Geographies of Decay by Stephen Hastings-King

That morning arrived with the sound of steel pipe hitting the ground again and again. Each strike at once swallowed itself and fractured into geographies of decay that gave way differentially to aspects of the day. Some opened up as persistent cold and ice and stillness; others as momentary images of people I did not know walking through a city I had never seen. As their city disappeared they moved over the marsh in the direction of the river above which was suspended a long limp yellow line between a series of green pillars; the line continued past it’s endpoint toward the gap in the horizon through which a column of phantom tanks was arriving. These projections were soon followed by others, agents of the night committee who came in long black cars to gather names and spread rumors of harsh interrogations. The air of pallid normalcy they imposed had soon absorbed the tanks. For days thereafter, flecks of camouflage washed up on the beaches. Newspaper articles provided no explanations.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Geographies of Decay by Stephen Hastings-King

  1. Lyrical piece with hushed and spooky overtones. Nice.

  2. wow, i read this several times and cannot think of a better phrase than “geographies of decay” The images that follow really tie back to that phrase (which is liekly why you titled it thus.)
    Good story, cheers!

  3. It’s like a dark, foreboding poem. Great work.

  4. stephen

    nice. thanks for the reads and lovely comments. this is a companion to a thing called “loop” that i put up on fictionaut late last week; it has much the same back story—i have a close friend who moved to cairo a couple weeks ago and found a lovely apartment right around the corner from the north entrance to the cairo museum, just off tahrir square. a week ago thursday the egyptian government effective chocked off access to the internet and shut down most cellphones, so i was left–along with other folk–monitoring what was happening in cairo and worrying about her safety. i found myself kind of interested in the effects of this immersion in revolution as an information stream on my perceptions of my immediate surroundings, so i made this in part by letting the streams run simultaneously in part by making a story. the other piece, loop, comes from after the egyptian state allowed internet traffic to resume—she was trapped in her apartment with a battle going on outside, posting question on facebook about what was going on. that back story is along with the piece at fictionaut.

    she’s fine, btw.

  5. guy

    Knowing the backstory completely changed my reading. I suppose i could have caught the clues that are there, but i missed them. Funny that knowing that it’s somewhat Egypt-based makes it seem more American.

    • stephen

      hail sir…i wasn’t sure for a few days about whether i should lay out the backstory or not because i figured that doing it would clamp down on the piece too much. i’m not sure that it doesn’t do that. which is interesting to me insofar as back stories are concerned: there almost always are back stories of one degree or another of complexity and/or importance—but the game i am trying to play cuts all that away and leaves these curious structures behind that i rearrange until i like how the sentences work.

      so i dunno.

      it is an american piece, though—when i made it, i had something in mind about the authoritarian crack-down in cairo that was happening at the time echoing through the soft authoritarian system in the states, making explicit what is often implicit and then smothering it again. and it’s about being caught in a peculiar combination of information streams.

      still not sure if i should have told the back story.
      interesting question…

  6. Thanks for sharing the backstory. Glad to hear she’s okay!

    • stephen

      thanks! i think lots of people are breathing sighs of relief that things did not turn out as it appeared they might last thursday night…what the present situation means for the protestors is not at all clear. but that’s maybe a discussion for another time.

  7. Pingback: Week #38 – Long distance | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  8. Very real drama, reaches right into the reader’s heart and keeps him on the edge throughout. Very well done!

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