Hollowing Out in the Apocalypse (Sage and the Scarecrow Chapter 1)

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(This is a revised version of the first chapter from my 2004 novel The Sage and the Scarecrow. I am in the process of revising the entire book. However, I don't expect to be finished anytime soon. In the meantime, I'm posting the revised chapters on my blog and submitting them to literary journals.)


Novel Synopsis: Six months after his father has died from cancer, Pierce finds himself in a state of anxiety and crisis. The book follows Pierce through a journey to find his best friend and the only person he thinks can cure him.  



*


People often ask me about my beliefs: whether I believe in God, whether I've read the good book, and the like. I tell them I'm an English major and that I have a horrible propensity for reading too many books and having too much free time on my hands. And, although I haven't read the Bible, I have read Nietzsche's The Anti-Christ, and numerous amounts of Greek and Roman literature involving divine intervention. Religious fanatics always give me a strange look when I jokingly tell them that I'm currently forming a religion based on the revival of polytheism, the idea being that quantity over quality is the new direction in popular religion in this modern day of capitalist production.


This was the line of questioning Angie brought to me the Friday afternoon before I left school. It started innocently enough. She had called me an hour before to ask me if she could study with me at my dorm for our psychology test. I told her yes, hoping that helping her could somehow relieve some of the tension I'd been feeling over my upcoming exams. Lighten the mood, so to speak. I should have known, though. Angie never came over to study. She did what she always did -- she came over to talk about her abusive boyfriend and chastise me for not being a Christian.


*


There is a place far from the reality you know. This place is a place like many in the world you know: people are hungry, people are sad, people spend more time in fear than in love. In this place, I sit alone on the beach and watch them. They look like giant mushrooms. I didn't know they would actually look like that, but they do. Little mushrooms start to sprout everywhere in the distance.


*


We were alone together in my dorm.


"Are you listening to me?" Angie asked.


"What?"


"Are you listening to me?"


"Yeah, I'm listening. You were going to tell me about your boyfriend. You were reading him scripture and he said something like, 'Don't you have something better to do than read me scripture?'"


"No. What?"


"Sorry, perhaps you'd better explain it again."


And on she explained, about whatever his name was and his abuses to her faith or her.


While she was talking I began having this conversation with myself. I found myself in some strange apocalyptic landscape. It was South Beach, but I was alone on the beach by myself and I felt myself slowly hollowing out. I found this voice in the wind whispering to me. I didn't know what or who it was, but I began thinking about the new order and how we would build it on a world of readers, worldly philosophers who were ideologically opposed to a single book, but rather, embraced a manifold of books.

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