Another Coppersmith Excerpt

Posted: July 4, 2008 in Excerpts

This one is a bit darker, less action oriented. I think it nicely sums up what I consider dark, edgy Christian fiction to be. I’d love to hear your feedback on it.

Marshall opened his eyes, staring momentarily at the swirling pattern on the ceiling and the paisley design that covered the walls. He listened for a moment, hearing nothing but the twittering of birds outside. Pale light illumined the silk curtain that cascaded in graceful folds from the top of the window to the floor. A digital clock on the nightstand said 9:17 a.m. He pulled the comforter off his naked body and sat up, looking around. Nothing was familiar. The dresser, bedposts and nightstand were all polished maple. A collection of jewelry boxes, hair brushes and pill bottles occupied most of the top of the dresser. Set near the clock with its glaring digits was a half-completed sampler. Throwing his feet over the bedside, he felt the cold, hardwood floor smooth against his soles as he stood up.

He walked to the closet, pulling the bifold doors open to reveal a packed collection of dresses, blouses, shirts, pants, and skirts. On a hook on the side was a fuzzy pink bathrobe. He pulled it out and slipped into it. The bathrobe barely reached his knees, left most of his forearms exposed, and smelled of stale perfume. But at least it was warm. Leaving the bedroom, he went to the bathroom and relieved himself, then down the hall to the living room and kitchen. The house was quiet, but its unfamiliarity and traditional décor made him feel unwelcome, as if the very structure were crying out, protesting his intrusion, his violence.

He entered the kitchen and searched until he found a can of coffee stored in the freezer and the internal apparatus to an electric percolator. The filters eluded him, so he settled for a paper towel from the rack under the cabinet. He prepared half a pot of coffee, plugged it in, and listened as the water began to churn from the heat. From the bread box he grabbed a couple of slices for toast, and found some eggs and butter in the refrigerator. Soon he’d whipped himself up a plate of eggs over-easy, toast and coffee.

As he enjoyed his breakfast he became aware of another smell mingling with the taste of his eggs. Reluctantly he put down the fork and entered the living room. She lay still on the couch, eyes closed and sunken. Her face showed distinct bruising from where he’d punched her. The color of her skin was pale, almost gray. A distinct, malodorous aroma lingered about her frame.

Marshall crouched down in front of her and sipped his coffee, trying not to breathe through his nose. He was repulsed and drawn. This was the first time he’d ever been this close to a dead body. Even the pastors he’d judged hadn’t died right away.

Most of them were so wounded by their trial they died soon after. But even for the one or two who’d died immediately at his hand, he’d never stuck around long enough to appreciate it.

The elegance of death.

It was really quite beautiful.

The Levitical code forbade him from touching a corpse. He was beginning to understand why. Something so serene, so sacred, should never be violated by human contact. It occurred to him that he’d handled her body last night when he’d laid her on the couch. He wondered if it made him unclean. Odd he’d never considered it before.

“No,” he whispered. “Surely not. It was too soon. The life is in the blood, and her blood had not yet left her.”

Nothing defiled him.

He rose to his feet and returned to his breakfast, opening a window to release the smell.

It grew worse through the day.

Marshall took a shower, and took care of his laundry in her washer and dryer. He redressed. He watched T.V. He made himself lunch.

Flies collected on the woman, crawling about her face and in through her nose and open mouth.

As the day grew long he returned to check on her, fascinated by the macabre progression of decay. Another thought entered his mind, one too compelling to dismiss.

It was the finality of it. The absolute, irrevocable inevitability of death. The way of all flesh to stop breathing, grow cold, and dissolve.

Perhaps that’s all there was. Nothing more. Nothing hereafter.

He pushed it to one side. Focused on the mundane tasks of the day. The Sabbath drew to a close. He washed up the dishes, although he didn’t know for whom. He made the bed and straightened up from the night before as best as he could, though it bordered on work.

What if there was nothing more?

He concentrated on what he was doing, forcing the thoughts away from his mind. There was life after death. There just had to be. Otherwise….

Otherwise it was all for nothing.

He shook his head. What did he know to be true? He knew that Jesus had raised himself from the dead. He had the power to do so through his perfect obedience to the law of God. Marshall would do the same. Would earn the power of resurrection. As Jesus himself said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

He was chosen. He would not be subject to the slow decay of years. He would rise again.

Unless.

He rushed to the living room, staring at the corpse on the couch. The woman before him might be an augury of his own future.

Could God be so cruel?

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Comments
  1. Katharine says:

    Ooohhhh… ugly, awful, grotesque… fascinating, compelling, totally holding my attention. Amazing piece of work.

  2. Cool. Glad you like it. I believe I’ve crossed the line into Christian Horror with this particular scene. I didn’t know this was going to happen until he broke into the house, but timing issues forced him to be stuck here for a Saturday – which meant he needed to pass the time in some manner. Contemplating death only seemed appropriate. My goal for this particular character is to create two conflicting emotions within the reader: horror and compassion. I think this helps a little with both (though the compassion requires more building. Once you realize how deceived he’s been, it falls into place).

  3. Katharine says:

    Great. I’ll be sure to invite him over for supper next weekend, poor fellow.Or not.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I popped over here from another blog and read your excerpt. I liked it. Well written and evocative. I had one observation, though, that caused my suspension of disbelief to falter. The woman was killed the night before, right? And the room/house is cold, right? In that case, she wouldn’t start to smell so quickly. Human decomposition is a tricky thing (according to Mary Roach’s STIFF), but it is highly dependent on temperature, humidity, weather, etc. In a cold, dry environment, a body might be preserved for a few days, while in Florida, the entire body might be skeletonized in a week. Anyway, I liked the excerpt, and I’m not trying to be picky. But I think it’s important to get things like this right so readers don’t have a “Whoa!” moment. I think I would at least point this out and somehow explain it …

  5. Thanks, Anonymous, I didn’t catch that. It’s too creepy to not have the woman’s body decaying in the next room. It really shows just how far gone Marshall is.The only solution is to kick up the temperature. I’ll doublecheck, but I believe all this is happening sometime in the summer months – so a hot, muggy night might just do the trick to start decomp.

  6. Okay, here’s the revise (just the relevant parts):…Throwing his feet over the bedside, he felt the hardwood floor smooth against his soles as he stood up. The night had been hot and muggy, and he’d barely slept. He walked to the closet, pulling the bifold doors open to reveal a packed collection of dresses, blouses, shirts, pants, and skirts. On a hook on the side was a fuzzy pink bathrobe. He pulled it out and slipped into it. The bathrobe barely reached his knees, left most of his forearms exposed, and smelled of stale perfume. But at least he was covered.

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