#TheStoryBehind: Time Travel Is a Voodoo Rite
by Grayson Bray Morris
This essay was first published in November 2018 on this site. Its permalink is here.
(Read the story first, if you haven’t yet.)
In 2006, my then-fifteen-year-old daughter developed brain cancer. She died thirteen months later. As it happened, I was four months pregnant when she died.
Six years later, I wrote this story to express the way those two events briefly affected my experience of time. (Though I say brief, the sensation lasted for years. It did eventually vanish.) The hyperlucid intensity of the present, when you know it’s going to end; the almost physical presence of the past, when grief is great and circumstance hands you the sights and smells and sounds.
Most of the details in the story are true: there was a transport asisstant named Tuggy, and he did bring us some of his super-sweet homemade lemonade during my daughter’s months in the hospital. I did stand in my kitchen, looking out the window, imagining that future day when I would stand there and my daughter would be gone. On my son’s birthday, his preschool teacher did read a story about a child who went to the hospital (though I made up the rhymes). I did sleep on a mattress beside her bed that last night, I did count her breaths that last morning (and I had been reading about them for months: Cheyne-Stokes respiration is the technical term). The daisies, the strawberries, the morphine, the stuffed cat: all of these are real.
That said, I did take some poetic license. As noted above, I made up the preschool storybook text (no chance of remembering it two years after the fact). I also described seeing my newborn son “between my legs,” but his birth was by necessary c-section; a blue curtain screened off everything below my chest. “Beside my face when the nurse brought the baby around to me” didn’t have quite the euphony I was looking for.
Because I mostly write science fiction and fantasy, I first sent “Time Travel” to all the usual SFF short story markets. Those that provided feedback said it wasn’t quite speculative enough. And of course they were right—though the rocketship bottle and coiling strands of heart’s blood were clearly fictional, they were also clearly metaphors, even within the story. So I switched tacks. A fellow writer suggested Brain, Child Magazine might be interested, and to my delight they were.
It remains my favorite story I’ve written, one that captures what I consider my strengths as a writer.
We maintain an informational site about our daughter's cancer at sadies-brain-tumor.org.