HAPPY ENDINGS, PART ONE

I had a bit of a mind-rattling, keep-me-awake-at-night kind of thing happen to me the past few days. Being a writer, I depend upon my computer on a daily basis. Really depend. So last week I got up at my usual time in the morning and did my writing, then went to my other job. I got home that night and turned on my computer to check emails.

As the screen came up, there was my greatest fear. Most of my apps were gone, and worse, all of my files. About 60k worth of writing disappeared for no reason. The next day I took it to my computer repair guy. I wait for a call the next day about whether or not I still have any of my writing found, but nothing. So Saturday I stop in first thing once they’re open.

He found nothing wrong with my computer. I took it home, thinking I was going to have to replicate the first 20k of my next novel, horrified at the setback. I was distraught, sleepless, and more than a little unnerved.

However, my stepson, Pete was visiting us for the weekend. He’s a long haul truck driver who lives in Georgia. Pete is a very bright guy. He’s kind of like a protagonist in one of my stories, except that he has never been chased by a serial killer and rarely stalked by a werewolf. He knows a lot about a lot of things, and has lived all over our great country. This guy has had many different jobs and hobbies. He also knows computers. So after about two hours of me fumbling through different ways to get back my information, I break down and ask Pete for suggestions.

He worked at it for about an hour, and found some unusual things in it. He asked me questions about what exactly happened when I turned on the computer that terrible, fateful day.

Then he said, “I think it may be because of an update has somehow screwed up your computer. I know an IT guy who may be able to help.”

Remember, this is on a Saturday afternoon.

He texted said IT guy.

It all boils down to this. When I bought the computer, it had Windows 8 loaded onto it. I finally gave in and updated it to Windows 10. Fast forward about a year. An update came out and essentially corrupted my profile, forcing all my saved apps and information to be dropped into a deep, dark hole of my hard drive. After following the IT guy’s instructions, he found my files. I saved the files, copied them a half dozen times, and then reset the computer.

Happy ending, the best I could ever have hoped for. No loss of writing, no buying a new computer, and best, not having to pay a cent. End of kind of boring story that has the happiest of endings.

But I’ve been in a reflective mood the last day or so, thinking about happy endings. As a horror writer, I don’t normally write stories that people expect to have happy endings. In fact, most times, happy endings don’t work well in them.

Everyone who reads fiction or watches films always roots for the main characters and hopes for a happy ending for everyone involved in the story. The white ending. But given the very nature of horror and dark fiction, happy endings come only in gradients of gray. Some endings are as pitch black as a moonless midnight in a tomb. This is horror, not a fairy tale. No happily ever after, and I’ll tell you why.

Even though we hope for the best in a story, we know inside ourselves that the best is unrealistic and unreachable. Most of the time, given the constructs of horror, we want a bit of something we can believe in the unlikely situation. The little bit of realism scratches an unknown itch within us, and weirdly enough, satisfies the itch.

What is a white ending? How about most comedies? Pillow Talk or Pretty Woman or any of a couple hundred romantic comedies? Really, Pretty Woman? The rich businessman rescues a hooker with a heart of gold from a terrible life? How fantastic do we want our endings? I’ll admit, it is an entertaining film, but let’s not convince ourselves that it is in any way realistic, except in the construct of comedy. Want to make it real? The hooker ends up dying from an overdose with a number of STDs. But that is horror, not comedy.

The black ending? Think Se7en, the “What’s in the box?” scene. That was one wickedly memorable moment, and the ending, though totally awful, was completely satisfying, at least to me. I can’t think of a better way to end that entire storyline, and I wish I had been the one to write it.

And there are grades of happy endings all along the way in film. Rocky, the original, for instance. Rocky doesn’t win the match. He loses. What makes the ending a happy one?

He goes the distance and proves to himself that he is not a bum.

He reached the goals he set for himself, and that is what makes it a dramatic happy ending. Somewhat realistically.

And that is what makes it satisfying.

As I have more thoughts about happy endings in film and literature, I’ll return to the subject. See you next time, Deadies!

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