January 24, 2013 by bradcharlesbeals
When I was a boy I would dream of the world emptied.
Of all humans but me.
I never worked out the particulars of the backstory, whether the clearing out was by nuclear holocaust, epidemic, alien snatching, or mass spontaneous combustion. They were just gone, and I was alone, free to explore.
I knew of a kid whose dad owned a yellow Farari. I would start there. After mastering the stick shift on my mom’s Vega, I would take the Farari to the nearest Little Caesars and make a deep dish. I’d go to the 7-11 by the junior high and liberate pop, lots of pop. Then I would speed the streets and highways of the greater Flint area, eating pizza and drinking Mountain Dew like a libertine. The dream made me heady with a lust for freedom and power. I would be Jack Merridew without the choir.
And it never really left me. I often dream of being alone—at staff meetings, family gatherings beyond a count of 30 or so, at the mall. And the doomsday talk of late has sparked these thoughts again. I was sitting in our family room a couple years ago contemplating just for fun a “conclusive event,” one that would leave us fending for ourselves. I began to explore the various uses of our wood-burning stove. We could cook on it, bake bread in it, wall off the room it’s in. Like a hibernating bat that keeps a little pit of heat going deep in its breast, we would shut down the extremities of the house and live out the winter in the space around the stove.
And that was that. I had started a novel. Except the perspective wouldn’t be my own, but my boys, all of them at the time pre-adolescents. And I couldn’t just drop them into it. I would have to fill in the backstory this time. Epidemic seemed to offer the most in verisimilitude. We are always, it seems, about one conversation, one headline, one CDC alert away from epidemic.
A dream then. Not much of a reason for artsy writer-types to puzzle over. Sorry, but it worked for me. I wanted to see what boys would do with an emptied world.
Some would name it Catastropolis.