The Age Atomic - By Adam Christopher


At 10.30 am, there is hardly a line at all. The day is bright but cold, and aside from hardy tourists from warmer climes, ten gallon and fur in place and all, today most decide the view can wait for another time.

I’m no good for him.

The man inside the ticket booth is old and nice, he smells of roses and the lick of hair around the edge of his cap is a frozen map of parallel lines drawn by his comb just a few hours before. Behind him the golden wall behind towers, over her, over everyone in the lobby. Her eyes linger over Art Deco rays of sun, as straight as the Ticketmaster’s hair. The rays stretch out across the wall, touching all corners of a map rendered in shining gold and bronze.

Welcome to the Empire State.

I’m no good for anyone.

Eighty-six floors in two elevators: one large, one small. There are more people here, having penetrated the first line of defense, now ready for the final assault on the summit. With the fingers of one gloved hand she traces the band of maroon marble that bisects the passageways at near shoulder height. With the other hand she clutches at her throat, at the pearls he gave her.

Please tell him…

The elevator rises and her heart soars. She feels drunk, as though the air is becoming impossibly thin with every foot in altitude gained. She watches the back of the elevator operator’s head. She can’t see his face but he might be the Ticketmaster’s twin. His hat is also straight and the hair on the nape of his neck likewise damp and regulated into perfect lines.

It’s windy at the top, and cold, but the morning is glorious. Her grip tightens on her pearls and she looks into the sun directly. Her retinas burn but she doesn’t flinch. She wants, needs, to feel it, to feel alive, if just for a short while.

She takes off her coat. It is grey and heavy, but somehow she feels no colder without it. She folds it as though to stow it in an airing cupboard for a winter to come, a winter she knows she will never see. She places it on the ledge, her bag on top. The fingers of her left hand tug at the necklace, counting the pearls like a rosary.

Ten gallon and fur collar walk by, their faces alive. The view, my God, the view. You can see all the way to New England on a day like today. Say, do you think you can see all the way to Texas?

She turns away and walks around, counting, counting in her head, like suddenly she’s working to the master plan, the secret mission, the divine destiny. The numbers loom large in her mind.

It’s cold. She takes a breath and feels it, now. Cold, like the cold if you were dead.

The breath just taken is held, and she turns on her heel, and…

Eighty-six floors and you can see all the way to Texas.

I… maybe…


Maybe I can fly. I can fly, I can fly.

She holds the pearls and her silk scarf cuts her neck as first it is pulled tight and then it is pulled off.


Maybe the Skyguard will catch me. The Skyguard will save me.

Manhattan spins, pirouettes, dances around her as she stays perfectly still.

There is no Skyguard, not anymore.

He can’t save me.

Tell him I lo–

Then her body hits the car and Evelyn McHale leaves the world.

He sees it first, a white something caught in the wind, drifting left and right and left again as it rides the cold morning air. It twists like a snake, like something alive. The cop frowns and squints against the bright sky.

That someone’s scarf?

If you divide by five the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the roll of thunder, you can work out how many miles away danger is.

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.

The thunderclap is heavy and wet. The cop jumps at the sound, hearing the glass shatter and salt the sidewalk, hearing the metal twist and bend, hearing the cries of onlookers and passersby and regular folk who never wanted to be near anything like this, not today, not any day.

He rounds the corner and sees commotion, furor. Some people are running away, but some are running toward. Some have stopped to stare; some have stopped to look away.

She lies in the broken V that used to be the roof of a limousine. The cop sees the tiny flag waving on the hood. An official Copyright 2016 - 2021