Sometime in the near future, Jack Pence finds himself all alone, in New York City. Not just alone because he has no friends or family there. Completely alone. He begins a journey west, hoping to find someone, anyone, who has also survived. Another like him.
Jack stops in the tiny Hamlet of Luna, New Mexico. He is in a state of decline, but only vaguely self-aware enough to realize it. With no other human consciousness to connect with, he is diminished, slipping into despondency, and then despair, and then defeat. But then what happens next re-awakens him to his standing and dignity as a human being, and ultimately, one who is reconciled to God.
This is a book of adventure, but it is also a book about man’s consciousness; that of each person to the other, and about the Consciousness that surrounds us all. It is about war and peace and the truth of what we are without God, and with Him.
Jack sat up and looked about him, in his aloneness but for material reality around him: the stunted mountain-top oaks, the tired early-fall grass, the haze off on the horizon past the dead city. He longed for a clear expression of telos, even now, in the tangible things about him, or the air that he breathed. Why did he live? And especially, why did he live now? On the mountaintop there were numerous rock outcroppings, sandstone weathered white and in many places flaked with lichen. Was there yet a message of meaning around him? Do the rocks themselves cry out?
After all the brightness on the road, the dull gray of a wintry sky was a welcome change. How many hours had he lain here like this? Was the snow accumulating? Was this his fourth day in the little house? Fifth? Did it matter? A little note of alarm sounded in the back of his mind, like a weak alarm clock might make, if it were muffled by blankets, sounding from a far room. Time for a little reality check-down. First: water-gas-food supplies? Adequate. Illness? The big illness would be almost welcome, but little ordinary ones, like the flu, were terrifying. Why survive all he’d survived, with access to all the medicine he could want, only to die of something that would have only slowed him down a little, in earlier days? Too ironic. Besides, he felt all right, if a little lethargic. Despondency? Depression? He turned on his side and hefted a few sticks onto the low fire. He laid back in the blankets and covered his cold nose with one hand as he considered his state of mind. Maybe depression, hard to say when you’re in the middle of it, but Jack didn’t really feel as though he were completely debilitated by it. There didn’t seem to be a danger of just curling up in the blanket until he was no more. Or so he believed. The facts, he told himself, were just that he was taking a break. He was vacationing, in a manner of speaking, holed up like this. What of it? Perhaps it wasn’t so much depression, as just a new sense of time. There was no urgency because there was nowhere to go. It was not yet obvious to Jack that his survival depended on movement for the sake of movement. He would rise from this little season of dormancy, he thought, and move on, but he was finding that an hour was a day was a week.
We delude ourselves, if we think that time ticks off at steady, evenly-spaced intervals. Perhaps it does for the sun and the stars and the seasons of earth and the cycle of life on the earth’s surface. But it doesn’t in the subjective experience of man. Most of a week Jack had lain idle, but the moment he lived in now was more full than a thousand such weeks. There was death, and there was life, and it was not for Jack to choose which.
But there was more, even, to this sliver of an instant than mere death and life. Those eyes! A consciousness that wasn’t his own. A consciousness that beheld him! Jack was too suddenly confronted with a shift in his means of self-awareness. An awareness of himself as he perceived himself through the eyes of another. Another like me, he thought. He was stunned not only because of the danger, but because in that instant his consciousness of self had been set askew. He was frozen, his mind like a malfunctioning video feed.
The future for us all will contain ominous dark moments, and carefree, bright moments. There is no moment of completion, in this life, when all of the moments of terror, boredom, worry, and ecstasy merge on a plateau on which the balance of our lives will be lived. It just doesn’t happen that way. Looking to the future from any moment, we should be resigned that it will continue to be a mix of fear and contentment. It is this way until we die.