Shelter by John Stephen Walsh

I wrote a short story called “A Stop on the Journey” for a small press anthology many years ago. It’s about Garrett Lindsey, a paraplegic man who’s lived his life in a house his parents set up for him so he could be self-sufficient. When the world is depopulated, he is alone. When some looters come by, things take an unexpected turn.

Some folks have told me it’s the best thing I’ve written. It’s not, but it’s not bad. Garrett is drawn sympathetically, but he got a little too mopey. It’s a drag being around him in the short story.

When I made a Kindle Single of the story, it had a very brown cover (which I can’t find now). It looked like a portrait from the 1800’s. It was very brown.

Rough for new version. No longer very brown.

I published it, and moved on. Time passed, and I decided to polish and expand it. The expansion wouldn’t take at first. If a short story is properly written for its subject and theme, it is perfect as it is. Adding scenes to it will just cause it to lose focus, to bring in elements it can’t support.

Eventually I got the idea to link “A Stop on the Journey” with “Alicia,” a zombie story.

Variation. Too messy.

Adding a connection to another story could throw the whole thing off balance. But there’s enough unwritten/unmentioned in “Stop” that filling in some won’t hurt the whole. (You CAN overwrite something to its destruction, and never get it back. Ask me about that sometime and I’ll tell you about the short story I rewrote and rewrote until its drafts added up to more than a novel.)

Adding the connection to “Alicia” also added a coda to Alicia, the character. At the end of her story we know where she’s heading, but don’t see it. So this was a bonus for those who like that story, and it doesn’t unbalance “Stop.”

“A Stop on the Journey” was too wimpy a title. Soft. SHELTER would be generic on its own, but it works with the cover. By this point I was happy with the combination of elements–the nuke imagery, which is symbolic, and the wheelchair.