Monday, December 10, 2012

When Gods Fail III: Resurrection (Spoiler Alert)

First... SPOILER ALERT... (sorry for the caps) I will say that if you haven't read both of the first two When Gods Fail books... well first go out and read them. Second, you should at least not read the following, which is a glimpse at the third book. It will give away too many answers to questions of the first and (until the end) second books.

So proceed at your own risk.

Nevertheless, for the rest of you who have read the first two, you will thoroughly enjoy this start. Unfortunately, this is a first draft. Hence there will be many mistakes. But I'm throwing it up, not only for you to experience the process of writing, but to give those hungry readers a little morsel since the publication of the final book won't be for some time.


I walk outside and see John staring at me. There are some guards or soldiers beside him.
They are grim, and I can sense that I’m in trouble if I let my true reasons for shooting MacGee out. “I got him. The traitor disgusted me too much.” I make sure I stare John right in his eye. For a moment, I think of wavering, of looking away, and there’s even some fear. But I remind myself of all that I had done. The people I had killed, and I stare John right into his eyes. Try to actually grab his eyes with my stare and twist him down. It works. He glances over at the door.
“You shot him?”
“He’s a liar,” I say, hoping that the part of my that trembles for what I’ve done doesn’t surface. Don’t show them weakness. Never beg.
The soldiers and guards look to John. They’re agitated, and I can sense that it’s me that they want in that chair next.
John breaks a smile. It’s one that only cracks the side of his lips; his eyes are stone cold. “I couldn’t stand him myself,” he says.
I nod my head and force a smile. “I know. Bastard had us all fooled,” I say. I feel nauseous and try to stifle the thoughts coming from my guts. There’s a weakness forming in my legs. I need to stop it before they sense it. I take a deep breath, glancing over at all of them, then back to John.
John turns to the other men. “Clean everything up and burn his body.” The men hesitate, some glare at me. I make sure to glare back. Blood rushes to my head and fists.
The men go inside. I can hear some of them grumble. I think I hear some of them abuse the body. I make sure not to pay any attention.
John steps up to me, places a hand on my shoulder. I’m grateful for what he’s done, for showing some flexibility with me.
“You sure you’re all right?” he asks.
“Of course,” I say. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
He stares into me. I’m not certain if he’s trying to intimidate me, or if he’s just looking for the truth. Either way, I make sure to lock into his eyes.
“You really didn’t like him, did you?” he says more so than asks.
“He was a friend,” I say, making sure to emphasize the was. “I trusted him, and he betrayed me. How would you feel after something like this?” I stare so hard into his pupils that I can see the reflection of the men lifting MacGee’s body off the chair. It takes more energy not to glance at them. Not to shoot them all with my gun.
“I would do the same,” John says, almost with relief.
“Exactly,” I say and step away from him. Part of me can’t believe he’s accepted this as a reasonable excuse, and part of me is jumping with joy that I was able to pull it off.
John’s eyes dart over to the men as they carry out MacGee’s body. I take the moment to do the same. MacGee hangs lifeless, carried on a stretcher. He somehow seems older and smaller than ever. His eyes are open, as is his mouth. I take deep breaths looking at him. I make certain that everyone sees me smile.
John places his arm around my shoulder. “Come talk with me,” he says.
I follow him, somewhat glad to be away from those men who still seem to be eyeing me. We enter John’s house and he closes the door behind me and walks past me before I can say anything. Something starts to form in my chest. My eyes check every crevice to make sure there’s no one else except for John and I.
There’s an aroma emitting from me, it’s sour, like decay. I hope that John can’t smell it. And what if he does? He did save my ass back there with those men. And though having killed MacGee makes me feel like crawling further and further inside my own head, body, I feel the rumble of the man who did all those horrible things so long ago. Or the creature that I had been. It opens an eye, it unfurls it wings and my chest fills with it. Why should I care if those men had said anything? None of them have been through what I have.
But Jenny.
But MacGee. The only friend you ever had.
I grit my teeth. Be strong. John will sense the weakness.
“How’s it going?” I ask. John turns and looks me over. I think my tone has taken him off guard as well.
“Why did you kill him? Were you trying to spare him the torture?”
What does John want? He waited until we were alone before asking this. If he had those men around him, sure I could have dealt with them, but he would have had numbers. There must be a reason he’s doing it here, alone. He has been kind to me before, hasn’t he? And as his face crunches up into a frown I know I can’t think for too long or else he’ll know that I’m scheming. “Of course not,” I say. There’s no way I can let him know I have or had a weakness. I can’t trust anyone with that. And I had MacGee for that, a man to trust with the worries of my mind and I couldn’t save him.
“No? Why then?”
“I told you, he was disgusting me,” I say. I can’t pause, and so the words are coming out without much vetting. Anything that will help me push John off my case.
