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Excerpt from The Columbine Pilgrim

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Editor’s Note:

The following is an excerpt from the Prologue of Andy Nowicki’s new novella The Columbine Pilgrim, fresh off the presses at Counter-Currents and available for order here or at

My name is Tony Meander, and I’ve got Columbine on my mind.

Many minutes have passed, perhaps an hour. I’m still standing here, a cannon’s fire away from the school: smoking, pacing, waiting. I want in.

I’ve read the books, joined the websites, posted on the blog pages… but I’m hungry for more. I need something real, substantial, tangible, effable. I’m tired of living inside my head, sick of looking at words on a computer screen. I’m a man, not a username. I’ve got to find the key to the real world, to relief, catharsis, explosive escape.

Escape: to what? To fulfillment? To enlightenment? To nothingness? Whatever. Choose the label you prefer and stamp it to your forehead; wear it like the mark of the Beast.

Yesterday, I boarded a plane. I flew nonstop from Tampa, Florida to Denver, Colorado. All the while, in the cramped aisle seat, my body vibrated in anticipation under the hum of the plane’s engine, as if I were the string of a guitar that had been plucked by some giant, divine, or perhaps infernal, finger. I felt that I was edging towards my destiny, like I was being flung through the air as if from an enormous catapult, into the very navel of the throbbing, maddened, fevered world; I sensed that the trajectory of my plane wasn’t that of a typical, everyday flight, but instead a mystical launch into a nether dimension, an undiscovered country.

When we landed in Denver three hours later, I was sure that I had passed through a vortex into a different place, a place where things looked, smelled, tasted the same as they do in the world I’d known, but were really, truly, at essence fundamentally changed, were no more like the things in the world I’d left than ash is like its former substance, prior to being ravaged by fire. I had a sense–a clear, sure sense–that all I’d previously encountered in my life had vanished, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. This place where I’d touched down, seemingly the Denver airport, was really a site of infinitely greater significance. And I felt that the stupid zombies in human form who sat all around me– the old lady in the window seat next to me rapt in her romance novel, the bratty kids sitting behind me, kicking the back of my chair and sniggering to one another while their mother slept, the overly-rouged stewardess who’d handed me my peanuts and Sprite with an ever-unchanging bored and haughty expression stuck to her face,  the pilot, who in his obligatory sleepy-pilot’s voice had told us over the plane’s speaker about our current altitude and our adjusted time of arrival and the current weather in Denver (cloudy, lows in the high-twenties, a thirty percent chance of snow flurries), the co-pilot who no doubt slouched in the cockpit and traded bland small talk with the equally pleasantly dull owner of the pilot’s voice–I was possessed with the unshakable conviction that all of these “people” were useless, soulless, shallow walking dead, that they had no real substance, no way of understanding the momentous journey we all had taken. Only I knew the significance of our trajectory through the vortex into the New Place. I felt both smugly superior to and intensely frustrated–enraged, even–at the thickness of all these oblivious fellow-traveling zombies, who just had no clue whatsoever.

Would it really be so bad, I wondered, if this entire plane blew up, and if all of this excrement in the guise of humanity were vaporized, incinerated, leaving me alone the sole survivor, the mythic Ishmael of this doomed flying Pequod, emerging unscathed through the flames like gold through a refiner’s fire?

What if I’d managed to sneak a machine gun past one of those dumb shit security guards at the Tampa airport, and onto this plane? Would it really be any great loss if I were to mow down this bunch of fucking losers breathing my air in this artificial environment, this annoying gaggle of living corpses stuffing their smelly mouths with cheap nuts, jabbering too loudly, smiling idiotically, laughing their insipid laughs, stinking up the lavatories with their wretched crap?

Then: thud! We alighted, touched earth, and I was jolted from my murderous reverie. As we screamed down the runway, with the momentarily terrifying breakneck speed of a just-landing plane, I wondered what was becoming of me, that I was thinking such thoughts. I wondered if I would die at that moment, if the plane wouldn’t be able to stop, would crash into the airport and explode, and if my soul would be consigned to a dark, musty corner of Hell for entertaining such awful fantasies. Reflexively, I crossed myself, horrified at the notion of meeting my Maker at such a juncture.

Then the plane’s brakes kicked in, our forward progress eased, and I knew that I wasn’t going to die. And once more it dawned on me: this wasn’t actually Denver; it only looked like Denver. This was an undiscovered country. And now that I was here, I would never return to the place I’d known before.

One Comment

  1. Jeff
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I like the protagonist’s last name “Meander,” which means to wander, incline or stroll over to a destination.

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