(Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of the Nassau Literary Review)
When the bamboo crossed the Delaware River, sprouting in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania by the dawn of Day Seven, CRISIS gave the Narrative Committee twenty-four hours to tell a good story. Helicopters hovered blind above Morris County, the cover of emerald forest hiding cracked highways and McMansions pulled apart. Rangers with flamethrowers bore a hole through the bamboo thick in Somerset County to liberate the Jets quarterback, held for ransom by the staff of a Route 22 QuickChek to secure their own rescue. Hedge Funds in Manhattan operated in the absence of their CFOs, who lay dying on their lawns, their front doors lost through the deadfall. CRISIS statisticians called the sprouting’s rate of growth exponential; New Jersey congealed into bamboo forest.
When CRISIS ordered Mid-Atlantic evacuation, America’s questions turned angry, desperate. The Interview Team talked to survivors. The Extraction Department assigned to the Bamboo Neighborhood project probed the recovered brains of the dead to find whatever memory feeds were still intact. The researchers streamed data into the Writing Center, where grad students paged through tablets listening to the voices of victims in their ear buds. They send story sketches to the Narrative Committee for approval, stories that would answer the questions the right way. Four hours in, MFA candidate Emma Tanzer tugged the buds out of her ears and interrupted lunch orders.
She said it was a love story.