Here’s my 13th-hour submission. My short story writing process tends to go: Write an opening – [Wait 6-12 months] – come up with a middle – [Wait 6-12 months] – come up with an ending. So all I’ve got for you right now is a beginning, but it’s better than nothing.
ZONES (also known as XELPHABIA)
Drifting along in the tye-dye rough and tumble of this World Left Behind, with nothing to do and no one around, I start to wonder what part I played in the End of the World. I reckon that all of us are guilty in one way or another, but myself perhaps more than most. I never did show up to work that day, after all. I wasn’t sick – not even hungover – I just didn’t feel like going. Didn’t want to phone either. Who knows what they were all thinking: at what point they stopped expecting to see me walk in the door and started phoning around for a replacement. They never phoned me, funnily enough. I’d never answered their calls before, and I guess they figured I wasn’t about to start.
I’ve got a fair amount of guilt for all I did to those people. There was nothing wrong with them, nor the job. Just something wrong with me. And in the end, I’m the one paying for it, floating out here lonely as hell, with nothing to do but count my regrets. I got up to 250 one time, but I must’ve started repeating some near the end. It’s hard to get the exact tally, with nothing to write them down on.
In the stories my grandma used to tell me, there was a land named Xelphabia. Her stories never actually took place in Xelphabia; it was the land that existed just beyond the mountains, where no one was meant to venture. At times, wicked beasts, with six-hundred-and-one eyes would emerge from this realm, and, once, in response to a flurry of questions, grandma revealed that Xelphabia was also home to a large, dark castle. But that’s all I was allowed to know.
Now, long after my grandma had passed away, that forbidden zone of Xelphabia is what has stuck with me the most, despite the meticulous care she put into describing all the other fantastical creatures and environments that populated her stories. I became sure that Xelphabia contained phenomena even more mystical and exciting.
If you were to ask what my problem is, perhaps this is it. I’m always more interested in the beginning of a story, when anything could happen. As more details become clear, and my conception of the world solidifies, I start to feel as if the story is shrinking, constraining itself, until it becomes but a single two-dimensional point on the page. I mourn all the events that never got to happen, all those impossible futures that never came to light.
Perhaps this is why I was where I was when it all ended. I’ve always been exploring where I wasn’t meant to be, forsaking the known for the infinite possibilities that remain outside of it. This ties into the regret that comes first in each attempt at a list: That I…