I participated in this awesome contest for many years before taking a break, but I believe this year, with all the confusion and disorientation many of us are experiencing, it is critical we do what we love. For more information, please visit nanowrimo.org.
It was a late September morning, the day after the demons blasted a hole through the wall of the high school to get their latest fix, that Paul — a demon himself — found his best friend Aidan lying in his California King bed with his feet still dangling and a white sheet covering him from head to toe. Paul stood in the doorway, hands on his hips, smiling. The smile faded as his brows furrowed, and he shook his head in disapproval.
“What the hell is this?” Paul asked the sheet. Aidan groaned and told him to go away. Since confrontation was part of Paul’s nature and he found it useful, so he didn’t fight it, he dismissed his friend’s request with a snort. He went over to the bed and sat down. Then, he bounced on it. Aidan growled, which made Paul laugh. It was a derisive cackle, really.
“Would you please go away?” Aidan said in his deepest voice.
“No,” Paul said. “Listen, this is ridiculous. As much fun as it might be to see you in existential agony, your time of self-pity is up. Get up and let’s figure out what to do.”
Aidan pushed the sheet back, allowing his friend to see his ancient, beautiful face streaked with blood tears. His white hair had been stained with blood in places as well. “To do?” he asked.
“Yes! You never give up. In a thousand years, you’ve never given up! Why the hell are you being so stupid now?” Paul was slapping Aidan’s thigh as he spoke. He knew it wouldn’t hurt, but figured it might emit some reaction at least. Aidan did not move.
“They won. There was nothing I could do to stop them. Now, hundreds are gone.”
“And more remain! Besides, they aren’t really gone. Their minds are gone for now. They’ll be back. Yeah, some died from the blast,” Paul said, shrugging his shoulders. “But more survived it. You can help them, and you must.”
Dear Reader, if you ever tell Paul or Aidan they are best friends, they’ll deny it. Trust me, though, they are.
At this moment, Aidan grew furious. He raised his head, growled, and showed his teeth. His pale blue eyes flashed. Paul cackled again. It had been years since that display made any difference to him. Aidan backed off, as usual. He slammed his head down on the pillow.
Aidan cried into the pillow, “What?! How am I supposed to help them?! Do you think I can cast a spell to return their wits to them? We can’t even find most of them! They’ve run off somewhere…”
“So you’ve wasted time laying here under a flag of surrender while the kids are out there? You’re a coward.” Paul said this in a menacing voice that made Aidan sit up. Finally, he thought.
“I am no coward. I dinna know what to do!” Aidan’s Scots accent was prominent now, which always came out when he was in crisis. Paul decided to push because that’s what Paul does.
“You ARE a coward,” Paul declared, emphasizing his opinion with a stab of his finger into Aidan’s chest with each word. “You are acting like a helpless human instead of what you are. Stop it.”
Aidan, Paul, and the other characters to come have been in my head for years. That might sound crazy, but I’m sure you can confirm with any writer at any level that characters do that. I’m not a good writer, but I have the need to tell a story. These characters fit the story I need to tell. It’s their story, but the themes are mine.
My first theme has grown out of our current health and economic crises. If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If all you do is complain without having a suggestion for how to make things better, how is that helpful? If you pull the flag of surrender over your head, how is that helpful?
My second theme is that part of growing up is finding your why. You might find it odd that I’m talking about growing up in the context of ancient beings, but we can experience growth at any time in our lives. Stick with me.
- We can feel small and insignificant, or we can feel integral and necessary.
- We can bring our gifts to the situation, or we can keep them to ourselves.
- We can risk ridicule and failure while we try to make a difference, or we can avoid feeling less significant than others by doing nothing.
But can we live with ourselves if we do nothing when we know we can do something? That’s why I want to be part of the conversation.
If we teachers support the notion that failure is an opportunity to learn when it comes to our students, can’t we support that for ourselves as well?
In a world where no one believes in demons, as almost no human does in my story, to blame the behavior on demons seems nutty in itself. And so, these poor humans, the ones that Aidan allowed to escape by diving under the sheet, live through years of trying to rebuild their lives and reputations because no one believes the catalyst for their actions was a supernatural creature.
Outwardly, they look the same. Inwardly, they are a hot mess. Some don’t make it.
In my story, the demons are the beings that siphon the fear out of humans. They live off of fear, encourage it to come forth before sucking it out of you, leaving you unhinged, not happy. Instead of being sufficiently afraid, which we all need to be, these people become bold and brazen and start doing dangerous things they would never have done if they had their wits about them. These humans declare their allegiance to absurd ideas or people. They become sycophants to tyranny and autocracy. Eventually, the levels of fear even out again, but it’s after they have displayed risky behavior for a sustained period, ruining their reputations, relationships, and lives.
Putting the demon aspect aside, think about current events. Messages delivered by important people matter. The messages being sent these days — whether good or bad — have emboldened people to behave in ways they would not have before. My fear is that those who support ideas that hurt others, because these messengers have validated them, are going to regret what they are doing someday and experience intense and crippling remorse. A bigger fear is they won’t.
So, yes, in my opinion, my story matters. It might be convoluted and sound silly. It might not be good writing. It still matters. I’m trying to be a messenger, to send helpful messages that support the solution seekers, not the troublemakers. That’s why I’m going back to NaNoWriMo this year. Writing is part of my why, even if I’m not going to win any awards. I must. I will.
(Yes, NaNoWriMo, I do plan to make sure I write 50,000 words in November, but I had to start writing now.)
Thank you for reading.