November 20

National Absurdity Day

 

To celebrate National Absurdity Day, the citizens decided to recreate the moment their city was destroyed.

Those with carpentry skills took a break from restoring ruined homes or salvaging the lower floors of a few toppled skyscrapers.  Instead, they created false facades to raise over the devastation — a theatrical-style illusion of thin, painted flats that simulated the former glory of a single block.  Shapes of City Hall, the Courthouse, the Old Post Office, all painstaking recreated from memory.

At the appointed hour, a group of mimes cartwheeled soundlessly into the street, taking their positions.

From an overlooking hill, an audience of survivors waited for the show to commence.  A man glanced where his wristwatch used to be, then laughed at himself.  He looked to the sky instead, hoping to estimate the time of day by the sun’s position, then laughed at himself again when he saw only dark clouds.

The mimes stood perfectly still.

Then sirens.  Or, more accurately, performers in hiding, their hands cupped around their mouths, howling out the siren call.

An air raid signal, a tornado warning, whatever it was that awful day…Nobody could figure it out at the time.  Many assumed it was a drill, and ignored the sound — which is why so few people remained to fill today’s audience.

“Look,” someone said.  In the city block below, a few mimes started to move, hands above their eyes and scouting left and right in exaggerated confusion.

Around the corner it came, previously hidden behind the facade of City Hall.  It was gigantic, made of wire and vast strips of hanging cloth.  A group of puppeteers waved long wooden poles to control the monolith from beneath.  As they shook the poles, ash-painted fabric whip-cracked in different directions — twisting streamers, the swirl of a funnel cloud.

It was a funnel cloud with a face, and teeth.  It rolled down the street, and the mimes began to open their mouths wide, to contort their bodies in simulated agony.

One child in the audience turned to his mother and asked, “Is that how it really happened?  Was it a storm, or was it a giant monster?”

“We don’t know.”  She patted her boy on the head.  “Remember how you cowered with us in the basement?  We didn’t see anything.  But a lot of us remember hearing loud footsteps.”

A spark, and strips of flailing cloth ignited.  The puppeteers continued guiding the monolith down the street, stretching its indeterminate limbs from one side of the street to another.  The building facades caught fire also, snapping and bending and falling to the street as terrified mimes dodged the debris.

City Hall, the Old Post Office, the Courthouse — all consumed within minutes.  The mimes had all fallen to the ground, so still that some spectators wondered if they’d actually been hurt.

And the swirling, flaming giant rumbled past the edge of the block.  The puppeteers kept carrying their burden into the distance — a symbolic representation that the devastation spread throughout this city and into the next, the next, and the next after that.  Flames rose, simulated buildings burned to nothingness, and mimes lay dead in the street.

In response to the spectacle, the audience stood and offered a rousing burst of cheers and applause.

#