By Shane Gericke
Fiction is never too dark for me.
Life, sometimes, is.
I mention this because a good friend just died for bad reasons, and it hurts.
His name is Mark. His wife--it's too difficult right now to say "widow"--is Bev. They were high-powered educators till a couple years ago, when they retired. They had life licked. Their pensions were strong. The assets were many. Their health insurance was covered. Their love was strong. Their disposition was like the sun coming up in the morning . . . so many things they were going to do with all their freedom from the brutal work schedule. So many travel plans, so much time to spend with loved ones.
Then, he got what all the doctors thought was Parkinson's Disease.
A crummy way to go, Parkinson's. It shuts down your body little by little till there's no "me" left. But it’s a slow mover compared to many, a turtle crossing the Plains, so it can take decades to get to the bitter end. Victims have time to adjust. Do the things they want without too much adjusting, particular in the early stages. Mark was doing well with the various therapies, and the doctors were optimistic. He worked his butt off and fully intended to live his--their--life. So they figured they had plenty of time.
Turns out they didn’t.
Several weeks ago, Mark fell apart. Violent shaking. Brutal loss of hearing. Blurred vision. Wild, deep hallucinations. Swallowing so completely shut down he had a feeding tube installed. He could hardly talk. He could barely walk. He couldn't do anything physical without close supervision.
Friday night, he began vomiting like a sewage pump.
Saturday morning, he died.
Now the doctors believe it wasn't Parkinson's after all. They think it was a variant of mad cow disease-- the kind that lurks within some people's genes, and when triggered, hits them like a Mack truck.
A Mack truck driven by a infected serial killer.
It's called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. It twists the proteins in your brain into cruel little scythes that cut holes in adjoining cells. Every hole wreaks havoc somewhere in your body. Too much wreak-age and you die. There is no cure. There is no hope. Once you have it . . .
So Mark is dead and Bev is alive and she profoundly wishes she wasn't but she'll come back little by little with her remaining loved ones' help and it won't be easy but someday she'll just . . . be.
And so will we.
So no, dark doesn't matter to me in fiction. As long as it makes sense, bring it on, the darker the better.
But in life, dark stinks.
Every damn bit of it.
(For more on CJD: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease/ds00531 )