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Colson Whitehead

“Emptiness was an index. It recorded the incomprehensible chronicle of the metropolis, the demographic realities, how money worked, the cobbled-together lifestyles and roosting habits. The population remained at a miraculous density, it seemed to him, for the empty rooms brimmed with evidence, in the stragglers they did or did not contain, in the busted barricades, in the expired relatives on the futon beds, arms crossed over their chests in ad hoc rites. The rooms stored anthropological clues re: kinship rituals and taboos. How they treated their dead.

The rich tended to escape. Entire white-glove buildings were devoid, as Omega discovered after they worried the seams of and then shattered the glass doors to the lobby (no choice, despite the No-No Cards). The rich fled during the convulsions of the great evacuation, dragging their distilled possessions in wheeled luggage of European manufacture, leaving their thousand-dollar floor lamps to attract dust to their silver surfaces and recount luxury to later visitors, bowing like weeping willows over imported pile rugs. A larger percentage of the poor tended to stay, shoving layaway bureaus and media consoles up against the doors. There were those who decided to stay, willfully uncomprehending or stupid or incapacitated by the scope of the disaster, and those who could not leave for a hundred other reasons - because they were waiting for their girlfriend or mother or soul mate to make it home first, because their mobility was compromised or a relative was debilitated, crutched, too young. Because it was too impossible, the enormity of the thought: This is the end. He knew them all from their absences.”


Colson Whitehead, Zone One
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Zone One Zone One by Colson Whitehead
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