The Sodium War

After Rafe and Bri report a horrendous news tragedy in the small town of Sodium, TX, they discover a white supremacy plot that affects the whole country. The United States is in a divisive uproar, and they soon find themselves in the middle of what has been called the Sodium War.

Rafe returns to the Bible for solace, and Bri witnesses an inhumane act that propels them both to attempt the inconceivable for the sake of the country.

Taken from real-life stories of gun violence, white supremacy riots, and political upheaval, Nathan Merritt has painted a near-future dystopian landscape of what could happen in the United States if the divisiveness is taken too far.

Praise for The Sodium War

"... A story of both the brutality of humans when pushed to the extremes and the power of the morally-just to persevere in times of oppression.... Themes of anti-racism, peace, and loving, religious faith pervade the book’s every page." — IndieReader

"Wow — this is more than a book, it's a work of art. I read a lot and, truly, I'm blown away." ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"This was an interesting and thought-provoking book." ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"A good read and managed it one session, always a good sign of a good book if you ask me." ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

"A modern-day classic and highly imaginative..." ★ ★ ★ ★

The Story Behind the Story

In August 2019, 38 people were killed in mass shootings in the United States. These included the El Paso, TX shooting at a Walmart, where 22 people lost their lives. The shooter had written an anti-immigrant manifesto and believed in a conspiracy theory that the "white race" was being replaced in the United States.

My wife challenged me with the idea of writing a screenplay about combating gun violence, and after brainstorming, I settled on telling a story about fighting racism. After a lifetime of hearing racist speech, listening to countless stories from victims, and reading about horrid acts in the news, I felt compelled to help in any way I could.

The only problem is that I found it hard to tell someone not to use racist speech, especially if they were a friend or a family member, and I was sure that I wasn't the only one. I created a character, Bri Gilchrist, in the story that is willing to stand up to anyone that uses racist speech, and the process was very helpful, but I still have a hard time, even today.

My hope is that this story helps others to step inside their neighbor's shoes, to seek out a peaceful and loving relationship with everyone, regardless of their skin color, religion, political beliefs, or character.


Chapter One: Imminent Storm

Rafe watched his young mother tape up the inside of their living room windows, even though his science teacher had told him it was a bad idea. Instead of shattering into smaller pieces of glass, the windows might fracture into large, deadly shards that could hurtle across the room.

“Whatever you do,” the well-spoken black teacher, Mr. Fourier, had said earlier that day, “make sure you don’t tape up your windows or stand next to a bulging door during the hurricane tonight. Doing those things can hurt you.” He had even used illustrated overhead projections to make his point clear.

The small, seven-year-old Rafe looked around his living room and imagined a bloody, cracked windowpane lodged into the wall behind him. It was a frightening image, but he didn’t dare mention the concern to his mother as she continued stretching the tape across the glass.

Unfortunately, he was bound by his Southern upbringing to respect his elders—the thought of correcting his mother was too terrifying. Tiny for his age, all he could do was watch the crime scene unfold and imagine how he might be a silent, powerless accessory to murder.

“Rafe,” his mother, Edith, asked, “can you bring me another roll of tape? I believe there’s one in the kitchen, in a paper sack.” Even though it was 2003, his middle-aged mother seemed perfectly content living with all the norms of the 1950s. Her curly, blonde hair was short, and she wore a floral, pleated dress that came down to her knees.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded and dutifully returned, visibly anxious, knowing that the duct tape he was holding could be in the hands of the investigative police in the days to come. He stood next to her, immovable, like a robot that had been given conflicting lines of code to process, and he was afraid that sparks would soon fly from his ears. At least that’s what happens on TV, he thought.

She applied another strip of tape and said, “Alright, I think we’re just about done.” It was then that she finally looked at the sweaty, pale boy and asked, “Are you okay?”

He nodded sheepishly, and his perfectly combed, blond hair didn’t move at all. His mother frequently reminded him that she liked it that way.

“How was school today?”

Outside, dark clouds had already formed, and a few drops of rain began to fall. As the pecan trees swayed in the wind, Rafe thought he saw the wheelbarrow in the yard move just a little. Looking at the scene reminded him of something else the teacher had taught that day.

“Mr. Fourier showed us what happens when you light a balloon on fire.”

“Really?” His mother quickly whipped her head around as if she had caught someone red-handed. “Did that man light a fire in the classroom?”

“No, we went outside this morning. It was sunny.”

Deflated, she returned to inspect her work. “So, what happened? Did it pop?” she asked, closing the curtains. The deed was done, and there was nothing he could do to rectify the situation.

Now beside himself, Rafe sat on a small storage bench to watch his mother move furniture away from the windows. He wondered if that afternoon might be the last time he would see her alive because of the accident that was bound to happen. He tried to memorize every second of their final moments together.

