Most people would acknowledge that a good short story is both a work of art and a work of fiction. However, very few would accept, at least without further clarification, that it is also a work of science and a work of truth. And yet, many noted masters of the genre–Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for example–have demonstrated through their own writings that there is a science of short story-writing, an economy of language that makes every word count. They have also shown that there is a truth to be told in a story, one not necessarily equivalent to fact.
The science of the short story can be taught in an academic setting, such as a creative writing class, but the truth of a work is deeply personal to the author and can only come from within. In the example below, "A Metaphor for God," BCC student Hector Delgado explores the notion of omnipotence through a brief conversation set in the post-apocalyptic future. This story first appeared in the most recent issue of THESIS.
What kind of truths do you have to tell in fiction form about yourself and the world around you?
"A Metaphor for God"
by Hector Delgado
Midday–The sky flashed a grid-like pattern. The Sun briefly changed its hues from a beaming yellow to a now fiery blue and back again. It took only but a second for the transition to happen.
"Mommy," a young girl, no older than 7, said. She looked at her mother, whose turned face was hidden behind her amber hair, and asked, "Isn't it beautiful, Mommy?" She said this as she pointed to the Sun.
"Very beautiful, Sarah," the mother replied, not really taking notice of her daughter but instead at the shifting sky.
"Why does the Sun change colors, Mommy?" the young girl asked. Her eyes settled on her mother as she eagerly awaited a reply.
"It just does, Sarah," she said while fighting back tears.
What Sarah didn't know–what her mother chose to hide from her–was that a great disaster happened before she was conceived. Balls of fire rained from the sky a long time ago, bombarding cities and landscapes beyond recognition. Cities fell, woodlands burned, the oceans boiled. Time was precious, and the people that survived had to figure out a way to continue living, despite the hadrships they would face in this now post-apocalyptic world. The solution: Build a better future, the better future being a domed city under absolute rule, controlled and monitored by the individuals that helped create it. The kind that would allow rape and murder, as long as it was behind closed doors. These people, through technological means, controlled the weather and life within the city. Believing themselves to be God-like. But what kind of God would control people in such ways?
"God," the mother re-answered her daughter's question on why the Sun changes colors.
The daughter looked puzzled. It took her a moment to sound out the word in her head, mouthing the word silently to herself as she did so. "God," a word she had never heard before; therefore, how could she know its meaning or significance?
"What is God?" she asked, eagerly awaiting a reply. The mother pointed to the sky toward the direction of the Sun. "That isn't God but he's out there, looking down on us." Now the girl looked even more confused.
"God is omnipotence. He creates and destroys. The people who created this city, this sky, who control the weather, the air you breathe and even the Sun itself, it's just one big lie, they believe they're God but they're not." The girl continued to hang onto every word that fell from her mother's mouth. "God isn't real. It's a concept. It's an idea, if God ever existed, he long since left."
The daughter couldn't hold herself from asking, "Why do people think they're God?"
"Because they can," the mother said as her glare was fixated on the Sun. "Those that created that Sun, are the Gods now. Or at least, that's what they like to believe. Playing God." She glared down at the pavement. The daughter caught a glimpse of her mother smiling. Not a happy one but crooked. The mother began to laugh. Louder and louder she continued. He laughter echoed, until eventually she stopped and pulled her daughter closer. Softly saying to her, "It's just all a metaphor for God."
The girl looked at her mother and then at the sky. "God," she said softly to herself again. Thinking, wondering, just how does it feel to be God?
They both got up from the hard ground of the rooftop of their apartment and decided to head back in. As they did so, they both contemplated what was around them, the sky, who controlled the weather, the air they breathed and even the Sun itself. It's all just a metaphor for God.
Just a metaphor.
Blue Sun Glaring
Taken by the Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT)
on board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Spacecraft (SOHO)
January 6, 1997