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Prose Feature: “Untitled” by Noah Stephens

Stock from Vecteezy

 

Excerpt from an Unpublished Novel

 

You had to come around to surrender, acceptance of certain fate, near fate—to apathy. You would come around eventually, after years of caring, trying, working to improve the situation, succeeding inconsequentially at significant expense, to this philosophy, this embracement of powerlessness, the philosophy of futility against the will of human capitalist conglomerates and humans’ semiconscious will to annihilation; to the attitude of surrender to entropy itself. Your mantra would become, by steps painful and inexorable: Destroy all the forests, all the pastures, patches of natural areas yet unaltered. Build concrete and steel structures over them and populate these with ill-tempered primitives who seem to take issue with being alive, with men (men specifically, the atavistic types who whoop in stadiums and take up too much space on sidewalks) who believe production, profit, are more than priority one, are priority solo. And because every building belches gas that traps heat and more expansively poisons the soil and groundwater, and those inside and outside the buildings hate their lives—the workers’ bodies prematurely warped and them knowing that the only winners in the game they were the pawns in were the men (men again) at the top of the power structure—because equilibrium was so fully distant, even these, the stony apex elites with the yachts and twentysomething-year-old well-maintained mistresses, conscious of their quantum of desirability, who posted bikini photos of themselves on social media, even these, despite their air-conditioned mansions in numerous states, in numerous countries, would not remain unaffected by the physically and mentally unpleasant world their apathy in industry operation contributed highly to. (Furious hail would bruise their warmthless flesh. The storms someday would break their windows. The plebs would rebel against their lot and veal and strawberries would not be delivered. The mewling mob of animals in tatters of Walmart garb, stomachs growling in unison, would eventually arrive, their many feet, groans, combined stink the stimuli of a mindless monster, too many-headed to be halted even by AR-armed guard, ex-army and sunglasses type a dozen years on payroll. (The mistress will have ceased to post perfect photos by then, and perhaps departed in fear, to no destination—running at amygdala’s behest—or to the psychological comfort of family.)

You will say humans should, in the new future, the true future, the now, be allowed to destroy humans, all of them collectively, via their indifference, their inaction—their much-loved and technology-toy-enabled ignorance. Genocide, species suicide, should be hastened, as humans were in the future of now, in 2020, 2025 (the past, always the past), posthuman anyway: no longer situationally or even emotionally aware, empathetic; no longer intellectually hungry; no longer civil or interested in disguising, in concealing from others or themselves, the uglier truths of their animality.

You will say bring on the burning, saying something similar to the phrase of forgotten politician Palin, Burn Baby Burn. And whether or not the treeless surface can be converted to a gigantic, dual-story rectangular shopping mall and expanse of gray demarcated parking lot you will imagine a torch lighting up a wilderness and hear the sweet crackling, hissing of the dying trees, giving up carbon dioxide and sap, leaves of hair and bark of skin crinkling, their worst screams outside of forest nonresident perception. You will say dump the oil into the sea, it needn’t be an accident, and masturbate slowly, quietly, in front of an open living room window in daytime to media-released photos of tarry strands and petroleum-gluey aquatic birds. You will come to say release us oh lord from the protection and pursuit of beauty, of the natural, from the prison of hope. Release us from the dead dream of a nontechnological, nondeveloped other place, haven, afterplace—where the faces aren’t mean and street-people aren’t ubiquitous with their important piles of trash, where the public doesn’t live nonlife in an ego dream, a smartphone virtual dream. Allow us to give up to conjoined circumstances of yearly more explicit evil, absurdity, abuse of self and other. Allow us to yield to life-death, the death before death—the intra-life death of brain and more importantly spirit. Allow us to lie, anesthetized, in the numbing of that release—afraid of a death rendered meaningless should ever we think of it, just as we are afraid of the potentiality of thought dormant in our petrified minds.

 

 

Biography: Noah Stephens is a novelist who lives in Springfield, Oregon.

Artist Statement: As a writer I write because that is what a writer does. I began my first book in 2002, inspired by a surreal and unlikely adventure, but I began my creative writing “journey” as a five-year-old, or maybe a three-year-old, in the ’80s. I wrote about my stuffed animals then, on paper. I’ve branched out topically since, and now write sitting at a laptop computer.

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Jay Enghauser
Jay Enghauser, Editor-in-Chief
Jay Enghauser is the Assistant Editor of PRISM for the 2023-24 school year. They are a 5th year senior with a creative writing major (and two pets that they’re obsessed with). They transferred from Linn Benton Community College in the spring of 2022. On top of being a consumer of PRISM for the last few years, they are currently a consultant at the Undergraduate Research and Writing Studio and the secretary of the Creative Writing Society. In 2023 they were awarded the Bernard Malamud Memorial Scholarship for Creative Writing Majors and had an honorable mention for the Undergraduate Weaver Award for Poetry.

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