Apocalypse Then: Stories by Rick DeMarinis

By Rick DeMarinis

Regardless of the world's insecurities, the commonest drama of all isn't really of apocalypse now, yet of apocalypse deferred; the discomfort of dwelling is having to attend it out. In Apocalypse Then, DeMarinis's characters try out alcohol, they struggle shuttle, and (most of all) they struggle off-limits love. They locate themselves in harm's means, or positioned themselves there--but in existence, because the identify tale states, "sometimes the worst doesn't happen."

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I could stand still and there was nothing, no movement and no noise. One time, I made arrangements with the other guards on duty, and I brought my girlfriend to the store. We wandered hand in hand through all the pretend rooms like stage sets, trailing torchlight. We played house like children, acting out little moments—her stepping out of the shower to my proffered towel, dividing the paper at the breakfast bar. Then we found the biggest and most expensive bed, with a special mattress that you can see nearby cut in cross-section.

The tower is like a minaret in hell, some inverted Babel that reaches the sky and 34 ⎜ CHINA MIÉVILLE speaks only one language. All its voices still saying the same, the words he has heard for years. The man wakes. He listens. For a long time he is motionless. Everything waits. When he cries out it starts slow and builds, growing louder for long seconds. He hears himself. He is like the lost American soldiers in his dream. He does not stop. Because it is day, the day after his offering, after he gave the foundation what he thought it hankered for, after he paid it back.

Seeing how eager they are to rejoin their friends in the ball room, I wonder sometimes if it was intended to. To the children, the ball room is the best place in the world. You can see that they think about it when they’re not there, that they dream about it. It’s where they want to stay. If they ever got lost, it’s the place they’d want to find their way back to. To play in the Wendy house and on the climbing frame, and to fall all soft and safe on the plastic balls, to scoop them up over each other, without hurting, to play in the ball room forever, like in a fairy tale, alone, or with a friend.

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