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Thirty-Seven Questions | 2017 | Daniel, Kest, and the Quiet


Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.  

-John Wesley

Firework Apocalypse

Fireworks are not meant to be the end of the world. For a decade, I would attend fireworks displays and imagine I watched the pyrotechnic volleys of dueling armies far too close to escape, too explosive or radioactive. We had chosen to gather together in a field our children and elderly to observe the doom that none of us would survive, because there should be a splash of magenta and green in the sky to commemorate our end.

Or, when this was not enough, that we were the final witnesses to something more cataclysmic, an event no one could outlast, a death of our species or planet. The booms were Thor failing to fight off Jormungand, the Midgard serpent. The flashes, the static on Fenrir's fur when he finally got Odin between his teeth during Ragnarok.

Or the Earth has merely give up hosting ungrateful apes and opted to come apart at the seams.

Or aliens had come to annihilate us because we lacked the wherewithal to do anything but stare agog at their destruction.

Or these were the auroras of our sun finally going nova.

In all this imagining the end of the world in a summer field, I stopped seeing the fireworks. I could excuse myself by saying I do not have a way of encoding explosions without plot, but it is more that I had grown accustomed to startling beauty, the sort that would have changed my ancestors' religion in an instant. I became like the person who cannot enjoy sex that does not involve ropes and pain. I erode the specialness of the experience if I could not reframe it into something more extreme.

The continued and rapid-fire explosions arouse a primal response in our mammalian brains, almost including ecstasy as we assure it that we know better and to give us space for this experience without voiding our bladders to make us less appealing to predators.

By waving his fingers between the sun and his eyes, John Dee, the Queen Elizabeth I's occult attaché, would enter trances to consort with angels. Modern fireworks would no doubt send him to indescribable dimensions.

How dare I permit myself to only see the world through catastrophes when it presents me glories? How dare I lose what is before me because it doesn't fit into a tidy story? How dare I spend an entire year waiting to see thousands of dollars' worth of explosions while surrounded by loved ones and fireflies, then imagine we are all somewhere else? How dare I then scoff at people taking cellphone pictures of the sky because at least they are trying to be present in their own way?

How dare I miss out on the best parts of my life because they aren't the worst, because my brain remembers disasters better?

Soon in Xenology: The nature of happiness. The sound of silence. Underutilization. Infinite consequences. Daniel.

last watched: Sense8
reading: 1984
listening: Fuel

Thirty-Seven Questions | 2017 | Daniel, Kest, and the Quiet

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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