Michael Gardner’s story “This Side of the Wall” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 19 January 2018.
I read an amazing short story called ‘The Wombly’ by K. L. Morris (Shimmer Magazine, Issue 32). Womblys are strange things that attach themselves to people, turning those people into soap, or metal, or glass, depending on the type of Wombly. A Wombly can be passed to someone else to bear and, once they are, they can’t be passed back. The story dealt with a family sharing the burden of a soap Wombly, where a young girl was asked to ultimately bear the affliction for her family.
I thought the concept in ‘The Wombly’ was fascinating. It led me to imagining some of my own terrible diseases. The first disease I explored was the laid-to-waste disease. I began to pull together a story about a character with this disease – I even wrote a few introductory scenes – but, I ended up putting that story aside as it was becoming a bit too depressing and predictable. Which is when I began to wonder if bearing a disease was all bad. Maybe, diseases could have some useful side effects – useful enough to make money from at least.
So, ‘This Side of the Wall’ really began with that concept. I thought up a bunch of diseases that were both debilitating and useful, and I created a city around them. I already had a character with the laid-to-waste disease, so I threw him into the story, along with a few others to see how they’d react. And what I discovered was that some of these people were happy to accept a life of disease, while some aspired for more – to join the residents in the Compound, for example – and still others wanted to create a new and better world for themselves.
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