Semdeus: Prologue

As promised, here is the prologue to the book I’ve been writing on and off for… well… forever? I’m very proud of this short piece in particular, and I think I’m scared to continue because I’m worried I won’t be able to match it.

For a bit of history, the word Semdeus is a compound of two Portuguese words: Sem, meaning “without” and Deus, meaning “God.” The general storyline is us in the future where we as a species have rejected God and, thereby, cast Him from our lives. I won’t explain more than that just in case I actually do finish it someday.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Semdeus

by David M. Loveless

Isaiah 64: 8-9

O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.

Prologue

I can’t bring life through drowning, she thought, and yet… here I am.

And it wouldn’t really be all that long of a drop. Not that long at all. Over in a few seconds and then maybe a few more until true unconsciousness set in. Or maybe, I wouldn’t be unconscious at all… What then?

She’d heard stories of what it was like to drown; gasping for air as the water flooded your lungs, choking you even if you did manage to break the surface. The searing pain as oxygen-starved life is smothered in engulfing nothing. Would I resist? Would instinct make me fight? Could I possibly be strong enough to give in when every part of me screamed to breathe?

The drop from the bluff to the pulsing ocean below was only a hundred feet at most, but it wasn’t the drop that bothered her. Lynnia was far more concerned as to what the drop would do to her unborn child. Or rather, what it might not do to her child. No… a son. My child is a boy. I’ve come to kill my son.

And she had.

Death was never the intent of the fall. At least her death was never the intent. Oh no. Her true intention had always been to kill her child, and her own demise would be nothing more than what was required. Selfish of me to think so. And perhaps it was selfish to think that her own death would somehow make what she needed to do alright.

Lynnia had known this day would come from shortly after conception, a moment that was nothing of the mystery and magic she had hoped it would be. Terrifying, surprising, and painful was more accurate. The violation of her body, though willing enough, hadn’t brought a sense of maturity or accomplishment. Rather, she felt betrayed at the simplistic nature of life and emotion.

She had hoped it would be for love, dreaming as all young women do that her experience would be different, but she could never call what had happened to her love. People didn’t do that for love anymore, and she realized that truth only too late. Survival, instinct, maybe even pleasure, but never love. He had stood up so quickly, dressed, and walked out the door. She had waited far beyond any sense of reason, warm where her body touched the bed, cold where the night air blew across her drying skin. He was supposed to come back. He was supposed to come and take her in his arms.

Instead, others had come and taken her to Grak Nacer, the Fortress of Life, where she had spent the last eight months roaming the lonely shores, always ending up precisely here, facing the relentless sea. Though she’d been preparing herself for this moment since her arrival, she found herself scanning the sea as she always did. Searching for hope among the currents. Peace among the waves.

Solitude in her misery.

The setting sun cast its fervent gaze across the cliff face, blinding her and bringing with it the weight of dusk. Gulls and other seabirds built their nests in the nooks and cracks throughout this cliff, doing their best to inhibit the threat of predation. The irony was not lost on Lynnia. You’ve come here to raise your young in peace, and I’ve come to kill mine to bring peace.

It was a selfish thought to compare what she was doing to the honesty of the birds’ work. They were a constant stream of motion, busy parenthood seeking food for the nestlings left behind. Kelp, mussels, maybe a clam. Sometimes even trash that swept ashore on the crashing waves made a feast for the simple begging of a seabird. The trash was nothing more than innocent poisons carried to their young despite their best intentions. But the little ones would gulp the poison down, always trusting that what was brought home must be good and then clamoring for more before it had even begun to settle in their bellies. The trash would cramp their young bodies, clog their throats, and leave them far hungrier than before, and now anxious parents would soar across the sky, gather even more, feed it to their young…. And when the end finally came, they’d unceremoniously dump the emaciated body from the nest, not even pausing to watch it tumble to the sea below.

So much trust placed in parents who truly had no idea what they were doing.

Like me, thought Lynnia. Maybe I’m not so different afterall. Except she did know what she was doing, and she knew it was right and necessary. One life given that many more would not suffer a terrible fate in his hands.

The breeze was stiff on the cliff face, lifting the birds higher. It told of faraway lands, tropical by the scent of it, but nothing she’d ever seen or dared hope for. Her desert prison had never yielded a prize as simple as a fruit. Only sand, rocks, and the debris of ships wrecked in the channel. And of course my son.

But she had to give that back.

Even if the drop doesn’t kill me, it’ll at least kill my son. What a horrible thought, but she could live with that thought even though he was the only thing left that she truly treasured. No, better the sea take both her and her son.

Her mind dwelt on the twisted fate of conceiving, carrying a child to full term, and then giving him back unborn. So much wasted effort. Not that she minded. Lynnia knew she’d never bear the child, knew that she couldn’t; each day was nothing more than potentially the last day she’d be able to consider herself a mother. And though she promised herself each day that today would be the day, that today will be the day that motherhood ends, she never could do it.

Her path to the cliff face was worn by the thousands of individual steps, all her own, worn through the scrub and moss each evening as she made her way to the cliff face. Each evening, she passed stones she could have known by name if she could have seen them through her tears. ”Good evening, Lynnia. Come to die today?” they might have asked had she stopped. Had she not been so preoccupied. “It’s a nice night to die, Lynnia, but I wonder if you’ll ever do it. You don’t quite seem the type.”

Yes, she responded. I will because I must.

And she stepped over the edge.

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2 Responses to Semdeus: Prologue

  1. nosurfgirl says:

    I have a few thoughts. First, a very small critique:

    I loved the imagery of the birds on the cliff. But I think you could reduce it to a few lines… it sort of detracts from the drama of the moment, to have a whole paragraph focusing on the birds.

    now, a thought about continuing: This is a very dramatic, intense moment and sequence of events in your story. Of course the writing will seem more powerful to you. Starting your story with this boy’s life will feel tame and mundane in comparison. But it can still be powerful writing… just less intense, pain-filled, less of a huge, event-lead draw for the reader. And that can be a good thing, because a very sharp, intense moment often needs to be balanced with some softer flow, some humor and a drop in intensity of the narrative.

    When you start your story with the boy and his life, you can refer to this incident subtly to add some drama. LIke, you could talk about him noticing sea birds on the rocks and draw inferences about his own orphanhood or something, and the reader will “get” it and a bit of the intensity of the previous scene will be embedded in the more mundane narrative of the boy as you get to know him and his life as he knows it at the beginning of the story.

    Character development, and some fun and interesting development of relationships, description of the world we’re in, and incisive, clever dialogue will do a lot to make the next story as powerful as your previous.

    Having said all this, your intro is better than any part, I think, of the story I wrote (and gave you to critique.) I think you and I “build” our stories differently… you tend to work in chunks, fashinioning and polishing one piece until it’s perfect before you go on. I have learned that this can get so exhausting and basically stymie your work soemtimes… sometimes i’ts better to throw down the frame, then go back and add drywall, then, finally (a few drafts down the line) add the polish and interior decoration.

    Of course, Like I said, I think this is far better than anything I’ve written at this point, simply for the factor of drawing in the reader, so maybe you should stick to your way of doing things or do something sort of in-between… work on getting stuff on paper, spending some part of each writing session on framing AND going back to polish, or something like that.

    Sorry so long. As you know i’m kind of a geek about this stuff. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Dregs « the prodigal

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