Here is the second draft of my novel’s opening scene. I have called my novel “The Bastion.”
The dinning room table took the abuse in stride, as it always did. Dirty dishes and beer cans rattled, and there was a crack somewhere deep in the wood. Jack’s fist stung, but he didn’t give a shit. “No, I’ve said it twice now. No! We are not sending our son to that shitty-ass Christian school.” He had heard, yet hadn’t listened, to his ex-wife on the other end of the radio waves. He wasn’t going to have his own son shut down and indoctrinated. “Fine, if you’re not going to listen to me, I’m coming down there. The three of us are going to have a chat. Calvin might be a fucking seven year old, but damn it…I don’t care if he got into a fight, you’ve already told me that…no, we aren’t discussing this any more. I’m coming down. Tonight.”
That had been six hours ago. He had thrown his cell phone through the dining room window and stood there shaking. This was exactly what his parents had done to him twenty years ago. He wasn’t going to have his son stripped from the only friends he knows, placed in a school way out in the middle of nowhere, and have his son’s soul ripped out by some religious nut jobs. It wasn’t going to happen.
He was now someplace in Idaho. He could see little farther than the swatch of headlight on asphalt, gravel, and various evergreen trees. It was October, and deer were likely to be out. Just the other week his friend, Mike, had collided with a deer, and the deer had gone through the windshield. Mike remembered nothing about the accident. The police report said the deer’s spine had pinned Mike’s head to the headrest. Had Mike been going any faster, he most likely would have been dead.
That’s how it goes, Jack thought; one second you’re driving down a dark highway and the next you’re dead.
Jack leaned over and peered out over his hood, only seeing the construction paper cutout of trees against blackout clouds. He had plans for his son. He wanted his son to play sports, enjoy books, love the beauty of nature, go on hikes. Nothing Agnus, his ex-wife, would approve. Everything they would probably discourage at that school she wanted to send Calvin to. Whatever agenda she had for Jack’s son, —he never thought of Calvin as “their” son, although he supposed the kid had come out of her womb— she might, frightening as it seemed, succeed. Every time he went down it was Jesus this, and God that, and the Bible says that Jack’s going to Hell. That last part, that was what he couldn’t take. He could almost accept the Jesus bits, the parts of the Bible where Jesus heals a blind man, or blesses the poor. But the Hell bits. No. If there were a God like the one in the Bible, he couldn’t believe in him. Not a God who throws people into a lake of fire to be tortured for ever and ever.
One sermon in particular had really done that God in. It was a sermon his Bible teacher had made them read Freshman year, high school; Jack typically didn’t have a knack for names or titles, but this one he remembered: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” it was called. A preacher by the name of Jonathan Edwards had penned it. Jack suspected that Mr. Jeffreis, the Bible teacher, might have expected his students to come groveling to his God, leaving their fingernails implanted in their desks like the old colonials had done in their pews. But it had the opposite effect on a young Jack Coleridge. Jack had graduated from Sunnyside Baptist High School with a diploma and no god. A god who held people by a thin wire over the oven of an ever burning Hell, that wasn’t a god of love. That was a demon.
Jack squinted. Something was wrong with his headlights. Their edges seemed to be sloshing as if water had suddenly apparated between the light bulb and plastic covering. The night curled up toward him. The light split into columns. Columns interlaced. Jack’s mind would not accept the shape rushing toward him. Hands, which grew to envelope his rapidly shrinking headlight, pushed into the hood, metal screaming. His dashboard lights disappeared. The wheel was still under his hands. “What the fuck?” The wheel was shifting under his grip. His seat bounced him against his restraining belt. His head hit the Jeep’s cross bar. Stars spotted his vision. Light returned, but only for an instant, as something large and glossy, wider than the smashed hood of his Jeep, appeared and collided with his vehicle.
Metal popped. Jack felt himself jolt forward, the steering wheel jamming up into his face. There was no time for conscious thought before the darkness swallowed him.