The Story Behind the Story—Red-Eye

My short story “Red-Eye” is one of four reprints included in my new collection, SEEDS. The story was my first ever short fiction acceptance and was originally published in the Australian Horror Writers Magazine, Midnight Echo #14 in 2019.

This short piece which explains the inspiration behind it was originally published at Sinister Reads. It has been edited and updated slightly.

Most of my ideas for short stories seem to hit me out of nowhere. They squirm around in my head for a while until finally I relent and commit them to paper. “Red-Eye” was one of the few which was slightly different.

I emigrated to New Zealand from the UK in July 2017, just over four years ago. Part of the last leg of my journey was a red-eye flight from San Francisco to Auckland. I was wide awake and emotional—thinking, worrying—about my new life ahead. As is usual for me in these situations, I pulled out my phone and started writing.

“It’s a strange feeling being this high up over the world surrounded by so many sleeping strangers. Trust, that’s the biggest feeling.”

When you are in an aeroplane you have very little control over your journey. You trust the pilot to do his job; you trust the engine not to fail. You are swept along from A to B, often without even feeling the movement. A night flight is pitch black; you can look out of the window and have absolutely no idea where you are in the world. That realisation only served to highlight the disjointedness I was feeling, and the enormity of what I was doing with my life.

“Red-Eye” is about journeys, both literal and emotional. The main character is whatever you want them to be, perhaps affected by your beliefs or philosophies. Who they are and what they do is essential to the journeys we take in our lives and the paths we choose to discover. Yet wherever we go and whatever choices we make, our final destination is inevitable.

For me, “Red-Eye” explored the lack of control I felt. I had put initial events into motion and they had tumbled, giant snowball-style, gathering in speed and size until I had no choice but to roll with them or be crushed. I had no way of knowing if I had made the right decisions. I just had to trust that I had.

You might not feel all of that when you read it; indeed you might see it only as it is, a chance encounter between a group of travellers who chose to take a red-eye flight. I hope, even then, that it sparks something in you, or makes you think about your own journey in some fashion.

A to B; we take a few more steps each day. The important part, I think, is making all those steps worthwhile.