A new novel from my friend Sam Hunt. I have been lucky enough to read this as he was going along and I think his work is really worth your time and attention...
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THE SOUND OF GUNFIRE startled him awake, but instead of his bed, Ed found himself underwater. A dark and subtle landscape of undulating blue, red, and green materialized from the nothing-world that was his slumber. The cold water threatened to take his breath away.
Ed pushed the slimy stones with his thick hamhock hands and rose against the water's surface, feeling it glass smooth and round over the top of his head. It seemed to happen in slow-motion; he couldn't get enough air into his burning chest, the water wouldn't stream out of his beard fast enough. It clung to his face like melting ice and blurred his eyes.
He gazed, bewildered, at the dead fingers of the evening forest through a curtain of crystal.
Then the water was gone and he fell away from it, collapsing on his back at the stream's edge as it coursed over his numbing feet. He sat up and barked a gout of water from his lungs, panting in ragged gasps, the pain sawing at his throat with every breath.
In that clarity which is so common to the dying, he looked down and marveled with grim eyes at the little sores all over his naked shins, calves, and feet. The diabetes was eating his legs, but today, today was the last day he'd ever have to worry about it again.
Out of the chilling rush of the autumn water, the bullet-hole howled anew and Ed fell back again onto his elbows, growling.
"Get to the house," said the voice, echoing in his head, and he realized it was all he could hear. His head felt like it was wrapped in foam. As he had done so many times before, for so many years before, for so long to his benefit, Ed heeded the raspy words.
He rolled onto his side and pushed himself up again, struggling to his feet. The world swam again, as if he were underwater once more, and dimmed, and he bent over and grasped his knees until he could regain his faculties. He took one step, then another staggering lurch, then stood a bit straighter and continued onto the house.
It waited, lurking huge and fat in the forest, a rundown old white plantation house in the middle of ten thousand winter-stripped trees.
He made it to the back door, and leaned against the splintery rail at the bottom of the stoop to muster up another round of fortitude. He snatched the door open and ordered himself inside.
When he got into the kitchen, he heard someone tapping an impatient foot on the linoleum, but when he looked around in confusion he realized that what he was hearing was the sound of his blood dripping on the floor. The sight of it astounded him, made him reel again; he leaned on the island as he passed it, and started toward the living room.
His shirt, already filthy and soaked through, began to greedily drink up the crimson leaking out of the shredded hole in his neck, spreading it across his chest and shoulder, letting it run down his coarse-haired back.
He couldn't stand anymore. He went to his knees with a thunderous weight that made the dishes in the sink clatter, and fell over onto his side, causing the grill shelf inside the oven to buzz. Ed lay on his back in his own kitchen, his gray eyes staring up at the horrid popcorn ceiling and the overhead light that had stopped working when his boy was still in diapers.
This isn't how it was supposed to go, the old man thought, and he could feel the life running out of him from second to second. This isn't how it was written.
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