They say the Pacific has no memory

I don’t know about you, but I feel like 2022 has outstayed its welcome. 2023 is laying like a coiled spring and I’m not quite sure which way it’s gonna go, but I hope it brings you only good things.

And speaking of good things, today I bring you the very last minute of the last in the current season of Within the Wires, an epistolary anthology published by Night Value Presents, that’s been going since 2016.

Incidentally, “epistolary” refers to a piece of fiction written to sound like correspondence (letters, or in our case, audio recordings). And yes, I did look it up, what is it to you? And who are you calling defensive?

I was completely new to Within the Wires before embarking on this project, so I’ve enjoyed taking this latest season on a walk with me. It’s a story about love and loss, set in a sort of post-revolutionary unified state, with a peppering of international travel.

It’s written by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson. Its found-footage format makes it easier to get behind than a lot of audio fiction, as there’s no reliance on sound effects. It’s really just April Ortiz’s voice guiding the tape’s recipient from place to place.

I don’t think the last minute counts as a spoiler, but I’ll put up a warning flag just in case. If you’ve ever watched The Shawshank Redemption, maybe you remember the bit right at the end where – spoilers again – Red goes to meet Andy in the Mexican city of Zihuatanejo, where, as the title of this issue suggests, they say the Pacific “has no memory”.

Cranor and Matthewson do a lovely job of capturing that spirit, but without giving us a solid conclusion. The whole season is a sort of cat-and-mouse game, with our guide being one or two steps ahead, but with us always catching up. So it’s fitting that at the end, we don’t really know if Anita – the person the tapes were left for – ever gets to meet the person who made them.

Like with Abandoned, the sweat has gone into the writing, with only the occasional bit of music.

If you like fiction that presents you with missing puzzle pieces and invites you to bring your own – or leave the puzzle unfinished – I think you’ll enjoy Within the Wires.

I chose this minute for this particular issue because of the uncertainty is presents. It’s not wholly optimistic, but sensitively open-ended. In some ways it marks the end of one journey – the journey we get to hear – but could open up a whole new adventure… we just don’t know.

I hope you’ve had time to reflect on the latest leg of your own journey, and you can take a moment – if you haven’t already – to lace up your boots and shrug on your backpack as we all go trudging up 2023 to see what we find.

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