About seven years ago, if my math is correct, under the combined influence of the Year Zero mythos and a compounding interest in some pretty bleak films and books, I tinkered with a half-baked story concept about people left alone at the end of the world. That’s really all I had. No aesthetic, no voice, not even a clear idea of what the point was. Only the starting point — fifteen minutes pass in a blink, and when eyes open again, the world’s a wasteland. The mystery was the best part about it, but I suppose I wasn’t at a point where I could hammer it out. Two years ago I revisited the idea, trying to draw on themes of important cultural/spiritual tales like Journey to the West. That framework became essentially a shallow analogue of Xuanzang’s pilgrimage, and I don’t have to tell you why that was a problematic concept. It was scrapped.

Last Sunday the power to our apartment went out in the fuck-all middle of the night and everything was black and quiet and unearthly for a few minutes. That suddenly brought an old concept rushing back to me, and when I say the notes started flowing from me like a stuck faucet, I mean it. I had something I could work with!

Over the following week I kept making notes, and wound up writing not only several paragraphs of freewriting to get a handle on the voice of the narrator, but also a blurb to tease the concept. Here it is:

They were all at the diner when it happened. In fifteen minutes — in the blink of an eye — the world was a wasteland and no one remembered themselves. Where they’d come from or where they were going, or evern what their names were. None of the five — correction: the four — that remained.

This is how Natalie (the name pulled from the ID card in her wallet though she doesn’t feel like a Natalie and doesn’t even see much of herself in the awkward, smiling photo) meets them -: the limping girl, the movie star, and the conjured man. The letter on the dashboard of her Challenger, replete with apologies and vaguely terrible things, says she’s going to California. The two duffel bags full of cash in her backseat say the going is more like fleeing. And then there’s the body in her trunk.

With no other direction, and a strange lack of curiosity regarding what’s happened, the group agrees to follow Natalie, to accompany her to California unsure of what they’ll find there and what their survival will require along the way. Memories lurch to the surface on a slow collision with the present day and closer to an understanding of the reason they’re alive.

Here’s the brief narration piece. Spoiler alert, I guess. Though not really. Hopefully no one will remember this too clearly. Continue reading