Scourge of an Agnostic God: A Novel

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How would Meto Sapiens wired for instant gratification and global connectivity cope in a post—apocalyptic reality? Unwittingly living out a mordant version of the move Groundhog Day, Interlligence Analyst Chris Jung, tormented by panic—fueled obessive thought, stumbles towars suicide until a mysterious series of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) strikes across the glode and pluhes the industrialized world into darlness.

Motivated to protect his pregnant wife, Chris postpones his ...

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How would Meto Sapiens wired for instant gratification and global connectivity cope in a post—apocalyptic reality? Unwittingly living out a mordant version of the move Groundhog Day, Interlligence Analyst Chris Jung, tormented by panic—fueled obessive thought, stumbles towars suicide until a mysterious series of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) strikes across the glode and pluhes the industrialized world into darlness.

Motivated to protect his pregnant wife, Chris postpones his ealier plans and leads a small group out of the escalating lawlessness inside the Washington, DC Beltway int rural Virginia. Meanwhile, Unitarian Minsister, Rita Luevano, battling with her own crisis of faith, guides her congregation to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello to escape the fires raging in Charlottesville. Chris and Rita, along with the remnants of a Marine battalion, establish communities of urban refuges in the Shenandoah Valley, and refuse to succumb to the enveloping chaos.

In the process, a tenacious spirit awakes in the haunted souls of Chris and Rita, which had lain dormant in the hight—tech sedentary world. Scourge of an Agnostic God intertwines the depths of human experience with quirky, ironic humor as suburbanites battle for their lives out where Civil War trails converge with outlet stores.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781450222440
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/19/2010
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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Scourge of an Agnostic God

A Novel
By Michael Juge

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Michael Juge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-2244-0

Chapter One

The lights inside the Metro train car flickered wildly as Chris stood in the center of the aisle, crushed by the mass of strangers around him, his legs instinctively adjusting to the train's lurching progress. He had become accustomed to the daily commute's violation of personal space as hands, arms, and briefcases butted up against him. When the train pulled into the next station, the lights died out completely, leaving the passengers in complete darkness several hundred meters underground. Chris jostled past the mannequin-still passengers to the doors, which he had to pry open, and stepped onto the empty platform. In the darkness, Chris felt for the escalator handrails and cautiously walked up the unmoving steps toward the next platform. As he crept along blindly, he bumped into the wall and found a switch. Desperate to see, he flipped it.

To his relief, the lights came on; however, they were dimmer than he remembered them being. It was then that he realized he was not alone. He was surrounded by people who were shuffling their feet and milling about aimlessly. Their faces bore blank expressions that were terrifying in some indefinable way, their business attire torn and covered in soot. Chris moved passed the dazed crowd to the next escalator shaft, feeling an urgent need to get to the surface.

As he headed toward the escalator landing, Chris's legs began to weaken. People shuffled toward him as he struggled to ascend the steps, each step feeling more labored than the last. He suddenly felt cold hands grasping his collar. A woman wearing a 7-Eleven baby tee pulled herself toward him. She looked sickly, jaundiced, her cheeks sallow, her eyes sunken and cavernous.

"Chris! There isn't much time left," she gasped urgently. He pushed her aside and took another step up the escalator steps when he heard a deafening shriek like the squealing of brakes.

Falls Church, Virginia (Washington DC Area) June 21, 2007

Chris Jung awoke in the darkness, the ringing from the dream still in his ears. The precious moment of calm he felt upon waking disintegrated as inexplicable anxiety flooded his consciousness. He looked at the clock on the television's cable box. It was three thirty in the morning. He had fallen asleep just two hours ago after several hours of tossing and turning. He had hardly slept these last several weeks, which only seemed to compound his restlessness rather than exhaust him to slumber as he thought it should. The less he slept, the more he fretted over not sleeping, and the more his addled mind spun into the realm of the irrational.

He attempted to reassert control over his mind, to not dwell on the insomnia, the ringing in his ears, or the anxiety he was feeling. Tossing over again, he knew he was disturbing his wife's sleep. Meredith needed her rest; she was five months pregnant. Chris climbed out of bed so as to not wake her.

