A deep freeze iced the gears of time, entombing the city in day-long twilight. Corwin drank it in and threw out his chest. His breath steamed with satisfaction.
“There’s nothing like the smell of the subway in winter! Garbage, piss and a fresh coat of bleach—I love public transportation!”
“Great, then you won’t mind us making an extra stop,” Mary said cheerily, her auburn hair bouncing as she descended the stairway beside him. “I need to drop a few things off at my mom’s place.”
“Hasn’t she had the place blessed to ward off people like me?”
“She doesn’t hate you, Corwin.” Mary’s smile was unwavering. “Quite the opposite. She prays every night for the conversion of your stubborn atheist soul.”
“I know you’re just dying to argue with her, but I do appreciate your discretion.”
“A wise man chooses his battles,” said Corwin in a stoic tone.
Mary cast him a warm glance. Her mother was one of the few people with whom Corwin resisted the urge to debate all things metaphysical (or superstitious, as he preferred to say).
“Visiting doesn’t make you feel too uncomfortable, I hope?”
“Not at all! The fact that your mother’s house has more crucifixes than the Vatican makes me feel right at home.”
Corwin’s boots clomped onto off-white tiles at the foot of the stairs. They were taking the J line and had made good time. The next train was yet several minutes away. In this cold, at least he didn’t have to worry about the ice cream melting. He lugged two overstuffed bags of groceries, snowflakes dusting his shoulders and flaxen hair.
“What’s all the commotion?” inquired Mary.
Following her gaze, Corwin noticed an odd sight ahead. The usually scattered crowds had congregated around a single spot near the edge of the platform. A hum of anxious voices joined the rustling of coats as they pressed in for a closer look.
“Somebody should do something,” muttered a short, round-faced woman.
Corwin peered over her head and spied the cause of the scene. A homeless man lay sprawled on the tracks, his grubby fingers still gripping the neck of a liquor bottle in a paper bag. He might have been asleep, knocked out or already dead for all Corwin could tell, but whatever the case, the man wasn’t moving.
“Check this out!” exclaimed a teenage girl, holding her phone aloft to record the event.
“Do you think the train will hit him?” asked one of her giggling friends.
“If it does, this video is totally getting a million hits!”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” snapped Mary.
Without waiting for a reply, she pushed forward and crouched towards the ledge.
“Hold it,” said Corwin with a firm grasp on her sleeve. She shot him a look of iron resolve, but he wasn’t letting go. “Are you really planning to drag that guy up here?”
“Somebody has to.”
“He’s probably twice your weight!”
Staring into her eyes, Corwin sighed, fully aware that it would take more than the laws of physics to keep Mary off those tracks.
“Listen, there’s no need for both of us to climb down,” he reasoned. “I’ll do the dragging. You wait here and help pull him up.”
The J line’s platform was one-sided, with the rear wall of the station rising opposite the ledge and sporting some freshly-inked graffiti. Before Mary or his own better judgment could object, he plopped the groceries down beside her and leapt onto the tracks.
What have I gotten myself into this time?
The tracks suddenly felt a lot lower than they had looked from atop the platform. Corwin glanced back to make sure Mary wasn’t following and his gaze briefly wandered the crowd. A young woman clutched her purse, its leather studded with a silver ichthys—the Greek symbol for fish that Christians had repurposed, now the latest in Jesus fashion. Off to her right, a rabbi stroked his beard pensively, looking on from under the wide brim of his derby hat.
That’s right, just leave it to the godless heathen, thought Corwin with smug irony. But then again, he couldn’t really blame them. They were the sane ones. It was he who was defying all good sense, risking his neck for the sake of some homeless drunk whose greatest contribution to society was warming a park bench.
Corwin leaned over the man and grimaced from the stench. He reeked of alcohol and old socks, and looked no better, with bits of food lodged in his dark, scraggly beard.
“Hey buddy, wake up!”
He jostled him by the shoulder. No response. From the shadowy depths of the tunnel, a low, rhythmic rumble arose. A light pierced the gloom.
When outspoken atheist Corwin Holiday dies an untimely but heroic death, he’s assigned a chain-smoking, alcoholic angel as his defense attorney in the trial to decide the fate of his soul.
Today many cast Christianity aside, not in favor of another faith, but in favor of no faith. We go off to school or out into the world, and we learn that reality is godless and that free thinking means secular thinking. But must faith entail an end to asking questions? Should not the Author of Reason be able to answer the challenge of reason?
Dead & Godless is a smart and suspenseful afterlife adventure that explores the roots of truth, justice and courage. In these pages awaits a quest that spans universes, where the stakes are higher than life and death, and where Christianity’s sharp edges aren’t shied away from, because we’re not called to be nice. We’re called to be heroes.
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Genre - Christian Fiction
Rating – PG-13
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