Issue #166: World’s End

Our new issue, “World’s End” by Clare Beams, was pulled from our slush pile by reader James Scott. He saw this wonderfully rich and vivid tale through our editorial process, from beginning to end, and so I am turning the reins over to him on this introduction. I hope you all enjoy this beautiful story about space, time, ambition, and the magic of landscape. -HT

On a good day, I am not a morning person, and when I first read Clare Beams’s story, I was at a writers’ retreat, my work had not gone well the night before, ghosts had kept me up at night with their incessant tromping through the hallways, and I sat at a computer in the library at seven in the morning, irritable and exhausted. But “World’s End” cut through all of that in an instant—as the best stories do—from the first line: “By the time the World’s End job came to him, the architect was twenty-six but no longer considered himself young, if he ever had.” The world kept unfurling from there, the landscapes—both external and internal—being pushed and shaped with each passing sentence.

The architect grows up as a professional and as a man over the course of his work for Cale, eventually confronting the past that led him to the job in the first place. This is a tidy circle made messy by the architect’s feelings for Becca, the boss’s daughter. Beams plays these scenes with a startling vividness, highlighted by images that made them singular to this world, “At the finish of his imagined wanderings with Becca, he felt a guilt and doubt that were new to him, sponging his own gray fingerprints, like feathery bruises, off his body.” Throughout, we weigh our own choices: how we would respond to professional betrayal, how we shape our own environment, whether the comforting hug of a city suits us or whether we need the expansive air of the country to find home. We at One Story are thrilled to present the creation and subsequent end of a new world. To find out more about “World’s End”—including thoughts on the real World’s End and why the architect goes unnamed—please check out our Q & A with the author.