As we finish the final edits for Death of the Grinderfish, I thought I would share a scene that was cut from the book. As Stephen King says, "You have to kill your darlings." I really didn't want to cut this part of the chapter, because I thought it was pretty cool. But as my editor said, "Doug (that's me), you can't put stuff in the book simply because it's cool." As usual, she is right. On the surface you might look at this and not see why it needed to meet my trash bin, but it touches on a spiritual world that doesn't have any other purpose in the rest of the story except that it's "cool." So, I figured screw it. I'll just post it here and see what you think. With that said, here is Life and Death from the cutting room floor of Death of the Grinderfish.
Life and Death
Days or even weeks could have passed for all Tristin knew as he could barely tell the waking world from the sleeping one. While his body waged a war against fever, a vision replaced the darkness in his mind. Above him, the Goddess of Life watched from the clouds. She was beautiful with perfect, delicate skin, flowing locks of blonde hair, and ocean blue eyes that held his gaze for an eternity. He’d never witnessed such colors before and wondered how anything so exquisite could exist in the real world. She smiled down at him with the beauty of happiness. He smiled back. His teeth ached.
As the Goddess watched down from the clouds about to speak, her smile suddenly darkened and her forehead creased with worry. The sky grew angry, dark orange, and turbulent behind her. A crushing pain seized Tristin’s chest again as though the mountains in the distance sat on his ribs. A bolt of lightning appeared in the Goddess’s right hand as she prepared for a battle. She drew it back over her shoulder and glanced at Tristin. Her face angered and her eyes narrowed into shadows. “I will fight for your life, Tristin.”
When she turned back, Tristin followed her angry downward stare to an ocean that hadn’t been there before. The God of Death stood in wait. Like the goddess, he too was a giant, his height reaching the tip of the mountain beside him. He wore no skin over the discolored bones of his hands which protruded from the sleeves of a pit-black cloak. The hood of his cloak shadowed his face and only the yellow of his glowing eyes broke the darkness.
“You cannot have him,” Life cried as she firmed her stance in the clouds. He didn’t speak in return. The air sizzled. She hurled her captured lightning bolt into his chest. He laughed like thunder. He returned her attack, unleashing a wave of white fire toward the sky. Life shielded her face with her beautifully fragile wings. His fire singed the pure white, feathered edges and burned holes through their centers. Red embers the size of castles floated down from the clouds. Life returned another explosive lightning attack that shook Death to his knees. Waves as tall as the mountain soared away from the impact of his legs. But he climbed back to his feet and unleashed another blast. The mountain trembled. Life defended with a shield harnessed from sunslight. Tristin rubbed his aching chest and groaned. He wished he could open his eyes and see past the visions. She looked back to him with worry before attacking again.
The two giants continued their give-and-take battle as the suns streaked across the sky. The ocean boiled around Death’s feet. Day turned to night and then day again as the battle waged. On the third day, the Goddess, unable to maintain the higher position, fell from the sky. She staggered to her feet in time to defend another fiery attack. Despite their brutal battle, neither warrior gave ground.
Death’s cloak was mere tatters by morning; Life’s perfect pale skin now covered in bruises and blisters and blood. The battle had taken its toll on both, but Life struggled to stay upright. For the first time since it began, she flinched when Death released his next attack. Tristin worried that she was faltering. And then a massive blast of Death’s fire landed true to her chest. She crumbled into the boiling ocean. The air pushed from Tristin’s lungs as though it was he who had been struck in the chest. He couldn’t find another breath to replace the lost one.
Against all odds, Life pushed to her feet again and leaned against the mountains for support, her battered legs quivering beneath her weight. Blood smeared her face from her lower lip, across her cheek, and matted her blond hair to the side of her head. Her tears were raindrops of crimson.
She glanced at Tristin with sad yet determined eyes while his lungs cried for air. The mountain glowed white beneath her arm and the clouds danced with thousands of streaks of frenetic lightning. Tiny trickles of smoke lifted from Death’s cloak. He stared at her, confused, maybe even concerned. Thunder shook the ground. The world flashed white and Death covered his own face with both arms.
Life spoke again and the volume of her voice popped Tristin’s ears, yet somehow, he still heard. He gasped in a wonderful breath. Death fell to his knees again, only that time he didn’t bounce back to his feet. Life moved in as close to Death as she had been since the battle began. A flaming sword formed from her right hand. “You have lost this battle, Death,” she said.
Death bowed his head. “Today is your victory, Life. One day I will meet you again for this one. I will not lose him again.” He closed his glowing eyes.
Life stepped behind him, wrapped both hands around her sword’s hilt, and drove it downward into the back of his neck. Death screamed a sonic scream and then faded into nothingness. Life staggered away from him and stood up tall and proud. The holes in her wings twisted and tangled as they mended and returned to their pre-battle magnificence. The bruises and blisters on her silky skin faded and disappeared. Tristin’s chest pain subsided until only a dull ache remained.
Life opened her mouth as if she were going to speak again but, instead, the wind whistled from her lungs and formed words like a song. “You have been given a reprieve. I fear I will be unable to defeat Death for you again. The next time he comes, you will belong to him. You must use this reprieve to do good things in this world.” Life gave a warm nod. “Good luck, Tristin. I wish there were more I could do for you.” She turned and disappeared into the ocean.
The skies opened into a typhoon.
Tristin opened his eyes.