If the odds of starting your life over in a new dimension were roughly equal with the possibility of being crushed into oblivion, would you take the risk for a second chance?
by Sarah Rose Etter
Scribner, Summer 2023
(via Neon Literary)
If the odds of starting your life over in a new dimension were roughly equal with the possibility of being crushed into oblivion, would you take the risk for a second chance? That is the question posed by Cassie after her first year with a cutthroat Silicon Valley startup. In a city where obscene wealth abuts abject suffering, she struggles to make sense of her increasingly surreal surroundings. Snow machines transform the company parking lot into a sledding party in plain view of unhoused people bathing in the bay. Cassie’s boss forces her staff to share details of their personal traumas as a team-building exercise. Startup burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains while San Francisco’s most vulnerable are literally setting themselves on fire in the streets. Cassie can’t look away, and she feels as if she’s the only one paying attention.
Cassie may be isolated, but she is not alone. From her earliest memory, a miniature black hole has been her constant companion. The black hole feeds on her depression and anxiety, its size changing in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it is also waiting. Waiting for Cassie to surrender to its relentless pull.
When her CEO’s demands cross the line from unethical to illegal and she experiences an unwanted pregnancy, Cassie must decide how much of herself she is willing to give up for success.
RIPE is by turns a funny, horrifying, sharp and vulnerable story of one woman’s journey through our late-capitalist hellscape.
Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party and The Book of X, winner of a 2019 Shirley Jackson Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, BOMB, Gulf Coast, The Cut, VICE, among other publications. She earned her B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and her M.F.A. in Fiction from Rosemont College. She lives in Austin, TX.