Dominus Vobiscum: existential novella by Dustin Pickering (2)

The following comes from the first few pages of my unpublished existential novella Dominus Vobiscum.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.

We know how much absurdity human existence can hold. There is the law of compensation that indicates there are only so many miseries and so much happiness to dole out by the Mighty One. I happened upon the dark hallucination that has made my life black. I am charred, broken, and I am only a ghost to the living. I have become a legend, a myth, a thought. They tell their kids to beware of me. I have not been seen since I was fully cognizant and unfettered.

        I told you I was a bureaucrat. I became lost in my own maze. The laws, the system, they drowned me. They were suffocating all. I wanted to scale back…I wanted to re-imagine things. That’s not possible without destroying the old order. No one wanted the old order destroyed. I thought I was benevolent. Years passed, the same old story. More laws, more technicalities. Nothing of substance.

        I cringe at the thought of it. My heart tenses. I know it because I sense it. My heart lives outside of me. I am a dreamer…

        I spend too much time talking. Not enough doing. I wasn’t always like that. I was a jewel in the community. They now hate me, and speak ill of me. They imprisoned me. My rage now wasted on smaller animals.

        My soul, animal and revisionary, wants to make a god. I have need for worship even in my savagery. The cold truth is how much time has been wasted. How much I could have reformed their desires! I awake. I cuddle an imaginary beacon. Something I created to satisfy my hunger. Images. How I hate the images! I want the reality! I want the truth! I want the thickness of blood and the ripeness of cold fruit.

        Night. I do not sleep. I am not able. I clap my wings together, the wings given to tie me down further in my humiliation. Humiliation, then, is the ability to escape. I cannot escape. Not without leaving my heart and beginning again. Like a hermit who refuses to move, I will stay in this cave of hopelessness.


        If you want to know more about what happened to me, just visit the city. They tell stories. They tell their children how things got the way they are, and they tell their own version of events. I set them free. They thanked me by transforming me. Making me into a tree. Making me into an ant. Making me into a fossil. Making me think I am still their hero.

        However, I am not. I am the devil himself to their starry eyes.

        The fact is I was the first to stand to fight the confused network of legislation. Let’s talk about that. Everyone was aware that laws were clamping us down. We were one together and laws were putting fences between us. The bricklayer doesn’t hire an electrician to do his job, does he? Well, each brick added to the weight of our community. We tightened our restraint. Law, after all, is hard. Law is tough like a rock. It petrifies. It is the fear we know in the morning—the early dew that bends the blades of grass. Petrified!

        I appeared before the Great One. I asked for his advice. I was the central legislator and I could no longer keep up with the collective body of laws. They were unevenly enforced. They served a purpose they were not intended to serve. Law, we thought, was even and unique. It turns out it is common and jagged, like a horse with a broken leg. It runs on one foot. It flops and falls. It is folly.

        The Great One heard my complaint. He smiled.

        “You must work with what you have. You have a mad mess, but there is no point in redress. The system will fall and you won’t have to act. The evils you are seeing now will vanish, thin as a cloud,” he lisped.

        The advice was unexpected. I wanted to hear some plan of action, but I get an explanation instead. An explanation, and a suggestion to do nothing. Let things be. I couldn’t follow through with it. I had to tamper slowly. Try to remove laws, try to bundle them and toss them. Try to encourage community action to curb the need for legislation. The city nearly perished. The Great One was right. The more I tried to fight the existence I created myself, the more it turned on me and hurt others. It became a beast of its own.

        People went hungry in the streets. Lawyers manipulated contracts to get exactly what they wanted from others. Wealthy men and women walked away wealthier. There was no stopping the tides. The society became homogenous underground. It began to undermine itself. It turned itself upside down. It lost its ability to dream, to flow, to change. It became more rigid than it ever had been.