“Did it pop, Rafe?”

“Yes,” he replied, almost unsure of himself, “but the water balloons took a lot longer because the water absorbed all the heat.” He liked saying the new word he had learned in class that day.

Lifting a heavy chair, she muttered, “I wonder why that man had you playing with balloons. Surely, there are other things to learn.”

Rafe had to convey the storm’s gravity, but he was still timid. “Mr. Fourier wanted to show us why we’re having this hurricane. He said that the ocean is taking a lot of the sun’s heat, and that’s what makes bad weather happen.”

“Oh, I see.” She didn’t seem fazed at all by the science teacher’s lesson or remotely concerned about their impending doom.

For the rest of the night, Rafe kept vigilant in his duty to make sure nobody entered the potential crime scene. During dinner, he looked toward the living room every time he heard a crack of thunder, expecting the worst. The storm raged on, though, as the heavy rain pummeled their home.


Rafe awoke to his mother lifting him with his blanket out of bed in the middle of the night. A faint light came from the hallway, so he could barely see. He knew it was her, though, by the sound of her soft voice.

“It’s okay, dear. We’re going to sleep in my room tonight.”

She quickly walked down the hallway, shielding his face from his father’s flashlight, and made it to the bedroom. Being carried always strengthened his faith in her and the love that bound them.

For as long as Rafe could remember, there was always a plan in place for a hurricane. His mother’s closet was in the middle of the house and the furthest away from any windows.

“Is he okay?” his father asked in the dark.

His mother softly replied, “I think he went back to sleep.”

As the thunder roared and the wind howled, they huddled on the closet floor. Since his mother was still holding him in her arms, he felt the door close with his toes. The final step of security, the faint sound of the latch, could barely be heard over the horrendous destruction outside.

“Is everything off?” she asked.

“Yeah,” his father responded, “I checked the gas, electricity, and water. So, we should be alright.”


“Yeah, sweetie?”

“Are we going to drown?” He was petrified. All he could think about was the house being destroyed under the weight of the water outside, like the balloons popping in class. He thought about the taped windows cutting the walls and the doors exploding. And what made it worse was that the darkness of the closet amplified all of his fears.

His father’s voice was low enough that Rafe couldn’t tell where he was sitting. “Don’t worry, Son. Everything will be fine.”

It was then that his mother hummed the most beautiful song for him. He had heard it many times before, and he couldn’t tell if she was humming just for him or the whole family. The love behind the angelic notes penetrated every fear and sank deep into his heart as he closed his eyes and drifted off peacefully.

Chapter Two: But a Sword
(16 Years Later)

All Rafe could do was watch Bri play with her curly red hair instead of focus on the task at hand. He even held the menu in front of him as a last-minute shield in case she happened to glance at him. After several months of dating, she was still that intoxicating.

Behind her, a lamp with the perfect color temperature gave her just the right glow, and Rafe moved in his booth seat a little to find the right angle to take a mental picture of her.

“Alright, I think I’ve got it,” she said with a small chuckle. “You?”

It was then that she finally looked up, and he melted, completely smitten by her beautiful blue eyes and freckles.

“What’s so funny?” he asked as an automatic defense mechanism.

She looked around at the small Mexican diner and admitted while leaning in, “Whenever I got a veggie burger as a kid, they always assumed that my mom had ordered it. I’m sure I’ve confused a lot of waiters in my day.”

Rafe found her treasured menu item at the bottom of the page, and after checking to see if it was within budget, he joked, “Well, if I order the same thing, then the poor guy won’t have to worry.”

“Have you ever had one?”

“Nope. First time for everything, I guess.” He quickly scanned a few side dishes on the menu should the vegetable atrocity not sit well with him. In his mind, it was downright un-American to eat such a thing. Right now, though, a side dish would be a luxury.

“Wonderful! They’re amazing! I hope you like it!” She smiled in such a way that cemented the whole ordeal, and he couldn’t resist it.

The little diner was crowded and noisy, so Rafe didn’t hear his phone ring. Although they had reached an agreement about their order, the only way he could relieve his anxiety about the burger was to study the image design of Mexican paintings on the walls.

“Is that your phone?” Bri asked.

He reached into his pocket, looked at the screen, and declined the call as if nothing had happened.

She continued amiably, “Who was it? You can take it if you like. I don’t mind.”

“Oh, it was my mom,” he responded, slightly bitter. For him, the mood had changed. Instead of being present with the love of his life, he was reminded of his mother’s tendencies.

 Bri sat up and genuinely asked, “How is she doing? I haven’t talked to her in a while.”

“The same as always, I guess—”

Across the room, a group of men at a table had grown impatient, and one of them shouted at the waiter, “Hey beaner, can we get some service over here?”

The sole waiter in the small diner was a slow-moving, elderly Hispanic man. “Yes, sir. One moment, please,” he managed as he finished serving his current table.

