V.G. Campen’s story “Spells for Going Forth by Day” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 5 March 2021.
Some years ago, from the window of a passenger train traveling the eastern US, I watched a jackal trot across a shallow creekbed and disappear into waist-high marsh grass. In reality it was likely a stray dog, or possibly a coyote, as jackals are not native to North America. But the idea of a jackal living alone in the tidal flats felt both beautiful and lonely.
I drafted “Spells for Going Forth by Day” when I was coming to terms with the death of a loved one, when I was grappling with the pain and guilt that we humans inflict upon ourselves. The story to me is fundamentally hopeful, and less about death than about having the courage to live in a challenging and impermanent world.
Regarding the actual writing, the first draft was much too complicated for a piece of this length, with backstory and flashbacks shoehorned into the narrative. That baggage detracted from the pacing and impact of the story. It’s an issue I struggle with: learning to edit and streamline short stories for best effect. The scene in the museum draw upon my childhood fantasy of staying overnight in a natural history museum (a fantasy I haven’t entirely abandoned).
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