A long time ago (nearly four years!) I wrote a post about my high school English teacher, Mrs. McGee (see The Love Connection) and a short story I’d written in her class. I complained in my post that she’d given me a low grade on the story because she objected to its conclusion.
Turns out my memory about the objection is correct, but she give me an ‘A’ on the paper anyway. (In fact, she compared the writing to Chekhov’s The Seagull … kinda sorta.)
I wanted to share it years ago, but didn’t know where it was. I found it just last week, and here it is:
It’s not dated, but it would have been written in 1969 or 1970.
Humanity had risen to a great galactic empire; she had colonized the entire Milky Way galaxy. She was powerful beyond all conception… until an all out war had ended it all. Had there been anyone to write headlines, they would have read:
Lifelessly the galaxy had drifted the endless black abyss of space and time. Lifeless and yet not lifeless, for evolution, the beginning of life, had once again begun.
It did not, however, start on Earth, for Earth’s sun had long ago expended its last flicker of light. It was now a black star, a compact mass of neutrons, a small pocket of gravity. No, Earth was dead, for without the sun’s light and heat, its atmosphere had frozen into snow and fallen, covering the small pebble, Earth.
But on other planets the heat of their suns and their volcanic activity had sustained the process of life. They grew and flourished, conquested space and again formed an all-powerful galactic empire.
And, as before, the whole total was annihilated.
[Mrs McGee writes at this point: what is the total? planets or more? low? by what b??d creatures?]
Time passed quickly for it meant little to the tiny grains of dust that made up the great galaxy. New stars were born, and old ones died.
Then — in a magical moment — on some strange planet, in some ocean, a cell was born. More were born, and more.
And, as before, a civilization was started, and a galactic empire, and again, the inevitable end, destruction by war.
Again this cycle was repeated, and again — until. One hundred time the whole of evolution began, one hundred times a civilization began, one hundred times new races discovered gravity, created rockets, landed on their moon for the first time, colonized space, formed an all-mighty galaxy-wide federation.
And one hundred times a whole galaxy of people was totally annihilated.
After the last great remnants of civilization had fallen, victim of war, the galaxy felt tired and old. It had become, now, sterile and senile. It had no reserve to start anew. It contemplated for what to it was mere seconds, but too immeasurably long to be counted for [Mrs. McGee: by] us.
It could not sit here decadent through all eternity. No, there was nothing left to do but silently and without any fuss … wink out.
[Mrs McGee: What does wink out mean? It can’t disappear like a light, it’s a mass.]
As I wrote in The Love Connection post:
Apparently she’d never read Arthur Clarke‘s Nine Billion Names of God. In that short story (one of my all-time favorites), […]. They look up, and “Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”
I was definitely channeling that story with my ending! I can see I was also channeling concerns about the Vietnam war, which was a big deal at the time. (All through high school, and well into college, I was a major hippie!)
But she did give me an ‘A’ and wrote nice things on the front:
A for imagination and vocabulary (next time write a story with characters!).
You should read Chekov’s The Seagull, a famous play, and in it is a young writer who wrote like this.
Interesting — but the logic in the two places I indicated puzzles me.
Ah, well, that’s because you weren’t a science fiction fan. A friend of mine in class, also a science fiction fan, defended my ending. (Thanks, Carol!)
And, in point of fact, she compares the writing to character in Chekhov’s play, not Chekhov himself. Drat. Now I’m gonna have to read the play again. She may have been slyly insulting the story!
Reading the story now,… well, it’s definitely the work of a young and inexperienced writer! When I began high school, I hadn’t done a great deal of writing.
And some of the science (beyond the whole metaphorical ending) regarding stars is off.
Our Sun will expand into a red giant with a radius extending beyond Earth’s orbit. This will thoroughly bake Earth into a lifeless, airless, waterless rock. By the time the Sun actually dies, there will be no atmosphere left to freeze.
The Sun will end life as a white dwarf for trillions of years and only then, hypothetically, will it fade to a black dwarf.
But for a story I wrote as a high school freshman, it’s not totally humiliating!
Trust me. Some of the stuff I wrote back then totally is!