You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.
Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.
Okay then. Being as I am not a fiction-writer and am instead more of a quasi-memoirist, and seeing as how I have never actually had this experience of stumbling across a random piece of correspondence, I’m going to have to take a bit of a sideways approach, here.
I will, however, try to adhere to the suggestion about keping things short — which is a thing that does not come naturally to me. But, like some smart guy once said, brevity is the soul of something-or-other.
“atlantis is sinking but paradise is not lost”
This graffitied phrase was on the foundation of an abandoned structure not too far from my Philly townhouse. I never knew what the structure had been, or what spray-paint poet had left this inscription on the vestigial remains of concrete and I-bar. But I would walk that route often, and the phrase was something I absorbed at a cellular level.
Some versions of the legend of Atlantis talk about the city as a paragon of enlightenment, beauty, creativity. A place of such technological advancement that it was brought low by the gods — either because the Atlanteans sank into greed and hubris, or because the gods themselves didn’t want the competition of dealing with such evolved beings. Either way, the island was swallowed by the sea, never to be seen again.
The metaphor, to me, was obvious. Your current endeavours or creations could all be wiped away by a wave of Poseidon’s hand. Yet new options, new opportunities will always emerge from what appears to be flotsam and jetsam. That’s a faith I hold true in my heart.
Eventually, the old structure and its message were themselves brought down: making way for the parking lot of a new condo building. (I’m sure there’s a Joni Mitchell fan or two who can appreciate the irony of that.)
But I still carry the words tattooed in my heart. Atlantis crumbled, but paradise is not lost. Paradise is never lost.
Final tally: kept it to less than 250 words. For me, that’s a fucking haiku of concision.