The Last Road

Living every day like it's the last… because one day, it will be.

The Whole Story

Posted by Rystefn on November 4, 2008

I have no idea how many people will read this. I will assume that if you are reading it, then you are one of the people that wanted to know. This is the whole and complete story.

There are a great many people who object me referencing myself as an artist. They will say that I have no agent, no gallery, etc. Those people are either pretentious snots or angry assholes. If that last sentence upset you, I’ll wager you’re both. I draw, I paint, I sing, I play half a dozen instruments well and a Hell of a lot less well. Mostly, though, I write. Very little published, and less paid, but honestly, it’s a rare writer who does much more than slinging short stories at pulps (or their digital decendants) in their first couple of decades of writing anyway. Well, fiction writers anyway. I’ve never really chased the sale anyway. That’s not me being a pretentious snot or making excuses for failure, though I’m sure it looks like it. I write for the same reason other people read: for the story.

You may agree, disagree, or disbelieve as you will. Regardless, I think of myself as an artist and a storyteller. I often begin a project with little or no knowledge of how it will play out. I’m as likely to take an idea and run with it wherever it leads as to sit down with a real plan. I guess art reflects life, yeah? For some years, I’d had the beginnings of an idea bouncing around in my head. I needed a hook to hang it on before I could do anything with it and plenty else on my plate, so I let it sit. The idea was this: that sometimes people choose death. I know, it’s thin. Barely anything, really, if you think about it. It stayed there, though. It didn’t exactly haunt me, but it was never wholly gone for any real length of time.

About a year ago, give or take, when the thought cropped up yet again, it expanded somewhat. Some people choose death so that others may live. Some because of psychological problems. Some because there’s a pain inside they simply cannot live with. Sometimes, we never really know why. It’s the last one that stayed with me. The effect it would have on loved ones; the frantic search for meaning, for closure. A story not about the person who chose death, or even about the reasons, but about the search for the reason. My first idea was to start with a woman quietly shooting herself in the head in hotel room, leaving no explanation behind. Perhaps simply a note saying “I’m sorry” or somesuch.

It just didn’t sit right with me, though. It felt like something a high school student would write while trying to be deep and meaningful. The more I considered the idea, the more I realized that the audience would have to care about the dead person, at least a little, to care about the reason. At least the first chapter should follow the “victim.” Show a glimpse of a real life. A person with a real past, a history. A person with hopes, fears, dreams, loves… a person we could see as a person, not just a prop to start the tale. I couldn’t say precisely when I hit on the idea, but the idea of watching the impending death approach seemed to me that it would drive the point home. Knowing the person would die, but not that it was a choice would give the audience the same sense of confusion and hopelessness the loved ones would have. So the person chose to die of a treatable illness.

I couldn’t say why if you asked me. People have, and I’m sure some of you will also, but for some reason, the story seemed to feel wrong in prose. Perhaps a play could have done, but it struck me as something that would not fit well into a few acts. There would be too much going on. In fact, it seemed to beg to be told in real time. Welcome to the 21st century, I suppose. We can do it now, so why should we not? There was a problem with this, however, perhaps a problem inflated far beyond its real import, but it gnawed at me – how to keep the mood and tone for so long. It would be so easy to break the flow, to disrupt the suspension of disbelief. The simple solution to this, of course, was to cut out the suspension all together. Just make them believe. Maybe I really am a sociopath as I’ve been accused.

Of course, it wouldn’t be easy to play a believable character long enough to get people to care. Sure, internet anonymity would help, but it would only go so far. People want to see pictures. They want to know who you know, what you like, where you go. The more they care, the more of this sort of information you need. The character would need e-mail, IMs, real-time answers and responses. I think you all know where I’m going with this.

You, the audience, only saw essentially the first chapter of a much longer story before I ended it. Some few of you, in private with accomplices or among one another learned that the illness was preventable. That Rystefn chose death. A cadiopulmonary defect, treatable with surgery which Rystefn declined, and indeed went so far as to make out a living will forbidding treatment. Which is why he would no speak of the problem, as you all would have discovered soon had I continued the story. A brief farewell letter would have been sent out saying essentially “I did what I felt I must” and with a few personal messages. Then the real story was to begin.

As i said, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Many have pointed out the cruelty of it, myself among them. The real story was to be, as I have said, the search for a reason. Don’t bother asking what the reason was to have been, it was integral to the story that no one would ever learn, and so I didn’t really bother to decide which of the possibilities was the real one. There were past regrets enough to explain it. Loss and loneliness aplenty. Half a dozen ready possibilities and any number of deeper ones to choose from, each audience member/participant as free to decide as possible.

There was no message of caution in whom to trust over the internet intended, though I cannot fault you if you get that from it. There was perhaps some intent to show how much some people can come to care for someone they’ve never met, but that was minor at best, as Itried very hard to meet much of my audience, and succeeded in quite a few cases. It simply a story of pain and loss and hardship, and perhaps the message that sometimes terrible things happen over which we have no control and which we may never understand.

In the course of this project, I got very close to the subject matter, as you might imagine if you care to. Small comfort, I’m sure, but I did suffer rather a lot over this. I don’t even have anger to help me to deal with it, as I’m entirely at fault myself in this. Understand, I’m not asking for your pity here. It would not be the whole story if I left out the part where I myself became terribly depressed because of my deep psychological entanglement. It would be incomplete if I didn’t at least mention the wrenching pain of looking ahead and seeing the day approach when I would have to walk away from my friends, some quite close – people I’d grown to care about and love.

I will not hide behind attempts at justification. As I’ve said, I agree with you that it was not justified. I will, however, answer some specific accusations. If you don’t care to read them, feel free to stop reading here.

Yes, I am a narcissistic, egocentric, megalomaniac, but I fail to see what bearing that has on this specific situation, and cannot understand why it’s been brought up so many times. Yes, I said more than once that I am not a good person, but I do not think this justifies what I’ve done since you chose to associate with me anyway. I’ve never claimed such, and have in fact said the opposite more times than I can count.

Most importantly – to those of you who say I should not act and react as I do on the subject of Sabrina’s involvement, you can sod right the fuck off. I do not apologize, and I will not back down. Your mildest criticisms will be met with unbridled hostility. She’s been through Hell enough over this, and no one else will be adding to it as long as I can do anything to stop it. Maybe I am overreacting, but I’m a creature of passion, and I run to extremes. Given the choice, I’d rather drive away a hundred potential friends among you than to see a single tear in her eye, so I choose to err on the side of treating you people like shit on this front. I stand by that choice, and I won’t be changing my mind. If you think you have something to say on the subject, don’t bother saying it here. I’ll allow pretty much any comment on any subject to stand here… but not this. Saying anything about it is a waste of your time and mine, so if you have any complaints, save us both the trouble and take them elsewhere.

In closing, know that I will not be completing this story or telling it in another venue. If you find yourself interested in the idea, write it yourself. You can hardly do worse than I have.

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