When the World Went to Sleep

I took a creative writing class in high school. It was a snow day, and where I lived they had “NTI days,” where even though it was a snow day, the teachers had to give us online assignments or send us home with a packet to do or something. Personally, I hated them with everything in me, they were usually a lot harder and more time consuming than just the regular school work, but my Senior year I had just work blocks, English, French, Creative writing and my Independent Art Study, (which I basically used as another work block- I was running a graphic design business- that’s art, right?) so none of my assignments were ever horribly unenjoyable.

In fact, I looked forward to having to write all day. My creative writing assignment this day was a prompt to write a short story centered around a physiological conflict. I went ahead and spent as much time as I wanted on it, trying to get it well-written in under a page.

I still love this original one. This is the story that I went on to turn into Lonely Awake later.

When the World Went to Sleep

It was a cold morning, snowing, but she kept the room warm with a space heater throughout the night, and with school obviously canceled, she woke up to her room feeling more like a summer day. She shifted from her side to her back, and looked at the ceiling for a good while, thinking about what summer felt like. Her sixteenth birthday was last summer, she had a small party with all her friends, she loved that day. She thought about how on the more quiet days of summer, she would throw the covers off herself and go have coffee with mom-

Oh, right. Coffee.

She picked up her half-finished coffee by her bedside from yesterday and went out to the kitchen to make a fresh cup, knowing full well she should only fill it halfway, but she didn’t. Maybe she would finish it today, put ice in it after lunch… some whipped cream to spice things up a bit.

She usually would expect to hear the dog’s nails tap on the floor for it’s daily dollop of whipped cream, but she didn’t feel she needed to poke her head in the living room to know he was still sleeping. These mornings, everyone was still asleep. She talked to herself though, a lot these past few months. It was very quiet, with everyone sleeping all the time… None of them have been awake since she wrote the date this lonely phenomenon started. She had used to keep a tally on the whiteboard on the fridge, but she didn’t like how she was running out of room on it, or the feeling of herself as a prisoner scratching the tally onto the walls of a cell. She knew she wasn’t in a prison, but she didn’t want to leave. The image of the late-shift cashier dropped asleep from when she first went to restock on food still snuck its way around her thoughts, she would talk to herself to change the subject. But even these ice breakers with herself began to have their awkward silences at the end. Though, she was starting to appreciate them, thinking about how talking to people was an art you had to master, and she felt she had lots of time to practice with herself in the mirror, it was still a relief to see a human being reflect expressions back, to blink and move.

She understood she was going crazy, and expected it from the day she wrote “June 25th, 2017” above the long count of tallies.

It was sick, the spell. Everyone is asleep, as close to death as you come, but it gives the false hope they will all wake up. She thought a lot about sleeping beauty, how the story showed mercy on the princess, making her fall asleep. But no, this spell, that creature said, will tear her piece by piece, and she had begged him, begged him to tell her what he had cursed her with, all he said through a long fit of laughter was “Oh, it’s coming! It’s coming! Then, it will hit! But then, the spell will be gone- but all too late!” And now that it has “hit,” she was able to put together what the monster meant by, “-but all too late.”

To be asleep like a princess, not even needing to feel hope- just simply unconscious– unaware of how close she is to death, how miserable the princess would be, had she been awake.

Oh, what she would give to be unconscious right now.

To feel that peace the people around her are experiencing…

To be like that princess.
She would give her very life.
And that is what she was about to do.

She knew that once she drank this coffee with all her mother’s expired pills, when she made her last breath, the world would wake up again, in that unfortunate irony the creature laughed at, everyone would wake up, but all too late.

 

The Inspiration for Lonely Awake

Lonely Awake was my first major project I published.

The new mood board I created to explore the new feelings this revamped version would have.

I had been writing my entire childhood, but by the time I graduated high school, I couldn’t shake that I felt called to be writing stories. So as I was working on my graphic design projects for clients during the day, I would be up late working on comics by night.  Originally, Lonely Awake was just a short story I did on a snow day when we were assigned homework. My creative writing teacher gave us a prompt to explore some psychological horror, and so I wrote about a girl who was the only one awake, cursed by some unnamed cryptic being, who would watch her go crazy until she would kill herself to everyone would wake up. I still have it too, you can read it here.

