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The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming first novel, entitled “Demiurge”.
The story unfolds amidst a local tragedy and follows several people who try to pick up the pieces in a world that feels as if God’s plan has gone awry or been forgotten altogether if there ever was one to begin with.
Demiurge – (Noun):
a : a Platonic subordinate deity who fashions the knowable world in the light of eternal ideas, a tinkerer, an artisan.
b : a Gnostic subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world and the evil there within, an incomplete, lazy or blind creator of chaos.
The thoughts that enter your mind as you lay dying can be random and disjointed. A favorite moment at the beach or a sudden urge to punch someone you only saw once in your life float in and out of focus. The first time you watch a ballgame in person, the sheer majesty of the front of a woman’s head as she pleasured you on a second date.
Jarvis Harris saw all of this flash before his eyes as he bled out in the snow.
It had happened all too quickly, not like in the movies. There was no sudden slow down and chance to duck for cover. To say nothing of any moment for a last witty comeback or remark to immortalize himself.
Instead, he just saw the flicker of a gun and then a searing pain in his stomach.
The young man, was it a man? had approached out of nowhere in his backyard as Jarvis was emptying the trash. He could hear parties and shouting all around him from the neighbor’s houses which told him it must have just been about midnight.
Usually he’d be at one himself but as a recently hired Newspaper editor, he had to be in to work at 5am. So dutifully he went to bed early.
It must have been fate that awoke and compelled him to take out the trash in that moment.
He couldn’t make out a face but was almost certain it had been a handgun. As he fell he called out but knew no one would hear him. He landed face down in the snow and it took most of his remaining strength to just roll over.
“Rest in peace. You have been released.”
The words seemed to hiss at him from his assassin.
Whoever this killer was he didn’t stop but kept walking right through his backyard and into the next. Before too long he had vanished from sight.
Jarvis reached into his coat pocket but realized too late his phone was still on the charger. Inside.
He began to crawl with all of the life and energy draining away toward his sliding glass door. If he could just get there.
He knew it was too far away. Even moving at all set his brain on fire. All around him the snow was steadily darkening.
The words came out as loud as he could. His throat felt dry. He took some snow and sucked on it for moisture but it only made him gag and choke. Flailing about like a fish on land he struggled for anything that would make a loud noise.
Bushes nearby. Trees. Nothing within range.
Soon his energy dropped and he lay very still, staring up in to the night sky.
The snow was comforting at least. A soft, freezing pillow to rest on as everything slipped away from him.
He tried again but this time it was at best a hoarse whisper.
What would his mother say? Or his sister? In that very moment, he selfishly wondered how many people would cry at his funeral. He’d been especially close to his sister and this was the last thing she needed after such a tough year.
No, I’m not going to die. I’m not.
This time more of a whimper came out.
Yes, maybe I am. He struggled to keep his eyes in focus, knowing that if he passed out he’d never open them again.
He looked around and saw the lights of so many neighbor’s houses still on. If only someone would step out into their backyard, maybe, just maybe they’d see him.
He felt his stomach and the warm blood jolted him again.
Dying wasn’t so bad actually. The pain was becoming dull and now all he really wanted to do was rest.
He looked up at the stars, wondering if maybe a lucky one could save him but he’d never been a big believer in the supernatural. He was a man of fact, of hard news.
Still in this moment, he remembered the old saying, about how there were no atheists in foxholes and the words took on a kind of evil poetry to him.
No one wants to die alone. You want to feel the warm of the world, the faces of the people who love and cherish your existence to be the last thing you see.
Jarvis was beginning to feel very warm now and he wondered if perhaps he was starting to hallucinate.
He blinked hard.
No, it was real. Two or three houses away something was definitely lighting up the night sky.
His senses were dull but he still thought he could make out the smell of something burning.
A house was on fire. Maybe it wasn’t too late! If he could just reach the front yard so people would see him.
He pushed himself up again but collapsed within seconds and resigned himself to crawling.
All of his focus was on just making it to the front yard then he could rest. He gritted his teeth and willed his arms to push and pull through the slush and sleet. Keeping his head down he moved inch by inch, fighting to just stay conscious.
After what felt like ages he looked up and saw he’d only gotten about 4 feet from where he had been. No closer to the front. His arms shook violently and he fell right on his face.
He could smell the burning now and wondered if maybe the whole world was engulfed in flame.
Would it be better to freeze or burn to death?
Suddenly he heard it pierce through the night and shake him one final time in to life. The sirens of the fire and police departments. His saviors, the great chariots of men come to bring him from the brink.
In that one moment he hoped that maybe they were coming for him. As the seconds ticked off though he knew he wasn’t their target.
He was just a forgotten man dying in the snow. Nearby a whole house was on fire. Who knows how many needed help in there?
For one shining moment he wished that he’d done more with his time. That he’d taken various friends up on their offers to visit or that he’d at the very least traveled more. Yet he’d always been driven to achieve. This industry called for sacrifice and he’d been all to happy to give it. He knew he’d done a lot for his age but still, at the very end, he felt regrets start to leak in and he felt icy tears forming.
Determined not to die crying, he willed them away. He’d helped a lot of people in his life. He’d paid off his mother’s mortgage. He’d been the best man at two friend’s weddings, though both had since gotten divorced. He’d promoted a lot of young idealistic journalists at his job. There was much to be proud of.
Yet as the sirens blared and he slipped out of conscious thought at last, he wondered ruefully if he’d even make the front page of his paper.