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Respero Dinner

Dave and I had just finished writing the first season of Yesterday’s Gone with about ten weeks to spare before Christmas. 

One of the primary drivers in diving gung-ho into the serial was getting onto as many Kindles as we possibly could come December 26, when all of those shiny new devices were freshly unwrapped and looking for content. 

We didn’t have time to plot out and write a second season of Yesterday’s Gone, but we could follow the same model of “six episodes and a season” and write a half-dozen individual short stories, then bundle them together in a collection we called Dark Crossings

We each went to our corners and wrote three stories. 

Dave had one short about a vampire visiting a long-ago love now in her retirement home; a second story about a dude slowly turning into a zombie; and the first version of what eventually became a David W. Wright SuperTrope with a story about a deeply suspicious man seeking revenge for his lost child. 

I wrote about a faded diner on the outskirts of nowhere stuck in a time loop; spun a yarn about about an AI GPS disciplining a cheating husband behind the wheel; and my favorite of that first trio, Respero Dinner. 

As with a lot of stories I’ve written, this short came name first. I had no idea what a Respero Dinner was, but it sure sounded interesting. 

Xavier Johnson, the man of the hour, attending his own Respero Dinner — a grand hurrah celebrating his journey, his triumphs, and all the little moments that made his life a masterpiece. Amid a kaleidoscope of memories, conversations, and emotions, he navigates the evening like a sailor on a sea of nostalgia. 

Xavier spends the story surrounded by a cast from his past. He reminisces about his love for his late wife and the beautiful chaos of raising three unique children, piecing together the puzzle of his relationships while longing for reconciliation and closure.

In this brave new world, where technology reigns supreme with the all-encompassing Beam and the gluttonous Endlax pill, Xavier can’t help but marvel at the breakneck speed of change. He grapples with the societal norms that have sprung up in his lifetime, questioning the wisdom of the two political parties, Enterprise and Directorate, that punched his ticket for the dinner.

I wrote Respero Dinner without knowing much about that world at all. But there were a few things about it that never left my head. 

I loved The Beam. Whatever that was, I wanted to know a lot more about it. 

The Endlax pill that opened the body for bottomless gluttony? I believed the shit out of that while writing it. 

But it was the two party system, Enterprise and Directorate, that I was most fascinated by. 

The seeds for my deepest series so far were born in Respero Dinner. Endlax was featured in what Johnny and I both consider the first truly fine example of our creative collaboration, with a scene that could not exist without our linguistic harmony. The Beam ended up being an ubiquitous evolution of the internet, and the Enterprise and Directorate, two extreme parties. Enterprise represented entrepreneurship in the brutal reality of living that life without a safety net, and Directorate was all security, with no ambition allowed. 

Not only is The Beam our most robust series with five books that total around a quarter-million words, the last 250K of which get covered in The Future of Sex, a serialized prequel with a dozen episodes. And then there’s Plugged: How Hyperconnectivity and The Beam Changed the Way We Think, our “Malcolm Gladwell style ‘nonfiction’ book.”

The Beam is one of my favorite projects ever, and it all started with this story about Xavier.  A universe was born from the blink of an idea. 

You can start reading Respero Dinner below, with the full short story (no email required) available for download below the excerpt.

Xavier stood on the front porch waiting to knock. He might have been rooted for five minutes, but it could’ve been twenty. Time turned gummy on Respero Day, a day when life flashed before your eyes for most of daylight and into the deepest night, paced slow enough to smell it.

Xavier hit the road at seventeen, and for the nearly forty-four years since, life had seemed like little more than sporadic blasts of endless bustling, punctuated by the pain of a lingering nothing in between

Respero Dinner was supposed to be a reminder: life is for living, not idle observation. That meant staying intoxicated by everything around you, remaining drunkenly aware of life’s million moments and unlimited decisions, each a pixel in your present’s snapshot. Respero Dinner was when, no matter how long or lingering, how brief or brilliant, how simple or complex a life might be, a person could drive their history and discover who they were, for better or worse. 

Cars hummed as they drifted slowly behind him, unaware it was his Dinner. Had they known, they would have stopped to wish him well, or at least slowed enough for a passing wave.

If you were lucky enough to have a Respero Dinner thrown in your honor, it came just once, and there were few people who didn’t respect the one day that, when done well, offered a new chance for everyone.

Xavier shrugged off his chill, counted to ten, then rang the doorbell and waited, swallowing a rising uncertainty just as the door opened.

His oldest daughter, Blythe, looked radiant. A fresh smile lit her already rosy cheeks. 

“Hi Dad,” she said. “Come in.” 

She led Xavier across a large, mostly marble foyer, then into a massive parlor already populated by several clusters of familiar guests.  

“You look great, Tulip,” he said. “Is this everyone?” 

Blythe shook her head and laughed, a sweet twitter which made him remember those rare holiday mornings when he could linger in his children’s excitement, rather than leaving the house before the sun had time to clear the nighttime stain from its sky. 

“Not even close,” she said, smiling.  

The parlor, like the rest of the house, looked like it was designed by an ambitious architect with an unlimited budget, which it was. Blythe and Jason had been together since their sophomore year of college, before he became the fastest rising star at Walker, Pierce & Byron, and before she landed a sweetheart gig with the Directorate. 

Xavier hadn’t spent much time in their Atlanta house, now six years old. Just two visits, once when Ayla was born three years earlier, then again last year when they welcomed her baby brother Aiden into the world, neither of whom would be present at tonight’s Dinner. Xavier had stayed exactly one week each time, followed by a cold flight home. He had an open invitation, genuinely meant, but it was easier to wallow in guilt at home. Easier to be in his space, without worrying about the miles of unsaid. Alone was the only time he didn’t feel his skin baking in discomfort. Still, he wouldn’t have missed today for a million acres of nothing but heartbeat and sky. 

Download Respero Dinner (for free).

Next Sunday we have a gorgeous story from Sawyer Black. The writing and world building on that one is mind blowing. See you then!