Stonehenge, near Wiltshire, England
16th January, 1946
It was over.
Or it would be, soon enough.
Thomas Heyward stumbled between the ancient sarsen stones that made up the outer ring, towering fifty-ton monoliths erected four thousand years before anyone had heard of 'Great Wars,' 'Adolf Hitler,' or 'H-bomb.'
Heyward was dying. Or he was already dead, or he soon would be. This seemingly vital issue didn't really matter to him at this point. After all, the rest of his world was already gone.
He was a young man, well into his twenties but in no danger of thirty, lean with short black hair and grey eyes. He'd avoided the Second Great War up until now by virtue of a particularly vicious bout of pneumonia in his youth that had damaged his lungs and crippled his stamina: even the short trek up Salisbury Hill exhausted him, and he sank gratefully to the snow-covered ground between two bluestones of the inner ring. It was cold tonight, and that made it even harder to breathe as he huddled, gasping., forcing the air in and out of his throat. Only a fool or a depressive courted death like this, and only the grand master of fools risked suffocating or freezing alone in the middle of the night. That didn't really matter either…
…Jessie had been in London. 'Come to London,' she begged. 'I have a recital at seven. Then perhaps we can go to a show. It's been months since the Germans have bombed anywhere near the city, we can't hide forever! They want us to be afraid. It wasn't like they could wait for the war to end, it'd already been nine years!'
The First Great War had taken eleven years, and accomplished absolutely nothing but reminding everyone how much they loathed each other. Prime Minister Chamberlain had been so pleased when some dissident overthrew the Kaiser in apparent revenge for the millions who'd died for nothing and promised a period of reconciliation. Then the Second War began, and though the French and Ottomans had been thrown out of it early, and the Soviets were losing badly, it still showed no sign of settling anything. There'd been a few small victories, but the French resistance couldn't break out of Marseilles and the North American dominions had done little more than open a second front in Italy, advancing to Naples before stalling.
Oh, how proud Churchill had been. "We will force them to the table," he declared just before dropping an H-bomb on Paris as a warning. But the Germans hadn't trembled, hadn't blinked.
…Jessie…. If only he HAD gone home. The factory hadn't needed him that badly, he could have seen her one last time before…
Thomas looked up to the faintly glowing horizon, blotting out the nearby stars. London, reduced to a funeral pyre in less than five minutes, a flaming monument to futility.
He didn't know what he was doing here, whether he'd come here to die or to pray or to mourn or to see if the sun would rise again despite all doubt. Stonehenge was supposedly a place of great magic. Whether it was indeed an ancient temple, or an astronomical observatory, or a tomb to long dead kings didn't signify. If any of that magic ever did exist, it was now or never.
'Why did you do this?' he demanded of the uncaring stars. He choked. 'Please.' With the fall of London, no one would settle for anything less than complete annihilation now. His family was gone, his fiance was gone. What more could the universe do to him? Nothing. 'I only want to see her one more time. I'll do anything.' Drowsy from the cold, sick from his shortened breath, grieving for his loss, the darkness claimed him at last.