by SS Hampton, Sr.
Ray Bradbury died on 5 June 2012. He was an iconic science fiction and self-proclaimed fantasy writer. I grew up in Kansas reading his stories and, as a result, learned of the many worlds that lay beyond the flat, tornado-prone state. His death is a loss to the literary world, and his loss is a reminder of my own mortality.
I was young when I began brooding about death, my own in particular. In that respect I preceded the Gothic culture and its’ death-obsessed kids that became popular 10-20 years later. Now, in my late fifties, I find myself brooding about it once again.
If memory serves me correctly, I think Captain Jean Luc Picard said it far more eloquently than I could have ever dreamed of (ahem, yes, I know he’s not a real person): “There are far more sunrises behind me, than before me.”
During those angst-filled days on the Kansas prairies, I read an article about Vincent Price, the classic horror actor of the 60’s. You know, The Fall of the House of Usher(1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Mask of the Red Death (1964), and other horror movies of a similar vein. It seems he was an art collector, gourmet cook, writer, and when Sears & Roebuck wanted to offer fine art reproductions for the average homeowner, they asked Mr. Price to choose the art. It was reported that even a museum or library asked him for all of his personal papers so that future historians could access his history and thoughts.
I was stunned by reading of such a request. Imagine—historians going over your personal correspondence to and from family, friends, even editors and publishers; reading your notes, perhaps even charting the evolution of a story from first notes, first draft, second draft, and then, a final manuscript. For someone to receive such a request seemed, to me, to never be forgotten. Never disappear from history. The idea was almost like...immortality.
I kept writing, I even started seeing success—no Pulitzer Prize in Literature, or multi-million dollar contract yet, but one can always hope. In 2004 I joined the Army National Guard, was mobilized for active duty, and after almost two years stateside, I and many other Cavalry Soldiers volunteered for deployment. Suddenly, pre-deployment training was finished. We were headed for Kuwait, though the mission would take many Soldiers into Iraq every day, where insurgents waited with AK-47s, RPGs, and IEDs.
Again, my sense of mortality became somewhat acute.
I made sure I packed all of my writing folders, books, magazines, and personal papers. Each folder contained story drafts and final manuscripts, research material for that particular story, and e-mails between myself and the website or e-magazine that published the story. I wrote the museum that serves my tribe, for I am a Native American and explained where I was going. Though the possibility might be slight, I asked if they would accept my writings and personal papers, “just in case.”
The museum said “yes.” It was with a sense of relief and a smile that, during our brief leave before deployment, I set off on my “farewell tour” to visit my children, my grandchildren, and my mother and step-father—just, in case.
Fortunately, there was no “just in case.”
So, once more I am reminded of my own mortality due to the passing of someone I never met, but whom I admired and respected.
But, no matter how many sunrises remain before me, I know that when I cross over, somewhere in this world my name will remain. Maybe there won’t be many people beyond family and friends who will remember me, but my name is out there on e-books and e-stories waiting to be downloaded by someone, someday. And maybe someday, a person may pluck a thick writing folder from a special collections shelf, and wonder what the first draft of a story looked like compared to the final manuscript. They might even think, “Who the hell was SS Hampton, Sr.?”
Gee. If that ever happens it’s almost like…immortality.
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He continues to serve in the Army National Guard, where he holds the rank of staff sergeant.
Hampton is also a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in anthropology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from MUSA Publishing, (The Lapis Lazuli Throne), Melange Books (Intimate Journeys; R.U.S.H.; Christmas Collectibles 2010; and Hearts of Tomorrow), Ravenous Romance (Back Door Lover), and Dark Opus Press (In Poe’s Shadow), and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. In 2012 he has another story forthcoming in an anthology from Edge SF & Fantasy (Danse Macabre), as well as a stand-alone story releasing from MuseItUp Publishing.