The Lost Story

galaxyA 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.

The End

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:

WAR OVER
ALL DEAD

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!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

7 responses to “The Lost Story

  • dianasschwenk

    I think it’s amazing that you still have a story you wrote so long ago Smitty and it’s very Smitty-ish – I can see you personality in it. ❤
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Hopefully, being Smitty-ish is a good thing… 😮

      It is pretty amazing I hung onto it since my first year in high school! But then, I’m a pack rat, a “saver” of anything that might be useful or even interesting… Hence the massive year-long effort to convert my “storage room” back into an office/library. There’s 40 years of accumulated stuff!

      Sadly, most of which has turned out to be not worth saving. Maybe it’s like car insurance. Something you have to have, but which you never actually end up using. (I shudder when I think of how much I’ve paid in car insurance over the years.)

      • dianasschwenk

        Yeah insurance is an interesting concept to me. If you use it, you’re penalized with higher premiums, etc., if you don’t ever need it, you just gave out a bunch of money over the years. Best con ever!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        On some level, the idea is good, maybe, but what it’s evolved into is, exactly as you say, a con game. That they’ll even raise your rates due to a claim that had nothing to do with you (e.g. someone hits your parked car when you’re not even in it) strikes me as downright evil.

        The problem, of course, is that businesses decided insurance was a way to make lots of money (rather than a small reasonable profit). Once again, the lust for money lies at the root of this particular evil.

        The human race: The best — and worst — things (by far) to happen to this planet Earth.

  • rung2diotimasladder

    Much better than the stuff I wrote in high school. High school teacher objects to your conclusion or the “wink”? As I recall, high school teachers don’t really like dark endings.

    This trip down memory lane reminded me of a poem I wrote for an exercise in my creative writing class in high school. Fluffy crap, literally about dandelions. It had no point whatsoever, just total trash. The teacher loved it so much that she submitted it to the district contest (“Think Ink!”) without my approval. I yelled at her about this, but she didn’t seem to care. It ended up winning 1st place. This put me over the edge. I refused to go to the awards ceremony.

    My opinion of it was confirmed by an acquaintance who came up to me in art class and said, “So…I read your poem…”

    “You mean?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Oh.”

    “Oh good, so you know it sucks.”

    “Yeah.”

    I eventually got so mad at this writing teacher over some other issue that I excused myself from her classroom to take one of my usual visits to the “bathroom” (i.e. my car to smoke.) While crouching in my car, blowing smoke out of a cracked window, I decided my education was so pitiful that I might as well just drop out of school. Because that makes so much sense, right? And to me that meant driving to NYC ASAP. While pondering the road trip, I got caught smoking and had to call my parents to let them know what I’d done. I didn’t say anything about the fact that my mother bought me the cigarettes, but I pretended to tuck my tail between my legs while I made the call. I left for NY the next day. Call it a bad case of senioritis.

    All of this is to say, isn’t it funny how our impressions of things in high school are blown out of proportion? I can’t believe how mad I was that my poem won. It was the winning part that really got to me, revealing systemic stupidity and what a high school kid might call a rigged system of so-called educators in watermelon print dresses.

    And you remembered getting a bad grade when in fact you got an A!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      She objected to the “wink” — she didn’t understand that I was dealing with an accelerated time frame, so the “wink” actually is a very long time. At the time scale in question, it seems like a wink. It’s metaphorical!

      Reading it now I see that the real error is not setting that up better. I could do better at setting a distinctly lyrical tone to highlight the metaphorical nature.

      Somehow it’s not surprising I remembered her reaction but not the grade. I never cared about grades (I never saw the point); I cared about what things meant and how they worked. That was true whether it be mathematics, theatre lighting, or dating! It was always about learning, not about scoring (pun intended).

      And on some level, I think that made me kind of oblivious to a lot of what goes on in high school… the social aspects and interplays. Went right over my head for the most part. I never had anything to do with high school sports or dances. No interest, or at least so much interest in other things.

      I was a pretty weird kid… 😀

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