First part of a story, be warned though!

Here is a little something I wrote.  Not my first Erotica, but I’m not very good at it so be warned.  It’s also very adult in nature and should be read only if you like this kind of stuff.  Very explicit, etc.

Demons and Lovers

She could only stand still with a growing sense of dread. The storm outside was like her dread, growing, but in a violent way. Her travels had brought her this far with no incident, but now it was all about to change. The only thing remotely close to take shelter in was a house on the hill. An old home, more the size of a castle. She debated whether to go to it or not, but a strike of lightning close enough for her to feel the heat roll off of changed her mind. The wetness of the storm was almost to her bones, or at least it felt that way. Things could always be worse, she told herself, but it wasn’t working and before she knew it her feet were carrying her towards the building that held the unknown.

What had become of her mount, more than that though, her friend. She had raised him from a colt and considered him closer than any person. But alas he was run off into the darkness when a former bolt of light caused a clasp of thunder so loud that it had stunned her and frightened him. Now she was alone in the night, scared, wet, and lost. The foreboding shadow on the hill she was now heading for was the only thing that made sense, good or bad.

The road, no trail that led up to the building was not either in the rain.  It was more of a trail of mud and debris.   The area around the place must not have been in good condition, as weeds, small rocks, and anything else that the slew of water could carry into the formerly matted down path was there, to include larger insects and spiders.  Several of which tried to grasp on to her lower extremities.

She had been foolish the prior morning.  Many of those at the Inn who were local had said it was going to rain, she had not listened and opted for a shorter dress to make her riding through the countryside more tolerable in the heat.  But she did put on longer stockings, which were now acting as something easy for the bugs to latch onto and try and make their way up her legs and onto her thighs.  She swatted at them as she made her way up the small creek, the former path.

Just as she thought she had gotten the last of them she felt her foot slip.  Then her face was wet.  She had fallen into the makeshift stream and was more soaked than before.  She stood carefully, not wanting to go down again in the mud, which also made walking more difficult.  It was so slippery now.  She looed down at herself and saw that her summer dress was clinging to every part of her and anyone from a distance would think she was out in this weather naked in just a cloak.

Normally, she would have been embarrassed, but she was now colder and more miserable than before and continued towards the home or whatever it was.  She finally made it to the front, which had a covering.  A moment of respite from the rain was welcome, but the cold was still with her.  A gust of wind blew fast and low between her legs.  It was so precise and quick that it made her quiver and shake for a moment.  She didn’t know what it was or the feeling and thought she liked it, but then she snapped back before being able to revel in it when the cold hit her more.

She pulled the cloak tightly around her to try and capture some kind of warmth.  Then she walked to the door or gate.  It was larger than most doors but not to the degree that it could be a gate.  The distinction quickly lost its way in her mind as her only thought was to get in and try to not freeze.  A large ring hung on the door.  She reached out and swung it down to knock on the door.  A loud echo boomed through the inside.

She stood, shivering.  Another crack of thunder erupted.  The light provided her a glimpse of the mechanism holding the knocker she had just used.  It was in the shape of nose that was on some sort of monster.  Something she had never seen before, but it looked like something her father had said in the stories that he had told her when she was a child.  She could also see statues to either side of the door that matched the thing on the door, but much larger and with bodies.  The one thing that was starkly different than other statues she had seen was that these ones appeared to be in positions of agony.  Or it might have been ecstasy, she couldn’t tell in the darkness and with only a flash of sight of them.

The temptation to go over and look closer, maybe even touch them came over her.  Something primal was calling to her.  She took a step towards the one on her left and an urge to caress it started to intrude into her thoughts.  Then the door opened.

The figure before her appeared to be an older woman.  She held a lantern in her left hand that hung by her waist, so her head wasn’t clear.  She looked into the building and then at the older woman.  Though her face was mostly shrouded in darkness she could tell that her gaze was on the drenched body before her.  The look was long, almost as the way a wolf at a sheep it plans on having for dinner.

She felt the longing looks had a type of hunger behind them.  It was eerie in a way she had never felt before.  Finally, the older woman broke the silence.  “Dear child, what are you doing out in a storm like this?  Get in here and sit by the fire.”

Without a word she walked inside and then heard the large door almost slam behind her.  The noise scared her, and she stood still a moment.  Then she jumped when a hand touched her back.

“You are a skittish thing, aren’t you?” the old woman said, “And soaked to the bone.  This way.”

She was led to a fire on the other side of the large entryway and shown a chair to sit in.  She did.  Then the woman continued, “I think we have some old clothes around here if you want to get out of those wet things.”

All she could do from the chair.

The old woman looked at her with curiosity, “If you are mute just nod, but it would make things easier if I knew your name child. You don’t have to say more than you feel you need to though.”

She looked at the old woman, whose face was in full view in the fire light.  She looked kindly enough, and even trustworthy.  Not that she had much choice at this point.  “My name is Tia.  And thank you for taking me in.”

“No, please.  Anyone would have.  It is awful out there and would be a crime to let anyone stay in it.”

“Still, thank you. And what should I call you?”

“Miranda works for me, my dear. You just sit there for a moment.”  Miranda grabbed a blanket from a couch that was nearby and draped it over the shivering Tia.  “I will fetch those clothes now.  There is some warm cider in the kettle in front of the fire if you want some.”  She then disappeared.

Tia saw the kettle and some cups near it.  She reached down and poured one.  As she sat back, wrapped in the warm blanket, she sipped.  The feeling of the warm liquid coursing its way down her throat was wonderful and she was content for a moment.  Then she saw them.

They were hanging there, just above the line of sight of someone who just walked in.  The darkness and her coldness made her not look up when she came in originally.  Now that she was more comfortable and was by the fire, the light was able to show her the images on the walls.  Mostly paintings, but a tapestry or two as well.  They looked like depictions of the statues outside.  As if an entire motif was in use for the place.

All Tia could do was stare at the ones closest, those that she could se the most of.  The urge that she had felt to touch the statues outside was returning as was a smaller version of the feeling she felt from the wind that blew on her.  But she knew that she couldn’t touch the paintings, they were too high and out of reach.  Instead her mind was telling her to touch herself in their place.  She wanted to.  She almost needed to.

Her right hand placed the cup, now empty, of cider down while her left pulled up her dress under the blanket.  Then her right hand went to where she wanted to touch.  She had never done it before, but it seemed so familiar and natural to her.  Soon she was becoming wet again, but in a new way.  She looked at the paintings again to refresh her need to keep touching.  That’s when she noticed what looked like several pairs of eyes peeking at her from a far corner of the room.

For a moment she was startled and stopped.  She looked at the corner again, but her eyes were driven back to the paintings on the wall.  It was as if all her inhibitions were now lost.  She started on herself again.  Soon she let go of the blanket and spread her legs in front of the fire.  Her hand started to move faster and faster, she began to feel better and better.  Then she let out a whimper as a feeling of pleasure took her over and she didn’t care who was watching.

After her climax she quickly came back to her senses and sat back in the chair and wrapped herself back up, feeling ashamed.  Miranda reappeared holding some clothes.  She drew closer and saw Tia’s face red.  “Oh, I really had hoped you would have warmed up faster.  I was afraid you might have gotten sick or such out there.”

Tia looked down, embarrassed.  Then Miranda looked down and saw drops of something on the floor.  She spoke as if she knew what had happened, “Don’t be ashamed of it darling.  This place has an effect on people of a, um, passionate nature.”

Tia looked up at her and a kindly look greeted her as Miranda held out the clothes. “Change into these and you’ll feel much better.  There is a room over there you can use.”  She said pointing towards the corner where Tia had seen the eyes.

She hesitated to get up.

“Is something wrong dear?” Miranda said.

“Um, I thought I saw someone watching me from over there.”

“Oh, them.  Don’t worry about them.  They are always curious when we get visitors.”

“Them?”

“Our children.  As long as you aren’t mean to them, they’ll be fine and stay out of your way.”

“Our?”

“My, you do have a lot of questions.  Yes, myself and the mistress of this place.  We take in those that others don’t want or those that we can offer more to than the world they knew.  But save your questions.  Get changed.”

Tia nodded and got up.  She made her way towards the corner and saw a door.  She opened it and went in.  The lantern in the room was brighter than the one Miranda had greeted her at the door with.  It was a large washroom and was almost fully revealed to her by the light.  Across its walls was a mural similar to the paintings that adorned the walls in the main hall.  There was almost no time before she felt the urge again.

She set the dry clothes on the basin and then took her own off.  Instead of changing though she grabbed the lantern and walked around the room to study the art in detail.  The images were of things she had no idea of, but that seemed to awaken carnal desires in her inner self.  There were things happening that she could recognize.  She knew of them because of things her mother had explained to her recently.  But the things partaking in the images were not all human.

