Friday 16 January 2015

Aberrant: interrupted by the real world

There have been several reasons why I’ve become so far behind with my Aberrant updates (and hence Pathfinder) over the last weeks. Christmas and a change in job have been the best excuses, but there’s another and it’s one I’ve been reluctant to talk about here because it’s more personal and darker than I’d normally want to share here – but I’ve come to the realisation that I need to in order to get past this delay and back on with the story (especially as I have very little free time at the moment so need as few distractions as possible to stand any chance of getting back on track).

So first, a bit of Aberrant update I haven’t yet given.

Alistair, son of Jennifer and Benedict St John, may only be a couple of years old, but his Nova nature gives him the behaviour and appearance of someone in his late teens and an emotional maturity greater than most people of any age. When he reappeared on the scene, Chrissie was not surprised at his growth as she’d become very close to Jen following Benedict’s death/disappearance – offering her emotional support as one of the few people who knew that Benedict was more than human. As a result, she’d watched Alistair grow. He calls her ‘Auntie Chrissie’.

((Husbit doesn’t entirely understand why I get a kick out of roleplaying things that seem like mundane life, but I really enjoy the character development that comes from this.))

In a scene I’ll relate properly later, Alistair joins our heroes and, getting Adam and Chrissie alone, puts a question to them: “Do you really think Dad is dead?”

Chrissie and Adam want to reassure Alistair, but there is no reassuring answer to that question. Knowing Alistair’s maturity, Chrissie answers as honestly as she can: that she doesn’t know. If anyone could have survived Vienna, Benedict could and she can’t quite picture him being dead – but she doesn’t know.

“But if he isn’t dead, why isn’t he here? He’d better have a really good reason for leaving me and Mum.”

It was partly some very good acting on the part of my GM, but this was a knife through the heart to me and I thought I was going to weep.

See, my Mum died when I was 5. It’s often said (and was certainly said around me, when adults forgot that children comprehend what they hear) that small children ‘bounce back’. It was implied that we (my siblings and I) would be able to deal with her death without any outside assistance.

In my case, at least, that was bollocks.

Small children have shorter attention spans, so it can look like they are dealing when they aren’t. They still run and play and read and build lego, and can look like they are fine but that’s only half the story, because they are also dealing with this huge, huge grief that they have none of the knowledge and experience an adult has to help them deal with it. (This, by the by, is why I wasn’t surprised when I read this report that says there are more deaths in kids cartoons than adult thrillers: children learn from stories, so these and some of the more brutal fairy tales help prepare them for later loss.)

Back to Aberrant, however, and my hugely visceral response to Alistair’s distress stemmed from one of the defensive shells I put up to protect me from the truth of the horror of losing my Mum when I did: I convinced myself that she wasn’t dead; that she’d needed a break from raising us and everyone had got together to help her achieve this by pretending she was dead and wouldn’t we be pleased and amazed when she came back?

After a few years, I started to feel cross. It was taking too long for her to come back; surely she would be back soon? But I rationalised: she might not want to see me, but at least she was still alive.

It was many years – more of my life with her dead than alive – before I reached a point where the idea that she might not love me outweighed the idea of her being dead. It was still a while longer before the first overwhelmed the second and I finally – finally – accepted she was dead.

To hear that coming out of someone else’s mouth* – to see it in someone else’s body language – it was a bit too much for me and I’ve been reluctant to write up because it would mean thinking about it. But I’ve ripped that plaster now, and I’ll hopefully get back to writing up plot properly.

I love you Mum. I'll always miss you, but I know how much you loved me.

*It’s happened once before, watching a BBC documentary on Eddie Izzard where he was talking about his mum and it was as if he was reading my script. I was alone and wept for what felt like hours.

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