Ducking out from its shelter, the cockroach crawled up the pile of rubble. Occasionally, a loose stone gave way beneath one of its six feet, but it never slipped or lost its balance. The higher oxygen content of the air gave the roach more energy, but it picked its path carefully, staying out of the radiation-dense sunlight.
This was one of the luckier roaches. The radiation exposure hadn’t left much of a change; most of the genetic damage was confined to junk sequences in its genome, and it hadn’t sprouted extra legs or vestigial gills like some of its fellows. It had excellent genetic potential, and had already mated twice in its lifetime.
The roach continued to scramble up the pile of pulverized concrete, its feelers twitching as it scoured the air for signs of food. It had spent the last week feasting on a carcass buried beneath the rubble, preserving it from the drying sun and the radiation-filled air. Little but bones remained, however, and the roach had correctly decided to move on.
Cockroaches are not complex creatures. Most of their behaviors are based off of a very simple set of instructions, relying on limited environmental cues. Roaches can’t recognize unexploded nuclear warheads, much less comprehend their destructive power. The casing on this warhead, beneath the rubble, hadn’t cracked, and presented no radiation danger to the roach. But there was no food, and the roach moved on.
Taking flight, the roach buzzed across the sea of concrete towards the bay. Nothing green grew here any more; what hadn’t been atomized in the initial blast had withered and died from the toxic fallout. But the sea was deep, and life still persevered beneath the agitated waves. Life still persisted everywhere. The roach was a testament to that.
The roach alighted upon a rotting fish and began to feast. An occasional wave reached the carcass and rocked it in its sandy grave, but the roach paid no mind to the gentle movements. It had become the apex predator in this brave new world. It continued to consume its meal, enjoying the shadow. The shadow was cast by the green metal hand rising from where it lay half-buried in the sand, still clutching the weathered shape of a burning torch.