So, I’m writing this on Monday for a change. Zack’s page and blog are up and ready to go, both beautifully done, and here I am, hoping to get a little ahead on the week’s work. I’d like to think I’m being productive, but really, I’m just trying to stay busy because I’m a mess.

And why? These characters are fictional, in a fictional world. Stacy only exists for a brief 40 or so pages a year. She’s not real. She’s just a series of words, translated into a drawing, and her death was just a necessary element in the story Zack and I have been building for years. It’s a story about death, and not everyone gets to come back from that. For the most part, none of us do. And I knew the death was coming (as the writer, I have advanced knowledge of things like this), and I took the time to give a great send off to a wonderful character because she deserved it.

But if she deserved it, why did I kill her? Why does it still feel like I murdered someone I loved?

There’s obviously fallout to come of this. Stacy’s death ripples through the already choppy waters of Unlife in ways that will unfold in the coming months. But did I have to kill her? Couldn’t she have turned into a zombie too? Couldn’t she have just gotten up with a few bruises, alive and fine, and gone on her merry way to live a happy and full life? Doesn’t she deserve that much?

I keep owning this because, though Zack pulled the trigger, I gave the order, and I feel awful about it. Some of you might be saying “Good, you should”, and that’s fair enough. Glad someone’s happy. Looking at Stacy on the previous page, feeling the weight of her departure, it feels crueler than I wanted it to be. But death is cruel, and as Doris once told James, not everyone is as lucky as he is. Not everyone gets back up. Not everyone gets a second chance.

I don’t know where I’m going with this right now. I don’t know what to do with all these feelings, and in a way, I’m having trouble condoning their validity. Life is so random and chaotic, but really, this was a choice I made. I am responsible for this. I made the decision to kill a fictional character that only exists when Zack and I say so. And yet, here I am, locking myself in a dark room like the one Stacy trapped herself in for years, feeling sorry for myself. Trying to escape like her, because I don’t want to face the reality that she’s gone and I can’t bring her back.

The continuous flow of Unlife is unique, at least to me. I have never worked on anything that’s lived this long. With other stories, I’ve always been able to go back and retool. Remove what I don’t like and fix what’s broken. But Unlife has a permanence in being posted, read, and commented on by all of you for the last 4 1/2 years. These characters have grown with all of us, becoming more than ideas, but people we can recognize as real. Our friends. Inspiring us. Giving us something to root for and care for. They are alive, living and growing before us, until they’re just… you know.

And I’ll miss her. I’ll really, really miss her. Her presence. Her joy. Her fight. Her ability to push further and to retake her life. She stood up for what she wanted and she was brave when she felt she couldn’t be. She taught us that life, while it’s lived, is worth embracing. I wanted someone like that to make it. I wanted someone like that to make a difference. And she did, to her last breath.

And somehow, that’s even worse, because I can see what a great loss Unlife has suffered in losing Stacy. Maybe you agree that I’m the one to blame. Maybe it’s the arc of the story that demanded the sacrifice of this character. Whatever the chaotic and crazy reason, she’s gone and all I can do is grieve with you all. I’m sorry. 

So long, Stacy. We really will miss you.