White Noir


A man with a briefcase arrives in a place called City-A looking like a double agent from 1973: mustachioed and trenchcoated, forever ducking into phone booths for cryptic conversations. The man, Mr. Holz, is a geophysicist of unknown origin. He has come here to work for the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company. City-A is mesmerizingly bleak, a grid of concrete high-rises set between a brackish sea and a wintry industrial wasteland, all of it reeking of environmental contamination and failed utopia. Many things, Holz notices, are amiss here. Clocks don’t run sixty seconds to the minute in City-A. The drinking water is spiked with lithium, a shadowy entity has confiscated his passport, language is rationed, and what exactly is this New Method Oil Well Cementing Company, anyway? As the bewildered-looking Holz moves through the city, is he piecing together clues to solve these mysteries or just being shuttled around by a powerful unseen force?

more from Jane Yager at the Paris Review here.