He crept into the living room of their small, two-bedroom apartment, repositioned the futon into a bed, and turned on the TV in the hopes that it would provide a modicum of comfort it had once given him and help him fall back asleep. As he watched another episode of South Park, he realized that doing so would ruin his appreciation of the show, because going forward he would associate it with these restless nights.

The most disturbing thing about insomnia was how one day blended indistinctly into the next. Chris was in the same place today as he was yesterday and the day before. Sleep was the only thing that broke the dreary days apart and provided him a brief reprieve from his conscious mind. With that now eluding him, reality took on a Hitler's bunker quality-and not in a good way, either.

At 7:00 am, Chris rushed out of the apartment, eager to leave the place that had become poisoned by memories of the recent resurgence of his anxiety. The energy-sapping humidity of the Washington DC summer was unusually thick this morning. Chris navigated his way through the crowded Metro car and found a seat next to a window. When the train pitched forward, Chris shuffled through his iPod to Radiohead, hoping to drown out the ringing sound in his ears. As he rested his sweaty forehead against the window, he caught a glimpse of his disheveled reflection wearing a sports coat, tight-fitting chinos, and a sweat-stained, button-down shirt. His crew cut was easier to deal with than having to tame curly brunet locks every morning, especially in this heat. He had broad shoulders and sported a modest gut despite cycling religiously.

As he did every weekday, he got off the crowded train at Rosslyn Station in Arlington and walked languidly along the damp tile floors of the platform toward the escalator. The gray concrete arches of the underground DC Metro stations were illuminated by indirect lighting that emanated from floor grates and columns. Chris had often remarked that the architect for the Metro stations was specifically requested after the Metro Committee had seen what fine work he had done with the Death Star. In fact, Rosslyn Station and the office buildings built above it were all designed by architects who envisioned the future from a 1970s perspective. As far as he could tell, the future involved a lot of concrete.

When Chris stepped onto the escalator, he was struck by a flash of memory. The escalator, the girl ... she was sick, dying, wearing a 7-Eleven baby tee. It had been a recurring dream for the past several weeks whenever he did manage to sleep. The dreams always started by mirroring his mundane life until the surreal imposed itself in graphic and palpable detail. The lights would shutter out, the train would stop, and he would find himself inside a darkened platform, lost among a grotesque and cadaverous swarm of people.

Chris thought to himself, "What was she warning me about? Why do I keep having these goddamned dreams?" Chris shook off the flash of memories as best he could. They were almost as unsettling as the demons of panic haunting him.

He had been through extended periods of anxiety before. Weeks ago when Chris suspected that he might be experiencing a new bout of anxiety, he figured he could hack it. He was wrong. The demons added something new to the mix: the ringing in his ears. The tinnitus, as he learned it was called from Google, followed him everywhere he went. Silent rooms frightened him because there was no white noise to dampen the ringing, but loud places frightened him, too, because he didn't know if the noise would make the tinnitus worse. And whenever he ventured somewhere else, somewhere he hadn't been before, he worried that some strange new sound could be his tinnitus getting worse. Chris hurried across the catwalk as if to run away from the thoughts.

At thirty-four, Chris felt his life coming to an end. The runaway, obsessive thoughts had gone Chernobyl on him. As he obsessed over the panic, the insomnia, and the ringing in his ears, it sent him spiraling into an even greater panic, where he panicked over panicking, careening toward an insensate horror that was his consciousness. The demons had indeed returned, and nothing was stopping it this time. Nothing was slowing it down.

At work, Chris tried his best to concentrate on the intelligence reports. As an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, he reviewed cable traffic coming in from U.S. embassies overseas regarding threat assessments to American installations. He didn't want to be the guy to miss something and have another tragedy like in Kenya or Tanzania in 1998 just because he had gone into the proverbial fetal position. And since his responsibilities included Iraq, he had to coordinate his intelligence gathering with contractor companies, such as KBR, Triple Canopy, and Obsidian Corp., just a few of the corporations now charged with site and mobile security of U.S. civilian personnel in more challenging overseas posts.

