How is it that death can be all around us and still seem distant and slightly unreal, like a punchline in a foreign language? Caught in the headlight’s beam, a flash of heart-shaped face, bone-white, grinning like a sugar skull: an opossum playing dead among the roadside wreckage of Happy Meals and Slurpee cups, white-tailed deer intestines, splattered housecats — all the collateral damage of our distracted lives. (“What was that?” “Nothing. An animal.”) And just at the edge of the cone of light, tree trunks looming up like zombies in "Night of the Living Dead," which was filmed less than fifty miles from where Dave writes:
Such an entertaining enemy, the mindless all-consuming flesh of our flesh! The radio brings news of the war in Gaza and says nothing about the war in the Congo, where every night soldiers enter the tents of refugees and rape women and children as young as a year old. I rise before light — there’s so little of it this time of year — and regard the silent forest as if it were a city full of inscrutable heartbeats, an enclave under a 200-year-long siege. My ignorance is willful and complicit. On New Year’s Day, my niece saw wolves in every stiltgrass-covered log and multiflora rose bush stippled with red teeth. Out in the field, she ran excitedly along the trails made by little green men on their secret nocturnal visits to our enticing planet. Who has the heart to tell a three-year-old about wars and alien invaders and the slow death of soil?
And so we watch as the great unravel, from Oedipus and Lear to the kings and queens of our own making, our personal losses, failings and griefs somehow cushioned by the very height of these loftier pedestals and precipitous falls. From the dust of Troy, to Chernobyl and New Orleans, we fashion our story-telling from the collective disasters of the past, and confront each new abyss opening before us without truly believing we, the still-living, will finally tumble. Scouring history, psychology, religion, and even our own genetic codes for clues to our fate and the loopholes that might allow us to escape, we even put our faith in modern augurs, just as dubious on Wall Street as bird entrails were in ancient Thebes. The horror and obsessiveness both seem intensely human.
In writing and illustrating their visions of apocalypse, the contributors to this issue have called upon the wisdom and acceptance of advancing years, as well as the particularly human qualities of imagination and humor, black though it often is when colored by our greatest fears and foes. Surviving long enough to tell the tale, we conjure a post-apocalyptic world where even angels die, human organs grow on macabre farms, and women write the last desert-island joke.