and 7 odd Chernobyl stories


Part 2. The Night

       I'm sifting through the last pile. I'm desperate for sleep, back of my neck aches...
       I divide the work mentally in into components. I am in a fury — dissecting — crushing — smelting it — piecemeal — until it's done...
       Every line of doses — is a line of attack.
       Every crew registered — an exhalation.
       One, one more, another one...
       ... to lay my head on my hands on the cosy polythene of the table — and sleep, sleep...
       'Hi there, father-commanders!'
       A white moon of a face looms in the black opening of the window.
       'Hi, Stasik!','Hi! Come in.'
       Stasik is the dosemetrist for the whole camp. He's from our company, there was a moment when we pushed hard to have our man in this position.
       Stasik comes in, the instrument on a strap over his shoulder.
       'You going out or coming back from your round?'
       'How much is it?' Valera asks.
       '0.3,’ I reply confidently. Since I’ve been here the camp background has never varied — we're a good distance from the NPP.
       '0.3 milliroentgens an hour,' Stasik confirms.
       'How much ... compared to the normal background...’ Valera screws up his eyes.
       '20 pre-war levels. More.'
       'And in the tents?'
       'And where is it highest?' Valera keeps up the questioning.
       'At the compound gate — 0.5.'
       'Vehicles bringing it in.'
       'Don't worry, villages get evacuated at 0.7.'
       'Can I have one of your nice white man's fags?'
       We present Stasik with a filter cigarette.
       'Merci. By the way — Special Section ordered me to turn up tomorrow morning after breakfast at the vehicle compound. With the instrument.'
       We prick up our ears:
       'What for?'
       'To measure the armics. To find out who's been slipping past the PUSO on the way out of the zone.’
       I whistle — that's all we need!
       'Part of a campaign against over-irradiation.'
       'Why don't they stick to catching spies...'
       We're in a real mess. The number of times I said — we should leave them in the parking area in Chernobyl... And now we’ll catch it.
       'Did you see that new camp — over beyond ours? Three tents behind barbed wire with a sentry — didn't even let our people go near it... Military prosecutor's.'
       It's started... Life was too good to be true, too peaceful.

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