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Disappearing Acts

From the fertile minds of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta comes HBO’s ”The Leftovers,” about a small town dealing with the ghosts of its past

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Two percent of the earth’s population vanishes. Then what? Tom Perrotta’s novel The Leftovers took this sci-fi hook and explored its impact on the small hamlet of Mapleton in a realistic fashion. But expect HBO’s series version to inject more creepy, otherworldly mystery courtesy of suspense master and showrunner Damon Lindelof. “Anyone who has seen Lost will not be surprised by how the show deals with the supernatural,” says Perrotta, who co-wrote the pilot with Lindelof. “I was striving to create a postapocalyptic landscape that looked like the everyday world we live in. While it’s hard in a show to imbue the everyday world with sinister strangeness, the pilot does that.” One major creep factor is a silent cult called the Guilty Remnant, whose members stalk Mapletonians so they won’t forget “The Sudden Departure,” and chain-smoke cigarettes to hasten their own end of days. The cult, which is a thorn in the side of the local police chief (Justin Theroux), occupies austere-looking digs. “The great thing about film is it’s very literal,” Perrotta says. “I described the house to my satisfaction in the book, but then the production designer starts asking questions like ‘Where do they put their clothes? How many people in a room?’ The bathroom is fully stocked even though it’s not on camera.” As long as there isn’t a smoke monster.