In Extremis


The cousins watched The Thing together, almost obsessively. Some days, they’d watch the film more than once, their record for continuous viewing being nine.

They owned many copies of the film, each one slightly different: a second-hand VHS cassette, a collector’s LaserDisc, a cable-access taping dubbed in Japanese. Some versions had been edited, rearranged; an entirely silent version held new meaning, hypnotic without dialogue or soundtrack. One tape held traces of other films underneath its recorded layer.

Later, the cousins could only share thoughts on the film through letters, as they were both incarcerated in different parts of the world. Some letters explored the psychology of paranoia that imbued the film, others touched on the innovative special effects. A favorite topic was the film’s eerie, minimalist score.

At some point, the letters simplified to mere lines of dialogue. Their relationship had crystallized and an essential form of communication emerged.

“How will we make it?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t.”

It was all they would need.


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