Alex is an unwilling scavenger for the army.

He follows the bombs, creeps in through the sides of shattered houses, cllimbing in through mouths of brick, to pick through the detritus people left behind when they fled, the things too bulky to carry or too worthless to keep. The shattered ribs of a crib are still wood; the tangled rags wrapped around the cooling body of a father too old to run are stil cloth.

He dreams of escape, of fleeing south and west, of slipping across rivers, floating across seas; of motorcycles leaping fences, of clever ruses that hoodwink and befuddle. He has no memory for faces, so the soldiers in his dream are featureless, like an ink drawing someone dragged a thumb across before it was dry. They flicker and stutter as they turn to watch him, the jerky uncertain motion of a movie in the hands of an amateur projectionist.

He meets his wife walking the edge of the river, her nose buried in a book, her eyes busy everywhere but the book. She is funny, determined, and furious, technically skilled and kept idle by a regime that wants nothing of women but their wombs. Together they engender a bomb.