LSQ: Your story is terrifying! What was the inspiration behind this particular version of blackbirds?
Nikki: I am an avid science fiction and horror reader, and for this piece I was initially inspired by HG Wells – War of the Worlds, and the idea that the aliens had actually been on the Earth for a very long time before they made their presence known. Usually when aliens are depicted in movies and books they are human size, or of a huge monstrous size, and I wondered what it might be like if they arrived in a much smaller package, one that would make them easily overlooked, until it was too late. I always thought the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles had an eerie, haunting quality to it, and the lyrics “all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise”, made my think of my alien creatures. Originally, I had wanted to include some of the actual lyrics in my story, but unfortunately for copyright reasons that was not a possibility.
LSQ: The neighbor initially thought the pods were seeds from China. Do you think including contemporary urban elements brings the story closer to home?
Nikki: I first heard about the seeds from China from gardening group a few years back, and it seemed like everyone had their own theory about what they were, and why they were randomly being sent to people. I wanted to portray the neighbor as a conspiracy theorist type of person, the kind that no one really pays attention to because they come off as being slightly unhinged. I think we all know someone like that. I do think that including contemporary urban elements, such as the seeds from China, and the Pinterest garden labels, definitely brings the story closer to home. I think it helps people to imagine this is something that could happen in their own neighbored, maybe even to them.
LSQ: Adding to the psychological terror is Rachel’s undoing from the loss of her child. Tell us about how that affects Eric, who now has to face danger from outside and inside.
Nikki: This story initially originated from a writing prompt where one of the characters had to suffer a mental breakdown, and I wondered of what sort of thing might cause a mental breakdown that someone just could not come back from, and I imagined the death of a child would be just such a thing. Rachel doesn’t want to believe that Em is dead, so she lives in a fantasy world where she carries around a blanket wrapped pillow that she believes to be her daughter. Eric humors her, because what else can he do? He’s only holding on, day by day, trying to survive, hoping that somehow, something will improve, while at the same time living with his own grief over the loss of his daughter and the loss of his wife, who he’s not sure he will ever get back.
LSQ: Your ending leaves no room for a happy ever after. When starting this, did you know the blackbirds would win? How do you feel about happy endings in general?
Nikki: I did know from the beginning that things were not going to end well for Eric and Rachel. In my mind I saw the closing scene where Rachel is rocking the baby, that isn’t really the baby so I knew how it was going to end before I even started writing the story. I do enjoy a happy ending, but I also enjoy stories that are a bit ambiguous, where not everything is tied up in a neat little package. Sometimes I’m aware of the ending before I write the story, as in this one. Other times, I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I’m along for the ride just like everyone else.