This story started with an image and an affect. I came across the image a couple of years ago while on a road trip through wild country. I won’t describe it. I found it deeply troubling: impressive, grotesque, and sublime in scope. It ached and continues to ache. It is horror and grief. I wanted to hold on very tightly to this emotional register. I wanted to write a version of its story.
When I started writing this piece, I set myself the challenge of writing a plotless story. The older that I get, the less interested I am in traditional plot or character development. What happens when you attempt to write a narrative devoid of sequential events, cause and effect, characters changing for the better (or worse)? You need to find other ways to provide that narrative structure and support.
There’s a “why” behind this challenge. Living in the Anthropocene and on the Northern California coast, I return again and again to the following questions in my work: how do we write trauma? How do we communicate with the written word that which cannot be spoken? I increasingly experience the world in what feminist theorist Toril Moi calls cyclical time: a spiralic repetition of seasons, reflexes, relationships. Playing further with epistemologies of time, I meditate on holographic time: time that flows, but with all objects and their quantum information staying imprinted on the event horizon of our lives. My original questions lead me to these: how do we capture a rupture in the monolithic, linear time of history? How do we nurture it? Make it a friend? And here I return to the challenge of plotlessness: I want to contemplate the unexplainable, the unnarratable.
Did I succeed in writing my story with no plot? No, but I’ll continue working through this challenge of plotlessness elsewhere. I’m happy that this piece found a home with readers and writers excited to engage in this exercise with me.
We find ourselves on the brink of geologic time in ellipsis. I end on another image, and I’ll describe it to you since I imagine it often: We are skiers on the verge of lifting off the ramp of the long jump, in the moment that the blades of our skis leave the snow and ice and kiss the air. This story continues to live, breathe, grow inside of me. I hope it blooms in you, too.
SARAH ARANTZA AMADOR lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California and writes about longing, ghost-making, and the endearment of monsters. Her work is featured in Best Microfiction 2019 and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Sarah is currently writing a novel based on the above story. She tweets @ArantzaSarah and sometimes blogs from saraharantzaamador.com.