They had human traits.  The men depicted were normal, some well-endowed, or so Tia thought.  Having never seen one in person made it hard to say.  The women, or what Tia thought were women were in various forms.  Some had wings, some horns, others fangs, and still others hooves as well as in various combinations.  They seemed to be partaking in the acts reserved for married couples.  Some of the art depicted many of them doing those things all at once.  Tia didn’t understand it all, but it was driving her to want to touch herself again.  The eyes of the feminine creatures seemed to be looking at her.  At one point she swore a pair even blinked.

Then a whispered voice from no where seemed to say, “Go ahead.  You know you want too.  It felt so good the last time.  It will be better this time.”

She didn’t need the voice, she had already planned on it again.  Tia laid the blanket out on the floor and with just her stockings on she lay down.  This time she spread her legs far apart and used both hands to touch herself.  She was wet once again, and it didn’t matter.  Now her eyes were open, and she was looking at the mural as she started to climax.  The art drove her more and more to want to feel better and better.  The added thought that the women in the pictures were watching her made it even better.

Soon her back was arching, and she was screaming, but didn’t realize that she was.  Finally, her back lowered and she could feel the soaked blanket beneath her.  She didn’t care.  She felt better than she ever had and more relaxed than she ever thought possible.  She laid there, still moaning and licked her fingers.  They tasted amazing.  She had no idea how long she had been here and how many times she had finished. And she didn’t care.

The Battle of Golden Hills

So I was struggling with getting back into the swing of an old book I was a third of the way writing.  I thought the dreaded “block” was setting in.  I did a thing then, as I was dropping my kid off to school I asked him for a dumb idea to write about.  He gave me one.  I got home and two hours later this thing popped out.  Now here it is for your enjoyment in all of its first draft glory.

The Battle of Golden Hills

Grimwald sat at the head of the table.  He looked out over the many faces that were there with him.  His look was somber, and he exhaled loudly.  This brought the attention of the rest of the group back to him.  With all eyes looking in his direction he waited until everything was silent.  “We have waited centuries for what is about to come.”  His tone was serious, and he watched for reactions from the others.  Nothing was out of the ordinary.  His 500 plus years didn’t show that much on his face.

black steel helmet near black and gray handle sword
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He continued, “All of the preparations are almost complete, and soon we shall emerge from our exile and retake what was ours.  The giants that have taken our land will feel our wrath and shall be vanquished.”  The others smiled and raised a cheer in agreement.

The rest of the war council meeting went with planning and logistics, he wanted to make sure that they were ready for any contingency.  Nothing was going to stop them retake their homeland.  The Dwarves of Pigthium would prevail and return to the surface.  He had no idea what the result would be regarding the war, but the first battle they would win and revel in.

Once he was done with the council, he headed down one of the tunnels to the lower levels of their kingdom.  They had done well for themselves over the years, making a descent life under the ground they had once ruled over, but it wasn’t enough.  He wanted more for his people, the sun, the fresh air, and the ability to roam free like their ancestors once did.  Of course, Dwarves were creatures of the Earth and excelled in the mining and creating of crafted items, but that didn’t mean they belonged in it.

While dwelling on these thoughts, Grimwald arrived at his destination.   He knocked on the door and heard a gruff voice respond.  He opened the door and entered. Sitting in a chair next to a small hearth was a Dwarf much older than him, sipping on a stein of Dwarven stout.  “Good day Uncle.”

The elder Dwarf looked up and smiled, “Come for my advice again?”

“Not as much as for your words of encouragement.”

“Still nervous about the forthcoming battle?”

“Who wouldn’t be.  I have led skirmishes and such before, but nothing as big as this or against our greatest adversaries.”

“No one has in such a long time.  The last time was your father almost 400 years ago, and that is why you are king.”

“I remember, I was barely 100 when I took the crown, one of the youngest ever.  It has weighed heavy on me all this time.  I want vengeance, but I must temper that with the good of my people.”

“You have done well for them.  I can’t remember a time that we have had such numbers and made such wonders.  My greatest worry is that you may have not gathered enough information about our enemies as you might need.”

“I have few worries in that area Uncle.  They aren’t the smartest and I doubt they have advanced as much as us.  Our scouts report they now have clubs of metal, but seemingly weak compared to ours.  Of course, their size and strength might offset that.  That is why I have focused more on our armor than weapons.  No matter how good our offense is, I know that it will take many of our brethren to take down one giant.”

“That is what the people love about you, your wisdom, and for being so young.”

“We also have surprise.  The giants seem to have forgotten about us.  And that we will exploit, especially since their greatest weapon seems to only come on certain times.”

“The large metal device?”

“Yes, but I don’t think it is a weapon by design.  They seem to use it to harvest the plants they grow.  But I can see it being used as a weapon is needed against us.  By attacking when it is mid-cycle I hope to avoid it.  If we can take them out before they know what is going on, then it may never even be a factor.”

“Again, wise words.”

“My generals hope that with surprise, after the battle, we might be able to find where they keep it and use it for ourselves.”

“And with the land reclaimed, think of all of the food we could harvest.”

“I was thinking more of it as a weapon, we have no idea how many of them there are beyond what was once our lands, but I suppose.  That is later though.  For now, we must focus on the battle.”

“Of course.”

The younger dwarf smiled and thanked his uncle for his time.  He turned and exited the room. His next stop was the massive foundry complex that his people had built far below the surface.  Here the smiths crafted the finest weapons that the tribe had ever made.  He inspected many of the wares and was impressed.  Being King he had to learn many things, also being a dwarf, crafting metal into magnificent weapons was the main one.

He was by no means a master smith, but he wasn’t bad and knew quality when he saw it.  He knew these new tools of war would be essential in helping his people win the battle to come.  Once that was done, he went to the stables.  It had taken many decades, but the Dwarfs had tamed and trained one of their former underground enemies to now be their war mounts.  The large fur covered monsters would now lead them to victory.  One could carry two lancers, and still have room for more if they had to withdrawal, which he was sure would not be the case.  They had trained for too long to fail.

His last stop for the day was the great hall.  There all of the warriors were gathered, having a feast on the eve of battle.  It was something that had not been done for a long time.  The days of wars and epic tales of valor were long past.  Now it was time for a new era for the Dwarves.  They would now be able to weave the stories that would be the myths for their descendants.

He only hesitated because he knew the feeling was going to be grand and that it would not be the same in the future.  Win or lose, all the feast from this day forward would be different.  He imagined how his father felt when he had his last feast.  Grimwald had confidence this would be his first of many, so impressed with this army.  In any case it would be his last first time though and he wanted to savor it.

The guards at the main doors to the hall opened the doors for him after he signaled, he was ready. As he entered, he viewed the long tables filled with his brethren.  They all stood and raised their glasses at him.  He made his way to the far end towards his elevated table, where his generals were already sitting.  Soon songs of glory were sung as he went up the steps and took his place.  He sat, then everyone else did.  A plate of meat and vegetable was set before him and he ate.

Soon he stood and began to speak, “I have faith in our endeavor tomorrow that we shall be victorious.  For too long have we dwelt under the ground of our former kingdom.  Tomorrow we shall retake what is rightfully ours.”  Cheers sprang up through the room.  Grimwald smiled and toasted his army.

“We will ride into battle and crush our enemies!”

The night continued with many songs and festivities.  After several hours it was called so that the warriors could rest and be ready for the plight ahead of them.  Grimwald retired to his chambers but couldn’t sleep much.  He was worried about the fight, but also excited.  Most of his warriors were untested.  Only a handful of his generals had experience and even that was from a long time ago.

They had worked on their plans for months.  The vast empty fields were interspersed with woodland areas that the giants rarely went into.  These places were where they had built their exits to the surface and where the units of 100 warriors would emerge to assault the creatures.  Hopefully with the element of surprise.  He had scouts on watch right outside who would report to their commanders in the morning right before the attack.  They would adjust their plans if needed, but he felt good that they had anticipated most of the things that could change.

Finally, after he had gone over the plans again, he was able to get a little sleep.  It was restful, but he could have used more.   When the time came, there was a knock on the door, and he arose.  His attendants came in and helped with his armor.  The time had come to regain the glory of yesteryear, and he was up for the call.

Grimwald made his way to the unit he would lead into combat.  His adrenaline was rushing.  All of him men were there ahead of him.  It was silent as he made his way to the front of the group and he mounted his steed.  He would be riding solo, where most of the others were doubled up.  The beasts were difficult to control, but he had a knack for it, plus he had to lead the battle and couldn’t be bogged down with a copilot.

The last few moments before the doors to the surface world seemed to drag on.  The troops started to become restless as the time neared.  The scouts had come back and reported in.  There were not as many giants present as usual.  The king was pleased with this news.  Not that he had any real concerns, but because his troops were as of yet untested.  Knowing they battle would be easier eased some of his tension.  Soon after the signal came for the forces to go forth.  The light came through the doors and he urged his mount forward.  The legions of his command followed behind and they were off.

