While Slipped Up is a pretty standard supermarket magazine mystery, Surviving Oblivion is not — in fact, its the antithesis — and the only short story I’ve written which still confounds me.
I can’t remember exactly when I wrote Surviving Oblivion. I know it was in response to a call for romantic sci-fi, and sometime after Settle Down Now was completed. I also remember that I wrote it during one of my frequent visits to Ladysmith…not that Ladysmith is the best place to try your hand at your first attempt at dsytopian fiction…then again, neither is it the worst.
My intention was a story in which the heroine has to survive by herself with only the hope of love to get her through. I intended a seriously light-hearted story and found myself descending into some of the darkest scenes I’d written yet…The intense themes of loss and hopelessness which surfaced surprised me, and then there was the suicide too. So much for light-hearted dystopian romance.
I don’t know which songs were on the soundtrack for Surviving Oblivion which is highly unusual for me, and I wasn’t conscious of taking a break from writing it, or of what might have been going on around me…
All I remember was that I was crying at the end of it, and at the same time felt both a great unease and a sense of accomplishment. And when I read it through, I was very confused. I know there’s a message in this story, but whether for me or for my readers, I can’t tell…
This so annoys me ‘cos my stories are supposed to be fun, darn it!
While Oblivion in the story is a tangible thing, now that I’m sitting here writing about it, I see that this story might have been a reflection of the theme of a more personal looming oblivion then becoming more prevalent in my life — a warning perhaps, that I was going to ‘lose’, or had already lost, some dear ones in various unexpected ways, sometimes very shocking ways, and that I needed to be strong for a while longer…or that I needed to be strong for others…
Then too, it might have been trying to bring to my attention the fact that life was likely to get more difficult in other ways too, and that the ending to this stony period might be longer in coming that anticipated…
In hindsight, it’s easy to ascribe notions like this to a story I wrote and can’t quite make sense of, especially with what seems to be a slight religious tone having crept in. Me writing about religion, god forbid!
But the more I think about it, the more I feel into it, the more I realize that this story is trying to tell me about faith — not a faith in religion, not a faith in love, but a more personal, more intrinsic faith that I’m very inclined to be oblivious to.
I’m talking about faith in oneself.
I don’t mean the faith in oneself that equates to self-esteem. I’m not talking about the faith you have in yourself when you say, “I can run that race and finish” or “I can climb that hill, and then the next”. In other words, I don’t mean the faith in yourself or your place in the world which keeps you moving forward or going through the paces.
I’m talking about the faith YOU keep, and that maybe keeps you, and makes you YOU. (Does this make sense? Anyone? Anyone?)
There are times in our life when it’s so easy to to sink into despair, to just stop and give up like all the people in Just.
There are times when it’s just so easy to take the easy road, to follow the crowd, to sink into conformity and lose sight of all the uniqueness that you’d fought so hard to express previously.
And when we hit that brick wall that both those paths lead to, all we have left is faith in oneself.
It’s the faith that questions whether to take the action or not.
It’s not that you believe you can’t do it, or that you will succeed.
It’s all about “Is it worth it? Does it matter to ME, really, truly? Am I being faithful to what I believe of myself, to what IS me — my spirit, my personality, my soul, my purpose for being…?”
It’s a faith that stops, it’s a faith that eggs you on. It’s a faith that puts your life on pause while you figure out who you really are, and what really matters to you.
It’s the only faith that’s constant in your life, because it’s intrinsic to you — not grafted on by learning, conditioning or reasoning. And when you lose all ‘external’ faith, it’s the only faith that comes boomeranging round to give you faith in everything else again: life, love, god…whatever you need to stop being oblivious to the world around you and to start expressing who you really are. It might sometimes take a while, but it always does.
I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I’m not sure if I understand all this myself…I’m getting all confounded again, so I’m going to stop thinking, and put my faith in a cup of tea.
Surviving Oblivion is available for free this Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale till the end of July. It’s also available at iBooks, B&N and Kobo.
If this story holds any meaning for you, please let me know. I’d like to know what the universe intended when I wrote it 😀