A Writerly Obsession

Posted: December 16, 2015 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Revenant, Short Story, Uncategorized
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This post is a part of Vampire Week, in celebration of my YA vampire novella, REVENANT, releasing on amazon and kindle!

US store link

We interrupt your scheduled programming to bring you a longer than normal, and quite personal, post.

Vampire Week trudges on! I was going to use today to talk about the two best episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but I decided to kill two birds with one stone, making a post related to my novella as well as knock out an assignment for class.

I have a writerly obsession- adolescence. Specifically, the end of it. That weird middle ground between being a child and being an adult, the exact timing of it something no one really can agree on. It’s why I still love Young Adult novels, even as I push into my twenties. There’s a running theme in YA of the end of adolescence, sometimes the theme is presented in such a literal, heavyhanded way it just seems pandering (looking at you, Divergent.) But sometimes its subtext, adding a relatability and connection that many adult novels don’t have. Here are a couple of things I’ve written that deal with my obsession with adolescence- an autobiographical short story and then a collection of poems.

On Monsters and Hurricanes

I’m sitting here in this beautiful, towering cathedral, looking over at all the tear-stained faces and hands wrapped in tissues, and wondering where the hell I’m going in life.

There’s a preacher standing behind his little podium going on about the inner workings of God as though he were an archangel or messiah himself. He speaks with the utmost confidence in his own words and there doesn’t seem to be a note of sorrow in them. He tells us where we’re going; most of us to heaven, some of us to hell, and those of us on our way to hell should seek Jesus before it’s too late. It seems at the moment more a standard mass than a funeral. The preacher looks at all the grieving people and he tries to drag them all with him under his faith. I ask myself if this would be what she wanted. I ask myself where she thought she would be right now had you asked her as a child. Perhaps she was one of those elementary school children who wrote up their grand plans for life on little cards for the parents to see on open house night. Or perhaps she outlined her personality in a silly acrostic poem.







I’m just spitballing words of course. But so would she. If her elementary school experience had been anything like mine she would’ve probably formed the poem by flipping the dictionary open to the right letter and picked the first word that made any sort of sense. And if she was smart, she would’ve said she wanted to be president or a vet or an actress or something else to make the parents go “aww” and maybe pat her on the head before moving on to the next kid’s work. I wonder if her teachers had predicted where she would end up.

I’m sure none of them would’ve guessed correctly.

Death isn’t some stupid elementary school assignment. When you die, you want people to remember you. You don’t want people going “aww too bad” and moving on… Well, technically you wouldn’t want anything because the dead really aren’t all that desirous. But let’s say you could take a page straight out of It’s A Wonderful Life and see how the world would be like with you gone. As you watch people react, you’re going to hope people miss you. You’re going to dread the thought of your funeral containing nothing more than a preacher half-assing sympathetic remarks while your immediate family sits and listens with dry eyes.

I think to myself then, if this really is all some weird It’s A Wonderful Life trip and any moment now things will snap back to reality, that she’ll be happy with what she saw. The cathedral is beautiful. Stained glass windows and murals abound, with images of Jesus in front of some holy light in one corner, and Mary cradling him as a newborn in another. There’s a whole high school choir seated in the front pews ready to sing Amazing Grace. There are no less than a thousand people here from all faiths and ethnicities mourning and crying and dabbing their eyes to prevent their eyeliner from falling on their fancy clothes. There are people who have lived twice or thrice as long with sorrier memorials.

It’s hard to believe she even knew all of these people. And maybe she didn’t. Perhaps they knew her without her knowing them. She was hard to miss, being a tiny half-Mexican girl with a lip piercing and bright blue hair. She was hard to forget, with her hugs frequent and as consoling as a blanket to a child. It was supposed to be her up here in these cathedral seats consoling us over someone’s death, it shouldn’t- it couldn’t be the other way around.

Perhaps it would’ve made more sense to me had it been natural. Had she been struck by a car or succumbed to cancer, the world would still make sense. It would still seem like a shitty, cruel place to be, but at least it would still make sense. She would’ve been unlucky and misfortunate, but shit happens and sometimes it happens to good people. Perhaps as a community we would have all been able to come to terms with it better. Had it been cancer, we probably would have gone through all the stages of grief before she even passed, accepted her unfortunate fate, and this memorial would be little more than a formality. But it was not cancer and to be honest most of us hadn’t even gotten past the denial stage yet.

The word on our lips that night was “suicide.” It was spoken over and over like it was the password through the Pearly Gates. Suicide. Suicide. Before high school suicide was about as meaningful as the word “bigfoot.” Yeah, we’d heard the stories. We’d seen some videos and learned about the concept but it wasn’t anything any one of us thought would actually end up occurring. Despite every warning and bit of advice our middle school advisers gave us, it went over just like all those lectures we got from D.A.R.E about drugs. We were sure we’d never do drugs and we were sure the stories about the high school stoner prevelancy rates were exaggerated just as we were sure no one actually killed themselves.

So here we were, with reality hitting us in the face. All of the demons we heard about life after thirteen now seemed true. We were terrified and morose and without the person we would all turn to when life started to suck. Last week we were naive and innocent and skeptical of all the horror stories we had heard in middle school. This week we were lost and shocked and very much aware and terrified of monsters.

Then the preacher stopped his lecture.

He asks the crowd if any of us would like to come up to the altar and share a story about her. All of a sudden it seems half the attendance has lined up with a story to tell. I sit idle in my seat. All of a sudden it becomes impossible to think of a positive story to share. Here in this cathedral every memory of a laugh has been replaced with one of anger. Besides, I’m still too terrified of public speaking to go up anyways.

I’m not even sure if I would’ve made it to speak. The turnout was so great the preacher ended up cutting it short and inviting those who didn’t speak to come to him personally if they still wanted to share. She was the kind of person who seemed to have a life mission to make everyone else’s lives better and from the look of that line in the cathedral, she certainly succeeded.

Even post-mortem, perhaps.

We were all voyagers. We were all in the same tumultuous seas of adolescence, trying to wait out the storm and praying we wouldn’t encounter the monsters we’d heard about. And the day she died, our voyage came to a violent end. We were tossed upon some unfamiliar shore, the waves lapping at our feet, and left to pick up the pieces of our innocence, torn asunder by the reality we suddenly had to face. Of death and tragedy, the monsters we’d avoided, convinced that they were just stories. It was there in that cathedral where her story ended. It ended with us. We, the voyagers that survived her, had to choose what would become of us. We could either ignore her, or we could take these shattered pieces and build something.

A family.

She had gone quiet in recent days. She stopped wearing makeup. She lost an appetite. On the day it happened, her makeup was back and she was cheerful again. We thought that the storm had passed, and in a way it had. Suddenly she was happy again. We just didn’t know why. We would kick ourselves for months over missing these details. However, we would take them and use them to notice when future kids started heading down the path of no return. And we would rescue them before they could leave us as well. We all resolved to be better people. To take better notice of our friends and to speak up when something was off rather than wait the storm out and hope it’s not a hurricane.




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