John tilts his head and raises his eyebrows. “Come on, now. Let’s not play around, Tom. I know that wasn’t the reason.” His hands sweep to the room around us. “We’re alone, look for yourself. Just you and me.” He pauses and looks me over, then scans the room himself as if to make sure no one has sneaked in. “Me and you. No one else, tell me what happened.”
He’s using a soft tone and in his eyes I see a softness, something almost pleading. My hard stance melts. Only a bit. I force myself to think of MacGee. Of what John did to those men in the cave. The other Tom. He used me there. But he wants me as a friend, doesn’t he? He’s said as much. And how can I judge him? Does not the Bible say Judge not yest ye be judged? I had done much worse than that. I killed an entire family. I was the reason Jenny died. My heart softens. “John,” I say and that beast inside me growls. Don’t be a fool. Whatever you’ve done is in the past. This is about surviving the now. And, the softer side of me, the one piece of my brain that wants forgiveness for what I did to Jenny, MacGee, speaks up again: and what if John is that friend who will be able to hear out your problems? Will you throw that away too?
“Yes?” John asks. He seems slightly perturbed that I am taking so long to answer his questions. This time he sounds concerned.
“I’m telling you. I went into that shack to ask him a few questions.”
“Why did you kick everyone out? We are all brothers, you should have been able to ask those questions in front of them,” John says.
I’m sure I hear a certain amount of concern in the fricatives of his voice. “Why? Was that wrong?” I realize that I need to play this better, or I might not last the night.
“Yes,” John says, very matter-of-fact like. “It was wrong.” He waves his hand. “But don’t worry about that. Just tell me why you did what you did. Tell me the truth.”
And I’m glad that he has turned authoritative. My heart hardens. I know that I need to say whatever it is he wants to hear. Show weakness, but only enough to make it believable. “I wanted the truth from him. Why he would attack you. Why he would betray us all. When I was with him in the cave, he was brave,” I say, thinking of how to make MacGee’s change seem like a surprise. “Then when he did what he did, I had no idea he would try to hurt you,” I say and it takes all of my strength to stare him in the eye, to make sure that my voice doesn’t crack, or give away the tension in my mind. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I was going to talk to him, so I decided to do it alone. He was my friend. A good friend, so what he did was exceptionally horrid.”
As I speak I know my face is calm. One eye twitches, but I narrow my eyes to prevent it from happening again. The neural pathways in my mind are sparking like live wires trying to find the words that I know, through my balls because I would believe them if they came from someone else.
“If he was going to spit in my face, it would be man to man,” I say. “I didn’t want the fear of the others to cloud his words. He was my friend when I walked in, but he destroyed all that with what he said.” I take in a deep breath to calm myself down, to prevent my tongue from tripping over these words and ideas my mind is forming. “He admitted to wanting to destroy us all. When he said that, I knew that I had bee fooled,” I say the last word with a certain amount of humility. My eyes fall to the ground. I try to appear humbled, and I hope that he as taken the gambit. I look up. “So there you have it. He fooled me. A hundred percent. You expect me to let him go on living?”
John looks at me. His eyes feeling my face, then looking around the room again. I follow his eyes to make sure there are no surprises.
He starts to nod. I feel my feet itching to move.
“I suppose I would have done the same thing if someone close to me ever decided to betray me,” John says.
My heart jumps. I’m not certain if it’s because he seems to be talking about me. Does he expect me to betray him? Do I even want that? I try to see if his face will tell what his words failed to say. He has a stone face on, and his eyes have me locked in a vice grip. What can I read into that? Is he staring because he really expects me to betray him and he’s trying to find out now? Or is there some other reason?
I decide to move my feet towards him. “Of course,” I hear myself say. One can never be too careful. But I think I speak for both of us when I say that you are one of the people in this group who I trust. And if there is someone you don’t trust, we should keep an eye on him, perhaps figure out a system to tell these people from the rest of us,” I say and now I’m only a few feet away from him. I can smell his sweat, and I can see one bead roll down his forehead. Is he scared of me? Or is he sweating for some other reason?
“I agree,” he says. If he’s sweating because of nervousness his cool and calm voice doesn’t give him away.
I pause, wondering if I should ask him if he’s talking about me betraying him. Or if he already considers this done. “I’m glad,” I say. Perhaps this is better left unsaid. If I mention it he will have the idea planted in his head and it might work against me. But I also want to make sure that when I leave his place I won’t be looking over my shoulder. I have to clear myself, in his mind at the least. The beast in me is growling. My hand reaches up and rests on his shoulder. I see him twitch.
