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Apocalypse Tourism - I

[Editor's Note: The following is Part I of an unfinished short story that the author and BlockRadius have chosen to publish in serial form, until its expected completion in Fall 2019].


With that certain sexiness that only doom knows, the idea of impending apocalypse had seduced and captured the imagination so totally that it was, needless to say, giving life a strange new feel. What had once been, in more innocent times, a singular linear experience, had now become a series of once-in-a-lifetime events, each self-contained and full of poetry. You would meet a friend and think: I hope not, friend, but it might be a long time before we meet again. And the whole conversation, the whole interaction, the whole round-trip it took to make this perhaps final encounter happen… each of these events, however measured, was perfect, was whole, made absolute sense and was completely and utterly in line with the cosmos. And like bubbles beginning to multiply in a pot of water heating up to an inevitable yet still-distant boil, these events lived and died underneath a similarly romantic intuition with respect to the future. Visions, in lieu of unimaginable catastrophe, of living in your sixties off the Spanish coast, reunited with an early love. Wishful, fetishistic visions, and yet, such was the promise of light in the dark, the cool air above a pot of boiling water. Born a hundred years ago, I might have called this vision Heaven. But this was different, and Heaven here and now, for me, was simply: the calm after the storm.

So this was the storm. Here and now. Summer 2017. We had just arrived in Montreal, the first destination on a road trip in search of signs of the apocalypse that would take us on a loop through Toronto and abandoned Buffalo and then back to Philadelphia. In my 28 years as an American, it was my first time in Canada.

It felt foreign, or more so than I expected, more like Europe, or a European movie set. But of course, this was not Canada alone inspiring this impression, but something more specific, namely French Canada. The speech, the scents, the white noise: these were all French, all European. Properly put, it was a feeling of having just driven from Philadelphia to Europe, in a day. And this fueled our touristic adrenaline, this placebo momentum built up from having traveled to the point of damn near time-traveling, propelling us three young millennial dandies from landmark to landmark, hilltop to waterfront, café to pub, all in a very real, non-placebo matter of hours. Every window sign in French, every single one, why not, would elicit a reading aloud, a laugh, and a witty comment to boot. About half of the women that each of us noticed, we all praised together, in singular harmony.

Today was Day 2. We each wore big tinted paper-rimmed glasses from the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, acquired for free that Monday morning after a frantic bicycle chase through the otherwise tranquil residential backstreets of Royal Mountain. We watched from a bench in Parc La Fontaine, the three of us all wearing those ridiculous paper glasses, sharing a typically touristic picnic of beers, leftover poutine, and Gatorade. The once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse came on slow and remained slow; we were too far north to witness the full spectacle. But regardless, we were enchanted; there was nothing we’d rather be doing in that city at that time. When finally, after about half an hour, the sun was partially eclipsed, about halfway eclipsed, which was as much as it could be from our perspective in Quebec, we all stood, and all said something to the effect of “whoa, weird,” and then the moon began to pass, and the sun began to wax, quicker than the moon ever waxes, though always as a growing crescent, never a gibbous, and we began to leave the park.

But before we left completely, we each chose to give away our glasses, each to a different group of locals, or to whom we assumed were locals, little groups of locals that had all been looking at us like we were either crazy tourists, or just well-informed locals. We put our heads down, a small gang of traveling Samaritans, and walked up the path that led to the street. That’s when we noticed the ground. The reflection through the trees. Hundreds of half-moons, or thick crescent suns, an endless fractal pattern through the trees of apples bitten once. Hundreds, thousands; hundreds of thousands. Incredible, incredible. But all the press, and all the people, all over social media, everywhere… Everybody was talking about the sun, the one in the sky, and maybe to a lesser extent the moon, but no one – no one, we imagined – was talking

about the infinite, once-in-a-lifetime arrays of shadows on the ground.

We made this comment to each other, the three of us, in some combination, making the point and agreeing with one another. And then we got back on the road and we never really spoke of it again.

PART II - Click here




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