Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: Month of the Immaculate Heart, 23rd Day, Year of Our Lord 2023
Splendor is a complete and edited novel prepared for publication, entirely original, set in a semi-post-apocalyptic America, mostly in the Midwest. It follows three characters who are immortally young. It has themes exploring Americanism, Modernity, Nihilism, anti-Christ, Humility, Purgatory, Scientism, Traditionalism, Abortion, Courtship, Vocation, and Marriage. It is an intellectual novel, and I wrote it largely to provide a moral alternative to Dune. It was being reviewed by a priest for theological or moral defects when he died. I have made some changes in light of his suggestions.
This book is available at Taurusnecrus.com, and I am currently seeking wider publication.
Sir David Moth
Wind swept the desert.
A particle of sand sat idly and melancholically upon its couch of rock. This was a rare thing, in the desert, to have such wealth as to have a couch of rock. Perhaps, one may think, this was the reason for its idleness and melancholy, and ultimately, its doom. But it was not. Neither idleness nor melancholy were rare in those days, and wealth was not the reason for its doom. Perhaps, the thought comes, that the reason was simply its vantage point. Not the wealth, but the things which were bought, namely the couch, which allowed it a view above that of its fellow sand particles, ultimately made it vulnerable to the wind that would carry it. This may seem folly, for other particles were carried by the wind before and after. So, too, other particles came from higher vantage points, namely cacti. But there was something special about the rock.
Regardless, this particle of sand rose up from its couch this morning, and without warning, the wind grabbed it.
Wind swept over a desert, blowing across the cacti and the sparse clumps of grass, smacking rocks and brushing the ground, crossing the cracked pavement of Route 66 somewhere in the American West, blowing and loosing some sand across the foreign pavement. It crossed the pavement and headed for a rusty silhouette on the horizon. The silhouette loomed closer and became a junkyard of wrecked old cars. The sand scattered across the faces of the cars and wore them down, and the wind continued on.
At the end of the junkyard, the single particle of dust that had been caught up from its rock shot into the closed eyelid of David Moth.
David scrunched his eyes together. They stung, as the wind continued to blow, and the involuntary motion put sand under his eyelids. He turned over and grunted, then rubbed his eyes before he opened them.
“It’s too early,” he said to the leather couch of the car he slept in.
But what is too early, to someone like him?
He chuckled. “Too early for that, too.”
The tone was different, but he took no notice.
David grunted and rose from his couch. He was unable to rise completely, just enough to look up and around him at the junkyard and the desert, which was the same as it had been when he left it the night before. He lifted his arms and grabbed the rim of the doorless car, then pulled himself out and stood on his feet. Again, he rubbed his eyes.
Then he looked out across the desert.
Brownish yellow ground swept down from him, interspersed with bright yellow grass, into the pavement of the old highway. The highway was a broken gray worm that undulated and buried itself in sand at intervals. Once, it had been the iron fist of an empire without an emperor, and now it was only a feature of the desert. The eye followed it to the east, color quickly overcoming sight, and there the sun hung low and buried in the sand as the highway was.
“It’s going to be cold, today,” David said.
It’s that time of year.
David shook his head and turned away from the junkyard.
He began to walk away from Route 66 towards the south. Strapped to his body were three items: a canteen full of water, a satchel half-full of food, and a rifle empty of rounds. It was an AR-15 with improvements that rendered it nearly fully automatic, and were obvious not only to a neophyte at distance but also under close inspection by an expert. There was not one element of it that seemed less than effective at its purpose, except its lack of rounds.
His feet trudging through the desert, he began his morning routine, always done on the move. First, he adjusted his clothing that had been misaligned by sleep. He wore brown boots that were worn down, a thin cotton shirt under a tan desert-colored overshirt, and pants of the same color with plenty of pockets for extra magazines and the like. And he did have extra magazines. Three of them. Not one of them had any rounds.
Next, he examined his rifle and ejected the magazine. He looked at the top of the magazine, confirmed there were no rounds, and pressed the follower down with his thumb that would have held the rounds. It went down and back up, and still held no rounds. Next, he looked into the chamber that he had locked open and confirmed visually that it had no round. He stuck his smallest finger in and confirmed again that it had no round. Grunting in satisfaction, he let it slide close, and aimed it off into the desert, pulled the trigger, and released the hammer so that the spring would not wear down. It went click. He reinserted the magazine.
He swung the rifle behind his back and opened his canteen for a drink. He drank carefully and did not spill. He recapped the canteen and opened his satchel. This, too, had no rounds in it. He took from it some rattlesnake jerky and popped it in his mouth to eat.
His morning routine done, he continued his march that he had never ended.
Many hours passed, and evening found David Moth on a cliffside.
His fingers held the sandy grain of the rock cliff. His feet stood on a good ledge, but he was on the edge of it, preparing to descend. Very far below him was the low desert, full of saguaro cactus and sandier than the high desert. Also warmer.
He had paused with his foot leaving the ledge in order to address the conversation that had begun.
“We all die someday,” he said in answer to the question that had been asked of him. There was no one else around.
Not you, David.
David smirked and swung himself down off the ledge. His feet began scrambling to find a foothold. Strained, he said, “Even me.”
You are a rich man.
“The wind sweeps away a rich man faster than a poor,” David said, quoting something his father had told him.
Why are you out here?
David found his foothold and lowered himself to it. Now his fingers had a bare grip above him. He did not respond.