The trees covered their egress point and as they passed the foliage they spread out.  In front of them were a trio of giants.  The vast fields were almost empty.  He knew that most of the troops would not have immediate engagements, but their leaders knew what the follow-on objectives were.  The ultimate goal was to drive the enemy away and then move on to their fortress that was at the far end of the fields.

The look of the giants as they laid eyes on the large number of warriors was one of amazement.  It was as if they were more than surprised, but not even aware or the dwarves existence.  This was a boon for Grimwald and his people.  One of them started to laugh.  Were they that unconcerned about the oncoming storm?  It didn’t matter.  They were now committed to their action.

The giants were holding their clubs but did not move to use them.  The one thing that Grimwald did not understand was the white balls that the giants struck with their clubs.  His generals thought it was to practice attacking the dwarves, as overhand attacks would be ineffective on such a small foe.  It worried the king, since most of the giants seemed rather good at it.  That is why they went with the swarm tactics.

The other confusing this was the bright clothing the giants wore.  It seemed to draw much attention.  It was assumed it was more of a mating ritual.  They most likely didn’t have to hide from much, so camouflage wasn’t needed.  The various stripes and patterns were jarring to the dwarves and some thought it might even be a way to distract enemies.

By the time this last thought left his mind they were on the group.  They were now laughing at them war party.  Then the first group of troops moved to the closest giant and the lancers started to stab at the legs.  Now the giant roared out in pain.  The laughter stopped and the others looked worried.  After a dozen weapons hit their mark, the giant started to stumble.  Another group of warriors trained with grappling hooks tossed them, catching the monster’s clothing.  The mounts ran away and pulled the secured ropes to try and bring the large beast down.

The first target fell to the ground with a large thud.  The expert riders all managed to get out from underneath.  Soon the second dwarf on each mount close to the enemy jumped on him and started to stab with their swords and axes.  His companions looked on in horror and started to back away from the carnage.  One swung his club at the front of the mounted group that was moving towards him.  The other pulled a small device from a pocket and started to yell in it, or maybe it was his normal voice.  Being do large, it would be very loud to Grimwald.

It shouted something about small people and gophers into the thing while he started to run away.  The standing giant that was still there was swinging wildly.  He managed to hit a couple of the troops, but it seemed more by luck that skill.  The dwarves that had attacked the first target were now remounting with their original partners and heading onto the attacking giant.  The first was dead and a small cheer went up as they moved on.

In the distance the king could see similar activities going on.  His army was winning.  He felt pride.  The second enemy in front of them put up somewhat of a fight, but after less than a minute he had over 50 dwarven infantry on him, bringing him down.  The third had long since ran off.  They had won this battle.

As the commotion diminished in his area, Grimwald rallied his men and they headed towards their next goal.  The fortress at the end of the fields.  On the way he was joined by four more of his units.  They had all taken out at least one giant and forced others to flee.  They drew closer to the final feat before they knew they could declare victory.

It was massive, but their scouts had found a secret way in.  Since the giants in the field were dispatched, the king had no fear about the next phase of their plan.  As they drew closer he saw the sign the hung above the building, it read “Golden Hills Golf Course 19th hole.”

Power Outage

crime scene do not cross signage
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Power Outage

The candle flickered in the wind as the slight breeze whisked through the window. The night had a severe chill to it and it was uncomfortable for Renard as he sat sipping his hot chocolate. It wasn’t his first drink of choice for the weather, but it had gotten cold quickly and it was the only things that he had in the house at the time, so he just made it. He was actually enjoying it a little too. He wasn’t sure how long it had sat at the top of the cupboard, but it had the little marshmallows in it, that made him smile when he first saw it. Now he was just sitting there.

Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem for him, but the power had gone out as well, thus the candle. Now he was just waiting for them to fix it and to get the furnace started. He was using an electric one. The gas lines didn’t run to where he lived. He had to open the window because the only candle he could find to provide light as the sun set let off some smoke, he wasn’t sure why, but it did. His old camping stove provided a place to make his beverage and to make some dinner, which was just a can of soup he found in the same place as the hot chocolate.

There was food in the fridge and freezer, but nothing that he wanted to try and cook on the little stove. Plus, he didn’t want to open the fridge and risk is thawing out. He had no idea about when the power would be back on, so he decided to play it safe. The one thing he had to be able to do though was to read, and the smoky candle provided him with the light he needed to do so. He thought that he had hit pay dirt when he dug out the old stove, but the flashlight that was with it was dead and he had no extra “D” batteries handy to replace the old ones with. SO here he was wrapped in a blanket by a slightly open window with a smoky candle sipping hot chocolate and reading a book.

It was still an hour or two before he went to bed and he kept checking the website of the power company on his cell phone to see the updates of the power line repair. There was a small storm earlier, but nothing that would have knocked out the power. When he finally got to the site he read that it was an accident caused by the storm. A car had hit the post. That was all it said. He wanted to check the news for more information, but he didn’t want to waste his battery. Right now though he was only concerned with reading the book that he had started a few days ago and getting through the night.

As Renard turned the page to start the next chapter, there was a knock at the door. It took a moment for him to realize that it was his door. He was that absorbed in the story he was reading. Another rap at the entry made it clear it was his. He carefully put the bookmark in the page he was on and set the paperback down. Then he got up and tossed the blanket on the chair he was in. He slowly made his way to the front entrance. It was dark everywhere else in the house and he didn’t want to stub a toe of anything.

The knocking kept coming at regular intervals as he worked towards it. He finally got there and peeked into the small lens that allowed him to see who was on the other side. It was dark outside too and the streetlights were not on, so at best he could only make out a shadow. It was probably just a neighbor who needed something. Renard wasn’t that familiar with many of his neighbors, but he thought himself friendly enough when he did engage with them. He opened the door to expect to see Mrs. Landon from next door, who might have lost one of her small poodles. They were yippy whenever he walked by, but they were small and cute.

It could have been Mr. Kowalchek from across the street, a retired Navy man who always made sure to raise and lower his American flag at sunrise and sunset every day. He was a stickler for that and for as long as Renard had lived here he believed the old man never missed a day doing it. He went on vacation once for a week and had asked Renard to do it. Getting a reputation of being unreliable was a bad thing in the area, besides Mrs. Kowalchek made the best cupcakes. Ever since he had helped with the flag for their vacation she had made him a batch every major holiday. That was a privilege he didn’t want to lose.

He fumbled with the deadbolt, then the lock on the door. He slowly opened it. When he was finally able to see the person on the other side it was an unfamiliar face. “Excuse me,” the still unknown face said, “my car broke down and my phone is dead.”

Renard immediately felt for the person as he recalled a similar situation from a couple of years prior. His eyes started to adapt to the low light and he was able to make out the form of a man. He must have been in his mid-twenties, with long hair. Renard finally broke from his observing and replied to the man on his porch, “I wish I could offer you help, but as I’m sure you have noticed, we have no power in the area.” A sudden wave of apprehension swept over Renard, almost like dread, but not as dark. He ignored it though. “I can offer you some hot chocolate and a dry place to sit for a while. Maybe even a phone call.”

“It sounds like a start, and to be honest a bright turn for what, so far, has been a pretty shitty day.”

Renard stepped aside and motioned for the stranger to come in. He did so. “My name is Renard, what’s yours?”

“Michael is what my mom calls me, but you can call me Mike.”

“Well then Mike, come in and let’s have something to drink.”

The pair made their way, slowly, back to where Renard had been reading. He still had the small camping stove on his table along with the box of what remained of the hot chocolate packets. The water in his kettle was probably lukewarm by now so he turned the burner back on before he sat down. He motioned to a chair across from him for Mike to sit in. “You’re wet, let me get you a towel to sit on. I think I have an old blanket you could use as well to stay warm.”

Mike stopped before sitting, realizing the towel was more to keep the seat dry. “Thank you.”

Renard disappeared for a moment and returned with the previously mentioned items. Mike wiped himself off a bit then tossed the blanket around him before he sat. The kettle made that unique sound that kettles do when the water in them started to boil. Renard had also brought another mug and made the drink for his guest. “Here you go,” he uttered as he handed him the container.

Mike took a sip, “This is good, and I like the marshmallows.”

Renard took his seat. “So, one of those days?”

“Let me tell you.” Mike started between sips, “I was at work and my girlfriend broke up with me via text, that was the start of it.”

“Man that sucks.”

“I know. Anyway, I didn’t get that message until lunch. I leave my phone in my car while I’m working. I was so upset that I forgot to turn it back off. After work I was going to call her, but the battery was dead. So instead I decided to go see her. That’s when my car died up the road. Just not winning today I guess.”

“We all get days like that.” Renard picked up his phone to check it, he still had about 30% battery left. “If you need to call her though you can use mine. I would just ask that you don’t take too long. Not knowing when the power will be back on and all.”

