By nature, I'm not what you'd call an experimental person. Friends and family might say that's putting it a bit kindly, that I fairly wallow in routine, partaking in the same old dishes and drinks and books with no variation or shadow of turning. They're probably right. But when Michelle, Domey and Scott at The Literary Lab proposed an experimental anthology, I thought, "This might be just what I need to break me out of my compositional rut."
The Wind Passes Over and It Is Gone:
A Cultural Exhibition of the Pre-Shift Era
Explanatory notes by Dr. William Lorenzetti,
Professor of Archaeology at the University of Stanley, New Falkland
When Contreras' second, much-publicized expedition to the New Arctic set sail, it was freighted with hopes both public and private of discovering heretofore unknown archaeological marvels. Understandably, then, outrage flared when it returned with half the crew missing appendages, the other half (including Contreras himself) missing altogether and only a single artifact to show for it: a fragmented manuscript that would come to be called The Lost Days Ledger. Though the name is a misnomer -- it's both a skeleton ledger and an accounting journal -- the Ledger provides surprising insights into pre-Shift culture. While this exhibit cannot hope to explain every jot and tittle of this arcane, arbitrary system of records, it will address generalities. This entry shows the receipt of a foodstuff into an inventory.
Thus began "The Apocalypse Closet."
Here's a basic synopsis: "The Apocalypse Closet" is split into chronologically alternating sections, the first being explanatory notes accompanying a museum exhibit, the second a domestic drama between newlyweds. As the reader shifts back and forth between these perspectives, he gradually gains a greater perspective than any of the story's characters, comprehending events that will span hundreds of years and affect every life on earth. The short contains arguments and artifacts, endearments and cataclysms -- and accounting. Quite a bit of accounting, truth be told.
More details? Sure. The germ of the story was planted when I moved my child's crib one day and discovered a stack of canned goods beneath it. Seeing my puzzlement, my wife explained that she was storing beans and soup there in case of a hurricane or some other natural disaster. I pointed out that we had an empty shelf in the closet that would serve that purpose far better. About the same, I took an accounting class and learned just how much one can communicate with a few jots in a journal. I began to wonder if I could construct a narrative that unfolded entirely through dialogue and accounting charts. Meanwhile, I read Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen and Justin Cronin's The Passage, and later happened across an apocalyptic scenario called a pole shift. Then came the anthology announcement.
When all those elements were pressed down and shaken together, "The Apocalypse Closet" popped out. You can read it in Notes from Underground, published by The Literary Lab.
Though Notes is a worthy anthology (all proceeds go to charity), we at ISLF understand the allure of free -- which is why you can win a complimentary copy! Peruse this handy flow chart (mild content warning) and then post in the comments which apocalyptic scenario you'd most likely survive. First person to do so wins it.
PostScript: Many thanks to B. Nagel for contributing feedback on the short, and kudos to my wife and Matt Wright for lending their penmanship for its graphics.