Chris never realized how inhumanely small his cubicle was until this moment. As he fumbled to unlock the safe to get the classified hard drive, he felt constricted inside the claustrophobic, six-by-eight-foot box. The computer's hum, the buzz of the fluorescent lights-all of it added to his ever-compounding sense of imminent doom-that at any moment he would lose it and go truly mad forever, never to return. Although unlikely, he felt that he might even combust on the spot, leaving only a scorched stain on the government carpet. People would talk about the case of Chris Jung, who spontaneously and literally blew up at work. It would be all over the Internet and might even serve as a warning for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but that would be his sad legacy for all of his suffering. The ringing persisted endlessly, pitilessly, without mercy.

He looked at the clock, wishing his life could fast-forward past this horrible chapter in his life when each day was as identically wretched as the day before, a morbid version of Groundhog Day. At lunch, he changed into shorts and raced off on his road bike from the garage of the glittery high-rise building of Diplomatic Security headquarters. He pedaled as hard as he could from the clean and ultra-modern, cookie-cutter downtown of Rosslyn across the Key Bridge into the Colonial-era downtown of Georgetown as if being transported back two centuries over the span of the Potomac River. These past several days, cycling seemed to be the only thing that lifted his spirits from the abyss. It was probably just the endorphins kicking in, but racing past the cobbled streets of Georgetown and up the hill along Wisconsin Avenue toward the Maryland border gave him something else to think about.

He tried to reason through the panic. The ringing in his ears in itself wasn't so bad-it was just constant. A normal person would simply find it a slight annoyance and would move on. But he was not a normal person. Oh, no. He was Chris Jung, and in that obsessive nut job's mind he was stuck.

Chris could see himself screaming. In complete silence, all around him, men and women rushed away in a panic as a gargantuan plume of smoke rushed toward them-toward Chris, as well. Chris didn't run away; he just stood there crying out to someone, but he couldn't make out who he was calling for so desperately. As the cloud consumed him, Chris suddenly could hear again. He felt as if he was going to retch inside the cloud.

After catching his breath, he cried out in the haze, "Hello!" The sound of his voice reverberated back as though he was not outside, but inside a tunnel.

"Chris," an urgent whisper moaned.

As the cloud dissipated, Chris saw that he was inside the Metro station again. His suit was torn and covered in soot. The lights flickered rapidly. Blood and gore was strewn across the platform floor. It caked everything, including a titillating 7-Eleven billboard showing a bikini clad woman seductively sucking down the advertised drink through a straw. Other people waiting for the next train casually walked over the mess of ruined body parts. No one seemed concerned about the carnage around them; they just stood waiting to get to wherever they were heading. The intercom chimed, "There is a delay on the Blue and Orange lines. We regret the inconvenience. The next train will arrive in five minutes."

"Chris." The disembodied voice beckoned again. "It's almost too late. You've got to leave this place. Now."

"I want to, but I can't. The Orange Line is delayed." Despite the specter of death around him, it seemed perfectly reasonable to him to calmly wait for the next train. Chris stepped up to the platform when something from the floor grabbed the hem of his trousers-a hand.

Groundhog Day number forty-one. Throughout the night, a car alarm in the parking lot outside the apartment complex wailed desperately for its uncaring owner. Listlessly, Chris surfed through the bounty of channels, none of them offering anything close to the comfort of something he remembered feeling once upon a time: equanimity. Commercials advertised fast food, member enhancers, and restless leg syndrome relief. The History and Military channels were too interesting to help him fall asleep. BBC America dedicated its graveyard shift airtime to some combative chef who seemed to have a beef with just about everyone, including the cameraman.

Delirious dreams, a gumbo of memories colluding with horrible imaginings, and distorted episodes of Law and Order played whenever he slipped out of consciousness. The dreams tended to take place on the Metro or in his cubicle, and they always ended with him jolting awake again. Never once, not for one moment, did he manage not to think about his insomnia or his tinnitus.

As the sun peered over the nearby apartments, he knew it was time to will his mortal remains up from the futon and get ready for work. He slid open the patio door and walked onto the balcony.

Chris got on his knees and prayed as he did every morning. He pointed himself in a southwest direction as he always did. He had long ago forgotten why he always faced southwest, but he just knew he had to do it. And he had to pray, though he didn't know what good it was doing. He had reduced himself to crafting a litany of meaningless, elaborate rituals in a vain attempt to control forces far greater than he, and to curry favor in a complex universe that he didn't know how to navigate.

Chris whispered into the muggy morning air. "Lord, please save me. Save me from myself. God, I'm begging you. Please take this pain away."

