This chapter was a very difficult one for me. It’s undergone several dozen revisions. So much happens here that the rest of the book rests upon, and yet the reader can know almost none of it at this point. The reader, however, must be drawn into the story. So, I had to know the entire story, including many of the more minor parts, before I could put this chapter together.
This opening is far, far different from the one in my first version of the book.
Some of you may note that the opening paragraph here is similar to the one used in the Dawn of Manhood. This opening was written first. I didn’t want to work TOO hard on the dawn of manhood, so I borrowed some of the imagery. I plagiarized myself, so to speak. No lawsuits are pending. 😉
Chapter 1 – Statue
The man was just a silhouette, kneeling in the parking lot, face skyward, his figure backlit by distant street lamps and the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and the glow of the building burning behind him.
The air was thick with a mixture of mist and smoke, the smell being the smell of burning plastics and sulfuric chemicals. The man was well away from the fire, and the police and military units had not yet even begun to search in his direction. They had far more important things to worry about.
There were others in the lot though; non-police, non-military others. They shouted back and forth at each other through the mist, their voices somewhat frantic and confused.
A beam of light fell briefly on the silhouetted man and darted away. After a moment it snapped back. The light did almost nothing to illuminate that man, as the man’s clothing reflected less than the damp parking lot around him. He seemed to absorb the light like a void, as if he were an absence of being–a non-entity, rather than a presence.
More shouts…more confusion…a brief discussion, and then the sound of clicking heals could be heard…at first barely discernible above the more distant din, but gradually overpowering it with their hypnotic rhythm.
Three figures appeared through the mist. Two were clearly very large men; the other was a much smaller, slighter, and more feminine shape.
The three argued for a bit. The men seemed to be of one mind, the woman saying something different all together. A compromise was reached. The woman began to walk and unexpectedly a loud metallic clanking sound could be heard. Three flashlights immediately turned in surprise to the woman’s feet. There on the pavement lay a large, shiny, silver metal sword. There were shocked and awed exclamations. The woman paused a moment, and then continued on her path toward the silhouetted man. The other two followed behind her, carefully stepping over the sword.
Finally, the woman stopped moving, standing perhaps five feet away, directly in front of her objective. She was neatly dressed in a dark raincoat, her hair, clearly usually permed, was wild and flattened to her head. She stood there for perhaps a minute, both composing herself and allowing the figure time to note her presence. She finally knelt down herself, facing him, her hands clasped as if in prayer. Her eyes, however, bore directly into the kneeling man, as if she were seeking to find the soul within.
The man remained apparently oblivious. His eyes stared unseeing into the sky, not even blinking as the raindrops fell into them and trickled down his face.
The woman’s voice sounded muffled and dead in the rain and fog. The man did not respond.
“Alex? It’s me, Sandra. Can you hear me?”
The man made no movement, no twitch, no hint of awareness. A steam seemed to rise from his body. Sandra looked at him more closely in the dim light. His shirt bore a peculiar mark across the front. It took a few moments for her to realize what it was.
“Alex? Have you been hurt? Is that a cut across your chest? Please help me Alex. What happened? Where is Alphonsus?”
The mark was clearly a cut in his shirt, split from his upper left shoulder down to his lower right waist. In the chest area, she could see a darkness that had spread. Blood? What else could it be? How deeply did the cut penetrate?
Alex still showed no sign of awareness. Sandra could see his chest moving slightly, indicating breath and therefore life. But no other sign of life was in anyway apparent.
Uncharacteristically, Sandra felt a surge of panic. She looked through the darkness for her companions. She could not see them, but her search was enough. They immediately moved in to help.
Past the point of no return, as they flanked him on either side and reached to take his arms, she realized that she just had made a major mistake.
The man stared upward, his eyes not blinking even as the drops of rain fell into his eyeballs. He felt the pain across his chest, but it was distant. The pain in his soul was far greater, but he kept it even more remote. So intense was this pain that he could allow no feelings to enter, no thoughts to process. His mind was frozen, containing his emotions with such furious determination that the mind had neither room nor time to do anything else. Sound meant nothing, nor cold, nor wet, nor physical pain.
He would stay in this state indefinitely, but the balance was delicate, and with the slightest disturbance, he would lose it.
When he felt a touch against his arms, white-hot rage blasted apart the frozen barrier containing his soul, and, suddenly, the world screamed in.
He sensed the two bodies on either side of him, and another presence in the distance. Fear. Both of his hands jerked with incredible speed, grabbing the arms near him at the elbows. He thrust his legs downward with all of their strength, using the arms to help propel him upward while pulling them inward. The movement felt like it took forever for him, but in reality it all happened in less than a tenth of second. As he stood and pulled the arms attached to the now unbalanced bodies inward, his shoulders eventually met the jaws of the two men. He didn’t hit them squarely, as he would have preferred. He instead met each jaw halfway. The momentum at which he hit them was, however, considerable. He could hear the bones break as he made contact.
He reached the standing position, and, having spent all of his energy on his upward thrust, he realized he had none left to take care of the third figure before him. Angrily, he pushed his arms against the now unconscious bodies of the people standing next to him. Based only on his arm strength against their collapsing mass, he could not gain great momentum that way, but at least it would be enough to reach the other figure. He twisted his feet at the last moment as he left the ground, so that as a spinning target he might be slightly harder to hit with a bullet.
The figure before him was smaller, the eyes seemed wide. He subconsciously checked for any weapons. Nothing he could detect, nothing pointing at him anyway. That meant very little, however. The only safe thing to do would be to end the figure’s life as quickly as possible.
A small part of him registered that something was going wrong here. The other figure wasn’t reacting properly. Exactly why, he couldn’t figure out.
He fell onto the other person. Had he been able to carry sufficient momentum with him, this would have been enough to finish him. He would have used his momentum to drive the other person’s cranium into the pavement. As it was, he would have to do it by hand, and that would waste several moments, and give the other person a chance to stab.
His hand grabbed the face as he fell on the body (female). Awkward position…he pistonned his feet forward another foot … more wasted time. Now the angle was right. He just had to push the head into the pavement.
He could see the terrified eyes between his fingers. They looked familiar.
“Sandra?” he grunted in question.
He didn’t need to wait for a response, not that the young woman would have been capable of one. He pushed himself off her and felt himself falling backward.
“No no no no no no no no no…” he chanted emptily.
The woman recovered herself and stood up.
“Char is dead Char is dead Char is dead…” he intoned.
“Alex. Charlene is NOT dead. She’s in the car. She’s going to be ok. Where is Dr. Luke?”
The man started crying.
“The goat must be sacrificed that all may live. I am the angel of death. I delivered him no mercy for I delivered him.”
“Alex, what do you mean? Where is Dr. Luke?”
“Sacrificial goat. Eternal hellfire. No mercy for any of us.”
“Alex! Please! Help us!”
“Eternal hellfire so that all may live,” he started sobbing again.
The man sobbed inconsolably now, laying sprawled on the ground, his arms flayed outward at right angles. The barrier of ice was broken, the explosion of rage had been uselessly wasted against innocents, and thus there was nothing left to stop the flood of remorse from overwhelming his mind and drowning all else that he was.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
And so he repeated, sobbing, at first loudly, and then diminishing to a mumble. He could hear voices yelling far away…
i’m okay…ambulance…he’s not going…another body…jesus
But the remorse was too intense to be allowed. The barrier of ice slowly rebuilt itself. Time passed. His words faded to nothing. His sobbing stopped. He vaguely felt himself being lain back and bound, a poke, and he felt his eyes being closed. Then the wall of ice was complete, and he felt nothing else.