The Last Night of the World

A couple peacefully contemplates their imminent destruction.

"I dreamt that it was all going to be over and a voice said it was; not any kind of voice I can remember, but a voice anyway, and it said things would stop here on Earth. I didn't think too much about it when I awoke the next morning, but then I went to work and the feeling as with me all day. I caught Stan Willis looking out the window in the middle of the afternoon and I said, 'Penny for your thoughts, Stan,' and he said, 'I had a dream last night,' and before he even told me the dream, I knew what it was. I could have told him, but he told me and I listened to him."

Nirvana

A husband struggles with the needs of his paralyzed wife and his creation of a hologram version of an assassinated President; new fiction from the author of The Orphan Master's Son.

"After the doctor left, I went into the garage and started making the President. A psychologist would probably say the reason I created him had to do with the promise I made Charlotte and the fact that the President also had a relationship with the person who took his life. But it's simpler than that: I just needed to save somebody, and with the President, it didn't matter that it was too late."

American Ninja 2

In the wake of his grandmother's death, a young man struggles with intense bouts of anger.

"I'll describe the walls because that's easy — they were white, and I hurt my right pinkie knuckle-punching some of them while I walked through rooms searching for my car keys. My inability to find them frustrated me so badly that I beat up the bathroom door, limped away, and waved my fist at the plaster statue of Beethoven's head on top of the piano we never learned to play. After all that, I found the keys in a coat pocket I had already checked twice but somehow missed. I grabbed the video and made toward the back door, but on my way I noticed Sparkles cowering under the kitchen table, shaking, terrified of me. I hated myself a little extra, fed her a slice of manufactured cheese, patted her on the head, and took the back steps three at a time."

The Red Bow

After a tragic accident involving a rabid dog, grief drives citzens to extreme, illogical measures to prevent further occurrences.

"What I'm saying is, with no dogs and no cats, the chance that another father would have to carry his animal-murdered child into their home, where the child's mother sat, doing the bills, happy or something like happy for the last time in her life, happy until the instant she looked up and saw--what I guess I'm saying is, with no dogs and no cats, the chances of that happening to someone else (or to us again) went down to that very beautiful number of Zero. Which is why we eventually did have to enact our policy of sacrificing all dogs and cats who had been in the vicinity of the Village at the time of the incident."

The Best-Kept Secret in American Journalism is Murray Kempton

“Four mornings a week Murray Kempton, the Huckleberry Finn of American journalism, climbs onto his bicycle and pedals out into the world in search of what may be there. For more than thirty years he has been finding things other writers have not even thought to look for, and he has done so with a compelling humanity that is rare not just in his profession but in the human race as well. I have followed him as he made his regular rounds, and I have eaten at his table, and I am not all that certain that he is not the greatest man I have ever met.”

Deep Sleep

A Bosnian immigrant in Chicago undertakes some ramshackle detective work.

"Office 909 had a sign that read GREAT LAKES EYE and a black-and-white eye with long, upward-curling eyelashes. Pronek hesitated for a moment before knocking at the door--his fingers levitated, angled, in front of the eye. Pronek knocked using three of his knuckles, the glass shook perilously, then he opened the door and entered an empty waiting room. There was another door, closed, and there were magazines strewn on the few chairs, even on the musty floor, as if someone had searched through them all. The waiting room was lit by a thin-necked lamp in the corner, leaning slightly as if about to snap. A picture of an elaborate ocean sunset--somebody lit a match under the water--hung on the opposite wall. 'Acapulco,' it said in the lower right corner, 'where you want to dream.' Pronek stood in front of the picture, imagining Acapulco and all the pretty, tawny people there. It would be a good place to disappear for a while."

Future Emergencies

A couple goes about their relationship while the world outside may or may not be descending into chaos.

"When the announcement was made, my first instinct was to hold my breath in case whatever it was had already been released into the air. 'What?' Victor asked, coming in and turning down the volume. I exhaled. 'Gas masks,' I said."

The Rebuilding

Scott Raab’s ongoing reports on the reconstruction at the World Trade Center site.

  1. The Truth About the World Trade Center: A history of boondoggles. (Sep 2012)

  2. The Memorial: How the site came together. (Sep 2011)

  3. Good Days at Ground Zero: One World Trade reaches to the sky. (Oct 2010)

  4. Of Time and the Freedom Tower: Why is construction taking so long? (Sep 2008)

  5. The Steel: Construction begins, six years after 9-11. (Jun 2007)

  6. The Blasters: Getting ready to rebuild. (Sep 2006)

  7. The Engineers: The challenges of the construction site. (Feb 2006)

  8. The Foundation: Larry Silverstein and Governor Pataki play nice, for now. (Sep 2005)

Memento Mori

An alternate take on Memento's amnesiac-detective concept, written by Christopher Nolan's brother.

"He is caught at the door to his room, one hand on the knob. Two pictures are taped to the wall by the door. Earl's attention is caught first by the MRI, a shiny black frame for four windows into someone's skull. In marker, the picture is labeled YOUR BRAIN. Earl stares at it. Concentric circles in different colors. He can make out the big orbs of his eyes and, behind these, the twin lobes of his brain. Smooth wrinkles, circles, semicircles. But right there in the middle of his head, circled in marker, tunneled in from the back of his neck like a maggot into an apricot, is something different. Deformed, broken, but unmistakable. A dark smudge, the shape of a flower, right there in the middle of his brain."