They looked and felt a little awkward, almost silly, as they left the plane and stood around in the blackened field. They had not yet lost their feel for stylish clothing, and the homespun was so lumpy and awkward and rough. It didn't look right on any of them.
Amy clung to her doll, awed by the strange scenery. In her life she had been out of the airplane only once, and that was when she was an infant. She watched as the trees moved unpredictably. She winced at the wind in her eyes. She touched her cheek, where her hair moved back and forth in the breeze, and hunted through her vocabulary buybooksontheweb.ru for a word to name the strange invisible touch on her skin. "Mommy, " she said. "Uh! Uh! Uh! "
Elouise understood. "Wind, " she said. The sounds were still too hard for Amy, and the child did not attempt to say the word. Wind, thought Elouise, and immediately thought of Charlie. Her best memory of Charlie was in the wind. It was during his death-wish time, not long after his suicide attempt. He had insisted on climbing a mountain, and she knew that he meant to fall. So she had climbed with him, even though there was a storm coming up. Charlie was angry all the way. She remembered a terrible hour clinging to the face of a cliff, held only by small bits of metal forced into cracks in the rock She had insisted on remaining tied to Charlie. "If one of us fell, it would only drag the other down, too, " he kept saymg. "I know, " she kept answering. And so Charlie had not fallen, and they made love for the first time In a shallow cave, with the wind howling outside and occasional sprays of rain coming in to dampen them. They refused to be dampened. Wind. Damn.
And Elouise felt herself go cold and unemotional, and they stood on the edge of the field in the shade of the first trees. Elouise had left the Rectifier near the plane, set on 360 degrees. In a few minutes the Rectifier would go off, and they had to watch, to witness the end of their work.
Suddenly Bill shouted, laughed, held up his wrist. "My watch! " he cried.
"Hurry, " Charlie said. "There's time. "
Bill unbuckled his watch and ran toward the Rectifier. He tossed the watch. It landed within a few meters of the small machine. Then Bill returned to the group, jogging and shaking his head. "Jesus, what a moron! Three years wiping out everything east of the Mississippi, and I almost save a digital chronograph. "
"Dixie Instniments? " Heather asked.
"That's not high technology, " she said, and they all laughed. Then they fell silent, and Elouise wondered whether they were all thinking the same thing: that jokes about brand names would be dead within a generation, if they were not already dead. They watched the Rectifier in silence, waiting for the timer to finish its delay. Suddenly there was a shining in the air, a dazzling not-light that made them squint. They had seen this many times before, from the air and from the ground, but this was the last time, and so they saw it as if it were the first.
The airplane corroded as if a thousand years were passing in seconds. But it wasn't a true corrosion. There was no rust-- only dissolution as molecules separated and seeped down into the loosened earth. Glass became sand; plastic corrupted to oil; the metal also drifted down into the ground and came to rest in a vein at the bottom of the Rectifier field. Whatever else the metal might look like to a future geologist, it wouldn't look like an artifact. It would look like iron. And with so many similar pockets of iron and copper and aluminum and tin spread all over the once-civilized world, it was not likely that they would suspect human interference. Elouise was amused, thinking of the treatises that would someday be written, about the two states of workable metals-- the ore state and the pure-metal vein. She hoped it would retard their progress a little.
The airplane shivered into nothing, and the Rectifier also died in the field. A few minutes after the Rectifier disappeared, the field also faded.
"Amen and amen, " said Bill, maudlin again. "All clean now. "
Elouise only smiled. She said nothing of the other Rectifier, which was in her knapsack. Let the others think all the work was done.
Amy poked her finger in Charlie's eye. Charlie swore and set her down. Amy started to cry, and Charlie knelt by her and hugged her. Amy's arms went tightly around his neck. "Give Daddy a kiss, " Elouise said.
"Well, time to go, " Ugly-Bugly's voice rasped. "Why the hell did you pick this particular spot? "
Elouise cocked her head. "Ask Charlie. "
Charlie flushed. Elouise watched him grimly. "Elouise and I once came here, " he said. "Before Rectification began. Nostalgia, you know. " He smiled shyly, and the others laughed. Except Elouise. She was helping Amy to urinate. She felt the weight of the small Rectifier in her knapsack and did not tell anyone the truth: that she had never been in Virginia before in her life.
"Good a spot as any, " Heather said. "Well, bye. "
Well, bye. That was all, that was the end of it, and Heather walked away to the west, toward the Shenandoah Valley.
"See ya, " Bill said.
"Like hell, " Ugly-Bugly added.