Thievery: The Last 3,600 Seconds
21st May 2010 in Thievery, Writing
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
‘The Last 3,600 Seconds’, first published at Circlet, reprinted in The Forest Book of Bedtime Stories and The Moose & Pussy 6: Crucifiction.
I woke up at 4am one August morning with a line from a song stuck in my head: “I dreamed that the world was crumbling down, we sat on my back porch and watched it”.
The line is from a Matchbox 20 song, ‘Busted’, which I hadn’t listened to in years. When I was about 15 years old, I played their album ‘Yourself Or Someone Like You’ on a loop for about three months, which I’m sure my mother was very pleased about. I have no idea why that song popped into my head that morning ten years later, because it’s seriously the type of music that only a 15 year-old could appreciate. But I love the way synapses crossfire like that.
One of the standard drunk-at-a-party questions (at least in my social circle!) is ‘What would you do if the world was about to end?’, and everyone says things like ‘phone my mum’ or ‘tell my boss to fuck himself’ or ‘tell my best friend I’m secretly in love with her’. But I don’t think you’d really have a choice. The world is ending, and it’s ending now, and you’re with someone that you don’t even like that much but fuck it, it’s this or nothing so you’d better just make the most of it.
I’ve always thought there was something intimate about the apocalypse, in that the person you are with at that moment is the last person you will ever know – their face is the last thing you will see, and whatever they say is the last thing you will hear. I wanted to explore that intimacy, so it became an erotica story. Almost everything I write seems to be about sex in some way. I liked the line in the song “I don’t need you crowding up my space, I just want to get inside you”, and I decided to take it literally: the eroticism of merging the cells of your body with someone else’s.
So that night after my girlfriend went to bed I listened to the song a bunch of times, and I tried to think what the apocalypse would smell and sound like, and I drank a glass of wine and sat at the kitchen table with all the lights off and typed in the glow of my laptop screen. It took about twenty minutes. I didn’t edit. Sometimes stories are already lurking in your brain, waiting for you to uncover them.
(Note: You might notice that the song says ‘porch’ but my story says ‘roof’. This is because I have never seen a porch. Well, OK, I’ve seen them in films like Trouble the Water and Gone With the Wind, but I had never seen one in real life. Porches are not a thing that European houses really have. They have vestibules and balconies and conservatories, but not porches that you would sit on. And sure, I have been outside Europe, like to the US and South Africa and Japan, but I really don’t remember seeing any porches. Besides, I bet you could see more of the apocalypse from a roof.)
I love this kind of behind-the-brain stuff! Fantastic. And now that you say that, you’re right. Porches are very American. I’ve never seen them anywhere else in my travels. The funny thing is that I think people rarely use them anymore, but they’re still considered an important element of a house for some reason…
It may be helpful (to follow the tangent off the point) to explain that many British and European houses have porches in the sense of sheltered structures for doorways – almost all old churches, for example. But in the US a porch is what we Brits would (or used to) commonly call a veranda. These can still be seen on many bungalows built before 1940 in the coastal south of England, and occasionally as an upper-floor feature on houses of the same era.
Now back to the erotica.
Shanna, glad you liked it! I love reading about writers’ processes and inspiration, I wish all my writerly friends would talk about it.
Alan, I know what you mean about British porches, but I don’t think they’re the sort of structures that you’d sit on to watch the apocalypse.