Today was taken up by an appointment, work, and preparing for my sister’s graduation party this weekend so instead I am just posting the beginning of a story I began around 10th grade and haven’t looked at in a few years. It was once called Dying Visionaries as well as The Edge and is a novel in progress. For now I am going to call it “The Edge” but I don’t think a real title will appear until I start reworking it.
Toxic fumes inebriated him with pain.
The condensing of acid on his skin and chemicals in his mind were driving him insane. Rain kept falling in sheets on the dilapidated roofs and broken sidewalks. Flames burning in the unused hovels reflected toward the sky and made a red demon shine in the night, the moon. Grease and oil made the blacktop slick, smelling of old wine and new death. Bloody pools of waste filtered beneath the old store fronts, the old schools, the once-post offices. Scraps of burning paper flew by his face, the heat causing him to moan from the stinging in his eyes. He stopped to blink, to try and relieve the pain, but there was little consolation.
He had stopped in front of the Cathedral, looming over him with false premise, feigned sanctuary. His own mother had given birth to him in there; his own mother had died giving birth to him, in there. The heart of a faint man was fluttering inside him as he felt his stomach churn and he glared at the stone walls and broken stained glass windows. A wind, cool enough so that the pain on his skin was not overwhelming, swept by, picking up the iron knocker and beckoning with each echoing bang to enter the church. He took a step toward it, his gray panted leg straddling the death-line; a line to separate the outer limits from the city. It was doing no good; the Cathedral was more or less the outer limit’s property. After all, the city people had forgotten their gods long ago.
His feet made him do it, run up the steps with each jolting pain to his joints, and pull open the metal-clad doors. He gasped with exertion and the pain in his muscles as they clenched and unclenched with exhaustion. He fell to his knees, slowly, as to relieve the impact on his blistered hands and weak knees. The holy light of a thousand lit candles glowed over him and he heaved his last meal.
When the convulsions of vomiting had left his sore body he was able to stand again to walk down the battered pews, thrown around in disarray. He looked at the dusty floor, the burnt wooden seats, the scratched banisters and pedestals, tarnished metal plates and candle holders. They had ransacked this cathedral, in the middle of a sermon, and massacred at least a hundred believers. He would have given a name to that day, he thought, picking up an abandoned rosary, if he ever wrote the history books. The Massacre of the Believers, the Sunday Sacking, no, he wasn’t very good at creating names, the pain prevented creativity.
He ran the pink beads through his fingers, saying a pray for each of his friends back at the dump they called home. He had never prayed before but he felt the need to this night as the acid rain poured harder. The lights flickered as he rose to ascend to the altar.
Lightning brightened the dark sanctuary; the stained glass windows cast colored shadows for half a second. Cracked panes littered the stone floor creating a dazzling mosaic, a memorandum of the life that was once brimming with religious fervor. Rain fell through a hole in the roof to bring in the sound of the outside. Water ran down the front rows in all directions. He looked up at the stone statue of the Mother Mary, half her face gone from the fallen lead cross that lay in front of the altar. Her eyes were crying, the rainy tears from above blessing her and ruining her. She was created in a melancholy manner, sad because of the death of her son. Now her half-face was wearing down from the acid rain and her sorrow was increased to the point where he could almost hear her murmur help. How much her son and his legacy must have meant to her, he wondered.
He imagined his mother looking like that, serene but with a great sadness enveloping her. But his mother would not have been sad because of his death; she would look like the world had ended because he had been born.
He slammed his hands on the marble top and screamed in agony at the pain that reverberated up his nerves into his skull. He fell forward from the pain, breathing heavily with sweat beaded on his hot forehead. Coldness followed, harrowing into his bones and icing over the splintering aches. The cathedral swirled around him as a dull pounding like a drum entered his skull. He fell with his back bent in an awkward position, one that felt as though he had broken it..
His black eyes stared up into the starry night where a gaping hole had been made by bombs through the stain glass ceiling. The rain had stopped so he could enjoy this horrible hammering of pain without further burning sensation. He winced as a lone drop fell on his forehead and sent searing pain across his face. He kept his eyes closed for a few heartbeats.
When he opened them again he could see the lone eye of the statue. She was looking at him with the slate gray eye, taking in the man wretched with pain. A drip of water fell onto her face, at the crease of her broken nose and eye. She was weeping for him, he thought, and something like hope leapt up inside him. He struggled to control his mind, ordering it to ignore the pain he was feeling at that moment, for that whole life he called his.
Twenty years he had lived that way without mercy from physical catastrophe, only pity from his friends at the house, the vagabonds of the city, the outer limit scoundrels. They were good people he knew. He knew it even as he lay alone, sprawled on the floor of an abandoned cathedral while they slept or wandered the underground without the knowledge that he had left. Every touch- a hug, a handshake, a punch, a kick in the face- was torture to his body and mind; it was always one touch away from hell.
He stumbled to his knees, then feet, and rose to look at the place where he was born. The lightning flashed on the crying Virgin Mary and on the white face of the son who stood before her. He crossed himself as he had seen the men and women do at the funerals he had seen as a child. Then he knelt, wincing once more from the onrush of prickling, stinging nerves and crossed himself again.
“Blessed mother, forgive me as I am no use to this world for all I am is pain. Pain is not needed in an already suffering world. Tell my friends I love them, tell them they were my last thought,” he spoke in a voice just above a whisper with the haunting undertone of misery and a life so close to death.
He put his hand inside his coat and pulled out an old revolver lacking any luster or reflection of candles. With his brittle fingers he cocked it and put it to his heart, ready to take the shattering pain as he had taken all the rest of his pain in his life.
“For you my friends.”
His finger pulled the trigger and a silver bullet lodged in his heart. He fell backwards with the blood pooling quickly around him, mixing with the rain water and his hand released the gun. It fell dumbly to the floor of the sanctuary, not knowing its purpose or its blessing. His open eyes stared up into the night sky at twinkling stars of quiet antiquity.
He lay inert in the place he had been born, born into pain. But now he was at his death place, and death was a much better experience for him.
For in that moment there was no pain.
In that moment the man who had not known a moment of relief in his life felt nothing, but peace.
This work by Sarah Holmes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.