The Cold Embrace
The night in the city was going to be especially cold tonight. The sky had been overcast for almost the entire day, leading to a brief although torrential downpour in the mid-afternoon. The streets of the Bronx outside the third-story apartment window that Leonard Jefferson Bennings now looked out were saturated from the July rainstorm and shone with a glimmer he remembered seeing from his bedroom window in Massachusetts many years ago. He wondered if he would ever get to see his childhood home again, and, if he did, would the world of his youth still exist even there? Like the final beams of sunlight of the day, his hope was growing faint as he looked out on what had once been the metropolitan heart of his country.
Leonard turned away from the window, looking back into his temporary residence. It was a simple apartment, three rooms, furnished with trappings of a world that now existed only in memory. Strewn about the living room were such memorabilia as a 1946 Bing Crosby Christmas album, a chess set that looked to be a family heirloom, an assortment of furniture and coffee tables, and a 1939 globe, showing the way the world had looked in simpler times. Leonard could easily identify each country on the globe, a skill greatly useful to a high school geography teacher, and could just as easily identify how few of those countries still existed. South America was still correct north of Brazil, and most of North America was still as the sphere portrayed it. Europe, Asia, and Africa, however, would require the globe to be completely redone. Leonard had studied the globe many times in his short stay in this house, and it never failed to bring him almost to tears.
From the couch on the wall farthest from him, one of his companions awakened from a light nap. After a few seconds, he identified the distinctive fiery-red mane of Christina Marlow, the silent, violent one of the group. She rarely chose to speak to anyone, but this time she approached the Leonard and the globe, looking down upon it with burning hatred.
"Some day, we'll make those Nazi bastards pay for every inch of land they have taken."
She didn't seem to be talking to Leonard as much as to herself; a brief vocalization of a burning obsession. Without even acknowledging the presence of any other human being in the room, she walked out toward the kitchen, probably either to get a drink of water, or to find Eric, the group leader. Leonard had always wondered why it was that she was so consumed by hatred for the Germans. Admittedly, few people in the world had any real reason to love the Nazis, especially with them burning their way across half of New England and in control of or allied with most of rest of the world. Still, Christina's hatred seemed much more personal than pure patriotism; even those in the group who had lost family in the invasion didn't show the level of unbridled hate she did.
The only clue she had ever given as...