Thursday, November 7, 2019

Black Friday Origin Story

It's November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. For those of you who have read Paige's story, it's no secret that most of the book takes place at or around Thanksgiving-- the most important part of the story taking place on Black Friday.

Spoilers ahead for Paige's Story

Okay, so you're still here. Good. So, the Black Friday Riots, for those who don't know and don't care about spoilers, is the event in which Harold, with Joshua's help, hijacks the air waves and live broadcasts the public murder of a Jane, sparking mass outrage and riots. It's during these riots that Paige's parents are killed.

Now, fun fact, Jake and Anita originally didn't die in a riot. They always died... I've killed them at least 15 times. (Another fun fact: I was all but numb to their deaths until I heard Phil Thron read the riot and funeral scene on the audiobook. Now I feel like a monster for what I did. Thanks, Phil, for making me feel things.) 

Anyway, they were always destined to bite it, but it wasn't until about 2005 that it was during a riot. See, I originally dreamed this up back in the 90's, and in this proto-version I have the Dr.s Bryan meeting their doom when a robot malfunctions and begins running amok inside the mall at which they're Christmas shopping. So, kind of the same but not quite. See, in the 90's I was young and nowhere nearly as jaded as I am today. Things like politics, hate crimes, mob mentality, discrimination, and all that stuff was pretty far off my radar. 

So, what changed a simple synthetic corruption to a full on hate crime resulting in massive riots? 

My first and only Black Friday shopping adventure.

Picture it, Sicily, 1945... No, no. It was 2005 in Cincinnati, Ohio. My and my family's spirits were pretty fucking low. Just a week prior we had lost my youngest sister, Laura, to brain cancer. She was only 16 at the time and it was... pretty fucking awful. She went from fine to dead in the span of about 5 months. Anyway, so, yeah. We're all pretty miserable and one of my aunts says to me, my mom, and remaining sisters, "Why don't we all go Black Friday shopping? It'll be fun! It'll get your mind of things!"

Riiiiight. Sure it will. Ah well, we were tired and desperate so we agreed to it. We got to the mall at something like 5AM. (This was back before stores opened at midnight.) I, like Paige, wandered off to find as much caffeine as I could. I got to the Gloria Jean's coffee shop and sat directly in front of the door waiting for them to open.

As I sat, I watched the mall get more and more crowded. I watched lines form behind me and outside of other stores. I watched people flood into the stores as soon as they opened like starved dogs looking for a fucking Milk Bone. I sat there in my Santa hat (which, for some reason, I had to wear.) with my giant cup of coffee looking like Grumpy Cat, thinking, "What if something happened?" What if something big went down? What if a terrorist attacked? (9/11 was just a few years past, after all.) What if a car crashed through the wall? What if something, anything happened to ignite this powder keg I voluntarily stuck my self in?

I'd like to say that after three hours of waiting in lines, watching someone literally elbow another person in the head over a Barbie doll, and trying to coordinate half a dozen people in a crowded mall in a pre-smartphone era, that I went home and wrote the pivotal scene. But I didn't. Actually, I didn't write a word for almost three years. After my sister died I hit rock bottom pretty hard. I turned into a bit of a lump. I didn't draw or write. I didn't even think about Paige at all... it was like she never existed. Part of me died with my sister, and it almost took Paige and the Omegas with it. Almost. Luckily I met Ben and through him, I made friends who helped me combat my depression and eventually Paige and the crew at Fort Thomas found their way back to me. And, when they did, I was able to use my grief and experiences to write Jake and Anita's murder with more nuance and emotion than before. 

I remembered Black Friday and my thought exercise on what might happen if something big set off the crowd and that's where the riots came from. The description of the funeral home smelling like old ladies and Bengay? Yeah, that's how it smelled. The internal struggle to look inside the casket? What? It's hard. The dread walking to the funeral home, hearing the whispers and comments from the other mourners (because when a 16-year-old dies in Cornfield, EVERYBODY turns up), that's me, too. The whole third act of Paige's Story became a type of catharsis for me and helped me process my feelings a lot better than drinking myself stupid did. 

It'll be 15 years next Friday. I don't know if her death was what made me actually write Paige's Story in full, but I do know it's what gave me the experience, and understanding to write the third act as I did. Enough people have told me they cried that I feel like I did a pretty good job with it. 

So, here you go. The origins of the Black Friday Riots. Look at you, you learned a thing today.

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