Prostrated, he waited in silence, hearing only the ringing in his ears. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks. Nothing, nothing at all. He felt nothing of this God; he felt none of this supposed deity's grace. Kneeling on the balcony, he was struck by a macabre epiphany: there was no God to hear his cries. That frightened him more than anything, because he certainly had no control over the situation; he couldn't handle this alone. Rattled by that thought, Chris stood up and dusted off his knees.

"Did you sleep any, hon?"

Chris turned around to see his wife, Meredith, looking at him sympathetically with her deep brown eyes.

"Hon, I think you should consider going back on medication."

Chris gripped the balcony railing. "No."

"Why? Is this because of the weight gain? Because I really don't care. Guys have all the luck that way," she offered with a grin.

"It's not just that." He paused for a moment. The weight gain had been the original reason for why he stopped taking the SSRI meds, especially the last antidepressant he took, Phoketal. That was hell on his body. When he was on the meds, he saw the scale steadily creep upward no matter how much he exercised, and whenever he got off the medication, the pounds melted away and the anxiety returned. But he had tired of this game, trying to satiate his addled mind with drugs. It left him feeling defeated.

Chris sighed heavily. "It just won't work."

"What do you mean?"

"This is different. It was never like this before. This tinnitus? What in God's name is that? How can I ..." Chris's voice trailed off. Meredith didn't know what it was like. She had never experienced OCD or panic disorder, not that he would ever want her to.

She didn't know how his panic was so powerful that it altered his perception of his world around him. In the belly of the demon, reality contorted itself to the point that what was supposed to be familiar and comfortable was now alien, almost as if he were seeing his surroundings through lens of a stranger. His apartment, his work, and all of his stomping grounds were indescribably off, not right. Even the scent of things was off.

"How is it any different from when you obsessed over your breathing or back when you obsessed over feeling like you always had to pee?" Meredith asked. "How is this different?"

Chris wanted to laugh, hearing his wife lay out his previous obsessions so matter-of-factly. Without context, the obsessions sounded ludicrous. Hell, he supposed they were.

"And what will the medication do, hon? Make life less shitty? Boost my serotonin levels enough to cope?" He spat the words out contemptuously. "Cope? For what? So maybe forty-odd years from now, I'll have the pleasure of dying of cancer or Alzheimer's?"

"That's not fair," replied Meredith. There was a tinge of annoyed bewilderment in her voice.


Excerpted from Scourge of an Agnostic God by Michael Juge Copyright © 2010 by Michael Juge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2011

    This is what happens when we depend upon technology too much!

    Scourge of an Agnostic God is a post-apocalyptic story that interestingly enough doesn't involve any sort of a nuclear war. Granted, I've only read a few of these types of stories, but it's always about some catastrophe happening and always involves nuclear weapons. This one does not. I won't give anything away by revealing what caused the breakdown in our civilization other than to use the author's term of "The Shift". This even happens and we are instantly sent back to the stone age. No electricity. No communication. No more grocery stores to supply you with food or medicine. The story centers around a man named Chris. To me, Chris came off as being suicidal, non-confrontational, and an overall wimp. Honestly, I didn't care for Chris at all at the beginning of the story. Too whiny, too wussy (sp??), and totally willing to leave his wife and their unborn child alone in the world (provided he did go through with his original plan). That to me instantly pushes the wrong buttons. I can't even being to imagine doing that to my own wife. So now I'm annoyed, and actually entertained the idea of putting the book down. Permanently. But then I started to wonder what would happen next. Bingo. Had me hooked. So I picked it back up and was delighted to see Chris work through his inner demons and develop into a useful member of their community. Mr. Juge created characters that were amazingly realistic. The source of the Shift was (in my mind's eye) totally plausible. The battles with the various gangs hellbent on raiding their supplies, pillaging the land, etc., were well executed. There was only very minor issues that I found with the book, namely a few typos and a couple of instances of fragmented sentences run together. Altogether, a very well-thought out book that I will gladly leave on my iPad to be read again at a later date! One last note, I absolutely loved the final tie-in to the events of 9/11. I haven't enjoyed a book like this since I read Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank back when I was in high school. I recently found out that a sequel exists. I'm off to pick up my copy! Great job, Mr. Juge!

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Great post apocalyptic book!

