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I'm looking for a short story or novella about an idyllic, utopian society with a hidden dark side: periodically (every week or month) its inhabitants would descend into madness, violently destroying everything around them and brutally murdering each other. This continued for a day or so, and when it ended, the ordeal was somehow magically undone, with even the dead returning to life. Then everyone would be left with only their memories of the experience, to enjoy their perfect society until the next time around.

The society was some kind of city-state with a vaguely Mediterranean feel, maybe on an island or isolated peninsula. There was a strict rule about visitors, but I can't quite remember what it was: either they had to leave before the violence started unless they agreed to immigrate permanently, or they couldn't leave until they had experienced it at least once.

The story was posted online on what looked like someone's personal website (possibly the author's), split into a separate page for each chapter. I read it sometime in the last several years, and I feel like the writing style reminded me of Jorge Luis Borges.

  • I think I read this one in an anthology fairly recently so it has been published, at least as an e-book. The main character, a man, is a visitor/tourist who falls in love with a local woman and decides to stay? – Joe L. Sep 8 '16 at 16:07
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I think this is Adam-Troy Castro's Of A Sweet Slow Dance In The Wake Of Temporary Dogs, first published in Imaginings anthology, 2003.

from the Scientific American link above:

The people of Enysbourg lead merry, fulfilled, blissful lives – nine days out of every ten. On each Tenth Day, the country is ablaze with destruction. Cities are razed, children massacred, every single citizen and visitor to the country experiences unimaginable pain and suffering. But the Day After, peace is restored. All wounds, physical and psychological, are healed. Buildings and roads show no fractures. Families become whole again. Lovers reunite. Memories of the devastation remain, but they do not have the power to do harm.

The first hint in the story that all is not as it seems:

As I decide to stay in Enysbourg, to spend the rest of my life with Caralys, to raise a family with her, to keep turning pages in this book I've just begun to write, the natives seem to recognize the difference in me. I am handed a baby, which I kiss to the sound of cheers. I hand it back and am handed another. Then another. The music grows louder, more insistent. A wisp of smoke drifts by. Clove, tobacco, hashish, or something else; it is there and then it is gone. I blink and catch a glimpse of Caralys, cut off by the crowd. She is trying to get to me, her eyes wide, her face shining, her need urgent. She knows I have decided. She can tell. She is as radiant as I have ever seen her, and though jostled by the mob she is determined to make her way to my side. She too has something to say, something that needs to be spoken, through shattered teeth and a mouth filled with blood.

Here's the rule for visitors:

The Tenth Day, she said, is the whole point of Enysbourg. It's the main reason the ships come and go only on the Day After. Nobody, not the natives like Caralys, and not the visitors like myself, is allowed their time in paradise unless we also pay the price. The question that faces everybody, on that day after, is the same question that faces me now: whether life in Enysbourg is worth it.

It's also available in this anthology.

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