My grandfather was murdered in his hardware store early one spring morning. It was a few weeks before high school graduation, and I’d been out with my friends drinking beer and cruising Main the night before.
We lived in a tiny farm town in the middle of nowhere. Murder was something that happened on television, not in our town, not to people we knew. It was shocking, as I imagine most murders are. Beyond the disbelief and anguish, my family also had to reconcile the gruesome nature of his death—he was stabbed almost fifty times by an unknown assailant.
Forty years later, I struggle to write about it. Time hasn’t diminished my emotions; they’re still too raw. My drafts bounced between extremes, lurching from melodramatic clichés to clinical, distancing phrases that never captured even a hint of what I’d hoped to convey.
My (eventual) solution was to view the writing from an alternate standpoint. I’ve always felt at home in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, and I participated in a workshop on speculative memoir a few years ago. Why not borrow speculative imagery, reframe my memories in a fantastical setting?
This shift in perspective changed everything. It gave me distance from the overwhelming emotions, and permission to explore my questions from a more comfortable vantage.
The mythology of the Wild Hunt was the first thing that came to mind when remembering my teenage friends and our pregraduation antics, how we’d paraded through town, and that uncanny fog (another thing we’d only ever seen on TV). Like participants in the Hunt, we fancied ourselves to be a bit sinister, unafraid and invincible, the fiercest, coolest creatures in existence. In fantasy language, we were the Unseelie Court trooping to battle, a Faery procession on the spring hunt. That night, we were teenage magic.
Shifting into this fabulist mindset didn’t magically ease the trauma, but it did help me place the opening sentences on paper, in language that felt more true to me than any of my previous drafts. And it conjured a new question: what did my grandfather think of the fog? Did it bring him a moment of wonder? I hope so. Maybe that magic is the last thing he and I shared.
I decided this new image is the one I want to hold onto. And with that decision, the final lines of the story fell into place.
MYNA CHANG’s work has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, Fractured Lit, X-R-A-Y, and Barren Magazine, among others. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Writing Award in Flash Fiction. Find her online @MynaChang.