In my new novel Ancient Mariners, one of two main characters is a solitary man. For five years he has lived and sailed on his sailboat, wandering, compelled by guilt and grief to live a solitary life. There are a lot of Solitary Men and Women out there, some by choice some by chance. Some by both.
By chance, because of some real or imagined childhood trauma, you might be paranoid and be absolutely sure that the sweet old lady in 3B is cooking Meth in her apartment and everyone in the building is her customer and they are all just waiting for you to let your guard down so they can steal all your hoarded newspapers you’ve been carefully collecting in your living room since 1992 when someone who used to be a friend told you there were secret messages from God in the daily jumble puzzle. So you live a solitary life because you know they are all unworthy of God’s message, even if you can’t quite figure them out yourself.
Or, you’re already a Methhead and are trying to stay straight and the only way you can do that is to keep all those freaking druggies (ie. everyone) the fuck away!
Or, you’re sick to death of all the bullshit from family, job, government, and that snotty neighbor two houses down who knows everything about everything, which is okay but he/she just won’t SHUT THE HELL UP about it. So you find a cabin in the woods, mountains, desert, foreign country, or sailboat and live alone and love it. Because it’s QUIET.
Not all who live alone like living a Solitary life. Suppose you’re shy, conversationally inept and socially challenged (Or are they the same?) But not scared or fearful. You’d rather run into a dark alley to answer a cry for help followed by gunshots than take one step away from the corner of a cocktail party you were inadvertently invited to because somebody thought you were friends with that hottie from work you happened to be standing beside (well, standing behind,) and start a conversation with… anybody. Is there any more solitary life than to be surrounded by people having a good time while they totally ignore you?
Even if you aren’t challenged by the social graces you may prefer a solitary life. You might be too smart for your own good. Any conversation at any party, event, dinner, family gathering, or meeting is inane, plebian, and of so little consequence you can actually feel the words go in one ear and out the other leaving a trail of dead neurons and blasted synapses while making your eyeballs roll up, pleading to God or whoever to strike you down on the spot if you hear one more reference to crabgrass or “Did you see (insert any reality show here) last night?” You’re much more comfortable alone in your study, “Nadia, no interruptions for the next week, please!” reading books written by dead people because no live people have written any books worthy of your esteemed, and possibly imagined, intellectual attention. The solitary life for you. Who’d have you, anyway?
Then there are the ones like Silas in my book so consumed with guilt, deserved or not, that they are compelled to live alone as punishment for the hurt they inflicted on others, intentionally or not. The ones with secrets – personal, criminal, governmental – who feel the only way to keep those secrets, and save humanity or at least the one they love from afar – is to live apart from anyone they might be tempted to tell them to. The ones who’ve seen and understand the worst of the basic human condition and just don’t want to interact with them anymore. The ones with a challenge, like walking to the South Pole, alone, or climbing a mountain, alone, or sailing around the world, alone, where it’s their strength, their will, their brains that determine success or failure. All the glory, all the blame.
No matter why you live a solitary life, voluntary or involuntary, there’s someone out there who despite your resistance, gets you, cares about you and whether intentionally or not will bring you into a socially acceptable congregation of two, alone together.
What If? you were hearing voices, not a voice, not a few voices, all of them. You’d think you were crazy as would most other people you were foolish enough to tell. Then you discover that solitude quiets the voices so you live in a cabin in the woods (don’t forget the pristine lake) as Solitary Men/Women do. Then the voices return, but they’re alien voices and you understand them and out of the jumble in your head you realize they are preparing to conquer Earth. At some point someone comes into your solitary life. A boy or girl, lost or running away. Maybe an older man or woman, lost or running away. They think you’re crazy, but you’ve bonded, connected (insert steamy sex scene here) and now they can hear the voices, too. Your mission, if you decide you give a damn, is go out in the world and using your power and sidekick, save it.
What If? you were sailing single-handed in the middle of the ocean at night, watching the blazing lights of a cruise ship speed over the horizon. You hear a cry for help. You’re not crazy or stupid so you’re quick to figure out what’s happened. Oh shit. For a few seconds you consider continuing on your placid way, but you know you won’t. You follow the voice to a woman, or man, in the water, under imminent shark attack. Eventually she tells you that she was thrown overboard by persons unknown. Murdered. Why? Don’t know. All you want to do is drop her at the nearest port and sail on. But you know you won’t because you want to know, WHY?
What If? you were trapped in Limbo, floating alone in the timeless darkness, trapped by an evil Sorcerer (or, of course, Sorceress) for meddling in his affairs. But for a long time (hours, weeks, years) you’ve been moving toward a spot of light. Suddenly the spot rushes up and dumps you out into a vast desolate, grassy, sparsely treed, rocky, gouged, mountain bordered, rugged plain. You are alone. You head for some high hills to see what can be seen. A person runs over the crest, yells at you to run. Behind him come semi-human creatures – hunters. You follow the prey to a tight copse of trees at the end of a deep ravine. You fight the hunters, win, at the cost of the prey’s life. Before he dies he tells you to get to the cave, grotto, hut, altar, mansion, palace and you will be safe. Ever the Solitary Man, you make your way across the deadly landscape fighting or eluding the ever more deadly hunters and other hungry beasts to your ultimate goal, the _____ of ______, and the second book of the series.
Even though you might be imbedded with the social media in-crowd, give a thought and a hand to those solitary boys and girls, men and women, who stare out from the corners of life’s cocktail party.
Please click here to go to the Ancient Mariners’ page for a short excerpt and links to where it can be downloaded.