Station Eleven

A fragment for my friend--
If your soul left this earth I would follow and find you
Silent, my starship suspended in night

All three caravans of the Traveling Symphony are labeled as such, THE TRAVELING SYMPHONY lettered in white on both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text: Because survival is insufficient.

An incomplete list:
No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while until the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years. Aviation gas lasts longer, but it was difficult to come by.
No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take pictures of concert states. No more concert stages lit by candy-colored halogens, no more electronica, punk, electric guitars.
No more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one's hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetables for dinner, a dog bite.
No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light; no more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment. No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position – but no, this wasn't true, there were still airplanes here and there. They stood dormant on runways and in hangars. They collected snow on their wings. In the cold months, they were ideal for food storage. In summer the ones near orchards were filled with trays of fruit that dehydrated in the heat. Teenagers snuck into them to have sex. Rust blossomed and streaked.
No more countries, all borders unmanned.
No more fire departments, no more police. No more road maintenance or garbage pickup. No more spacecraft rising up from Cape Canaveral, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from Vandenburg, Plesetsk, Tanegashima, burning paths through the atmosphere into space.
No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.

But anyway, I look around sometimes and I think - this will maybe sound weird - it's like the corporate world's full of ghosts. And actually, let me revise that, my parents are in academia so I've had front row seats for that horror show, I know academia's no different, so maybe a fairer way of putting this would be to say that adulthood's full of ghosts."

"I'm sorry, I'm not sure I quite --"

"I'm talking about these people who've ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They've done what's expected of them. They want to do something different but it's impossible now, there's a mortgage, kids, whatever, they're trapped. Dan's like that."

"You don't think he likes his job, then."

"Correct," she said, "but I don't think he even realises it. You probably encounter people like him all the time. High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially.

But these thoughts broke apart in his head and were replaced by strange fragments: This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air.

Dr. Eleven: What was it like for you, at the end?
Captain Lonagan: It was exactly like waking up from a dream.

First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.

He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light. This was actually the main difference between twenty-one and fifty-one, he decided, the sheer volume of regret.

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.

If there are again towns with streetlights, if there are symphonies and newspapers, then what else might this awakening world contain? Perhaps vessels are setting out even now, traveling toward or away from him, steered by sailors armed with maps and knowledge of the stars, driven by need or perhaps simply by curiosity: whatever became of the countries on the other side?

If you are the light, if your enemies are darkness, then there’s nothing that you cannot justify. There’s nothing you can’t survive, because there’s nothing that you will not do.

I'm just curious, how'd you get into this line of work?"

"Gradually, and then suddenly

I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.

It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.

I've been thinking lately about immortality. What it means to be remembered, what I want to be remembered for, certain questions concerning memory and fame. I love watching old movies. I watch the faces of long-dead actors on the screen, and I think about how they'll never truly die. I know that's a cliché but it happens to be true. Not just the famous ones who everyone knows, the Clark Gables, the Ava Gardners, but the bit players, the maid carrying the tray, the butler, the cowboys in the bar, the third girl from the left in the nightclub. They're all immortal to me. First we only want to be seen, but once we're seen, that's not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.

Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.

No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.

No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.

She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.

She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.

Survival is insufficient.

The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?

The house is silent now and she feels like a stranger here. “This life was never ours,” she whispers to the dog, who has been following her from room to room, and Luli wags her tail and stares at Miranda with wet brown eyes. “We were only ever borrowing it.

There are certain qualities of light that blur the years.

There was a reminder that the library was always seeking books, and that they paid in wine.

The thing with the new world,” the tuba had said once, “is it’s just horrifically short on elegance.

They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.

We traveled so far and your friendship meant everything. It was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I am not afraid.

What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.

What’s the point of doing all that work,” Tesch asks, “if no one sees it?” “It makes me happy. It’s peaceful, spending hours working on it. It doesn’t really matter to me if anyone else sees it.