Please Come Back to Me
University of Georgia Press
“Revelation” is from Jessica Treadway’s collection Please Come Back To Me (University of Georgia Press), winner of the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction. Treadway’s previous books are Absent Without Leave, a collection of stories (Delphinium Books/Simon & Schuster, 1992), and And Give You Peace, a novel (Graywolf Press, 2001). Her fiction has been published in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, AGNI, and other journals, and has been cited in The Best American Short Stories anthology.
She said this about her story: “Revelation” proceeds from the first line of the Book of Revelation: Do Not Fear What You Are About To Suffer. The first time I encountered the line, I loved it for the chill it gave me, and for the awful and delicious sense of ominous suspense it evokes.
I used the words to start writing a novel almost twenty years ago, and never finished it. Every time I came across that old manuscript, I thought: I should really use that opening line in something else, because it’s too good to waste. Finally I convinced myself that if I do ever write that novel, which I doubt, I’ll find another way to begin. So I wrote down Do Not Fear What You Are About To Suffer at the top of a page, then had to come up with a story to follow it.
In the novel, the words are found on a note a teenage girl finds in her locker at school. I intended to keep it a mystery, at least for a while, about who had written it to her, and why. In the story, I kept the idea of a note, and thought about keeping the mystery, too. But after I wrote the first scene, it seemed natural to me that the narrative should shift to the letter-writer’s point of view. I wanted the reader to invest more in the relationship between the characters, and in their individual experiences of loss, than in the simple suspense of What Happened?
And I refrained from including many details about the What Happened? between them because in the end I wanted the reader to wonder – as it seems the character herself does – whether she made the right decision. Probably she did, but the “What ifs?” will continue to disturb her.