Working Title: Sodom
This Book Is In Development
A boy, a beggar and a merchant are caught up in the last days of Sodom. Maybe there aren't ten good men in the city, but is there anyone?
It's fascinating to use words to create a place with no visual accounts, but a place with such historic and theological meaning. People have such prec-conceived notions about the city of Sodom. I've researched remains of other cities around the same time, and looked at the flora/fauna of the surrounding areas. These come together in an early version of the city. I'm showing it with a fence here, but it's likely there was actually a wall around much of the city. I'll probably revise in a future rewrite.
Hello! I'm Rob, and I'm a Careful Reader. (There ought to be a support group.) This means two things. First, I think everything I read may be secretly hiding a clue to the story, so I read with a very cautious eye (i.e. slowly). And, second, I write for the same kind of reader! In this excerpt, an entire side story is implied with the two words, 'abraded wrists.' King Bera was NOT returning in glorious victory. Rather, he and his army were captured by the Edamites and being marched away as prisoners. Bera walks free only because Abraham and his men ambushed the Edamites and freed the prisoners. The ancient texts do not say why Abraham rescued the King. Perhaps, it was out of fear for what would happen to Lot, Abraham's nephew. Regardless, those abraded wrists are there for you, Careful Reader. There are MANY more such instances in the manuscript.
Can you imagine how God must feel? His creation, his world, falling into evil instead of a joyous celebration of life. Cities built walls instead of relationships. (Sound familiar.) Men sought beyond all reasonable means to be king of the hill, even though the hill turned out to be a dung heap. This was the same evil God drowned out 400 years earlier. The seed of this newly sprouted evil had been carried on the ark in the hearts of his chosen stewards, and then scattered to the wind. It had settled here. But, it was the very same evil he'd already stamped out. Perhaps if water were not purifying enough, fire would be.
[Warning: Do not read if you are easily disturbed by brutality.] Much has been made about the infamous "Cry of Sodom." One account claims that the very walls of Sodom issued the cry at the evil it sheltered within its perimeter. Another claims a tortured victim let out the cry. Whatever the source, this was the cry that decided God's wrath. In this (early) version of the dramatization, a twelve-year-old Yishak discovers that his sister is the victim of sever brutality. I'm modifying this scene a little because it conveys the wrong sense of evil, in my opinion. This shows a careful, planned, executed evil. I want to show a careless, spontaneous evil that pervades the city. It's a minor distinction, but important to the tone and intent of the book.
This scene shows Aran, a captain in the guard, expressing his concerns about the two figures approaching Sodom. He can't know they are messengers of God coming to exact their judgement on the city. But, he knows....something. That same nagging feeling we have all experienced when we can't tell WHY something is wrong, but we know it is. The captain is right, but he cannot communicate it. Sound familiar?
When writing this, I came to the first words from God to Abraham, and I screeched to a stop. I'd always known I'd have to put words into God's mouth, but now that it came to it, how (exactly) does one do that? After giving this some thought, I decided God would want to be honoring of his previous engagement with Abram/Abraham. He would want to be honoring of the relationship He established. The terms of that interaction were friendly, but with the distance found between a faithful, lifelong servant and a loving master. Above all, I opted to lean the first words toward a friendly and familiar tone. God came to remove a wart from the world he created, a task that he finds abhorrent. So, the welcoming smile of his cherished servant would be a joyous distraction. I allowed him that very human trait of momentary distraction. After all, we are in his image.
One thing I love about writing is scraping through the depths of circumstances and characters for a morsel of insight. Here, I had to beg for the wisdom of a beggar in Sodom. He had to show me how he plied his trade in a city known for extreme in-hospitality. The writing process takes us down strange paths to strange insights. It's a strange phenomenon to think that Amaret's knowledge about when and how to beg, somehow came through me. It feels the other way around.