“It’s all good man,” Mike said as he finished his cocoa and set the mug down, “I actually did see her. I think I have it all worked out.”

“So, not a totally bad day then?”

“No, we’re still through, but I have closure. I guess if that’s as good as I can have it though then yeah, maybe it wasn’t such a bad day.”

“Would you like another cup?” Renard asked as he hit his web browser to check the status of repairs.

“I’m good man. Thanks anyway.”

Renard had in fact just asked a woman out the previous day. They had been flirting at the local coffee shop for a while now and he finally got the courage to ask her out. He was still kind of excited but didn’t want to make his guest feel worse about his situation. “So, your girl lives around here then?”

“Yeah, she works at the coffee shop up on 10th street. Her name was Amy.”

Renard paused a moment he was describing the woman he had asked out. What a small world it was indeed. Had she broken up with Mike just, so she could see Renard? She had mentioned that her ex had anger issues but hadn’t really been a problem until recently. She never went into too much detail because their conversations were limited to his ordering time at the counter. He didn’t want to risk that this could be that guy though, so he tried to change the subject. “What do you think went wrong with your car?”

“I don’t know, it just went dead. I’m not a car guy. I mean I know enough to keep one running, but sometimes they just quit on you.”

“That feeling is universal I think. Everybody I know has had it happen to them at least once,” Renard paused as he glanced at his phone again, the site was taking forever to load, “Hell, I just had it happen not more than two summers ago. I was out by the Lake heading home and POOF, it died. Similar to you I had no signal.”

“That sucks man, hey not to bother you more, but could I use your bathroom?”

“Sure, it’s down the hall there,” Renard pointed to a darker area, “second door on the right, watch yourself though I have some things stacked by it, there’s no windows so it’s pretty dark.”

“No problem man, and thanks again. When I get back I’ll try to call a wrecker to come get me and my car and get out of your hair.”

“It’s not a big deal man.”

Mike got up and made his way to the hall. Renard looked at his phone again and saw that the repairs were almost done. He scrolled down, now there was a link to an article about the accident. He clicked it. If the power was coming back soon why not kill some time?

The accident wasn’t an accident. A car had forced another off the road and the second one had hit a power line. The driver of the second car was killed, but not by the accident. The article didn’t go into detail. It went on. The driver of the first vehicle had fled on foot. When police arrived they searched the local homes and found nothing. That was what delayed the power company from getting it fixed.

As he read on the name of the second driver was listed, Amy Hutchinson. Renard paused. His heart began racing and his thought started to jumble together. Amy was dead? What happened? He slowly started to try and make sense of things. Had Mike lied to him? Was he even involved? Renard was tempted to just call the police and leave his home. It was the safest thing to do. He decided against it though, he was livid at the thought of having the killer of someone he cared for in his home.

Instead he walked over to where Mike had been sitting and reached into the box that had all his camping items in it and pulled out an old survival knife. Its old purpose had been to clean fish, carve wood, or any other task one would need it for on a trip to the woods. Now though, it would be his tool of defense and possibly vengeance. No one would challenge him if he had to stab Mike. He would just say that an alleged murderer had come into his home and tried to kill him too. So, worrying about the legal repercussions was covered in his mind.

All he had to do now was wait. For all he knew it was just a coincidence. He didn’t know for sure if Mike had anything to do with it. So far, he had been nothing but pleasant, just a guy down on his luck. His inner voice was still screaming to just get up and leave. He ignored it, this was his house, no one was going to make him leave it. His next thought was to go upstairs and get the gun that was once his father’s, but he decided against that too. It was dark, and he wasn’t even sure exactly where it was. By the time he found it and the ammo it would be morning and he wasn’t sure if it would fire.

Mike had been gone a while now, or at least it seemed that way. Renard was half tempted to get up and go see what he was doing, but if he was a killer he wanted to wait so he could dictate the setting. While he waited he kept reloading the article to see if they would name who they suspected. He wasn’t 100% sure it was Mike, but the more he thought about it the more it made sense. Or was he just being paranoid? His battery was now at 15%. It was one of those phones that seemed to drain faster the lower it got. It might have also been just his constant refreshing, he didn’t care at this point.

Finally, he heard a noise come from the hall. Renard was worked up enough to just decide to act. He stood up. He saw nothing. Then he heard the front door open. He dropped his blanket and headed to it. Before he got there it closed. It seemed as though he was right, and Mike was guilty, why else would he be leaving?. He got to the door and swung it open. He went outside, there was still a light drizzle but nothing serious. His cell phone in one hand, his knife in the other.

He saw Mike casually strolling down his driveway.

“Stop!”

Mike paused and turned around. “What exactly do you want me to stop for?”

“You killed Amy, you Bastard.”

“Did I?” The smile on his face as he said made Renard seethe with anger.

“I know you did.”

“I think you have the wrong guy there Renardo. I mean she was run off the road and then stabbed.”

“How would you even know that if you didn’t do it?” Renard asked as he made his way down the steps.

“I don’t know that, but I know two other things. You don’t have a car in the driveway and you’re holding a bloody knife.”

Renard was confused by the statement. He looked over and say that in fact his car was gone. It was there earlier, but now it was gone. But who would have? Then it dawned on him. He looked down at his phone, the description of the car in the accident fit his. He looked at Mike, “You stole my car?”

“Not really, you leave the front door to your house open, so I just helped myself to certain things.”

Renard looked down at the knife he was holding at the same time the power came back on and his outside lights lit up the yard. The knife was covered in blood. Not the old blood of filleted fish, but fresh, some of it still coagulating. When he grabbed it from the box it was by the handle. His thoughts were on Mike not the knife, he didn’t notice much of anything after he decided to act.

He dropped it from the sheer horror of the implications. By the time he looked back up Mike had disappeared down the street. Did he come here just to plant evidence? It didn’t matter, Renard knew he was neck deep in shit now. He ran back into his house.

He was going to make the son of a bitch pay. Up the stairs he went, and he started tossing things aside in the spare room. He finally found the gun. A box or two later he found the ammo. He quickly checked the handgun. It seemed okay, he loaded a magazine and then put some oil in it just to get it smooth. Then he rushed downstairs, he wasn’t sure how long it had been since he went to get the firearm, but he was sure he could catch up to Mike and make him pay.

The thing was he was so obsessed with it that he didn’t hear the sirens as they approached his house. When he ran out of his front door holding the gun and the cell phone everything took him by surprise. The cops were shouting for him to drop the weapon. It was all overwhelming. He went to look at his cell phone, he had to call someone for help. As soon as he raised a hand though the shots started.

Renard fell to the ground as he was hit. His cell phone bounced down the three steps that led from his yard to the porch. It landed perfectly so when he finished falling he could see the little screen that was just slightly tilted as it landed on a rock. The article he had been looking on had just updated. His picture was displayed at the top. As Renard’s eyes closed for the last time, he saw his phone go blank as the battery died.

He was always bad about charging it.

Prelude to a Family Vacation

beach blue car combi
Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

Authors Note: This is the rewrite of “A Brother’s Grief”.  So in class I got feedback on the last version and then rewrote it again….. revisions are for chumps.  So this is the third iteration of The Attic.

Richard knocked on the door to the office.  He could have just walked in, but he didn’t know what his brother, Brian was up to, and took the courteous route.  He heard Brain’s voice, but was unsure of what he said. So he opened the door slowly and stepped in. Brian was sitting at his desk staring at his laptop.

“What’re you working on?” Richard asked.

“Nothing important.  It is that time?”

“I told you one o’clock.  I hoped you’re packed and ready to go.”

“I did that last night,” Brian said as he closed his laptop.

“Bags are in your room then?” Richard asked.

“Yeah.”

Brian had a somber look on his face.  Richard knew it had been one year since Brian had lost his son.  It had taken a while, but Brian had finally relented to go with Richard and his family on a vacation.  Richard thought it would do him good to get out of the house and spend time away to try and get some perspective.

“I’ll have Mitchel get the bags,” Richard said as he plopped his six foot frame into a chair near the door, facing the desk, “You bringing your laptop with you?”

“No.  I don’t want to even be near social media today.  Shit, I don’t even want my phone with me.” Brian looked down next to his computer at his iPhone sitting there.  With a quick motion he swiped it with his right hand into a drawer that his left hand opened, then closed it.

The door was ajar and then it almost hit Richard as it swung fully open.  A boy walked in. “Where’s your stuff Uncle Brian?” The boy, Mitchell, was just over five foot tall, almost thirteen, was wearing shorts and a T-Shirt.  His brown hair was just above his eyes, not too long, yet not so that you couldn’t pull it. It never occured to Richard how piercing Mitchell’s blue eyes were.  His nephew had blue eyes as well. He was only three months older than Mitchel, well when he was alive. It hadn’t occurred to Richard until now, with his Brother and Son being together for the first time since the funeral.

