It’s funny where inspiration strikes. I remember so clearly where the idea for my short story series The Last Day came from.
I was watching The Time Traveller’s Wife one lazy afternoon. So rare I curl up and watch a romantic film of an afternoon, but this time it proved more productive than originally intended.
And right at the end of the film, the very final scene is a very interesting one. It’s a scene where Rachel McAdams’ character comes running from her family’s home down that familiar field and right into the arms of her husband; who’s already dead. See, in her timeline, he died a while ago. But he’s a time traveller you see (the clue’s in the title) so he’s travelled forwards in time past his lifetime. Still with me?
My point, and I do have one, is that in the scene, Rachel’s character knows that this is the last time she and her husband are going to see each other. She knows. And the film being called The Time Traveller’s Wife makes this scene told from the wife’s perspective. She kisses him. She tells him she loves him. He says it back. Then he disappears. Forever. And she smiles.
The scene is poignant already, but this added layer of sci-fi, time travelling, wibbly-wobbly-ness makes their farewell a goodbye. Their final goodbye.
The sci-fi element allows the character to experience a complex narrative and range of emotions. That’s, after all, what good sci-fi does. Asks so many more questions regarding the human condition. Makes us ask things of ourselves.
The credits began to roll. That’s when I experienced my moment. My moment of story clarity. What if you knew that this was the last time you’d tell your partner that you love them?
Suddenly a story was happening. There had to be sci-fi element of course. How else could you ask such a question? What if you knew that you wouldn’t be alive tomorrow? What if today was your last day?
What if this is the way it is? What if this is how people die? All of us.
What if on your last day, you receive a moment? A thought. A feeling. A deep in your gut knowing that tomorrow you won’t be alive. That moment is confirmed by a notification. It could be a letter, a phone call, a tweet; whichever you opt for. And with this notification comes a message from the Last Day Agency. The LDA assign you a category. And this is how it will happen.
What then? What would you do? How would you live?
That was the birth of a very interesting and complex story.