Notes to: Absolutely Positive
In keeping with the ambiguity of John's sex in Things Unsaid, I made sure to avoid any use of pronouns that would settle the matter one way or another. English really needs some good gender-neutral pronouns (and I'm not talking about words like "it" and "their").
I tried another way of setting flashbacks apart from the main flow of the story in Absolutely Positive. Indenting them worked better than italicizing would have, but it does make it a bit troublesome when I'm adapting the story to a format that doesn't support easy indenting (such as private messages to Beta readers who prefer to get the story as a PM or IM rather than an email).
Zeno is a fighter, and even in the midst of the horror of the siege she
finds things on which she can comment humorously. It seems to be her way
of dealing with the situation, or it is just so much a part of her that she does it unthinkingly despite her circumstances.
Zeno's exact reasoning- "your" exact reasoning- is not clearly set forth, in order to allow you some freedom in personal interpretation. The exact details, like many other things, are left open so as to be able to reflect on you. Allow me to offer my own interpretation and then compare, if you will, to your own. Mine is no more correct than yours, but in the space between them you may learn something curious about the two of us. More important than our actual interpretations may be where they are similar, where they differ, and the reasons for this.
Zeno apparently views her action as not simply suicide but ritual suicide. It is an attempted act of personal atonement for her role in bringing down Babylon. It is, as well, an attempt to make a symbol of herself, a rallying point, not unlike that which is created by a martyrdom. By walking into death with her head held high she demonstrates to the world her confidence that there is nothing to fear from a death deliberately chosen and for the right reasons. She almost certainly doesn't believe in the immortality of the soul, which makes this statement stronger coming from herself than it would from one that anticipates his soul's survival.
Unfortunately, she doesn't know what the reader does (if the reader has first read Things Unsaid, anyway). No-one will survive the fall of Babylon. No-one will remember her. She has died for nothing, and insofar as her legacy will be ground to dust she has lived for nothing. Her parallels to Sisyphus are greater than she realizes, and all her life's work is comparable to pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll back down
A question, then, is whether Albert Camus is correct, that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.
Like Camus leaves Sisyphus, let us leave Zeno in the midst of her light, suspended as she is above the world. If Camus is correct, if Zeno's namesake is correct, if she herself is to be believed, then she can answer Nietzsche's demon with her head high and her voice steady and determined.