“In my room,” Brian replied, “Be careful though, I haven’t exactly cleaned it lately and I don’t want you to fall or get lost in there.”

Mitchell looked at him initially with confusion and then he giggled as he exited the room and headed down the hall towards Brian’s room.  “He won’t get lost, hell he spent over half his life here,” Richard said.

“I know.  It’s hard to see him.  He reminds me so much of Justin, especially the eyes.”

Richard nodded in agreement, “They were inseparable.”

Brian stood up, “Want to go downstairs and get some coffee?”

“Do I.”

The two of them left the dark room, Brian closed the door on the way out.  They walked down the stairs, passing a multitude of pictures hanging on the walls.  The pictures revealed what appeared to be happier times for Brian. There was one with him, a woman, and a young boy on a beach.  The background wasn’t important, the smiles on their faces were. They were the kind of smiles that told you they didn’t care where they were as long as it was with each other.

Richard had stopped to look at this particular one.  “That was only a couple of years ago? Wasn’t it?”

Brian nodded a yes.

“Mitchell really wanted to go with you, I mean we all did, but my work schedule wouldn’t let it.”

Brian was quiet for a moment before answering, “We still had a great time.  It would have been great if you were there. It was the first time we didn’t go on vacation together, and right before we found out……..”

Now it was Richard’s turn to be quiet.  Brian started back down the stairs then his brother spoke, “Fucking cancer.”  Brian just kept going. Richard started after him.

They ended up in the kitchen.  Richard sat at the breakfast bar while his brother went to his fancy coffee machine and started to work the knobs.  Brian knew what the other man liked, a coffee so dark and thick that the spoon could stand up in it, but with flavor.  What flavor he didn’t seem to care as long as he could chew it and call it a meal. So, he worked the dials and added various things to try and get as close to his brother’s preferences without clogging his coffee maker.

The front door slammed and footsteps got louder.  Mitchell had finished dragging Brian’s bags to the car.  he stood there next to his father.

“You know we’re here for you.  That’s why I invited you to go with us this week to the beach.  I rented a nice little cottage on the lake. The kid are going to love to see you.”

“It has been a while Uncle Brian,” Mitchell said.

Brian took a moment and looked at his nephew.  “I think there are still some drinks in the fridge, help yourself.”  Mitchell went and opened the door. He looked for a moment and pulled out a soda, then looked at his father who nodded.

“Dad doesn’t let us have that many at home.”

“Well we are starting our vacation early so go ahead and have one or ten,” Richard smiled at his son, who popped the can opened then found his way to the chair next to him.

“ I was thinking of going to visit their graves,” Brian said.

“You can.  Hell I’ll drive you there.  You can take all the time you want.  But after we meet the rest at the cottage.”

“I want to visit them too,” Mitchell said as he took a sip, “I haven’t been there since the funeral.”

“I think I have to do it alone,” Brian said.

“Why?  What are you trying to prove?  We all loved them. I get they were your family, they were ours too.  Don’t act like you’re the only one suffering here,” Richard said, adding a little volume to his voice.

“Is it that easy?  You still have a wife and kids.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they both died together.  I had one leave me and just as I am coming to terms with it I lose the other.  I wish it was simple, but it’s a pattern. It’s hard to move on from something when you always think what’s next.  Are you going to die on me now?”

“He was more than family to me,” Mitchell said quietly.  His head looked down at the counter. “He was my best friend, my brother.  We did everything together.”

The two grown men stayed quiet and looked at the boy.  He was on the verge of tears now. “I didn’t mean anything by it Mitchell.  I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m still trying to deal with it all,” Brian almost whispered.

“This isn’t about you,” Richard said to Brian, “It affected all of us, don’t be so selfish about it.”

“Selfish?  My wife and child are dead, how is my mourning being selfish?”

“Because you do it alone.  Quit acting like it only affected you.  I know her parents have reached out to you and you ignored them, you don’t think they want to comfort and grieve with you?  But shit, you won’t even talk to me most of the time, we used to be so close.”

Brian finished meddling with his high end machine and put a cup of something hot in front of Richard.  He looked down into it and smiled. This seemed to cut the tension in the room. “It should be thick enough.  If it was anymore I’d have to give you a fork and knife to eat it.”

All three of them laughed.  “I don’t mean to ride you so much little brother, but I have to try and look out for you.  It’s just us now, and I know it’s hard, but let me at least try to take your mind off of it for a while.”

Brian sipped his cup of coffee while leaning against the counter then he pulled it away from his lips.  “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re trying to do. And I wish it was that easy. I’ve tried to lessen the lingering thoughts.  Hell I even saw that shrink for a while, it didn’t seem to help much.”

“I’m not talking about mental professionals, just a week away trying to have some fun.  We going to have some drinks, play bad party games, maybe even swim and get some fishing in.  Just getting away from the house. I mean Christ, Mary passed in your bedroom and Justin in front of the house. “

Mitchell looked at both of them.  “That was my fault you know.”

“What are you talking about?” Brian said.

“Dad had just gotten me the new playstation and a bunch of games.  I was supposed to come over and we were gonna play them. I was so excited that I played them at home by myself.  I told Justin we could do it the next day. If I was here, then he wouldn’t have been outside and he wouldn’t have been hit by that car.”  Mitchell started to cry at the thought, soon the tears were streaming.

Brain moved from around the counter and hugged his nephew.  “It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known it was going to happen.  Don’t ever think it was your fault.” He pulled him tight. The tears were now becoming snorts as Mitchell tried to stop crying, then the snot started to come out of his nose.

Richard grabbed a paper towel and handed it to Mitchell as Brian let go of him.  “You guys never did the same thing for too long,” Richard said. “For all we know you both might have been outside at that time.  That’s the funny thing about thinking about what could have been, you’ll never know.”

“I still think about it,” Mitchell said, wiping his face one last time before crumpling the paper towel and tossing it toward the trash can.  It his the rim and bounced out. Everyone looked at it for a moment.

“I guess you aren’t going to be playing in the NBA,” Brian said.  The others snickered a minute.

Richard finished his sludge and handed the cup to Brian, “I think we should get on the road.  We have to meet Amy at the cottage by six and if we are going to stop by the cemetery we should get going.”  The others nodded. Richard got up and headed out to the car.

Mitchell was right behind him.  They sat there for a few minutes waiting for Brian.  Richard was about to get out and go see what was taking his brother, as he reached for the door handle he saw him coming out and locking the door.  Brain made his way to the car and got in the passenger seat. His nephew was in the back. “Sorry, I had to grab something quick.”

“It’s alright, we aren’t in that much a hurry yet.”  Richard put the automatic into drive and they were off.

The first part of their trip was quiet.  No one spoke. The highway was almost empty as well.  The mood in the car was somber. It was just three people sitting alone looking out the window at the passing landscape or changing terrain that mostly consisted of fields and the occasional subdivision of homes.

Richard finally slowed the car and pulled off a a rural exit about twenty miles from Brian’s house.  Then took a left and pulled into the cemetery. He knew where the graves were and pulled as close as he could before stopping the car.  Once he did Brian got out without saying a word.

* * * * *

They sat in the car for almost an hour.  Brian had gotten out and went to the graves of his family.  He wanted to be alone, so Richard and Mitchell stayed in the car.  It was getting late though and they had to get going. “You stay here, I’m going to go see what’s taking him so long.”

“It’s hard for him Dad, maybe we should just wait.”

“I know.  But we need to be there for him too.”

Richard got out and made his way up from the small dirt road that went around the perimeter of the graveyard.  The tombstones were over a little hill that was right next to where they were parked, just putting Brian and his location out of sight.  Richard saw his brother sitting there just staring. He walked up and put his hand on Brian’s shoulder.

Richard was close enough now to see a something in his brother’s hand, it was the picture he has stopped to look at on the wall earlier.

“I’m tired of feeling lost and sad all of the time.  I want to feel better. No one wants to wallow in this kind of hell,” Brian said as an acknowledgement of his brother’s presence.

“Be strong, it isn’t easy to get over something like this.”

“I just can’t.”

“You’re strong, stronger than me.  You’ve made it this far. I don’t think I ever could.”

Brian’s hand stayed on the picture, he turned his head towards Richard.  “You were always the strong one.”

“Physically maybe, you were the runt after all.”

This comment elicited a kind of giggle snort from Brian who was in the middle of crying.  “You always did whoop my ass.”

“I was the oldest, I think it’s written somewhere that I have to from time to time.”  Another snort from Brian. “But you were always stronger emotionally.”

“ My Mary and Justin never had the chance to live.”  He started to cry again.

“You know how hard I took Mary’s death, and I knew that was coming.  Watching my brother going through that alone was hard, when you did it for Justin it was even harder.”

“A lot of us went through that alone.”  Mitchell’s voice made them both turn around.  He had tears forming in his eyes. “I’m sorry Uncle Brian.  I had to come over. I wanted to see it.”

