My name is Alan Stanley. I live in Fulton, Missouri. I manage a Radio Shack.
And I was America’s nuclear failsafe.
Some no-nonsense military men showed up one evening, all crisp dress uniforms and grim looks. Each year, they explained, a citizen gets chosen at random to be the final link in the chain of command to launch our arsenal of ICBMs. Just one last check and balance before that Big Red Button is pressed. They gave me a radio transmitter and arming key, and told me how to use it. Other nuclear states have a similar system, apparently.
Oh, this is basically we’ll-kill-you-and-your-family top secret, of course.
No, I never had cause to use it. Why would I have? Humanity is as close to being at peace as it’s ever been. When my year was up, the device went back to those same men. But I still jump at every ringing phone. I still wake up at night soaked in sweat from nightmares of atomic fireballs consuming everyone around me.
Who would have thought that not destroying the world could be so stressful?