Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Writing, Linguistics, and Creative Process
Oscar De Los Santos
My story, The Promise, is a work of science fiction. It unfolds from two points of view: Maya Lee the human protagonist, and Ben, the alien main character.
Maya, a loner, suffers from social anxiety and is suspicious of strangers. Her ability to heal herself through her mind and her journey into another dimensions during her sleep gives her character a depth and a different perspective. What makes her even more interesting is that her emotional experiences during her time in the other dimension comes in the form of colors. Maya paints whatever comes to her mind using the colors that she feels. This is her introduction into a new world.
While she is wary of strangers, there are characters to whom she is drawn quickly with little hesitation, and for reasons that are at the heart of the story. The setting takes place at the very first spark that threatens to declare World war III, though no one knows who the real enemy is. Bombs go off in seemingly random places, which start a cycle of retaliation. Maya does not know this, but she is directly connected to the impending war.
Ben is an alien whose home planet Zela is the dimension that Maya visits in her sleep. In contrast to Maya’s emotional experiences, Ben’s character offers tangibility. While she provides the visuals through her painting, Ben offers the story behind those pictures through flashbacks. In a way, Ben is a witness to the unfolding of Maya’s identity. The impending war on Earth is a repeat of Ben’s past. His planet was devastated by the war, and his people killed.
Maya’s and Ben’s paralleled past sends them on a search to two different worlds. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and The Martian by Andy Weir, the two characters, wary of their surroundings, find home wherever they find hope, even if only temporary.
Maya’s journey into self-discovery is deeply entrenched with other characters: Gianni, with a secret past that tells the story about Maya’s life and death; Palmieri, under whose commanding presence Maya shrinks, but who also is fiercely protective of her. When war becomes imminent, Maya is faced with a choice: Live and be killed. Or die and live for a long time.
Maya Lee has two secrets: she can heal herself with her mind, and in her sleep she can travel to another dimension. She is unaware of this second secret. Though when she wakes, she remembers the experience through colors, which she paints. One of her paintings reminds her of her parents’ car accident that claimed their lives and injured her. She recalls that there had been a man, someone she knew who calmed her and healed her wounds. During that encounter, his face remained hidden in the dark.
Maya's social anxiety kicks up a notch when her boss, Palmieri, uncharacteristically invites her to Rome on a business trip, yet gives her a day off once there. She is especially suspicious of Terri, whom she meets on Palmieri's private jet. Though Maya avoids strangers, she falls hard for Gianni, Palmieri’s business partner. Gianni has a prominent scar over his left eye. After meeting him, hidden desires within her awake and she channels them through gardening. Since meeting him, her journey into another dimension become frequent and intense, and she begins to see objects and figures, not just colors. Intrinsically she awaits someone’s arrival, but does not know who or why. She feels compelled to continue designing and growing her garden and constructing a balcony.
When a series of bombs blasts on US seaports kill US customs agents, Palmieri, who imports anti-virals from Rome, orders reroute of his shipments without involving Maya. Without notice, he appoints Terri as his distribution director, and reduces Maya's duties to almost nill. For Maya, this further raises suspicious against Terri. One day Terri, sees Maya's drawings, which leads Palmieri to give Maya a new task of producing painting pieces for the office, and takes away all her remaining office duties. Though Maya is offended, she immerses herself into painting. Two paintings from her journey stands out the most: one is of a strange set of towers connected by rope bridges, and another is of a faceless person, but a person Maya has met before.
An alien, who calls himself Ben, follows her back to her home from Rome. Ben’s family on planet Zela, or as the humans named it Siren, were killed when invaders from another planet attacked theirs. Lost, homeless and alone, Ben stole a spacecraft and travelled to Earth. He assumed a human name after unintentionally getting involved in a fight and killing a human. He is lonely, and though in Earth-years he is 300 years old, his true age is equivalent to a human teenager. His only two friends are a dead body of the man whom he killed, whose body he keeps hidden in the snow mountain cave in Greenland. He occasionally talks to the body to unload himself. His other friend is Captain, Maya’s cat. He recognizes Zela though Maya’s paintings and wonders if she is a Zelan or her work was just a figment of her imagination.
