"Have you ever heard New York so quiet?" said Carl.
Linden turned in his bulky suit, looked aghast at his superior, and couldn't say anything in response.
Carl walked over to the wall of a brick building. There was an ashy shadow burnt into it. He took out a piece of chalk and drew an outline around it, then stood back and looked to see how accurate his lines were.
"What do you think?" asked Carl.
"I...I don't know," said Linden.
"Man or woman?"
Linden grunted something vague and looked for others in their unit to join and remove himself from Carl's strange detachment, but no one else was in sight. He looked down at his radiation badge instead. It was comfortingly still blank.
"What's with you?" asked Carl.
"I feel sick," said Linden.
"You haven't had enough exposure," said Carl. He turned back to his handiwork. "The gamma radiation is the worst and that went away with the explosion. As long as you don't lick anything, or otherwise ingest any stray alpha particles, you'll be golden."
"It's not that," said Linden. He moved to outline another figure imprinted on the wall.
"Oh," said Carl. "I see. Look, there's not even any bodies in this area. Too close to the point of impact. It's not grisly, these people didn't suffer, and there are worse deaths, blah, blah."
"How!" shouted Linden, then immediately paused, his fist in the air, and his face contorted. He relaxed and sort of fell into himself.
"It's a job," said Carl shrugging. "And it's sort of beautiful. Quiet. Sanitized. Stark."
Linden staggered backwards.
"It's not..." His mouth quivered. "I can't." The piece of chalk he was holding slipped from his fingers and clattered to the asphalt. "They were people. They loved people. They did things. They were incinerated. Treated no better than trash. Disposable. Why did it have to be New York?"
Carl looked sadly at Linden.
"Why did it have to be anywhere?" he asked after a moment. Then he walked down to another shadow and outlined that.