Bri turned to Rafe as if she wanted to start a war. She wore her moral compass around her neck as if it guided every single action, and he knew that she couldn’t let the racial slur go unchecked. They had been down this road before.

As soon as she edged toward the end of the booth seat, Rafe whispered, “Don’t worry about it. Just let it go.”

“I can’t do that. That man needs to be called out.”

“Why? It’s not going to do any good. Just look at him. He’s probably not going to change.” The man across the room was a tall, rugged cowboy, and Rafe wanted to avoid any confrontation with him.

Bri stood up right away. “Sir, please apologize to the waiter.” The noisy diner quieted down, and most of the patrons stopped to watch.

“Why?” the tall man asked. “Are you calling me a racist?”

Rafe tried to tap her foot, but she was too far away; talking about all of this was horribly awkward. But of course, if any of those gentlemen approached Bri to hurt her, that would be a different story. He understood that kind of fight.

“No, I’m just asking you to apologize,” she responded calmly.

The waiter humbly interjected, “Really, ma’am, it’s no trouble at all.” He approached the new table with pen and paper in hand, ready to take the orders.

“Good! Because I’m not a racist,” the tall gentleman declared.

“How you choose to identify yourself is your prerogative. I’m just calling you out on your actions. Why do you want to offend this person?” Bri asked. The duel was getting more and more awkward with each new volley.

“Well,” the cowboy replied as he looked at the waiter, “it seems he doesn’t take any offense, so it’s not offensive—”

“I’m offended,” she quickly rebuked.

The towering man then slowly walked up to Bri, and the closer he came, the tighter Rafe’s fists clenched as he sat at the table. After all these years, Rafe still had a small frame, but he was very trim and athletic. He thought about running out the door with Bri in his arms to escape the situation, but he figured that they would inevitably return to a similar confrontation again.

The small restaurant was silent, and all eyes were on Bri and the rugged cowboy that approached her. If someone in the room were willing to fight against racism, they could now vicariously take up the mantle through her. Many phones were already recording and live streaming the standoff.

“But you’re white,” the man argued, now standing two feet away from her. At this, Rafe slowly rose with both fists seemingly glued to the table.

“I’m offended as a human being,” Bri stated as she stared the tall man straight in the eye. A slice of the current state of America, the two squared off like a brewing storm.

Quickly breaking the stare-down, the cowboy noticed Rafe’s white knuckles that were ready to strike. The man unexpectedly turned around to face the waiter and repented, “I’m sorry for what I said. There was no need for me to be mean. I’m sorry.”

With that, the tall man tipped his hat toward Bri with a sheepish smile and returned to his table. A crisis was averted, and a different atmosphere fell over the diner. A few more pleases and thank-yous were heard, people smiled a little more, and the waiter stood a little taller.


When they finally reached the motel parking lot in his truck, Rafe couldn’t ignore his error anymore. “I’m sorry about that back there. You were right.”

Bri opened her passenger door and playfully asked, “About the burger or the guy who was very rude?” Before he could say anything, she closed the door, leaned through the open window, and teased, “Don’t worry about it. I usually am.”

Her smile was disarming, and in the moonlight, he could do nothing but admire her. He truly aspired to be more passionate and courageous like her but felt that he couldn’t possibly attain that, even after several lifetimes.

As he offered no reply other than a chuckle, she asked, “So, tomorrow at 4 AM then?”

“Yeah, we need to head out early,” he answered, looking at the New Mexico desert landscape with anticipation. “I appreciate you doing this for me. Hopefully, you can get enough sleep.” By the time he had finished speaking, she had already set an alarm on her phone.

While scanning her texts, she returned, “Not a problem,” and gave him a peck on the cheek. “It looks like the Townsend hearing was stalled. I may need to call in and help.”

“It never ends, does it?” He no longer had her attention, and she was off on one of her crusades.

As they walked toward her motel-room door, she replied, “No, not really.” Her tone was both disheartened and energized at the same time.

A few years younger than Rafe, Bri was a natural-born spitfire reporter. She had the uncanny gift of yanking out the truth and presenting it in a way that anyone could understand. This was her oxygen. You knew that as soon as she adjusted her glasses, she was trying to look past whatever you may have just told her and look right into your soul.

When he reached his own motel-room door, which was next to hers, he couldn’t help but be inspired by her and her dedication to her craft. He watched her read the latest on the Townsend hearing, and he assumed it was political. To him, it didn’t matter, but he knew it should.

“Well, goodnight then,” he said as a reminder of his presence.

“Goodnight,” she politely replied, not lifting her phone-bound gaze as she closed the door behind her.

Rafe couldn’t close his door, though, as there was too much promise in the vast New Mexico desert, beautifully lit by the early winter moon. Everything was perfect.