One night, Maya goes to the office to measure the walls for her canvas and overhears a deadly plotting between Terri and some man. She gets found and the man chases her. She drives home and hides, but in the middle of the night a man breaks into her home. Captain hisses and attacks the intruder scratching him. Ben, who has been hiding in trees watches through the window as the man is chased out by the cat, and then by another man. Ben follows them both and sees them arguing. Though he can’t hear the conversation, he recognizes the other man as Gianni, the man from Rome.
The next day Maya sees Gianni from her balcony as he stands in her garden. She realizes that this was the exact moment, and he was the person she had been waiting for. She invites him in and they make love as if they’d known each other for eons. She confides in Gianni and tells him what she heard in the office and says she wants to go to the police. He tries to talk her out of it citing her safety. She disagrees. Convinced that Terri is conspiring against Palmieri, she goes back into the office the next day to speak with him. To her surprise the office was empty and dark except for the light emitting from Palmieri’s office. She hears her boss talking to Terri about Maya overhearing them the other day and wonders how much she knows. Before Maya could run someone one places a hand over her mouth and nose until she faints.
Maya wakes up and finds herself in a strange house, fully furnished with all the comforts. She runs out of the house and finds herself in the middle of an empty desert. She turns and sees that the house itself is camouflaged to look like a sand dune. All around her were hundreds of miles of desert touching the horizon without any structure. She goes back inside and sees the walls adorned with her paintings. Maya fears for her life not knowing who kidnapped her and why her paintings were in this place. In the living room, the walls are lined with select paintings hung in a specific order. Somehow Maya knew without knowing that they were arranged in a timeline that seemed to tell a story. The last picture on the arrangement is her incomplete work of a faceless man standing in the middle of an explosion. Without thinking she picks up the paint brush and the color pallets placed in front of her and completes painting the face. It is the face of Gianni with a fresh scar. In the painting, he was taller and broader than most humans and wore strange clothing.
Gianni arrives and reveals himself as the kidnapper. When Maya trembles in fear, Gianni sends a warm glow of light in her direction to calm her, and she instantly remembers that it was he whom she had seen at her parents’ accident site. It was he who healed her and by doing so, gave her the ability to heal herself. He points at specific paintings and asks Maya if she understands what they are and what they mean. Gianni then tells Maya that before her reincarnation as a human, she was Rinnakh on Zela. He reveals to her how they met, and how the war separated them before killing her. He explains that the painting of him with the fresh scar was the very last thing she had seen before dying. He also reveals that he was able to find her because he tried to heal her wounds through his glow, thereby transferring some of his consciousness into her, and some of her consciousness into himself. Finally, he says that the set of towers was the stronghold where he intended to take her to keep her safe in her past life, though she had never been there. The only reason she was able to paint it was through his memory.
He encourages Maya to search within herself to discover her past, some through his memories- some through her own past life’s experience. She remembers Palmieri; he had killed a man in front of her.
Ben along with Captain emerge into the room. Gianni says that he, Palmieri and Terri knew all along about Ben, but let him be since he is still a youth. In a way, he said, they were protecting him also. Gianni encourages her to look into the cat’s eyes and recognize who he used to be and why the cat chose to find Maya. Ben thinks Palmieri is a ruthless killer, and Maya agrees. But Gianni explains the connection between the three, finally explaining that long ago it was humans who invaded Zela and destroyed it before they found and settled on Earth. He tells both Maya and Ben the real reason why aliens have come to Earth, giving Maya a choice: either live on Earth and die in war again, or die as a human and return home with him.
Munver, Sharmil, "Firefly" (2020). Master of Fine Arts in Professional Writing Theses. 51.
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