I’ve been working on chapter two of my thesis lately. The subject: Elijah Lovejoy, abolitionist and one of the first martyrs fighting for press freedom.

Lovejoy converted to abolitionism because he thought it was a blatant sin, clearly going against his hardcore Christian values. Through many editorials on the subject, he tried to logically and peacefully argue for the dissolution of slavery but was met only with hostility from his opponents. They destroyed three of his presses and threatened to kill him.

My approach to telling his story was a present-tense narrative that described his last stand against a drunken mob demanding he give up his press or give up his life. I created the dialogue for the story based on several first- and second-hand accounts. I did my best to use the language they used back then, but I haven’t quite been able to capture it. That’s editing step number one, since I’ve almost completed a first draft of the story.

Below is the unedited ending to the four-page narrative. The flow of the story goes from long complex sentences to choppier ones as the scene gets more chaotic and comes to its tragic end. Love it? Hate it? Let me know.

..But now I am close enough that something else comes into focus. A pile of lumber hides glowing pairs of eyes illuminated by the fire in the crowd’s hands. They are hiding by the door because they knew we would have to use it at some point since it is our only means of counter attack.

I can now see two metal barrels protruding from the wood. The rifle and its operator are focused on me.

I am frozen by the chill both of the night air and the hatred aimed toward me. I hear the gasp of Weller behind me as he too realizes we are being stalked by a clever predator, like a lion hiding in the tall grass. I take a deep breath as I lock eyes with the gun-wielding farme,r and his intent becomes clear. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

The moment stands still in suspense, the moon acting as a spotlight, framing the inaction.

Then a slight movement. Then a click. And a bang.

A pang in my stomach. A warm, wet sensation from the wound.

A vicious smile. Another bang. And another. And two more.

A scream of approval.

A scream of pain.

My God. I am shot. I am shot.

My mind registers little else than desire for escape. I turn and leave my attackers. The grass is beneath my hands and knees. How have I made it to the door? I cannot recall what I have done or seen in the last few moments, but I open the door with what little strength I can manage. Where is Weller? Is he still outside? I cannot say. My vision is failing. I am midway up the stairs. How did I find the stairs? I must find my supporters at the top.

I fight the searing pain with each drag of my legs and yank of my arms. I am leaving a trail of blood behind me. So much blood. I cannot see out of one eye, but I know when I have reached the second floor. I smell smoke and burning wood. I see frightened faces and opened mouths. And then they disappear as I fall. With a thump, my legs, then my torso, then my arms, then my head hits the floor, before cold, sweaty hands grab me tightly in fear.

“Elijah! Are you okay?”

Still my mind is only registering one thought.

“My —.” Am I the one coughing? “My God. I am shot.”

Time has become meaningless, and my vision is a blur of moving shadows and light.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

Yea though I walk…

“Let them have the press. Elijah is dead. All is lost.” I recognize Mr. Harned’s voice. “Perhaps they will let us keep our lives if we let them keep the press.”

…walk through the valley…

“They will let us leave unmolested. Quickly! Get out and let them have the building.”

“Get out!”

“Save yourself!”

…through the valley… the valley…

“What about Elijah?”

“Leave now!”


… death.


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