The Final Human

The Final Human by Mark Mushakia short story cover

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The Final Human is a short story set in a post-plague world, one in which a young woman and her companion seem to be the sole survivors — a sci-fi drama about human connection and letting go.

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published August 2016,
10k words

Background:
Originally conceived and written as a 15-page screenplay, The Final Human has grown quite a bit to become the 10,000+ word short story published here.  The screenplay was spawned from a college-class assignment, but as the tale grew, I knew that I had to let it breathe as much as I could.  My professor loved my work and gracefully allowed me to push the page-limit boundaries, which resulted in a very concise, but complete-enough, story.  The screenplay was pitched to the film production class as “a modern-day Twilight Zone,” but even in that original form it was a story filled with heavy heart and meaning.  Due to its length, however, though one of the production teams took a real interest in it, my screenplay was never produced.

I contemplated creating it, myself, but with technical, and admittedly creative, limitations on what I could produce at the time, it never happened.

Several years later, a friend of mine was in a film production course at the same school I had attended when writing this screenplay, and she decided to produce it.  Due to no fault of her own, and the fact that these were students after all, the final result ultimately left a lot to be desired, both technically and creatively.  While that was disappointing, I did appreciate that the screenplay had finally seen the light of day in the exact manner for which it was first created.

Personally, however, I was left unsatisfied.  The story meant something special to me, and I felt that I still needed it to be properly told.  After some time I realized that the only way this would happen would be in short story form.  So, after grappling with some creative anxiety, I set to work on the long process of not only reformatting the screenplay into literary prose but also then expanding the story.  At its core, this revamped version is still the same tale, and retains segments of the original dialogue, but I was able to allow the story to become much, much richer — both in narrative and in character.

After going through a few drafts, I finalized The Final Human in August, 2015.  It was submitted to a couple of journals for publication, without success, but with a length of over 10,000 words, the options were sparse, and I decided that the most viable choice was going to be self-publication.  Reformatting, once again, for digital readers, took some time, but it wasn’t until I crafted the cover that it really felt like it was going to happen.

So yes, I illustrated the cover myself.  The concept came to me early on, but the execution turned out far better than I ever thought it would.  For a time I thought that I might draw inspiration more heavily from the illustrations of The Velveteen Rabbit, but I quickly realized that such a style, while meaningful in terms of my story, didn’t quite fit.  Now that I have this version of the cover, there is no other way that it could be!

The Final Human is a story that had been with me for over 7 years, from the first screenplay to its final short-story publication, and I am very glad to finally have it available for others to enjoy — or not, depending on their tastes :).  There is a purposed depth to the story’s meaning and layered elements to a lot of the writing, so if you haven’t already, I hope you give it a read… and if you find it interesting, I know a certain author who would love to talk with you about it!

Special Thanks To:
Sebastian Larsson, for his beautiful piano work which provided the soundtrack to my writing – specifically for his track “Into the Dark,” which inspired the ending of the original screenplay from which this short story was adapted.

Thank You:
Nick and Scott, for your editorial suggestions… even those I ended up not taking.

Julie Brady-Jenner, for letting me go beyond the page-limit of the assignment that spawned my original The Final Human screenplay.

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