by Sam Buntz
Right now, there’s a book lying around my family’s apartment entitled 1001 Floors. If I had to describe the book, I would say that, essentially, it is a guide to floors. It makes sense that my parents have this book, because they’re moving into a new house, and at least one of the rooms is going to require a new floor—it’s not like they’re looking at it recreationally or something. However, speaking for myself, I think that a lot of horror stories would be much more effective if, instead of having the main character enter a chamber and confront an ancient evil, the main character entered a chamber while the door snapped shut and locked behind him, sealing him inside, alone with a copy of 1001 Floors.
Interestingly enough, the magical, indeed talismanic associations of the number “1001” are probably partly derived from The Thousand and One Nights (which is the same thing as The Arabian Nights, in case you don’t know anything), a book in which newlywed princesses are casually murdered by a psychopathic sultan, and genies and evil viziers wreak havoc at will. But, despite these violent overtones, the purpose of the book is, basically, to evoke a sense of wonder—or, in Arabic, ajaib. Perhaps this was also the goal of the authors and editors of 1001 Floors—hence, their allusion to the classic Arabic folktale collection I have just described.
Back during Pre-Islamic times in ancient Arabia, saying that there was “one thousand and one” of something was (probably) the equivalent of saying that there was an infinity of the item in question. Intentionally or not, “one thousand and one floors” also happens to sound very much like “infinite floors.” The book itself isn’t very thick, so maybe part of the magic or ajaib of the thing is that that many floors can be crammed into so small a space—a miracle of compressed plentitude, like Jesus multiplying fish and loaves.
Of course, it’s not that hard to give someone a fairly comprehensive idea of what a floor looks like—all you really need to show someone is a square, with the floor’s pattern printed on it. So, theoretically at least, one thousand and one floors could all be presented with a fair degree of scope in two hundred pages or less.
I think that 1001 Floors so obsesses me—like Lady Macbeth agitatedly trying to wipe the blood off her hands, or Edgar Allan Poe’s madman distracted by the ticking of the tell-tale heart—because it provides a striking vantage point from which one can observe the lone and level sands of adulthood: the joys of shopping for door hinges at Home Depot and Lowe’s and the rest. The inescapable finite, material contingencies of the world are most brutally demonstrated by such practically helpful and necessary works as 1001 Floors. It’s why I prefer to limit my own material concerns to the microwaveable and the off-brand buyable. The labyrinth of life contains enough twists and turns, without needing to face-off with the Minotaur of too-much-style-and-design, who will not hesitate to impale us on his horns and drink our blood.