The changes were good. And in reviewing the judge's commentary, as well as rereading my material after the space of several months, I rediscovered something I think I had forgotten: this is a strong piece. This has developed a life of its own. This manuscript that I hold in my hands is a living, breathing entity. I am a father again, a creator, I have taken dust and given it a name, an existence, and unlike Pirandello's abandoned creatures, I have given these characters a space to occupy, a world for them alone.
I love my prologue, because it centers around one of the creatures in the story named Iranaeus, who has just escaped the fortress of the Suburban Enchantress (who is by day an senior executive for a large, faceless corporation...okay, don't ask. It's my little jab at the evil corporate empires that are sucking the lifeblood out of the working man). Iranaeus, btw, is named after a pre-medieval philosopher...actually, all the creatures were. It's my own little inside joke.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the more I read the novel, the more that I realize that Iranaeus is...well, me. He's half lion/half man, who is forced by the Enchantress to put on a human guise during the day and toil away in Corporate Hell. No one knows that in actuality, he's different. No one knows that he goes home and discards his day face for another, less pedestrian visage. No one knows that he dreams of so much more, dreams of coming out from underneath the cover of darkness, dreams of bravely showing his true face to the world, dreams of freedom. Sweet freedom.
And his first words, the first line in the book. "I'm scared." And those echoed through the rest of the prologue. "Don't be scared. You can't afford to think like that. You're too far into the stew now, anyway." "You're a beast again. Which means you need to live in the shadows. You can't afford to make yourself conspicuous. There's no way you can ever blend in...but don't let that stop you. You're used to darkness. You've lived in it most of your life." And the final words in the prologue, words I think of constantly, simple words (for my tools are simple, my words are common, my gift is to take the everyday and try to make it fly)..."Keep running! And whatever you do, don't be scared."
This is my life, this is my struggle, reflected dimly through a secondary character in a work that is not essentially dark, is not primarily too heavy in tone. But. The story is there nonetheless, woven tightly into the fabric. I'm telling my story, even if I'm saying it slant. Saying it as an aside.
This is your story, my dear Ashley. It is the story that I leave to you, the gift that is yours, my dear child, that not even the passage of time shall take away, shall be able to erase. It is the story of your struggle, told as a metaphor, of course, told as a fantasy. But my baby, my baby, someday I pray that you shall read it and understand the profound level of strength that I so firmly believe that you possess, and that you shall overcome your demons, as I shall overcome my demons, and that you shall someday stand, strong and proud, facing the world and fulfilling the great potential that I know you possess.
Oh, my baby, I do so love you.