There are only so many details the human brain can hold.  My human brain, anyway.  I found this out when I started writing novels and screenplays.  While I had once had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of my favorite genre universes, I suddenly found myself dropping details like a leaky cauldron.  The more my own imaginary universes sprang into being and took up residence in the gray matter that I had once thought had infinite capacity, the less I remembered about TV shows, books, and movies that I’d just devoured a couple of weeks past.  Soon the minute details of stories I had inhabited mentally became pleasant, but vague, memories.  Sometimes, though…sometimes an ending is so heartstopping it will plow into my brain and take up residence….

A few years ago news outlets were consumed with the discovery that we could all be traced back to one female ancestor:  Mitochondrial Eve.  I was consumed with the burning question of how.  I still am.  I’m no scientist, however much my mind loves to take bits of news about intriguing theories and outright discoveries and translate them into fiction.  Once in a great while something will come along that rings through my brain like a great clanging bell, clamoring for attention and answers I’m not equipped to completely understand. 

Mitochondrial Eve was one of those bell ringers.  The thoughts of how, and why, and maybe were still reverberating when the Battlestar Galactica series finale aired.  I had labored through that series, first indifferent and frustrated, then mildly interested, and finally in love.  The final season took threads almost forgotten, and wove them into a picture I hadn’t been able to even guess at for much of the series. 

By the time Starbuck had found her own corpse on the ruins of their Earth that couldn’t possibly be ours (could it?), I was in the thing full tilt, enthralled and impatient for more, until the finale’s final credits rolled. 
Never mind who; I had no clue what the heck Hera actually was.  What place in their history the great portent of her birth announced.  So there I sat, taking in that they were going to take our early Earth as their new one, watching the incredible, sad, hopeful beauty of the final moments play out, and then there we are.  Our earliest we, at any rate.  Primitive man, watched by the remnants of Galactica’s battleworn, weary, yet at peace crew and their frenemy Cylons….and assorted variations thereof. 

And then BAM!

We are taken to our own future, to learn that little Hera, the human\Cylon hybrid we’d puzzled over, was Mitochondrial Eve!  What?  Why, that means we are all part Cylon!  How….  Frankly, I’m still at the What? How… stage.  Yes, I know it’s fiction.  The real Mitochondrial Eve remains a mystery for my brain to pick at like needlework that doesn’t seem quite right, but is for all that lying finished in my hands.  And the BSG series finale remains one of those rare moments of someone else’s imaginary universe that finds its way into my brain and won’t leave.

Another is the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I’ve read all the books, seen all the movies, and watched those kids grow up, characters and actors alike.  I’ve watched J. K. Rowling grow as well, from an author I found not quite finished to a polished wordsmith who thrilled me as the massive, many faceted story progressed. 

Reading Deathly Hallows was one of those things where eagerness to see what’s next and reluctance for it to end war constantly.  Death, tragedy, and loss rubbed shoulders with dawning love, resolution, and triumph flavored with a creeping sense of hope.  I could have closed the covers on that quite happy with the wrap up to the entire Harry Potter experience. 

But I didn’t have to.

I turned a page, and there was actually more.  A glimpse into the future that promised more than the page before it had indicated.  Those adorable little children had grown into three of the most heroic characters of modern fiction.  Thanks to the gift of those final pages that acted as an all too brief window into their future we could close the book secure in the knowledge that whatever new challenge, whatever new evil stalked the world best reached by The Hogwarts Express next, there would be a tightly knit group of fire-forged heroes to risk everything to make the world right again.  So, Harry, Ron, Hermione and their comrades remain bright memories of a fictional world well loved.

And finally a world not inhabited by space ships or magic, but one swept across by the kind of dark evil that humanity is all too able to supply in reality.  Frankly, the only reason I ever watched The Silence of the Lambs was that I had fallen in love with Anthony Hopkins’ acting when I saw The Edge, and started working my way through his very impressive filmography.  A little wary, not at all sure what to expect, I found myself intrigued. 

Here was a villain who by circumstance was called upon to help the heroine capture a serial killer.  That he was a serial killer himself, nominally the lesser of evils simply because he was not free to hunt, gave a sense of upside down to the already inside out world that he inhabited.  I am convinced that it was a combination of Anthony Hopkins’ incredible talent and brilliant novelist Thomas Harris’ words that brought Hannibal Lecter to vivid screen life in such a way that he both repelled and attracted at once.

Clarice Starling and Doctor Lecter:  Cat and mouse…extreme example of the way opposites attract…enemy vs enemy, with an almost sexual attraction that might not actually be there…but again it just might.  Brilliant writing and acting throughout.  Enthralling story.  A satisfying ending…or so it seemed.  Then, there’s that small bit more.  The audience is left just as Clarice is, hanging on to that phone with a white fist and trembling shock. 

That voice. 

The threat. 

Or is it promise? 

They will meet again.  They both know it, and so do we.  The  dapper man saunters away from the camera in a foreign city, wearing a cloak of anonymity as easily as he wears his tropical suit.  How long will the anonymity last?  When will he see her again?  When will she next hear that voice, and have her survival instinct kick into overdrive with just the tiniest tinge of anticipation?  How long must we wait to find out? 

That was the movie ending that’s seared into my mind, even all this time later, after I’ve heard the suave, even jaunty “Well, hello, Clarice.” in the movie Hannibal.  I don’t recall who it was that said “Always leave ’em wanting more”, but The Silence of the Lambs got it right in spades.  That movie created its own legacy, with an ending as impossible to shake as the pitiful crying of the lambs themselves.

Advertisements