Luke Elliott’s story “Always Dawn to Forever Night” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 2 March 2018.
To tell the story behind “Always Dawn to Forever Night,” I need to first share some tragic personal history. My mother died from stage IV brain cancer in 2012 after battling the disease for years exceeding her prognosis. Her passing left me numb as conflicting emotions fought each other once her ordeal was over. I never really dealt with the pain and injustice. I just tried the best I could to carry on.
Then, in 2015, my German-shepherd mix died unexpectedly while in the care of a vet for a minor issue. She was 3 years old. I’d adopted the dog before my mother’s death and she had helped me cope when it happened, with her unconditional love. I blamed myself for her death (though I’d done nothing wrong). All the unresolved pain rushed back, combining with the guilt to overwhelm me, and sent me into a depression lasting months.
One night during that depression I dreamt about a young girl who lived on a world where the time of day was linked to geographical location. Only through travel could she witness the passage of time. Her journey began in a warm forest of perpetual dawn and ended in a land of night filled with foreboding. As she drew closer to the end, she became frightened, but continued. The dream ended abruptly without a satisfying conclusion when I woke. The concept of her world stayed with me even as details of the dream faded, so I typed a note in my phone about the potential story idea.
My waking mind connected the dream to the journey of our lives. How we begin young and worry-free and travel toward our twilight years with growing anxiety about what lies beyond. I realized what I’d dreamt was my subconscious trying to grapple with mortality. I didn’t know who the girl was, but I sensed that even though she was afraid, she was brave, and willing to face whatever waited for her. The characters of Loper and the Rot Thing took shape as I crafted a story out of the building blocks my subconscious provided.
I wrote the first draft in one sitting and by the end felt euphoric and proud. Still, I’m savvy enough to know that just because you’re drunk on a draft doesn’t mean the story is good, so I let it sit. My suspicions were right. It needed a lot of work, but its heart was compelling. I rewrote it several times before showing it to my wife, who cried when she read it. Next, I sent it to critique partners, who helped shape it, before the final product was ready to query.
“Always Dawn to Forever Night” represents much I can’t put into words about death and my admiration for people brave enough to face it with dignity. Several readers have asked what happens next and I always smile, because the answer haunts me as well.
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