“John. You believe me, don’t you? MacGee,” I say and steel myself for what I have to say next. “That cowardly bastard cut me deep. He tried to hurt you. To stop our progress. All this,” I say and wave my free hand about. “Is for a reason, right?” I say and stare straight into his eyes. My heart pushes blood into my head. I think crystal thoughts. I need to make sure that he’s not just listening to me, and participating in his own conversion to my side.
“You’re right,” he says, his eyes flick off mine for a second. He sounds like he’s been caught off guard.
“We will create something new, and we will tear down anyone who comes between,” I say. I wonder how this all sounds to him. It was me who asked for a trial for MacGee. That was before I knew he would be tortured.
“We will.” John now maintains my stare.
We lock eyes for a few seconds. The rest of the room goes dark. I feel the air increasing in pressure. I feel my chest bursting at the seams. What will I do next?
“Then, that’s it, isn’t it?” I say.
“It is.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” he says. “We’ll have to explain why you killed MacGee before the trial.”
I nod, though I don’t know what to make of this.
He breaks a half smile, but I know it’s forced. I smile as well.
I move forward and embrace him. “How about a prayer?”
He cocks his head. “A prayer?”
“Of course. After all, it’s been a busy few days. I think we have really grown as a kingdom. Don’t you?” I say and pat his back, trying to give him the idea that I mean him. But I can’t say it. Can’t bring myself to kiss his ass anymore.
“Of course.”
I kneel, and he slowly follows suit. I bow my head and peak out of the corner of my eye to see that he has done the same thing. And he closes his eyes. I feel a brief moment of glee, as my balls push a hormone up to my chest and I feel my teeth grit and my fists clench. That beast, that monster inside of me roars. Break his neck. He’s not looking, end him. He’s the one who killed your friend MacGee. Do it.
I do not. I’m not even sure why. I close my eyes and say the Lord’s prayer. As I speak the words I can hear John mumble along with me. I try to feel a connection with him. Everything in me wants to know the same connectedness that I’d felt with the family only a short while ago. But I don’t. When I finish and we embrace and I walk away and outside, I know that I was only biding my time. I used the  Lord’s prayer to lull him into a place where he will trust me more.
Above the stars shine as bright as moons. Slowly the tension inside my chest and balls unwinds. I take in a deep breath and I can smell burning meat. Sweet meat. I try not to think that it’s MacGee’s body burning, or just burned. Soon, I think to myself. But you can’t just kill John. The problem is not just him. Then what? I look over my back as if people are able to hear what’s in my head. Sleepiness takes over and I feel like heading back to my place.
I can’t. The look of disrespect that those men had flashed me keeps me thinking. I can’t hide. That’s what they want. I haven’t survived this long by hiding, have I? Just remember what being nice gets you. Pulling out my handgun, I check to make sure it’s filled with bullets. I walk back to the place I shot MacGee.
The same men are standing around with brooms and mops in their hands. A low gruff mumbling reaches me. I cough and they startle up. I see them all face me. That lightness in the air that indicates they’ve been talking about me. Remember that they’re weaker than you. “How’s it going?” I ask.
They glance at each other. Some take further steps towards me.
“Have you cleaned out the room?” I ask. I decide that if I act even the least bit nice, they will sense weakness. “Huh?” I ask louder. I see a couple of them flinch, but most of them just sneer. Secretly, I want to turn to see if there’s someone behind me. One word from John and I’ll be scrambling for my life. But there’s nothing to do now but charge forward.
“I asked a question,” I say stepping forward. I see some of the men I’ve tussled with in the past. The man from the initial trial that the family, MacGee, and I had to suffer when we first came here. There’s also the young man who tried to bully me the other night. These two men are looking at me the hardest. I decide that I need to make an example. “No one wants to answer?” I step forward and the man from the trial sneers at me hard. He has two friends to either side of him and none of them has a gun out. It’s a gamble, but I’m certain that none of his friends will help him.
I point at him. “You’re not going to answer either?”
He puffs out his chest for a second, but as I try to literally grab his eyes with my stare, he backs off. I swing my torso forward and my hand grabs his collar. It rips. I pull him close to me. I don’t want to escalate this into a full on fight, not right now, but I just want to show one of them up. To my surprise, he stares me right in my eye. His breath smells like old eggs. I snarl at him.
“I asked a question, didn’t I?” I can hear a couple others shuffle, but it’s sporadic noise which means they’re looking at each other, confused. Which means they won’t gang up on me. Yet.
“What?” he says, trying to stand upright.
But I’m too strong for him. I twist him once more, making sure it’s into my leg and he stumbles. I hold him, he’s very light, but my muscles start to cry for help. “You heard me.”
He tries to twist his neck to see his friends, but I shake him and his head whips back. I can hear a grinding noise. He reaches out for my face and I shake my head and cock one hand back.
