In the spirit of the 2009 summer movie season, I developed a “prequel” to the Highway Virus series called “Year of the Turtle.” Of course it is a prequel only in the sense that it chronologically predates the other stories already posted and was written after those stories were “finalized.”
“Year of the Turtle” names the previously unnamed narrator in “Little Things” and gives a different perspective on their fraternal dynamic. Actually the two stories show two different approaches to the end of world (as we know it). It wasn’t my intention for Theodore to turn into an extreme Malthusian by the end of “Turtle.” I guess that’s an example of a character leading the writer – and that’s supposed to be a good thing, writing-wise. I thought of him as more of a sympathetic character when I started – but by the end, I imagine most readers will be ambivalent about his worldview, if not downright repulsed.
But that’s just how he copes. Devon, the narrator in “Little Things,” doesn’t turn out much better – so maybe it’s a family thing.
My initial inspiration for “Year of the Turtle” was the origin story of the world emerging and thriving on the back of a turtle, which was an image from early in my childhood – and which Theodore leans on as he tries to cope with societal collapse. The pic below is a scan from an old book from 1961, The LIFE Treasury of American Folklore, which I looked through a lot when I was single digits. (The book has pictures of naked women and mermaids!) As a myth, we could do worse – the world that sustains us is itself a living entity.
The myth appears in other places, too numerous to mention, but one of my favorites is in the beginning of A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, which recounts the misnamed “Infinite Turtle Theory” (obviously it is not a theory by any scientific measure). Scoff all you want, but keep in mind, if there’s any truth to this worldview, the end of the Earth will likely come in a pot of boiling water somewhere in China.