Dominus Vobiscum: existential novella by Dustin Pickering

The following comes from the first few pages of my unpublished existential novella Dominus Vobiscum. The title comes from a phrase that means “God is with you,” or “The Lord be with you,” a traditional Christian salutation.

Dominus Vobiscum is written through the existential anxiety of influence, primarily Sartre’s Nausea. I explore the consequences of over-legislating a society while using libertarian-left or anarchist thought to prod the questions inherent in such an exploration. I begin with the tradition of the Scapegoat taken from Biblical text. As you read through the existential novella, I borrow extensively from American history, theological thought and literature of the past.

My primary influence in the construction of this existentialist novella is the principle of short expositions. I use the plot to explore idea-based content, keeping each section within the contemporary reader’s attention span.

In this existential novella, a zombie and a former bureaucrat turned literal monster fight the demonic powers at the Apocalypse. Their battle seeks to restore a city to godly powers inherent to it.

The fun of this novella is there are two devils. Each represents a prominent version of Satan: one, from Dante; the other, from Milton.

The loose symbolic construction makes this novella enjoyable. Keep an eye on this page for updated content for this existential novella.

Grace, the Shepherd

                I chopped his head off. I chopped the stupid fucker’s head off.

                He had been restless for days, sitting, standing. He couldn’t move. His legs must have been weak. He couldn’t resist making noise. He was getting loud. He sounded afraid. I chopped his head off. There, now it is finished.

                I forgot to mention who I am. I am Grace, the Shepherd. When I laugh, the girls think I am foolish. But I am laughing at life. At absurdity. At all things. When I laugh, the trumpets go off. When I smile, a baby is born. I am Grace. Some people never understand.

                Don’t we all feel misunderstood at some point in the game that is life? I recall a certain sentiment, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” A great man said this. His short, disheveled appearance made the words all the more unique, they say. People believed in him. They don’t anymore.

                The words, spoken during a rally, were a cry to arms and are not intended to be a general statement about life. This man, his name Jesus, was a pacifist—a radical, a left-leaning Jewish rabble rouser. We know this now. We didn’t know it then. We thought he was the Savior of humanity…we waited for his utopian vision to spring upon us. It never did. So, we decided to make it everlasting ourselves. It seemed like a bright idea.

                For thousands of years, these words were taken literally. That those who suffered discouragement would one day have the best in life. That those who were empty, would be filled. For whatever reason, life never fulfilled this promise of primrose. We waited. It seemed an eternity had passed in silent darkness. Then a sudden leap happened. We called it the First Instance.

                The First Instance was the initial step toward the mighty perfect society we had all dreamed. It happened as a flash, like a quantum leap. It happened and we cannot forget it. It caused those who were not prone to move forward to die peacefully, quietly. Some of us were thrilled while others were afraid. It wasn’t our doing. It happened like a cosmic event—suddenly, like freedom after a tough interrogation. We asked questions, to ourselves and to others. No one had answers. The light in the attic had cut off.

                Some of us felt that after we gave up on law- realized, at once, that law was only a mask- our nature changed, perplexed, into something greater. They called me a ‘bureaucrat’—the word became an insult. People were tired of me. They were tired of the entire system. It became so large, so dominant, that we all wanted it gone. Even I, the bureaucrat, wanted to see it tossed. 

                But things are usually more difficult than it at first seems. We knew that simply tossing the entire system (or throwing the baby out with the bathwater) would only lead to complications. Unless, that is, we had something in stow to replace it. We hoped eventually it would replace itself…I mean, years and years of accumulating laws, taxes, and absurdity. The headmaster could have been a clown at that point. We could have painted his face and added the red nose for good measure.

                My personal feelings on the subject were simple: stop creating new rules and minimize the guidelines so it would not be difficult to understand them. If anyone can understand the laws, then anyone can be trusted to follow them. The more laws, the more havoc, because trying to create order by force of legislation only creates more disorder—all systems are inclined to disorder, to confusion, to sets that are unlikely to give way to attempts at organization. Life is more unreal than real, and if we try to hammer it down…well, Christ himself knew the results!

                But back to what stands before me. Our noble city must appease the outside realm by tying a small goat to the town’s edge and leaving it for me (yes, me) to slaughter. The sun beams on the luckiest. I am the darkness. I have no face. I have no face.

                The head of the goat is now in my toughened hand, arm strong and powerful as savage lust, and I drop it to the floor. It hits with a dull thud, bounces lightly and joyously as if free, and settles on cocking to the side with sad eyes fastened shut. My goat. I am a barbarian.

                I stroke its beard, thick with blood still wet, and pull the curly hairs together slowly. Am I making order from this hypocrite? Am I, the greatest mischief maker, becoming darker as I kill, as I sacrifice?

                The death serves the city. It protects it from the hapless, angry winds I command. It makes me, the most uncloistered paradox, feel like a king. I am alone in this foul memory, and I only exist to confound. To make the simple more complex at each second—fertilizing my victims with eternal agony, shaping the paradox. I am king of the binaries. I only speak to hear myself.

                My blood sacrifice will serve them for the next seven days. A weak-legged, phony creature is only worth the blood it leaks. My axe is as sharp as it has ever been. Steel, shining like the blinding sun: my silver tongue.

