James Salley is turning sixteen, and it’s not going well. His family’s too busy to care, the local bully creates new tortures daily, someone appears to be following him, and he’s just learned that he’s the Antichrist.
All James ever wanted out of life was for Dorian Delaney the operatically trained and suicidal girl of his dreams to fall as in love with him as he is with her. But once he’s told of his bloody destiny, he finds himself fighting between who he thought he was and who he’s supposed to be.
With the school librarian pushing him to begin the Apocalypse, an irritable homunculus watching his back, and a murderous cabal of Catholics following him everywhere, James must discover how to navigate a world in which everything he’s ever believed is wrong and if it’s possible to be the hero of a story when you’ve already been cast as the villain.
|Publisher:||Medallion Media Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Jesse Jordan received his MFA at Columbia College. This Is Not the End is his second novel. His first, Gospel Hollow, was released in 2012 by Casperian Books. He lives in Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
This Is Not the End
By Jesse Jordan
Medallion Press, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Jesse Jordan
All rights reserved.
In the Beginning
The world was asleep.
Two thirty-five on a Tuesday morning and Stone Grove, Illinois, barely registered a heartbeat. A couple cars, a few dogs barking to each other across the distance, and the sound of Route 83 transporting irregular speeders just outside town. Clusters of dark homes sat interspersed with those which maintained the pulsing eyes of overnight TV.
All of this was visible from the catwalk atop the town's only working water tower, a fat-bodied marshmallow in desperate need of a paint job, chipped white paint giving way to giant used-to-be-true-blue letters: ST N G VE. The tower sat upon a latticework of triangled steel legs and ladders, set dead in the center of the town's public-works yard, just behind the city hall/police station building.
And there, on that catwalk, in an old gray hoodie and ill-fitting blue jeans, sat a baby-faced boy with unkempt, double-cowlicked brown hair. James Salley, who'd slipped through a small hole in the public-works fence as he had so many times before, sat on the Stone Grove water-tower catwalk on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, willing himself to stand and jump.
What James actually felt at that moment, though, was his resolve slipping. He'd snuck out so certain, made his way through the sleeping town with rage pulling him on. It was wonderful. The sucking sadness that had filled his brain so long was replaced for a moment, pushed out by this beautiful rage.
Go. Get out of here. Do it. They 'll all see and they'll ...
And he'd pulled on his clothes and rushed out quick and quiet and headed for the water tower to end it. Oh, god, the sweet rush; the very thought of an end was the strongest tonic he'd ever felt.
But now, sitting up here, James searched for that rage, that righteousness of purpose, and found nothing. Anxiety grew through his body like vines, spreading the realization — You're not gonna do it.
James squeezed his eyes tight and replayed the events of that day, rebuilding the shame, testing the sharpness of it against his skin.
There were others there. Lots of them.
But those two lived in his mind like real life right now — after school, blinking into the afternoon sun, the tug on his backpack.
"Let me see your drawings, Jimmy."
"How come you never let us see your drawings, Jimmy?" Nick stepped directly in front of him.
James stopped, awkward and unsure.
Nick's neck muscles torqued like steel cables as he tilted his head. "Slow down, Jimmy. Where ya headed?"
"Why don't you come to wrestling practice with us?"
James didn't even answer. Eyes down, willing the moment to hurry up and hurt and end, he just shook his head.
"Who knows, Jimmy? Maybe you'd be good at it."
Colin answered with that big laugh, that outdoor Midwest laugh.
Nick rolled his head the other way on his thick neck and smiled. "I could show you some moves."
"Could you just leave me alone, man?" It took extraordinary effort to mumble those seven words, and as they were out, James tried to push past — and then it all happened, too quick for him to dissect.
Pressure on the back of his head as his right leg swept out in front of him, and then he was on his side. A few wood chips from the playground pressed between the blacktop and his ribs, and he tried to wriggle away.
Nick's grip mocked the effort. "See, this is called a basket cradle." His other arm scooped up James's left knee until it was almost touching James's face. Nick threw his leg over his and rolled him over, pinning his back with both legs.
Tears built as James wriggled, more helpless than he'd ever felt.
"See, from here it's an easy pin. It's also real good for a pink belly."
"Pink belly!" Colin shrieked as he dropped to the tangle of limbs, pulling back James's shirt to reveal his soft, dimpled belly.
James kicked. His grunts were uneven and came out with desperate squeaks intermingled, but nothing changed.
"Pink belly, pink belly, pink belly." Colin giggled, licking both his palms and rubbing them together.
"Stop!" James saw Gail and Maria and Jess and LaMarcus, and some were laughing and some looked like they didn't want to be watching this, and he couldn't decide which was worse as the tears started to pour over his face.
Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap.
James tried to tell them to stop. He tried to curse them with the worst words he knew. But nothing would come. Instead, he began to sob, and the crying seized his breathing, and his belly burned.
Colin stopped and stood up, wearing a defensive smile. "Oh my god, dude, I barely got you. You're fine."
Nick released the hold and rolled up to his feet in one athletic movement. "It's okay, man. Jimmy's sensitive. He's an artist." He laughed, but no one joined in. He pinched James's stomach hard. "Got that soft pink piggy belly."
James pulled his shirt down and noticed Jess walking off, along with a few others, though he couldn't see who. Nick turned to say something to them, and in the instant he was ignored, James scrambled up, dragging his backpack, and ran. Behind him, Nick shouted something, but mercifully it was lost in the wind and pulse buffeting his ears.
James remembered that feeling of running, tears cooling on his cheeks, stomach on fire, and he stood up on the water-tower catwalk. He leaned against the railing, feeling it press against his sternum. He leaned out over the edge. Push out. Up and out.
James wondered how they'd talk about it at school. He wondered if they'd blame Nick. The idea had seemed like an attack before — an offensive act after so much defense. But now, as he thought about the actual effects, it seemed more like admitting defeat. His suicide wouldn't destroy or haunt Nick Schroeder. Who knows what Nick would feel? Furthermore, he didn't particularly care.
Would they see it as confirmation? He was weak: of course he quit; of course he chickened out.
James leaned out farther and concentrated on the ground. He saw himself leaping forward, tipping headfirst. An instant of falling, the ground screaming at him. And then ... the smash. The crack? What would it be like when he and the concrete collided? He imagined the thunderclap shockwave of it through his whole self.
It was impossible to deny how terrified he was.
I could do it! I'm not scared.
Who are you trying to convince?
James let out his breath, and the last of his energy went with it — the last of this self-deception. The fog cleared, and the realization sat there, staring at him: You're not gonna jump. You were never really gonna jump.
Nothing was going to happen. Nothing was going to change. James could see Nick at him again tomorrow. He could see a thousand more lunches eaten alone, a thousand more nights spent in his room, cut off.
James Salley stood on the catwalk of the Stone Grove water tower overlooking the sleeping town, and he saw the rest of his life laid out before him.
And he began to cry.
Excerpted from This Is Not the End by Jesse Jordan. Copyright © 2016 Jesse Jordan. Excerpted by permission of Medallion Press, Inc..
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