When I graduated high school, I set to officially create a book and print it. So I rolled with that short story because it got my gears spinning. It was simple, so I could focus on the experience of learning the entire process of comic creation without concerning myself too much with a complicated world or plot. My priority was to learn how to market, schedule myself, and interact with my audience and eventually I learned how to print and ship as well. But, it took off a lot more than I ever thought it would, and I was at over 40,000 readers a month and I sold over 100 copies of that giant 400 page graphic novel. (In a one time run, and please no, I am not printing that again.) As fun as it was, I did put down the project once it was complete, and took on Nonesuch after.

I chose to revamp Lonely Awake because there were always lots of ideas and themes I felt had fallen flat, or I didn’t realize would enhance the story so much until all these years later. There is also a lot of life experience and people I’ve met that have influenced and strengthened the original message of the first Lonely Awake, and I feel now that this story isn’t over, and that the message is more important now than ever. As a writer, I am far more equipped to share this message authentically, realistically, and effectively.

I originally wrote the story to talk about what true love was. In a world of high divorce rates and “me, me, me,” the idea of self-sacrifice and a “reckless” love were things I always felt this story was going to be about. I had faced a lot of judgment from people for marrying fast and young, and still do. But I see now so many things that make my marriage work, and why so many others don’t. And it has nothing to do with the timing, knowledge, or “stupidity” on my part and everything to do with me and my husband’s hearts toward our mutual and everlasting agreement of “‘til death do us part.” If you want to read more about the theme of Lonely Awake, you can read about it here.

Road trips.

Joe and I have spent a LOT of time on the road. Especially during our early years of marriage. During the season we were feeling the feelings of romantic and fluttery swoons and yes, the sexual tension, we did a LOT of traveling. It’s such a firmly rooted thing between me and Joe. There was always a trip coming up.

Our vacations and anniversaries are still more the journey than the destination. So, of course, naturally, the revamped version NEEDED to feel like an amazing road trip. It could feel like a quest! Joe and I do most our traveling to North Carolina, often seeing a lot of his family throughout the trip, hitting those beautiful landmarks like Deal’s Gap, Hiking trails and backpacking in Asheville, eating chicken cooked over fires at campsites and making memories with his family under the shade of the RV, enjoying the tight communities around his family member’s hometowns all the way up to the shores, staying at AirBNB beach houses, standing at the shore watched Joe wade in the waves. It was all too obvious this feeling of staring at the road passing at 70 miles an hour, lost in a big thought, or lost together in a thought over hours on the road… these are the things that give a journey character. 

The Fantastical.

This universe the crew and I have gotten to explore has been full of excited elaborations and uncontrollable laughter. That’s the goal of this world-building project. A fun, lighthearted, subtly-more-fantastical-than-our-own world that gives us enough freedom to push the limits but keep the day to day relatable to our own everyday lives. Rabbits are real, but you might find a jackalope in your front yard too. You might be studying to be a nurse and go over a course in hexes. You might find an ancient famous nymph on the cover of a magazine, or stumble across Bigfoot’s tiktok account. Maybe you’ll need to make sure you bring your cockatrice bite kit if you’re going backpacking or keep real still and quiet when a little fairy approaches you. You might have a friend who can talk to animals, or your dad might go to work at the law firm, where he helps people get out of bad deals with a fae, sue a snake oil company for fraud, or break a spell cast by his client’s ex-wife. Legendary creatures come from their own land where they were first originated, but you might find the Loch Ness Monster anywhere along the Atlantic Coasts, or see gnomes on your hike. They’re considered an invasive species in the Appalachian mountains, they snuck on ships from Europe when the colonists came to America.

Biblical Imagery

The more serious and prominent characters and scenes are much more heavily leaning on the bible, sometimes directly. The story of Adam and Eve was the biggest inspiration, one that I return to often when I’m stuck writing. It’s the root of our purpose as a creation, the bedrock of marriage, and the defining point of masculinity and femininity. Snakes, leaves, skulls, and apples. A man and a woman, alone, where every decision decides the fate of all mankind.

Some more sketches developing the feeling of the new story.