The Lamb White Days
Canada is in the final stages of a civil war, and the New Christian Army has all but seized control of the country. The revolutionaries, inspired by the teachings of the blind prophet, Samuel J. Harris, have taken Ottawa, and Vancouver has been set ablaze. Only Regina, the birthplace of their prophet, has been left untouched. Mere weeks separate it from judgment day.
Desperate to find his missing fiancée, Jacob Harrison journeys to the last free city, but after weeks of searching, his hope gives way to despair. While in Regina, Jacob meets a young doctor, and the relationship he develops with her compels him to question the strength of his lost love. Jacob also meets her patient, an enigmatic soldier who has lost his sight in the war. Though blind, this soldier views life with an astonishing purity of vision.
Now, time is running out. The New Christian Army has reached the outskirts of Regina, and violence darkens the city streets. Jacob must battle his inner turmoil, search for truth, and fight for his life in The Lamb White Days.
* * *
The Lamb White Days is my first novel and was published in 2009; however, a second edition of the novel is currently in the works and should be completed before June of 2015. (Or so I hope.) The reasons for a second edition are numerous and compelling. As it was originally conceived, The Lamb White Days was to be allegorical in nature – the events of the narrative were to happen nowhere and everywhere. The central issue of the story – the inescapable totalitarianism of a theocracy – is universal, and the setting of the story should work to emphasize this theme. In the first edition, I placed the story in a specific setting, and by doing so I believe that I undercut the essence of the allegory. I am now working to correct this error. In addition, I am using the opportunity provided by this revision to develop the story and incorporate scenes that were not included in the 2009 manuscript.
The following is an excerpt from the second edition.
Out on Willow Street, I paused to appreciate the evening. The night was lovely. The air was still warm, and it hung about us without a stir. That’s an unusual occurrence—a windless day on the prairies. If I was to identify one thing that I hate about Tamerlane, that would be it; I can’t stand the wind, so to walk out to a calm night was like a blessing. I looked skyward at the fragmented constellations. The Pleiades were up there; some of them were washed away by the dim city lights, but they still held their station. I wondered what the constellations would be if the ancient Greeks had possessed electricity. The night would have lost its fear, but it also would have lost its fascination. Sometimes less really is more. Although the moon itself was out of sight, I could see its hazy glow hovering like a halo over the buildings.
Will spotted a carriage and made the executive decision that we would take a ride to our next watering hole. He whistled, waved when the driver looked, then we trotted over and climbed on board. The term carriage was a bit of an exaggeration. True enough, there were two horses tied to the front of the thing we sat on, but I was certain that the makers of Das Auto had never intended the Beetle to serve such a function. It was a convertible and had probably been considered trendy in its day, but it hardly created that impression any longer. Battered shocks groaned under our weight, and one side of the carriage rested appreciatively lower than the other. I clutched at the door handle, fearful that a bump in the road would send me sprawling onto the street. In case the downtown bars were in collusion regarding the rationing, we decided that we should head to another part of the city. Will gave directions to the driver and the horses set off into the night. Their hoofs clomped on the asphalt in a muffled tattoo.
The downtown fell away behind us as we rode into Oscana Park. The moon came out from the shelter of the tall buildings and watched us furtively from behind the trees. Its pale light washed the world of colour and turned the branches and leaves above us into silhouettes. Will’s angular features, half obscured beneath three days of stubble, appeared ghostly, as though I was riding with one of the undead. We had made our way southwest through the park then turned onto the Blake Street Bridge.
It wasn’t that late in the evening, but the bridge was almost deserted. Perhaps it was the lack of other people, but my attention was immediately drawn to a small knot of men clustered by the side of the road, halfway across the bridge. The poor light made it difficult to be sure, but I counted six of them skulking in and out of the shadows. Although I couldn’t identify anything specific that would substantiate the assumption, my immediate impression was that they were military. Their intentions may have been innocuous enough—there was little else for people to do during the evenings, but the sight of them prompted me to glance around the floor of the carriage, searching for a weapon.
I nudged Will and nodded in their direction. “What do you think?”
When he saw the group, his face registered surprise, and I noted the fleeting passage of something else—recognition, maybe? He turned quickly away, as if afraid that our curiosity would somehow draw their attention.
“Not good,” he muttered. “We probably shouldn’t come back this way.”
Returning via a different route would mean crossing the Oscana River by another bridge, and that would extend our ride by at least half an hour. I was about to suggest we turn back downtown when Will drew a sharp breath and grabbed my arm. “Look at this!”
I followed the direction of his gaze and spotted two people on bicycles approaching from the South. I shrugged, and looked back at Will, saying, “What’s the big…?” But the sentence died half-formed on my lips. We had drawn close to the men, and I could see them when I looked over in Will’s direction. The group had also noticed the approaching cyclists, and their collective reaction set off warning bells in my mind. There was nothing overtly aggressive in their reactions, but whereas before they had been slouching with hands in pockets, they suddenly assumed an air of alertness. The difference was so subtle that I wasn’t sure I hadn’t imagined it, but the simple act of pulling their hands from their pockets spoke volumes concerning their intentions. They seemed to draw in on themselves, like lions crouching to spring.
Alarmed, I considered shouting to the cyclists, but Will knew me too well. He turned and growled, “Keep your mouth shut.”
I’d like to say that I was surprised at Will’s reaction. I’d like to say that I ignored him and did the right thing. The truth of it, however, is that I was afraid. If I had intended to shout, I would have done it before he spoke. I hadn’t, for I knew full well the consequences of my intervention. If I’d cried out, whatever demon of violence had those men in its thrall would have simply turned its attention toward us. The carriage driver must also have noticed what was happening, for he gave his team a quick lash of the whip. We jerked forward, and I stared in horror as the cyclists rode on to the bridge. The gang of men seemed to disperse, but I could see that they were simply spreading out to cover the width of the road.
We pulled away from the gang and drew closer to the cyclists. Time slowed to a crawl, but I was unable to react. I forgot Will and the driver, focused only on the two that approached. They were teenagers, a boy and a girl—the girl was laughing. They both had long hair; the girl’s hung down, framing her face, but the boy had his tied back into a ponytail. That’s how I saw it. As they pulled abreast us, just yards away, I caught a clear glimpse of his profile, and I gasped at what I saw. Tattooed onto his temple, clear even in the moonlight, there was a small cross. I quickly glanced back at the waiting men and understood. This was not going to be an opportunistic attack, not arbitrary; this was an ambush. The tattoo on the boy’s temple proclaimed him to be a New Christian. Most likely, the girl was too. I had no idea what had transpired before, but obviously those men knew that at this time those two would be coming this way. If my earlier assumption was correct—that the men were military, then the boy’s desire to flaunt his brand could turn out to be a final, fatal act of hubris.
Ultimately, however, this was all on my shoulders.
I realized with a start that I was standing in the carriage, twisting backward as the teenagers passed by. I was yelling, but I couldn’t tell you what words I used. Will clutched at one arm and tried to pull me back onto my seat, but I struggled against him, suddenly determined to intervene. The carriage driver must have realized what I intended. No doubt concerned for his own welfare, he snapped his whip and shouted at the horses. When they jumped forward, I lost my balance, and Will gained the upper hand. He dragged me down beside him then threw his weight on top of me.
Twisting back, I saw the gang surge toward the teenagers. We sped away, and I could do nothing more than watch.