In my head and in my writing, one thing must be pitted against another thing.
For Brain in a Jar, it was me vs. my dad, my dad vs. his dad, Alzheimer’s vs. all of us, time vs. memory, landscape vs. identity. The ultimate conflict in that book was life vs. death.
With this strategy in mind, I am entering my fourth and final battle with Swimming with the Dead.
And I intend to win.
There will be no fictionalized version of this story. I tried that approach for the outcome I wanted. Justice. But it was fake, fleeting and for naught. I must have the real thing.
SWD will be the true tail (tale) of a mermaid, who went to Seoul in an attempt to find her on-land self, but wound up in the company of a cold-blooded murderer.
Do you recall the first story of a mermaid? Hans Christian Andersen’s very grim tale? The Little Mermaid was a tragic figure. The price for giving up her fin in favor of feet was horrific–every step on land felt like walking on 10,000 knives. All for the love of an unworthy man.
My friend, The Killer, stabbed my Other Friend, with a knife 26 times. One of those wounds was vertical into her heel. And, as we now know, this Killer was “in love” with the person she killed.
Battles, and parallels, abound.
Koreans vs. Americans. Men vs. Women. Teachers vs. Students. East vs. West. Life vs. Death. Mermaids vs. Murderers.
All heel to toe. Pitted against each other, yet with much in common. Don’t we hate most what we recognize in ourselves? This is the lesson of the Korean Peninsula.
And the central ongoing battle of this story is my very own DMZ. How I am driven, to this day, to end a cold war. In my conflict, the killer keeps winning–blissfully unaware of my secret efforts to drown her. She continuously, whether purposely or inadvertently or accidentally, manages to stay one step ahead of justice.
Remember the Icelandic volcanic ash in 2010 that shut down airways to Europe? Well, that natural disaster had the side effect of keeping my brand new literary agent from taking my Swimming with the Dead manuscript from Singapore to the Frankfort Book Fair. As a result, the killer beat out Mother Nature, in addition to the CIA, FBI and Korean Police.
For the subsequent years since then, unbeknownst to the killer or the publishing world, every rejection letter for my manuscript was a victory for murder.
Now, in a final push to reunite myself, I will cross the line.
How does this story end?
The answer will surprise everyone. Especially the killer.
Carolyn Joyce Abel was killed 25 years ago today. By December 20, 2014, the truth will be known.
And victory will be mine.