Do you know how hard it is to find you?
“I know everything,” he said with a chuckle.
No you don’t.
David’s fingers slipped from above him, and then his feet slid out from their hold. He was sliding down the cliff now, and his body would soon pull away from it into thin air. Far below him, his death awaited.
But he found another grip for his hands and caught himself. So, too, his feet. He laughed. “Not today. Tell me, who are you?”
I am Peter, of the Order.
David sighed. He continued his descent, now more carefully. He said, “I didn’t know we were friends.”
I admired you.
“How unfortunate. Tell me, will you remember this conversation when we meet?”
“Then how shall you find me? Or rather, why do you ask where I am?”
I haven’t asked where you are. And I will find you by the danger that follows you.
David found himself on another large ledge. He squatted there and caught his breath from the climb. The rifle, the satchel, and the canteen rested on the ground to take the pressure off of his shoulders. He said, “Then you have answered yourself the question you did ask. I came out here to avoid the danger.”
You don’t have to fear death.
David rose to his feet and put the straps back across his shoulders. This was the question that he had answered at first, and he answered now differently. He said, “It is not danger to myself that I am avoiding.”
Now you finally make sense.
“Yes, and you see why I am out here.”
There are few people in the desert.
David nodded and approached the ledge for the next part of the climb.
You are a hero always, Sir David.
David came up short with a start. He grimaced. He said, “No matter what I do, I can’t change my reputation. You people always see what you want to see.”
There was no reply to that, and the conversation ended. David shook his head, trying to dispel the old frustration that dogged him. It took a few moments, the only thing that could halt the march south into the low desert, and then he continued.
Hours again passed, and he was at the bottom of the cliff. Without rest, he had begun the march south again. Not long after, a road had come into his view, winding also south. He knew this road. This was the one that descended the cliffs by cuts and swerves. He could have followed it and had an easy descent, but he had not.
Now the road was here, and he grimaced. It followed him like his fate and his reputation, a herald of old death firmly written in a burnt history book.
“Best make camp,” David said to himself.
There are no good spots.
David shook his head and continued his walk. The low desert was not as hospitable as the high, but amazingly it held more life in it. The chances of catching a pheasant or rattlesnake, or some other form of food even out of season, were unquestionable. It would happen.
The campsite was not as guaranteed. With nothing on the horizon and nothing behind him but the cliff, he decided to make camp on the road.
He was awoken in the night by voices.
“A man sleeping there. Don’t you see it?”
“Keep your voice down.”
“Too late, he’s awake.”
David had felt a dread settle upon him even before he awoke. Human voices always had this effect on him. Why not some animal? A coyote, rattlesnake, vulture, something? Why not some horror of the desert that no one had ever seen? Why did it have to be people?
They were a distance away and had weapons trained on him. David was sitting up on the pavement of the road, his thin blanket around his legs.
“What are you doing here?” the people shouted. It was two of them, young men both. That at least was a mercy.
David shouted back, “Do you know who I am?”
He should not tell them.
“Should we?” they shouted back.
David sighed again. He wished he hadn’t started it, but the path had already taken him, and it was hemmed in, defiant of this open desert of endless tracks and paths, swept away every night by the wind. He shouted, “I am Sir David Moth, of the Order.”
That is one thing that he is.
They laughed at him.
He rose, took his rifle in his arms, and aimed it at them.
They fired at him, and the bullets missed. He did not flinch, though it would have been involuntary in any man.
They saw him still standing. They were not far enough away to miss, but they had stopped firing. One of them said, “David Moth carries no bullets.”
“You’re right,” David said.
They are right.
The crack of a gunshot rang out across the endless desert. One of the men crumpled, and David did not look at the blood that shot out. The other one began to run.
“Leave him be, please,” David pleaded.
Another gunshot rang out, but the second man did not stop running. No other gunshots came, and he retreated as fast as he could.
David turned to the desert to his right. The desert was empty but for saguaros, but he stared at it nevertheless. Then, finally, a blob of sand rose up, cascading away its upper layer. When it stood fully, it was a darker color than the sand around it. It hefted a high-powered rifle with a large scope.
David watched as the man in the desert suit approached. He came close enough to touch David, and David did not move, until he reached his arm out that did not hold the rifle. David grasped it almost involuntarily. The man squeezed his forearm and said, “Brother.”
David nodded. “Brother,” he returned, without feeling.
“I am Peter, of the Order.”
“I know. Tell me, do you remember the last conversation we had?”
The man released the embrace, and his hand went to his face to lower the desert mask. A young face looked back at David, blue eyes and strawlike hair. The eyes had a sense of wonder and innocence. He shook his head, “We never spoke before.”
“And yet we are friends?” David asked.
The young man’s eyes widened. He said, “Is this a test, sir?”
David shook his head. He pointed at the dead body in the road. “What are you going to do for that man?”
Peter looked over, his eyes sad. That was the best teaching of the knights. Sorrow for your enemy. He said, “I should not have killed him, should I, sir?”
David shook his head again. He said firmly, “There is no power on earth or in heaven that can deprive a man of the right to defend the innocent.”
Peter nodded. He said, “I will collect him myself and give him full honor. But I have a mission first.”
“Of course. And this is about me?”
Peter nodded eagerly. He said, “Do you know how hard it was to find you?”
David said, “Yes.”
“Will you come with me, now?” Peter asked.
“No,” David said. “Tell me your mission.”