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How I Became a Famous Pickup Artist : Part 3

This is part of an ongoing series. If you haven't read them already, read :

How I became a Famous Pickup Artist Part 1
and
How I became a Famous Pickup Artist Part 2

I wrote out this entire post before, and then the computer crashed and I lost it all, so I haven't felt like working on it. Finally, I'm biting the bullet and starting over :

Bar 1 "The Liquidator"

On Wellington Street

"When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor began to melt down, a lot of people were brought in to help to clean up the mess. At the time I was working with the local fire department, under Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravik. I had only been on for a couple of weeks, and at the time it had seemed this would be a nice station. Nuclear energy was supposed to be safe. It was supposed to be easy work. But when the call came in, we were spared many of the full details. Had we been told the truth, I think some of us would have hesitated. We were not informed of what had happened, that the reactor had been compromised. It all seemed normal at first, and we managed to put out the fire in a little under three and a half hours, a small amount of time considering how big it got. But our celebrating, even reserved, was short. By the time we had realized what had happened, many of us were already dead.

The Lieutenant died ten days later, and was declared a hero, though his death from radiation burns felt empty to me. By that point we had discovered what had happened, how we had been exposed to high levels of radiation. At first it seemed the Lieutenant and a select few others would be the only ones to die. But they weren't. Most of the rest died too, some with dignity, and some in a way closer to the way I imagine a normal person dies.

Many of them said that exposure to radiation made you taste metal, and that there was a sensation of pins and needles on their skin. It was only later that I understood that these were signs of fatal levels of exposure to radiation. We didn't know just what we had done, the amount of people we had saved. It wasn't until later that we discovered how bad things were. By then, I didn't care much.

We were eventually relieved of our duties, though some of us stayed on. We were dead anyway. Most figured they had nothing left. I didn't though. I wanted to go away, as far as I could from the disaster. Back to my wife. Back to my family. They used those fucking gieger counters to measure the level of radiation we had been exposed to. They told this information to my family. To my wife. My wife left me. Said I was “dirty.” When she died months later I could not bring myself to go to her funeral.

Time passed. The disaster became news. I continued to be sick, but I didn't not die. In my head, I heard that gieger counter clicking away. Sometimes it would get so bad that it was all I could hear. Everything tasted like metal, and that strange sensation on my skin required me to take medicine to keep it from driving me crazy. The doctors told me it was survivor's guilt, but they didn't really get it. Me being alive wasn't something that I regretted. It was something I couldn't understand.

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