|And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,|
|And the dry stone no sound of water. Only|
|There is shadow under this red rock,||25|
|(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),|
|And I will show you something different from either|
|Your shadow at morning striding behind you|
|Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;|
|I will show you fear in a handful of dust.|
"Kidd of Speed" Is the chronicle of a young Ukrainian woman's motorcycle journeys through the dead zone near the tomb of the Chernobyl reactor. As the daughter of a Ukrainian nuclear physicist, she says that she is carefully operating within safe limits as she twists the tail of the dragon. I suspect that one day her cumulative whole body dose will catch up with her, but at least she is making an informed decision. What follows are a few short excerpts from her amazing. and chilling travelogue through the surreal wasteland.
"My dad used to say that people are afraid of a deadly thing which they can not see, can not feel and can not smell. Maybe that is because those words are a good description of death itself."
"As we pass the 86th kilometer, we encounter a giant egg - which marks the point where civilization as we know it ends - and the Chernobyl ride begins.
Someone brought the egg from Germany. It represents LIFE breaking through the hard shell of the unknown. I am not sure if this symbolism is encouraging or not. Either way, it makes people think, and for us this is our last chance to stock up on edible food, drinkable water and uncontaminated fuel. Our journey from here is a gradually darkening picture of deserted towns, empty villages and dead farms.."
"This old man lives in the Chernobyl area. He is one of 3.500 people that either refused to leave or returned to their villages after the meltdown in 1986. I admire those people, because each of them is a philosopher in their own way. When you ask if they are afraid, they say that they would rather die at home from radiation, than die in an unfamiliar place of home-sickness. They eat food from their own gardens, drink the milk of their cows and claim that they are healthy.....but the old man is one of only 400 that have survived this long. He may soon join his 3,100 neighbors that rest eternally in the earth of their beloved homes. It appears that the people with the most courage were the first to die here. Maybe that is true everywhere."
"As I pass through the check point, I feel that I have entered an unreal world. In the dead zone, the silence of the villages, roads, and woods seem to tell something at me....something that I strain to hear....something that attracts and repels me both at the same time. It is divinely eerie - like stepping into that Salvador Dali painting with the dripping clocks."
"Usually, on this leg of the journey, a beeping geiger counter inspires to shift into high gear and streak through the area with great haste. The patch of trees in front of me is called red - or 'magic" wood. In 1986, this wood glowed red with radiation. They cut them down and buried them under 1 meter of earth.
The readings on the asphalt paving is 500 -3000 microroentgens, depending upon where you stand. That is 50 to 300 times the radiation of a normal environment. If I step 10 meters forward, geiger counter will run off the scale. If I walk a few hundred meters towards the reactor, the radiation is 3 roentgens per hour - which is 300,000 times normal. If I was to keep walking all the way to the reactor, I would glow in the dark tonight. Maybe this is why they call it magic wood. It is sort of magical when one walks in with biker's leather and walks out like a knight in a shining armor."
Read the rest of her story at the link. We owe it to the dead.
According to Neil Gaiman's Journal, the author actually took the trip by car and there are many factual errors. I am leaving the post because I admire the poetry of the narrative and because the pictures are still real. Here is a link to Neil Gaiman's journal:
Be seeing you.