“That’s okay,” Brian said as he motioned for the boy to come to him.  He did, and was rewarded with a long hug. Richard just stood there.

The three of them remained there, silent for a long time.  The quiet was finally broken.”I never told anyone this, but Aunt Mary made the best cookies.  I tell mom her’s are good, but not really.”

The two men just stood with straight faces.  Then Brian started to giggle, followed by Richard.  Soon all three were laughing wildly. “He is right, Amy can cook, but baking isn’t among her talents.”  Now they all started to laugh more, to the point of tears.

After a few minutes they calmed down.  Mitchell made his way to the tombstone that had Justin’s name on it.  He noticed a small spider wandering across it. He reached out and let it go onto his hand.  Then he moved over to the web that connected to the stone of his Aunt and he ushered it onto the web.  Moisture had accumulated on the web and the light of the setting Sun reflected through it to create a small rainbow like a prism.

“I have been drowning in self-pity,” Brian said.

“It’s understandable,” Richard replied, “You have lost a lot.”

“Others have lost more than me, and I never took the time to realize how much you have lost as well.  This whole time I could have helped you through it as much as you could have helped me.”

“Life can just be a son of a bitch.”

“Dad you said a bad word,” Mitchell notified his father as he turned from the graves.

“Sometimes they can be okay, Mitch.”

Richard’s son made his way back to him.  He sat on the ground beside his uncle who still held the picture.  “Aunt Mary was pretty.”

Brian smiled at him,  “Yes she was. In more ways than just looks.”  Brian looked at his nephew. “I think you should have this Mitchell.  You and Justin were always so close, practically brothers. You need something to remember him by.”  He handed the photo over.

Mitchell started to tear up again.

“There’s no need for that.”

“I’m not sad Uncle Brian, I just remembered that time after you guys got back from this trip when Justin and I put the slip and slide in the backyard and we slid into Aunt Mary’s flowers.  He wore the shorts that he is in the picture. She was pissed.”

Brian smiled, “That is all we can do now is recall the good times.”

“There were a lot of them,” Richard added, “Speaking of good times we should get going or we won’t have any because Amy will be chastising us the entire time we’re there.”  Brain nodded.

They all got up and looked at the tombstones one last time before turning and heading off to the car.  Soon they were heading down the road to their destination.

“What were you writing when I got to the house?” Richard asked.

Brian looked at him, “It’s a journal of sorts.  What I am thinking and what i would say to Justin and Mary.  It’s one thing I picked up from my shrink when I was going.”

“That actually sounds kind of therapeutic.”

“I find it is.”

Mitchell popped his head up from the back seat, “You do it too?”  Brain looked at him confused. “We used to message each other all the time.  I still do it and pretend.”

“I forgot he had all those accounts.  Would you mind if I logged in and read them sometime?”

“No.  But I want to know what you said to him too.”

“The next time you’re over you can read what I wrote him,” Brian said with a smile.

“Deal,” Mitchell said with a smile.

A Brother’s Grief

candlelight candles
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

Author Note: This is a rewrite off a previous Short I did called “The Attic” for a class.  It wasn’t literary enough, so I redid it, and here is that version.

He was writing a letter.  A simple letter, in context that is.  Whatever it’s purpose he wanted to get it right.  He kept deleting each sentence after he wrote it three or four times.  It had to be just right. Even after all the deletions he knew he would go back and add and remove elements until he could find no fault with it.  It was a work in progress and had been for almost a week now. The lack of light in his office didn’t bother him. He preferred the low light of the computer screen.  It made him feel isolated and alone. Just the way he preferred to be when writing something this important.

The time had passed and he could care less how late it actually was.  No one else was in the house, or so he thought. A knock at his office door proved him wrong.  He looked up as the door cracked open. He saw his brother, Richard, standing there. “I’ve been trying to call you for almost two days Brian.  I got worried, the front door wasn’t even locked.”

“I’m sorry.  I’ve just been thinking a lot lately.”

“I know.  It’s been a year since the event…..” Richard said in a low voice as he looked down to the floor.

“It has.  I just wanted to be left alone and have time to think.”

“What are you writing there?”

Brian closed his laptop, “Nothing.  Just some thoughts. It helps me to cope with everything that has happened.”  He stood up from his deck and walked over to his brother. He put his hand on his back in a friendly manner.  “Let’s go downstairs and get some coffee.”

The two of them left the dark room, Brian closed the door on the way out.  They walked down the stairs, passing a multitude of pictures hanging on the walls.  The pictures revealed what appeared to be happier times for Brian. There was one with him and a woman on a beach.  The background wasn’t important, the smiles on their faces were. They were the kind of smiles that told you they didn’t care where they were as long as it was with each other.

Richard had stopped to look at this particular one.  “That was right after you two were married? Wasn’t it?”

Brian nodded a yes.

“It was on that trip that you said she probably got pregnant with Justin, if I remember right.”

Brian was quiet for a moment before answering, “That was the way that we figured it.  Almost nine months to the day when she gave birth.”

Now it was Richard’s turn to be quiet.  Brian started back down the stairs then his brother spoke, “Fucking cancer.”  Brian just kept going. Richard started after him.

They ended up in the kitchen.  Richard sat at the breakfast bar while his brother went to his fancy coffee machine and started to work the knobs.  Brian knew what the other man liked, a coffee so dark and think that the spoon could stand up in it, but with flavor.  What flavor he didn’t seem to care as long as he could chew it and call it a meal. So, he worked the dials and added various things to try and get as close to his brother’s preferences without clogging his coffee maker.

“You know we’re here for you.  You don’t have to spend days like today on your own.  I actually wanted to invite you to go with us this weekend to the beach.  I rented a nice little cottage on the lake. My kids would love to see you.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I was going to visit their graves,” Brian said.

“You can.  Hell I will drive you there so you can take all the time you want.  But after we meet the rest at the cottage. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“I think I have to.”

“Why?  What are you trying to prove?  We all loved them. I get they were your family, they were mine too.  Don’t act like you are the only one suffering here,” Richard said, adding a little volume to his voice.

“Is it that easy?  You still have a wife and kids.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they both died together.  I have one leave me and just as I am coming to terms with it I lose the other.  I wish it was simple, but it’s a pattern. It’s hard to move on from something when you always think what’s next.  Are you going to die on me now?”

“This isn’t about you.  You have always been a bit selfish, but this is taking it to a new level.”

“Selfish?  My wife and child are dead, how is my mourning being selfish?”

“Because you do it alone.  Quit acting like it only affects you.  I know her parents have reached out to you and you ignored them, you don’t think they want to comfort and grieve with you?  But shit, you won’t even talk to me and I thought we were close.”

Brian finished his meddling with his high end machine and put a cup of something hot in front of Richard.  He looked down into it and smiled. This seemed to cut the tension in the room. “It should be thick enough.  If it was anymore I’d have to give you a fork and knife to eat it.”

Both men laughed.  “I don’t mean to ride you so much little brother, but I have to try and look out for you.  It’s just us now, and I know it’s hard, but let me at least try to take your mind off of it for a while.”

Brian sipped his cup of coffee while leaning against the counter then he pulled it away from his lips.  “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’re trying to do. And I wish it was that easy. I’ve tried to lessen the lingering thoughts.  Hell I even saw that shrink for a while, it didn’t seem to help much.”

“I’m not talking about mental professionals, just a weekend away trying to have some fun.  We can have some drinks, play bad party games, maybe even swim and get some fishing in. Just get away from the house.  I mean Christ, Mary passed in your bedroom and Justin in the attic. It just seems to me that maybe you should even think about selling and moving.”

“I know it sounds weird and even morbid, but them having both died here also means they are kind of part of the place now.  I don’t know if I could make myself get rid of it. As bad as I might seem to you, I think I would be worse if I left the place that reminds me of them the most.  It’s kind of cathartic in a way.”

Richard was mid sip when Brian finished his sentence.  “I get that, more like I understand your point, but just don’t see it helping you in the long run.  You might have to sink lower before you can truly get over it.”

“I can’t lose what little I have of them left.”

“No one is asking you to.  They’ll always be in your heart.  You are only 34, you have so much more life to live.  Take the time you need to heal, but then you have to move on.  If not for you, then for me.”

“You still have your family.”

“You’re part of my family too.  We have the apartment in the basement, you’re more than welcome to stay for a while, or a few years.  I say just move in and see how you feel in a month or so. Just take a break from here and then we can go from there.”

Brain took another sip.  “Tell you what, if you want to take me to the cemetery then I’ll go with you this weekend and we can talk about the other stuff then.  Maybe if I get out for a while I can see things differently.”

Richard smiled, “That sounds like a plan.  How about you go pack some things and we can take off.”

