I've had essays published in the past. I even wrote a monthly column for a few years. But this marks my first piece of published fiction. I recently decided to emerge from my writing cloister and begin to share my work with more than a small circle of fellow writers and, in so doing, see how far I can take this.
For a few years, friends and family have occasionally asked to see some of my work and, in most cases, I've been reluctant. I write about many things in many ways. While I always try to explore the truths of the human condition, some of my work is warm & touching but much of it is dark & violent.
It's also hard to ever feel a piece is good enough. It's hard to know when it's finished. This story, Nature's Way, was revised a fair bit after submission in multiple rounds of collaboration with the FatCityReview fiction editor. Even then, the very day they informed me it was accepted for the January issue, I thought of three scenes I wanted to revise for greater impact. Then there is choosing a title that is fitting without giving anything away. And settling on an appropriate piece of artwork to accompany the piece (the picture below of wild grass emerging through snow was one of seven I suggested to FatCityReview and not the one they ultimately selected).
Alas, life in the end is about choice and sometimes you have to choose to be done even if you're not sure the work is finished.
Nature's Way is a short story about a man who has, for various reasons, retreated from civilization into the wilderness. There, he confronts the stark contrast between modern man's constructed order and the savage indifference of the wilderness:
Nature was an unforgiving mother who sorted all her children into two categories, the cautious and the dead. You observe and you learn. Or you die and others learn from your failure.And, while man always struggles with the external world for survival, mankind's ultimate struggle is always with himself:
Fair warning - If you've read any of my poignant family stories, this is definitely not one of those. It's also worth making passing mention that this is fiction. I am the author of the story, but I am not my characters any more than Jack London was a Canadian sled dog or Tolkien was a hairy-footed Hobbit.
It wasn’t what lurked beyond the firelight that threatened to annihilate him, but what lurked within.
Enough with the caveats. Enjoy the story. If you like, please don't hesitate to comment and share this with a wider audience. If you don't like it, maybe next time. Link below.
Now, it's back to the keyboard with me.
The Fat City Review - Nature's Way by Matthew Swope