    Scourge of an Agnostic God by Michael Juge is a refreshing twist on the post apocalyptic genre. No zombie apocalypse, no nuclear winter. The event causing the downfall is referred to as "The Shift." Since there is no major war to destroy all the buildings the focus of the book is on how the people react when order breaks down.

    I found most of the characters enjoyable though at the beginning I was a bit hesitant about Chris. The book does have the gangs and lawlessness you would expect from a society that has absolutely no governing body and people who have access to firearms begin to take the power. Several communities are formed that band together to help each other survive through difficult times ahead.

    This is a series that I will continue to follow.

    Review copy provided by the author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2011

    Must Read!

    I read this book at the recommendation of a friend. It was self-published and had the look and feel of a small college textbook. I had my doubts as I opened the front cover of Scourge, but I can assure you that any self-doubt evaporated quickly thereafter. One of the things that Michael Juge does so well is that he immediately hits close to home for many of us urban desk jockeys. Anyone (this book is not limited to disgruntled federal employees!) experiencing self-doubt and dissatisfaction with the rigidity of urban life will quickly connect with our hero, Chris Jung, as Juge guides him to the very brink before Jung's world is turned upside-down by cataclysmic events. After reading the first few chapters, I felt deeply invested in Jung's strife. Another thing Juge has done with this book is cultivate a number of characters that he obviously cares about very much. It is all but obvious that he has taken those important in his own life and made them into post-apocalyptic heroes who are developed throughout with a great attention to detail. This book is a page-turner, and while I consider it to be a post-apocalyptic novel it is also funny and compelling. Juge never misses an opportunity to thumb his nose at the imperfections of modern society with quick wit and frequent dashes of sarcasm. I look forward to reuniting with the characters created from Juge in future installments, and would recommend this read to any reader looking for fast-paced fun strafed with a degree of cynicism and doubt toward our more "modern" world.

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  • Posted January 25, 2011

    It was an ok read.

    I bought this book after seeing a facebook ad for a post-apocalyptic story taking place in DC with an exploration of pop-culture and consumerism in such an environment. I had a difficult time staying engaged in the story or really caring about the main characters and there was no real exploration of the death of pop-culture. For a book titled scourge of an agnostic god, I should not have been surprised by the religious tones of the book and yet I was. They often felt heavy handed, as did many other elements of this book; however, I was appreciative that you could conclude your own religious findings from the book - none were forced down your throat in the end which I believe was the author's true intent. Even though the story labored on at parts it was a decent way to spend a cold winter weekend, though I do not believe that I will be pulling this one off the shelf to reread.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2010


    I truly enjoyed reading this book. I found it kept me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next and to whom. I enjoyed the light humor throughout. When I finished the book it made me think about how resilient the human spirit can be. Great topic for discussions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2010

    Great Read

    The story was very well written and refreshing. I really enjoyed that Juge chose to depict a variety of communities and delved deep into how they tried to rebuild society, protect their way of life all while trying to keep humanity intact. He put a lot of detail into the plot without overlooking certain aspects that made it more interesting and more plausible.

    Juge did a great job capturing the realism of a post-apocalyptic scenario in the USA. Great read.

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  • Posted July 12, 2010

    Apocalyptic Fun

    Mr. Juge has written an extremely entertaining piece of science fiction. The book moved at a very pleasant pace and the multiple story lines and character interaction was a welcomed departure from other post-apocalyptic books that focus on one person or one group. The pop-culture references are plentiful and provide a lightheartedness, which balances the often dark nature of the book. Overall, a very well done first novel that I hope evolves into a lasting series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

    Good job Juge!

    Overall Good book! I enjoyed reading it very much! Down side was that occasionally the place slowed down and time was spent contemplating things that didn't matter. (In this case too much deatil) The vocabulary was extremley large. I had to keep a dictionary with me throughout the entire book.
    Don't get me wrong,it was definetly worth the read. Excellent thriller! And once the action started it was hard to put down! Definetly unique compared to other post-Apocalyptic novels, In a good way!
    Good job Juge,
    4 stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2010

    Humor and Self-Emergence Reign in Scourge

    Amazing and unique story. Superbly written

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2010

    Humor and Self-Emergence Reign in Scourge

    Amazing and unique story. Superbly written

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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