Brian set his cup down and smiled at his brother.  He went to the stairs and started going up. Richard smiled at him and drank more of the sludge in the cup.  He looked around while he waited. That was when he noticed a stack of papers on the counter. Nothing too weird, just bills and what not, but towards the bottom was an odd looking thing.  He reached out for it. It might be a while before Brian was ready so he decided to read whatever it was.

It was actually a group of things stapled together.  A receipt, form, and approval for a gun permit. Richard set his cup down.  It was dated the week before. The background check was seven days, today was the ninth.  Brian never had an interest in firearms before. Richard started to think. Would his brother be that depressed?  He didn’t want to wait to find out.

He got up and ran up the stairs.  He went to the main bedroom first.  No one was there. Next to what used to be Justin’s, his nephews room, that was empty as well.  Finally he went to the office. The computer was open. He went to it and read what Brian had been working on when he arrived.  It was a suicide note. Now he started to get frantic.

All the rooms on the second floor were empty, except the linen room, which also had the access point to the attic.  Richard went into the small space and saw the pull down ladder had been extended. He flew up it like it was nothing.  When he got up into the attic he let out a small sigh. Brian was sitting there looking at the spot where they had found Justin a year ago.  The small boy had managed to get up into the space and fell. He hit his head and by the time they found him, he had lost too much blood.

The police said he must have been knocked out when he fell and he slowly faded away.  No one knew for sure. Brian thought he had wandered up to find his mother’s old things.  He had been asking about her the morning he died. He was only 4 when she passed and 6 when he did.  He was a smaller boy, but the rope that hung from the attic stairs was low enough that he could grab it, he would have had to use all with strength to get them down though.

It really didn’t matter the physics of it.  Brian blamed himself for not checking on his son.  He was busy in his office and just assumed the boy was in his room playing like he always did.  He had promised the child they would go up and look at his mom’s things later that day, but he must have grown impatient and went up on his own.

Now, a year later, Brian was sitting above the spot where his son was found.  The dried blood was still there. He didn’t have the urge to have it cleaned up.  It was something real. I t was a part of the boy he loved. The one thing that he still had from the wife he loved and lost.  Now he was gone too and the blood on the floor of the attic was all that remained. Purging that from the world seemed, at least to Brian, washing away the last physical remnants of something he held so dear.

Richard moved slowly towards his brother.  The attic was dark except for a lone lightbulb that hung almost in the center, near where Brian was.  It swayed just a little, only gaining momentum when the pull string was engaged. The arch it was in now told Richard that Brian must have come almost directly up here only stopping to open his computer for all to read once his task was complete.

“I thought I could do it,” Brian said with tears in his eyes, “Just come up here, pull the trigger and be done with it.”

Richard was close enough now to see a pistol in his brother’s lap as he sat on the floor, his gaze directed at the dried patterns of dark red that the wooden floor had feasted on.  “You didn’t though, and you don’t have to either.”

“There is nothing else to do.”

“There is always something else, you just can’t see it yet,” Richard replied.

“I’m tired of feeling lost and sad all of the time.  I want to feel better. No one wants to wallow in this kind of hell, but what else can I do to get free?”

“Be strong, it isn’t easy to get over something like this.”

“I just can’t cope,” Brian reached down and grabbed the handle of the gun.

“You are strong, stronger than me.  You’ve made it this far. I don’t think I ever could.”

Brian’s hand stayed on the grip, but he didn’t raise it, instead he turned his head towards Richard.  “You were always the strong one.”

“Physically maybe, you were the runt after all.”

This comment illicited a kind of giggle snort from Brian who was in the middle of crying.  “You always did whoop my ass.”

“I was the oldest, I think it’s written somewhere that I have to from time to time.”  Another snort from Brian. “But you were always stronger emotionally. Remember when mom passed, then dad?  You had to make all the arrangements because I was a wreck. You comforted me. That’s the strength I mean.”

“It was different.  We knew the day would come when they would.  Not that it was any less sad, but they had a full life, they had a chance to live.  My Mary and Justin never did.” He started to cry again, this time lifting the gun.

Richard had been moving closer the whole time they were talking.  Brian didn’t seem to notice. He was now so close he could see the pattern on the handle.  It was nothing fancy, a basic model of a 9mm. He sat down next to his brother. He seemed a little startled when the thud came with the larger man hitting the floor.  It also coincided with the placement of the gun under his chin.

“Now you have to think about this,” Richard started, “If you do this it will be right in front of me.  How do you think I’ll take it?”

Brain’s face went from crying to contemplation.  “Not very well.”

“That’s an understatement.  You know how hard I took Mary’s, and I knew that was coming.  Watching my brother decorate his ceiling with his brains is not something I think I’d be able to handle to well.”

Another giggle came from Brian.  Richard always had a way to make him smile.  He offbeat comments, especially at inappropriate times always made him smile.  It was a practice he had honed while growing up, usually as a tactic to try and keep his younger brother from ratting him out after beating on him.  It worked more than a few times. It was one of those bonds that siblings developed when they grew to depend on each other.

“You never could take bad news that well,” Brian said.  The gun didn’t move from its position though.

“To be honest, if you do this, I might not be able to hack it and might even use that on myself right after.”

Now Brian put the gun on his lap and looked directly into his brother’s eyes.  “Why the fuck would you say something like that?” The tension from earlier in the kitchen returned with a vengeance.

“Why?  Really?  I’ve lost two parents, a sister-in-law, and a nephew in the last five years.  I’ve basically lost you as well, but there’s still hope there. If you truly go, then what?  Am I supposed to just go home and live out my days all happy and carefree?”

“You have your family still.”

“And what good would I be to them in a state of loss all the time?  This isn’t about what I have, it’s about what I’d lose.”

“Who’s being selfish now?” Brian posed the question with a slight grin.

“Fuck you.  It’s not selfish to not want to lose a brother.  Just put it down and let’s take that trip. You might feel better.”

“And if I don’t you’ll have me committed.”

“No I won’t,” Richard threw back at him immediately.

“Really?  A suicidal man you would just let go back home?”

“It wouldn’t be my first choice, but I couldn’t go to a mental hospital to see you.”

“Why not?”

“What would the neighbors think?” a large grin was on Richard’s face as he spoke the words.

Brian couldn’t take it anymore, he placed the gun on his lap and just started to laugh.  Richard thought about grabbing the gun, but decided against it. Too many things could go wrong if he did, so he just laughed along with his brother.  “If you keep making my laugh like this in the state I’m in, I’d be more likely to shoot you.”

“Do you even know how to use that thing?”

“In theory yes.”

“How about you just give it to me, we go pack some of your clothes and then see where life takes us the next few days?”

Brain sat there for a while.  Both of them, quietly. The time passed, and neither of them really caring about how long it actually was.  Finally something happened. The lone lightbulb decided it would be a good time to end its own life and it went out.  Now the two men were sitting in the dark.

Brian was the one that broke the silence.  “I think I would like that.”

Richard felt a poke in his side.  It was the butt of the pistol. He took it, took out the magazine and cleared the chamber.  “You might not have had to do that,” he said.

“What?” came a confused reply.

“We might both kill ourselves trying to get out of your attic.”

Both men laughed as they tried to make their way to the stairs.

The Attic

The Attic

The flame flickered in the small breeze that blew through the open window.  He looked up from the little light that was given off by the small candle.  It waned as the breeze made it shimmer.  When it started to settle his head went back down and the began to scribble on the parchment with his quill.  The letter was important, the most urgent thing he had ever written in his life.  The speed at which he was moving the ink filled device was starting to make his wrist hurt.  His mind was moving faster than his hand could keep up

He went to place his instrument into the well that held the vital liquid which enabled him to pass his message along to those that could help him.  It was at this point that he saw it was low.  There was only a small amount left.  It was barely enough to satisfy his quill one last time.  He quickly pulled it out and continued to write more words.  By this time his brain had compose the next page or two.  He was falling further and further behind, this was started to make him believe that he would never finish the words let alone sending it off.

His quill ran dry again.  A small smudge was where it was when the valuable liquid ran out in mid-word.  He went to draw of it, but there was none, he had forgotten that he was out.  In almost anger he tossed the item on the desk.  Now he was opening the drawers looking for more ink.  He always had extra somewhere.  But each time he would have to search, because he would forget where it was.  This was not normal for him because he was usually good with details.  His memory was sponge like, at least he thought so.  Others had told him as well.

His usual business was numbers, that might have made the difference.  It didn’t matter at this time.  He was in such a frantic mode that it wouldn’t have mattered.  He was tearing through drawers and cabinets.  Soon the room was a mess.  Then he stopped.  He had found what he was looking for.  The last vial of ink.  He pulled it down from where he found it and went back to the desk.  He managed to get the top off of it and then went to his inkwell.  He was carefully attempting to pour ink into its new home.

Then it happened.  The door to the office, that had been closed, locked, and barricaded by several pieces of furniture shook from a massive force that hit it on the other side.  It was so much that the dead bolt almost snapped from its insertion point.  The writer just stood there and stared at the door.  He was shaking.  Now the ink from the container was finding its way onto the desk.  He recovered and looked down.  He recovered and managed to save some of it.