                I must be calm. The straw that broke the camel’s back? Eh, the camel was weak. I am big, rough, and loud. I am like a tornado with a graying whisper lurking within. Night cringes before me, lays her tender eyes on my stiff cock, thinks and reflects: I am one. The night is coming slowly and I anticipate seeing her.

                Yet—do we see night? Night, the most angelic of chaos companions? My ear listens. The shovel is in my hand and I am ready to bury the bloody goat corpse. Night, come! Be my salvation!

                As ancient as the plumed crow, my heart intensifies in its beat. I grow weary of my own gore. All, all is a shifting dream! I am merely a sliver of the continuum. At once, I am in despair and hope. Those twin sisters intertwine around my delirium. I feel the mask of chaos shredded off my face…and order, order!

                But no, all is a dream. We imagine the world is a shape, a form, a code. At our weakest, we survive. At our strongest, we create new energies. The universe devours our agonies, and it sings! The crack in the center of our division grows wider until we grow larger, until we breathe harder…and we shape the earth around our own thoughts of what we could be. The moon suffers paralysis. She is frozen in the nook of gravity and we witness her stirring magic. She is a strange muse.

                Night, night now upon me! My ecstasy! I drink the wine of death, I shudder at my own empty aloneness. My heart is a throbbing dungeon. My heart! It is an ocean being pulled every which way, gnawing at itself, growing restless in its search. I am like the Nostradamus in magical books I read when I was young. They drink the wine from my skull—after I, thoughtless and impure, sink into the ground. Death, the great and noble equalizer of all!

                Lift, dumb head, see my anger…life, and see what you have done to me! You all! What am I capable of! I am mad! I am married to the disrobed sister of the sky! Her nakedness shines like a bone in the dark muddy hermitage of night.


                I slept through the night, unthinking and blissful. After the previous evening of debauchery, my nerves are relaxed. After all, this is why we lose our minds! To regain them! Ah, paradise can only be lost for brief moments in the frenzy of an eschelonean dream.

                Each day, I suffer the humiliation of a dark being who has no ability to escape. I am like the midnight sun, the darkness visible, the wings of a sparrow flapping aimless and alone, the perverse imagination that fills the mind with haunted intensity. Each movement in my soul is a circle and I sink downward, further into myself, as I learn who I am. In the decadence of long trials, I squat in the thrush to hide from the pettiness of other beings. I suffer isolation! Isolation! I am my own script and terror.

                Humiliation is what I live for. If I am not suffering it myself, I am imposing it on others, on nature, on the living. Like a dance for coins, I shiver and break the tides. I am who I have imagined myself to be. I am not a pretend icon, a fool, a joyous memory in the head. Drunk, I am still life hanging on to the ends of Becoming. It is me who imposes change, who sings the nocturnes of Being. I am the enlightened cave where you thrust your hope and frenzy.

                This is a deep moment. I am at my own center, balancing weight and blind. Like the mighty Lucifer, I clap my wings together and make the winds, cold and sleepy. No one sees me on this outskirt. I am devourer of the goat and the bloody hand that feeds. Although I am deep in silence, the sky observes me—silent, a touching thing, beaming as long as a hummingbird’s flight. Yet I do not fly backwards. I am not that kind of devil. I am a handsome man, and a war hero to the angels. They followed me down into this heated pit, steaming red and pulpy yellow. My heart? Oh, I have eaten it! I ask that you do the same!

                I reach downward into the frozen dirt; the heights of this mountain are still, cold; and, I am the only evil of torment, lifeless and surreal. I tore out my heart, dug a pit in the ground to bury it, and have cried ruthless bitter tears! Me! Cry! My heart is still pumping in the ground. I buried it beside the goat head.

                Vines shall grow and I will gorge my white mouth with their fruits. Moment preceded moment, and I am the only evil! Ruthless me! I am not to be challenged. There are no Beowulfs in my desert!

                My legs are trapped within quicksand, thick tarlike sand. The sand is solid, hard as cave rock. I do not know how I am to escape this hell. I shout and scramble, my mind cries havoc, I see no evil and hear it neither. There is something called entropy. It is rumored to distribute power evenly but I cannot imagine such a thing. It sounds like the utopia my forebears dreamed up. It sounds like a figment. Where do I seek such things? In the sport of a moment? At the moment, I don’t desire to leave this earth. The earth is hard like a crater, emptying its flesh to the sky. It is like a mirror showing the true self. It is the Magi and mental illness of doubt. It is a poverty of the senses.

                Yet I have never seen. I am a prison of doubt. I conform my urges to a plurality of allegories. I try to comfort my heart with song but I cannot hear; and, my heart is blind. Oh, insolent dream! Let me free myself of these horrors!

                Some of you may ask how I got here. Why was I free before? Who am I, really?

2 thoughts on “Dominus Vobiscum: existential novella by Dustin Pickering”

  1. The imagery and symbolism are startling. The emotion of the character is up front, stronger than his ability to make sense of himself, his role or the world. He appears to be caught in a downward vortex that is sinking him, but not making anything clear to him. It’s a striking opening, but I will need more narrative story-line to know if it makes the transition from poetic to novelistic.

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