Though Unlife has a pretty clear path to its eventual end, I’ve left many parts of the journey intentionally blank spots. This allows Zack and me to adjust on the fly, creating new arcs, characters, and locations that fit the tone of the world James lives in, and the one we do.
While finishing up chapter 2, Zack and I discussed where James would be going, but the term “prison” was the only thing we decided on. We were still fine-tuning our metaphors at the time, so where we ended up may seem obvious now, but at the time, we weren’t sure. “Zombie internment camp” worked in theory, but in practice, it was missing something. So were the other options we came up with at the time: a hospital, a school, an actual prison. None of them clicked. The metaphor of living life after death was lost.
So, setting aside the location, I came up with with the three antagonists who would animate the place: Geoffrey, Lichtman, and Valerie King. All were reflections of things James wanted or was fighting for or against. They were the distorted mirrors in the funhouse James would find himself in, though the house itself was still under construction. With the villains in place, I put the chapter down and waited for inspiration to strike.
Not that I had a choice. I was temping at that point, and a 9-to-5 in the glamorous world of data entry consumed my days. I spent 45 hours every week in a small office with no friends, staring at Excel spreadsheets to be re-compiled and re-filled with no end in sight. It was tiring, soul draining, and beyond lonely. I didn’t feel alive. I felt like a cog in a machine. The worst part was the tie. Fuck wearing a tie, really. I can’t fucking stand them (unless it’s in a cool hipster way, in which case, shut up). By the end of every day, I didn’t want to write or create. I just wanted to take off my tie. I was burnt out, a husk, the energy sucked from every pore. My life was being sucked away by a job that meant nothing to me.
And just like that, TY materialized, almost too clear.
We started reconfiguring the amorphous prison to become an office, carved up into brown cubicles to forward the idea of being six feet under. The work ultimately busy work, like the acres of meaningless spreadsheets I’d come to loathe. It seemed too perfect for words. The name was partly inspired by that damn noose around my neck, but also by something Zack and I had begun to say to each other. Thank You. Or rather, Thank YOU! It was a joke, but there was something in being appreciated for a job well done, something sorely missed as an unappreciated office drone.
It was, ultimately, a perfect storm of ideas. What started as a blank space with a filler name became much more meaningful in James’ world. A prison painted as an office. A thankless job painted as a gesture of appreciation. A dead end painted as a solution. That’s what TY meant. That’s where TY comes from. That’s what TY was.
And then Lichtman was put in charge.
This is TY 2.0.