        I lost hope. One evening, a young man appeared at my chamber door as I was crying. He tapped lightly. I asked him to enter. He came in with a baby in his arms. Surprised, I smiled. He laid the baby on the ground atop a small blanket. He said, “Many think this baby is theirs.” Two young women entered in heated argument. Shocked, I asked them to quiet down. They looked at me surprised.

        The man repeated himself. The two women began to fight over whose baby it was. I thought deeply. Then I pulled a knife from my desk drawer.

        I said, “Cut him in two. Both of you may have a portion.” Silence.

        Then one of the women said, “I will take the bottom half.”

        The second woman was in tears. She said, “Give her the baby. I don’t want to see him hurt.” I gently picked up the child and handed him to the second woman. Both women left. The man, however, stayed. He was a thin, lanky man with a cigar in his mouth that he puffed in small seconds. He smiled like a man of letters who is actually in despair but keeping his mood to himself.

        “Yes?” I asked. “Would you like to leave now?”


        “Who are you?” I asked.

        “I am ambassador for the central committee. They sent me here.”

        He removed his spectacles. “They want to talk with you. I hope this is not in haste.”

        “Go on.”

        “They made a decision I think you will agree with,” he said slowly.


        He bowed his neck, “The nature and spirit of the laws.”

        I became curious. I gestured quickly for him to continue.

        “They see that the laws took a spirit of their own. They see you try to tame it. They feel it is a wild beast that bucks off detractors. It is something of its own. A mechanism or a violent storm.”

        I had not heard this line of reasoning.

        “Many of us…them, I mean, think it is better that you stop trying to tether the beast. Simply let it be.”

        I recalled the advice of the Great One. What did he know?

        “Is there a rationale for this decision?” I gave the man a quizzical look.

        “No. It is simply looking at the nature of the situation. Some are growing more powerful with your interference. The world simply isn’t the same as it was yesterday. We aren’t asking you to terminate your actions. We are demanding it.”

        “Demanding? Why?” I felt threatened.

        “There is nothing else to be done.”

        I recall a pamphlet I read years ago titled, “What Is To Be Done?” It was by some revolutionary. This man’s words drove the point in. Like a stake, I felt a jab thicken in my heart.

        “We cannot ask. We are not in position to simply request. We are demanding that you cease your efforts to control this beastly organism of law.”

        Law, I thought decades ago, was useful to preserve community. To give all a chance, to liberate competition.

        “And all assets?” I cooed.

        “Frozen. All.”


        Things change shape. Things morph and sometimes they are uncontrollable.


        As I look back in time, I see the way life played tricks. Certain things shimmered, glowed, and revealed their innermost emptiness. I can’t grant that true knowledge is possible. I can say, although, that I am skeptical of lies and how they are perceived.

        I shrug my shoulders at this moment, in vanity of perceiving the ultimate truth and of recognizing the nature of things. The fullness, granted in entirety, is abundant and its motions flow beyond my own eyes. What am I? Humiliated, frozen in this ice, quivering in the mountain where I am forever bound to tremble? The nature of things is beyond me. I have no hope of redemption.

        Is power something finite? Can it be distributed like law? Law grants equal power—social progress and system entropy become one and the same. In external form, law is a measurement: something, though universally despised, makes equal and distributes evenly. Law, by nature, is unequivocal.

        I have confused feelings about this. I guess, to an extent, my imprisonment has led me to over think.

        I don’t think of myself as perceiving the grace of life as much as balancing the entire structure, as trying without much success, to make the pieces fit.


        Human freedom, as I see it, is solely something of the spirit. Power is not a resource, and it is not a device for leveling structures. It is ability. It is the capacity to act on one’s desires. It is the incredible capacity to invite progress and to see the changes taking place before your eyes. The human soul—if I may use this term to describe our inner life as a whole—desires the most complex, most intricate, things above all, and in its search finds components and disheveled fragments. One truth is only one angle, one glance at the emptiness of the entire.


        Now that I have buried the head of the goat, where is the rest of it?

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