“You try anything stupid and I’ll show you up worse than at the trial. And this time, John won’t be here to help you. You get my drift?”
“Okay,” he says, his hands moving up in a surrender fashion. “We cleaned out the room. You,” he tries to look towards the room. “Can see for yourself.”
I pull him up to me, straighten out his torso and smile. “Thank you. That was all I was asking.” I let go of him.
The rest of them seem sheepish now. “Everything going well?” I ask. I need to temper things down or else these men will be my enemies. That’s something I don’t need right now.
The men mumble something that sounds like “yessir” or they nod their heads. All are trying to avoid my eyes.
“You seem down,” I say. “Why?” I know what I’m about to say, and it’s as if my body is rejecting the very notion of having to voice such things, not when these very men just cleaned up the blood of a good friend of mine. “This is a glorious time for us. We have fought and destroyed a powerful enemy of ours.” I make sure to cast my eyes over all of them. “You know that it’s only going to be better for us. We will find all our enemies from before and they will bow before us, the Lord, or they will suffer the fate of all those who ever fought the Lord.” I pause. I’m trying to say this as loud as possible without the thought of MacGee causing my voice to crack.
“Am I right?” I ask.
The men are looking at me and they seem to believe what I’ve said. Some of them nod more vigorously. I pick out the man I’d just shook about and point to him. “Am I right?”
“You’re right,” he says. He doesn’t sound certain. But I can’t stay here all night. I want them out of my sight.
“I know I am. We will soon be masters of the world. The entire world. Think on that.” With one hand sweeping the skies above me, I smile at them. They seem to be agreeing with me, though I can’t be completely certain. “Get some sleep tonight, gentlemen. There will be more work to do tomorrow.”
They nod their heads and start to break off in twos and threes and dissolve into the darkness.
When all of them have left, I think about heading back to my place, so that I can be alone. But first I decide that I need to snoop around. Only a few lights flicker in the alleyways, and the cracks of houses. I walk flat-footed as I find a dark alley and sit down next to a house that seems to be bursting with light and muffled sounds. I lean my head on the wall.
“Come on, you know you have to get ready for school,” says a woman.
“I don’t want to,” says a little girl.
A sharp slap. The sharp silence of pressure follows.
“Do you have to be so hard on them?” the woman says.
“You saw what happened today. The past two days. We’re going to get attacked again. And everyone has to show some discipline. Especially her,” a man replies.
A door swings open. “Hi there.” It’s a young man. I can’t match the voice to a face, but it sounds familiar. I’m certain it’s one of the men from the group I just dispersed.
“Did everything go well?” the man asks.
“Fine,” the young man replies. There’s some hesitation.
“What’s the matter?”
Crosstalk. Then silence. I move away after a few minutes, wondering if they can somehow sense my presence. At least nothing was said. As I creep down the alley and stay in the shadows I hear more voices, all men, coming from somewhere outside. It sounds like hushed, but forced and angry, whispers.
Around the corner I see three men huddled in a dark corner. I backtrack, then move to a parallel alley before creeping up on them so that I’m right next to them.
“I’m telling you, he was too strong to fight off.”
It sounds like the man I roughed up to show up the group.
A half chuckle. “You sure didn’t try too hard. He threw you around like a rag doll.”
“Screw you,” the man replies. “I’ll show you how strong I am.”
Some rustling ensues.
“Take it easy,” a lower and softer voice says as the rustling ceases. “Let’s not wake everyone up.”
“No one lives in these houses.”
“Still, let’s not go crazy. We have to keep low. Besides, he’s right. Tom’s strong. He did the same thing to me a few days ago.”
My chest brims with pride now that I know that they’ve all acknowledged my strength. I recognize the voice. It’s that bully I saw in the same alley way a few days ago. I take a slow breath and crouch low, just in case someone else decides to walk up behind me.
“Why the hell didn’t you guys swarm him when he grabbed me?”
“What the hell were we supposed to do? He is John’s friend, isn’t he?”
“I don’t know. He could be.”
“What do you mean could? He’s always around John. And he helped in that battle.”
“I was there. He didn’t do anything. It was all John.”
“And John thanked him.”
“I think he’s pussy. He saved his friend by shooting him. You didn’t see his face when he kicked us out. He was trying to act tough, when he saw his friend I saw how much of a coward he was.”
“You always thought he was weak.”
“I’m just saying that one needs to take John into account.”
“You saw how pissed John was, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but he invited him back to his place.”
“And John’s the one who said Tom helped out in the battle.”
A round of murmurs pass from the three men. I think it’s them agreeing.
“That still don’t explain why ya’ll didn’t help me.”
“You yourself said he’s strong.”
“Not all of us.”
“Well, we don’t know about the others. They might never help us.”
“Or they might like him. A couple of them sounded like they liked him.”

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