This story began as a prompt: fear. How terrible for this character, AE, to lose everyone he loved. How comforting routines might be. How cool, in one’s grief, to be able to hover suspended between heaven and earth.
I wrote the initial draft in the Eckleburg Workshops “Thirty Stories in Thirty Days” with Christopher DeWan, which I highly recommend if you want to grind out a lot of good fodder for future stories and revisions! I loved it.
Right about when this was drafted, [PANK] magazine had shuttered its doors and so I revised it and sent it to them in their “last call” (of course [PANK] has since been resurrected under new management!) Structo Magazine also had this wonderful call for submissions, in support of literary magazines and in part because of [PANK], whereby rather than a fee submitters could send a picture of the literary magazines subscribed to. So I sent them a story which was then called “Alistair Edgar’s Tears Collect in a Cup that Is Shaped Like a Magnolia Petal.” Yes, it seriously was titled that.
Although Structo passed on it, they did provide wonderful editorial feedback (“How was it a sentient being? from where did the sentience come?”) which I took to heart. (At that point, the story was narrated by the jetpack.)
Sidebar: Oh, and that submission also goes down as one of my most embarrassing: I sent in a .doc file with TRACK EDITS OPEN! LOL they were like, is this a new approach? hah hah I loved them for making light of it. I still have a little twinge of fear when I submit to a magazine, worried that I have the track changes turned on. Now I try to submit .rtf or .pdf whenever I can!
As I kept working on the draft, the best advice I got on this was from Randall Brown. He too thought it was asking too much of a reader for them to know the narrator was the machine from the get-go, and suggested flipping POV to Alistair. I wasn’t sure it would work. Flipping POVs can be scary when it’s so integral to the tale, but he was right.
I’m so happy that it found its home in the Sick Lit Magazine invisibility issue. Thanks to Editor Kelly Coody for publishing it. I think when people are grieving, when their hearts ache so painfully, they tend to be invisible to others. They frighten others, who don’t want to see them in their fragile period of grief, perhaps because they are, for this interval of lamentation, nearer to the dead than the living. We wait for them to come back to earth. At least we hope they do, softly.
I hope you enjoy this story, Here is Alistair’s Tears.