dimmed, and everything she heard: the shouts of alarm, her brother's screams and her mother's dive into the pool after her, were all muffled.

Mara could still remember the look on her mother's face as she had wrenched her from that dark, frightening place. It was fierce, protective - like nothing would ever threaten Mara's life again so long as her mother was there.

But Mara was alone now.

Mara reached blindly for her phone, her ears ringing loudly as she finally grasped the long, rectangular device from where it had been tossed onto the floor.

Common sense would say to call emergency services, but her trembling, red-stained fingers moved instinctually, her contact list scrolling before her strained gaze.

Mara held the phone to her ear as she pulled herself up onto the windowsill, looking back out once more at the rising cloud of death covering the meager starlight. A new wave was fast approaching, hurtling a heat before it that was already searing her skin from where she hung onto the broken widow.

The phone rang, and rang, and rang as the approaching firestorm blew apart trees, powerlines and buildings in it's wake. Nothing would remain.

Mara cried, trembling, as a voice on the other side finally answered.

"Mara? Mara, what's wrong?"

Mara held up her free hand to the horizon, watching in horror as the light burned so bright that it showed her delicate bones through her flesh.

"Mom..."

The firestorm consumed her, her phone falling to the floor once more as her flesh turned to ash, and a print of her shadow was left on the white walls of her apartment.

The screen still glowed:

4:14am.

By Hayley Murray on Unsplash

___________________________________

Author's Note:

This is a fictional piece inspired by the events of July 16th, 1945 and does not represent the actual experiences of the victims. Any similarities to real life are there to ground the reader into a modern day atomic bomb explosion and what the first 60 seconds of the aftermath could look like should someone be within 1 mile of the detonation.

At 5:30 am, July 16th, 1945, 12 teen girls and a teacher attending a summer dance camp in Ruidoso, New Mexico, were forcefully expelled from their bunks and onto the floor. Night turned into day, and within minutes it began to "snow in July". Excited and awed, the girls all ran out and played in the "snow", rubbing the flakes onto their skin and opening their mouths to have it land on their tongues.

Years later, they would discover that the "snow" was actually radioactive fallout from the first nuclear bomb test in the world that was detonated within a 50 miles radius of thousands. Out of the 12 girls, only one has survived to old age, with the rest dying before the age of 40 from various cancers.

To this day, the US government has never acknowledged, or compensated the citizens of New Mexico who were unknowing victims of the first atomic fallout.

Sources:

‘Downwind’ of Trinity: Remembering the First Victims of the Atomic Bomb - Written by NTI summer interns Katharine Leede and Maggie O’Brien, 2021.

Dancing in the Dust of Death - Written by Beyond Nuclear International, 2018.

Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War - Directed by Brian Knappenberger ("Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror"), published to Netflix, 2024.

Short StoryHorror

About the Creator

Amanda Starks

Lover of the dark, fantastical, and heart-wrenching. Fantasy writer, poet, and hopefully soon-to-be novelist who wants to create safe spaces to talk about mental health. Subscribe to my free newsletter at www.amandastarks.com for updates!

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Outstanding

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  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (16)

  • Novel Allenabout a month ago

    So sad the sins of man. Discovery and the use of it will be our ruin. Peace will always elude greed and selfishness. Cingrats

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on your Top Story!

  • Matthew Frommabout a month ago

    Powerful, harrowing, and all the more damning in its echoes of the true events. Great story!

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Gabriel Huizengaabout a month ago

    So, so tragic. Powerfully written, and a well-deserved Top Story.

  • Belle2 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Brilliantly penned!!! Congratulations too!💕❤️❤️ In your research, did you come across an Army platoon/division who were positioned to watch the 1st test?

  • JBaz2 months ago

    I just watched the series that had this information in it, I was thinking the same, how sad it was that these girls were the first victims of an Atomic bomb, and NO acknowledgment from the Gov't. I like how you wrote your story inspired by the event. Congratulations

  • Hannah Moore2 months ago

    This is brilliantly, viscerally alive.

  • Cynthia Fields2 months ago

    Powerful, gut-wrenching! What an amazing story! Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Melissa Ingoldsby2 months ago

    The shaking realism of this horror story is so utterly visceral and truly palpable in an almost cruel way. Very very well written

  • Esala Gunathilake2 months ago

    Congratulations on your top story.

  • Christy Munson2 months ago

    Powerful fiction masterfully told about tragic real-world consequences. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Alyssa Nicole2 months ago

    This is absolutely amazing. The reality of a nuclear disaster is devastating and you capture it so well in this piece. It was heartbreaking to learn about those girls in New Mexico. I was shocked when I first heard about it on the Netflix documentary. Congrats on the Top Story! 🎉

  • Ian Read2 months ago

    Horrifying, in every sense of the word. Brilliant.

  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    What a powerful piece, Amanda. I think you evoked those moments brilliantly.

Amanda StarksWritten by Amanda Starks

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