It was dark inside the apocalypse and everyone stumbled around a bit before an anonymous voice among us looked down and realized out loud that the ground beneath our feet, being made of brimstone, shed a dim light if only we shuffled them together endlessly. So we all agreed to do just that. The truth was, of course, that it was impossible for even the strongest of us to shuffle our feet together endlessly. Nevertheless, if we all labored under the illusions of that collective effort, the overall effect was to provide enough light for the most basic of conversations to survive by.
The light in question was not only a dim but also a gray light, muffled by the smoke from each dingy instep and so, almost staccato in nature; rather like a strobe-lit cigar bar without any of the usual comforts one might expect (leather chairs, overstuffed ottomans, etc.) from such an environment. In fact, there was nothing to sit on whatsoever besides the dimly burning brimstone and so we took turns at first, before a more permanent hierarchy had established itself, getting down on all fours and sitting on each others’ soot stiffened backs.
The apocalypse had arrived unexpectedly via volcano last April in Iceland. Those were the irrefutable facts of the matter, hardly worth repeating. Everything else, however, remains debatable. Those of us who had always suspected Meteors from Outer Space were soon gathered into a tenuous majority, opposed largely by the Ice-Agers and Darwinians and a fragile coalition of somewhat repetitious plagues and blights. Eventually, elections were called for in an effort to entrust some collective authority with the responsibility of diffusing our newfound cultural tensions and responsibilities.
At first, each of us was responsible for carving our own ballots from the brimstone. However, widespread evidence of potential election fraud eventually forced the committee in charge to consider alternate methods of tallying our collective identities. After prolonged debates and filibustered delays, it was finally agreed that we would all stop shuffling our feet simultaneously and return, albeit briefly, to the darkness that coated the inside of the apocalypse. Then, one by one, our shadows gathered on top of our heads for inspection, we were each to begin shuffling again until the vote was completed. Results were subsequently certified by a combination of complex machinery created for the occasion to record proportionate dimness levels and the good, old-fashioned buddy system.
After some confusion involving queue formation in the dark, I was partnered with a Killer Virus Conspiracy theorist at the back of the line, near the outer walls of the apocalypse where the dimness was consequently strongest. Though it was difficult to see much of anything, I could tell we were near the outer walls by the way the dimness bent slightly forward, brushing the hairs on the back of my neck with its breadth. But I didn’t really mind so much. Up ahead we could see the shuffling flicker of the vote as it began: slowly at first, then with a certain meandering momentum, not unlike a line of evacuation traffic crossing a prairie hailstorm at night. Or so Kevin, my Killer Virus Conspiracy theorist, insisted on pointing out every few hundred yards. I don’t believe in prairies anymore, let alone night, I kept telling him. These two facts repeatedly mistaken for specific interest.
Over the course of the next several days, the barren prairies of Kevin’s memory drew numerous parallels to the overall landscape of the apocalypse, and I misplaced small parts of myself in the cultural dust storms and vegetative wastebins of his comparison. Despite these and other environmental factors, we continued tirelessly on, never once shuffling our scuffed feet. And as the flickering amorphous mass of the polls grew closer, as the dimness dissipated in nearly even increments and we began to discern the edges of the great machine that had been created for the occasion in its true dimensions, a slim fistful of the small parts I’d thought lost returned to wring what drips of anticipation remained from my ulcer.
The great machine created for the occasion was made almost entirely of recycled analog flashlights and fiber-optic asbestos thread. It cast no shadow of its own due to the highly reflective, pointillist nature of its shifting surfaces. Which was just as well since, in a sense, its only purpose in the apocalypse was to measure the intensity of shadows as they dissipated and any undue structural interference on the part of its own frame would inevitably skew the already sensitive results of the election.
As we approached the great machine created for the occasion, we were greeted by a series of quietly glowing teleprompters instructing us as to when we should: WALK, WAIT, STOP or ANTICIPATE. This last instruction, invariably igniting tiny fires in my stomach lining, was soon replaced by an even more cryptic message: PREPARE. I had not, until just then, considered myself unprepared for the approaching moment, but as the doors closed down around us and the asbestos tentacles sifted through our carefully collected shadows, I admit—I hesitated.
Another prompt appeared: SHUFFLE. And so we did. And as we did so, our shadows shook and gently fell in silent grayish waves around our feet, where they remain, flat against the ground to this very day.
first book, The
O Mission Repo,
is available from Fact-Simile Editions (www.fact-simile.com)
and his second collection, N7ostradamus,
was released by BlazeVox Books (www.blazevox.org)
in late 2010. Basho's
an e-chap of experimental translations can be found at E-ratio
He currently writes and resides in Philadelphia.