Research and ancient records show that the Edamites actually defeated the army of the five cities of the plains. This was a failed bid for independence. But, after taking the kings as prisoners and moving through a rough country back to Edam, Abraham ambushed the army with a rough collection of hill peoples and bonded servants. They must have known the terrain well, and selected a perfect location for the attack. Equally, the Edamite army must have been caught completely off guard, having already defeated the army they came to fight. Records do not give any reason for Abraham's mustering of a small army. Perhaps the change to a more active Edamite rule threatened him and his family lands. Regardless of the reason, King Bera was freed to return to Sodom...and he wasn't going to tell his people what REALLY happened. He merely presented alternative facts.
I wanted to create a glimpse into the lives of a family in the city of Sodom. Of course, with "no good men" in the city, it must be a scene of a wicked man with all the domestic power. Add to that the concept that women were property, unworthy of respect, and I came up with this scene. After rereading it, I am struck by how similar this is to a modern dysfunctional family. Evil lives on. It doesn't require a city of iniquity. It only requires people who don't value their own family members. This scene exists in a million homes around the world today. Who says Sodom was really destroyed?
Even in a city peopled with wicked souls, there must be humor. Humor is human. Sometimes, humor is our only coping mechanism for situations that are fraught with pain or danger. Here, I wanted to show that humor plays this role. Amaret is a half-starved beggar, but he and the old woman enjoy a humorous exchange...until it gets a little too close to the actual danger. I should explain that some ancient texts portray the form of justice dispensed in Sodom as an extreme version of an eye for an eye. The justices tended to view the city itself as the victim and amends were harsh. For example, if a woman brought a grievance about a man killing her child, the justice may take the view that Sodom was deprived a child and demand that the man and the woman be wed in order to replace the child. I'm not sure humor would help, but what else could they do?
How can a city, entirely people by wicked souls, exist and sustain? It is not a city we can comprehend. Civil services, neighborhoods, markets, and even individuals cannot behave in a way we would consider civilized. Aggressive self-interest, or secrecy would be two likely paths to survival - both based on distrust. I believe evil consumes. In the end, when all else is gone, it will consume itself in its ongoing need to destroy. The only force to delay it's self-hunger is a strong fear fueled by some powerful role, person, or belief. For this story, I'm building Sodom as a character, with it's own inward desires and fears, memories and beliefs. King Bera will play a role in the fear mongering of the city, but even he is ultimately a product of Sodom's own inherent fear.
I'm researching and writing to create the first impression for the reader/visitor as they enter the gates of Sodom and see the city for the first time. The research side is a little light. No one has found convincing evidence of the location of Sodom. There are theories of location, and minor evidences. But, nothing concrete. Concrete would actually be a very good indicator. Which brings me to my writing dilemma. If, for example, I describe a glorious stone temple, it's hard to defend why there would be no evidence left. Of course, we could just be looking in the wrong places. So, I'm choosing to build a 'soft' city. A lot of wood, earthen structures, maybe woven tents. Things that are ripe for an utter annihilation when the time comes. So, the ziggurat I'm showing will really turn into more of an earthen mound for high ceremonies. This city needs the function, but can't afford the structure.
I'm writing/sharing this book as I go, right in the Bublish system. It's very strange to share the rough ideas and early concepts for a book. But, I'm excited about the types of dialogues we could start. I'm open to inputs and questions. The only thing I know for sure is that these chapters will change between now and the published book. As the stories develop and take on that life of their own, as the book moves through the early stages into a more purposeful story arc, and as we get into some editing activities we'll see how these ideas stand (or fall) and morph. In the meantime, welcome into the mind of a writer.
So much of our collective human experience distills down to our stories. You don't like pretentious academics, or you distrust the ignorance of the masses. On their own, these statements are officious and don't carry much depth of meaning. But, back them with a story - the stuffy professor who gave a bad grade because your paper proposed an opinion different from his, or the masses caught up in group think who rampage through your shop (or elect a self-aggrandizing maniac to office). Now, the stories carry the depth of meaning. They have teeth. Sodom, is an old story with lots of teeth.
I'm intrigued by how decisions, sometimes very small ones, can have far reaching consequences. I'm also intrigued by how, when we are in the throws of those consequences, we fail to understand how the simple decision, or indecision, created reality.
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