Not the End of the World

28 Jan
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I have a perverse fascination with ‘end of the world’ stories. When I was young, movies that involved the apocalypse, or near destruction of society grabbed me like nothing else. I’m thinking of Road Warrior, Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Dead. Real juicy stuff like that. My budding storyteller brain got stuck on those scenarios and I would try to adapt them to my own life. “How would I survive the zombie holocaust?” That was a very popular one in my imagination.

Maybe it was because I grew up with the constant idea of nuclear war. Movies like Threads, or The Morning After certainly chilled me – terrified me, even – but there was no happy fantasy I could play with there. I mean, the real end-of-the-world is a whole bunch of no fun. My own, personal, imaginary, post-apocalypse might have been a morbid place, but it one that was on my own terms. I don’t know. Maybe I’m psychoanalyzing too much. But the appeal of this imminent ‘sunset of civilization’ stayed with me – and grew and grew.

Here’s an excerpt from a story I’ve been working on. The origins are relatively mundane, really. There are these characters, and their lives are in shambles, they’re unhappy, and they split up. The fact that it happens in a city that has just barely escaped total devastation at the hands of an alien attack is a bonus. Well, kind of. It’s a complicated story, and I’m working the bugs out. But this section really made me smile.

    They looked at each other in silence. Their faces were mirrored in mutual confusion and regret. His jaw was clenched, her eyes were puffy. He lit another cigarette and she sipped her tea. Pete tried to understand the tangle of love and lust, hate and sadness that he was trapped in. He couldn’t grasp why he couldn’t move. This whole encounter was a microcosm of the last two years of his life, and it didn’t take another woman or another man to break it free – it took an alien invasion, and an entire city falling on their heads. She shifted in her seat and searched his face. He wanted to give her closure, something – anything – as a going away gift, to make it easy. She wasn’t going to cry, she wasn’t going to kiss him, or hit him. She just wanted to leave.

As I return to these weird themes, over and over again, I’m the lesson I’m learning is very simple: write what you want. I’m working with whatever turns my crank and gets me motivated. A lot of it is going to be trash, but I’m okay with that. Every piece of trash can be reused, recycled, made better. Which would be a nice point in a post-alien invasion story, huh? Think of all that junk in landfills. Hmm…

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