Plague. The word itself is enough to cause shivers to run up your spine, and rightly so. Plague, in all its iterations, has been the inciting incident, in television shows like The Walking Dead and movies such as World War Z and 28 Days Later, that brings society to its knees. A plague turns everything upside down in no time and that’s why it’s such a successful premise in works of fiction.
With our innovations in modern medicine, the idea of a terrifying infection-driven apocalypse happening to us now seems remote. That’s why we enjoy watching programs that threaten and frighten us with the idea of an outbreak happening in our town. It causes us to ask ourselves “How would I respond?”
Look at all the media coverage in the winter months reporting on the severity and threat of the flu. You would think that just walking out the front door could be your death. People go to great lengths to protect and keep themselves healthy. But imagine if it wasn’t just the flu this year, it was the plague. What then? This is the question I asked myself when developing the premise for In the Shadow of Light.
Illness and death is a great leveler. It doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, king or pauper. It strikes the young and old, beautiful and the ugly. There’s a card in the Rider-Waite Tarot that describes this perfectly. It’s called DEATH and it comes for us all, and when it does people often think of the regrets they harbor and the changes they would make if they had more time.
In the card’s imagery, the grim reaper is mounted on a horse and wearing black armor. He had trampled a king to death and is coming for a woman and child. The emphasis is on the punishment of sin, as in the way the medieval Plague (which the Death image was based on) was used to explain the wrath of God. The modern-day interpretation is less harsh. Instead, it’s about radical transformation, liberation from fear, releasing outdated conventions, and allowing the sweep of incoming light.
I was inspired by the duality of the Death tarot card and from it created the story arc for Vittoria Giordano, the nineteen-year-old protagonist of In the Shadow of Light. Vittoria lives a safe comfortable life with her parents in the bustling city of Florence and, in the blink of an eye, a mysterious plague takes it all away.
I used plague as the catalyst for Vittoria’s transformation—to discover the latent power within, break the chains of convention, and realize her personal truth. Is she reluctant to rise above and move forward on this new path? Absolutely! She’s downright resistant most of the time.
We all want to discover what we’re capable of, don’t we? It’s been a question every human being has asked themselves at least once. That’s why apocalyptic movies are so compelling. We go on the journey with the characters to find out if they’ll be able to answer that question and live to tell about it. Ultimately, we’re hoping to do the same. The good news is living through an apocalypse isn’t a requirement to find out.
Change happens but doesn’t have to be dramatic, traumatic, or the death of us. Though I think we’ve been convinced to believe it must. Instead, we can imagine change as a gentle easy breeze carrying us forward to our destiny and towards our greatest selves.
Just choosing one aspect of our lives to transform at a time, a little each day, is all it takes. Whether it be taking control of your well-being by eliminating stress-inducing activities from your calendar, meeting your fitness goals by walking an extra block each day, or finally writing a book by sitting down and placing your fingers on the keyboard even though you may not feel like it.
Soon enough you’ll notice tremendous personal growth has occurred and that it was— surprise!— painless. You’ll feel good about yourself and excited for what the future has to offer as you continue to progress. And you will have done it all without the threat of death looming. Most importantly, when the day does come, you’ll be able to go peacefully knowing that during your time here you discovered all you are capable of and left absolutely no room for regret.