September 28, 2001


There’s no single word in the English language that means “nightmarish fantasy.” The best of the bunch, “fantasy,” has a misleadingly positive connotation. But the verb form is worse. Consider the following sentence and ask yourself which word or combination of words could replace “fantasized”:

He fantasized that when he turned the corner to his street, he would see his house ablaze.

“Imagined” is probably best, but it fails to convey dread. One is forced to use a construction such as “had the horrible thought” – itself a horrible thought to those who like their language concise.

Anyway, this morning I had the horrible thought that a nuclear bomb had destroyed New York. I’m in Boston now, which explains how I was able to imagine such a thing and still imagine myself alive. In my imagining (I dare not call it a fantasy), everyone in New York had been killed. This included Rachel and many beloved friends, as well as Mayor Gulianni, the woman who owns the Chinese take-out on Marcy, and millions more. All dead. Moreover my computer would be destroyed, and with it, all my files.

Since the television networks are in New York, I figured that the entire system would go down. The internet, too, would be devastated; although I believe the destroyed hubs could be circumvented. Not that it would matter: recent events proved that the web can’t handle the crush of traffic generated by a national crisis. Telephone service, too, would be knocked out or jammed up, further sentencing us to a terrifying silence (though less terrifying, certainly, than the truth).

So how would we learn the truth? The first and best witnesses would be the pilots of commercial jets flying near New York. They would initiate a chain of communication that would lead very quickly to the military and the president, who would… well, I have no idea what that fucker would do; something more horrific still.

I’m staying with a friend, Anne, who’s Canadian. So I figured we’d go to Canada, to Nova Scotia, where her aunt lives. But then I realized that all hell would have broken loose, making a drive to Canada impossible. (Could we buy gas? Could we use ATMs? Would our money still be worth anything? Could we cross the border? Would we be attacked? Would Anne be raped?)

You see my point. “Fantasy” doesn’t cut it.