Then he realized the real problem.  His letter was now one big blotch.  Worse all the paper that he has left was underneath that.  It was now all soaked in ink.  Even if he wanted to rewrite the letter he now had nothing to compose on.  Instead he ran to the window and looked out. The wind was picking up and the fist few drops of a storm were coming down.  A far-off lightning strike lit up the field beyond his yard for just a moment.  But it was enough for him to see down to the ground, which he was three stories above.

The split-second flash also revealed another one of the things.  One was already inside and was slamming into the door of his study.  There were more though, there always was.  They had been coming to his home and invading it for some time now.  He still was unsure of what they were or what they wanted.  His guess was to get at him, at least that is how it was portrayed in their intensity of trying to get in.  He did his best to stave them off.

At first they were a bit timid, or at least seemed that way, since their initial incursions were only into the yard and the house.  He thought they were just building up courage, then his thoughts on them shifted and it seemed more like they were probing.  Once they knew a certain thing they became more emboldened.  Like they figured out the house was easy to get into after their third appearance. Then it was a case of exploring the first floor over the course of the next two visits.  The second floor came next, and finally the third.  The only place left as the attic, and he refused to go there.  So, if they did not get him this time, he was sure the next visit would be the final confrontation.

One thing that did confuse him was that there never seemed to be more than two in the house at any given time.  When he would look outside or hear certain things he was sure there were at least four, if not more.  If they had all entered at the same time, especially from the start, they would have surely gotten him month’s ago.  They did not though.  It might just be as simple as those that stayed outside were there to make sure that he stayed inside.

He should have tried to reach out for help a long time ago, but he never saw the need.  He had been able to simple section off a part of his home and hold out for the night each time before.  He had even bought a gun to protect himself.  Earlier this night though saw his concerns turn desperate after one tried to get into his bed chamber.  He blasted the door while it was being struck.  The thing kept going as if the shot did nothing.  Two more shots followed and had the same effect.

That was when he went into his study and barricaded the door and started the letter.  His goal was just to make it through the night, which he was sure he could, but the next monthly visit would be his last.  All he could now is dwell on the past and try to wait it out.  The clock on the wall said that he only had two more hours to go.  The banging on the door had subsided for now.  So all he could do is wait.

This would be the eleventh visit from these monsters.  It seemed ironic that they would get him on the twelfth.  It would be a year to the day in which it happened.  The loss of his most precious belonging.  His son.  It was a tragic day.  The boy was only five when it happened. The man remembered the day fairly well.  They had breakfast in the dining room.  His cook had made the boys favorite.  They both laughed at the jokes his son made while eating his eggs.  Then he went off to play.  The man had business to conduct.  The next time he saw his son would be the turning point.

It was at this point that he realized the error he made.  Next month would be the twelfth visit of his persecutors, but tonight was in fact the year anniversary of his son’s death.  They first appeared a month after his passing.  With this correction in his mind he fell into a further despair, though it now had nothing to do with his wellbeing.  It was remembering his boy.  The reason he had for living.  His mother was the love of his life, but she passed bringing the child into the world.  He vowed to raise the baby in her honor and make him the best person that one could be.

He thought he was doing that before the day he died.

He placed little restrictions on the child except when it was time to be with the tutors.  A year ago had been one of his free days and he set about exploring the large estate that he lived in.  He wandered off that morning while the servants went about their chores and the man conducted his business.  When the time came for dinner and he had not seen his boy for most of the day he set about looking for him.  It was the gardener who found him.

It was the attic.  To this day the man still had no idea how the small child got up there.  The stairs were the kind that you had to pull down from the ceiling to get at.  He was too small and too weak to do such a thing himself.  Besides the fat he had no idea where the pole was that allowed even a fully-grown person to get to them.  In any case, he had gotten up there.  A crypt among the living.  All of his mother’s things had been placed there with other older and forgotten things.

Her things were not forgotten.  The man would occasionally go up there and be among them to remember her.  What his son found up there he still did not know.  It might have simply been a new place to explore and discover to the young boy.  The result was he would never come down again.  When they found him, he had a large bruise on his head.  The conclusion was that he fell or tripped and hit his head on one of the cross beams hard.  No one was sure if that is what killed him or if it was slow bleeding inside when no help was given.  In either case it caused the man grief.  One more than the other.

The months that followed saw him grieve more and more.  He eventually dismissed the entire staff.  No one would confess to helping his son get into the attic, so he let them all go.  He had tried to replace some of them, but word had gotten out that his once happy home was now a place of despair.  No one wanted to be in the company of someone in a constant state of mourning.  He soon found he could do most of what needed to be done on his own.  He started to take his own deliveries almost a month after his son’s death.

It was during dinner when he first heard the things.  He spent the first night looking out of various windows trying to see what was trying to get in.  He was not too worried though at first.  He thought is was just strays.  It wasn’t until they made it into the house that he knew these were not normal animals just looking for food, at least not the regular kind.  They wanted him.  It wasn’t normal.

Of course, he had tried to reach out to the local authorities.  But his initial try was met with funny looks, as if he was being ignored.  They obviously did not believe him.  He even reached out to the local clergy.  His wife had been devout in her beliefs.  After her passing though he stopped attending. When he went to the church the Father just stared at him blankly as he tried to tell him about what he thought might be demons sent to right the wrong he had committed to his boy.

The letter he had tried to write on this night was to be sent to an old friend who could find and send the best hunters.  The man knew his story did not have to be believed by people that he paid to hunt these things and money he had plenty of.  They would gladly accept his coin, even if in folly.  It was just a job to them.  He should have thought of it sooner.  Now the local town folk thought him insane in addition to being sad.

All of this thinking was interrupted when the bashing at the door started again.  It shook the man from his thoughts.  He quickly stood when the third crash was followed by the distinct sound of the metal bolt snapping.  The door was opened slightly now, only a crack, but it was a start.  All of the debris he had placed in front of the door might hold for a few more of the creature’s attempts to get in.  Where would he go then?

The window was a choice, but he couldn’t go down.  More of those things would get him if he did.  He could only go up.  To the attic.  Is that where they have been trying to drive him this whole time?  Could them wanting to devour him for some sin not be the truth?  It didn’t matter he had to think and think fast.  After two more loud bangs to the door he decided to go up.  To the window he went.  The two adjoining panes of glass swung open.  The slow rain from earlier was now a steady stream, soon to become a downpour.

He turned his back to the window and stood on his desk chair he had brought over.  Then he reached up and out of the window.  He felt the lip of the roof and grabbed.  With all of his strength he pulled himself out and up.  Then he swung his right leg up and it landed on the roof.  With two firm positions on the roof, he slowly pulled the rest of himself up.  He was careful since it was wet.  He didn’t want to get ahead of himself and fall to his death.  Just as he finished getting his left leg up on the roof he heard the pile of items in the study scatter across the floor.  The thing had gotten in.

He clawed his way up the tiled roof a way.  One of the windows to the attic was close.  Once he reached it he tried to open it.  It was locked.  He peered in to see if the lock was firm of if there might be a small gap he could jimmy.  As his eyes looked in a flash of lightning from the other side of the house illuminated the entirety of the attic.  It was only for moment, in that time though he could swear that he saw someone in there.  If might also be a figment of his imagination.  It might also be someone who controlled the beasts.  This might be the reason or person that was causing his grief.

The waiting was getting to him now and the storm had decided to become worse.  He stood, using the window as a brace and he kicked out the glass in the top corner.  Then he reached through and released the lock.  The window slid up easily and he crouched as he went in.  It was time to end the charade and confront anyone here.  At least the things couldn’t get up here, or so he thought.  In the back of his mind he actually didn’t know if they were capable or not since he had never seen one.

He stood to his full height as he entered the attic.  The rush of ill feeling came over him as he was back in the place where he had found his son a year ago.  The steps into the darkness were small at first.  Then a little longer.  Soon another flash of lightning lit up the far side, and this time he did see someone there.  He picked up his pace and went straight for the man.  He called out to him, no answer.  Then he was on top of him.  He stretched his arms out at the object.

He expected some kind of resistance.  There was none.  Instead of falling though the body swung as if holding onto something.  Then the man froze in his tracks.  Had one of his former servants snuck into his attic and hung themselves?  Was it one last act of defiance?  Could this have been the one that helped his son get into the attic and as a final act of contrition? He wasn’t sure.  Now he reached out and spun the corpse around to get a look at the face.  Just as if was looking at him, or what could pass for looking a bolt of lightning hit very close to the house.

There was enough light to see the truth.  He stopped.  He let go of the body.  Then he shouted at the top of his lungs and fell to his knees.  He had looked into his own eyes, if there had been any there.  The gaunt shallow holes of where they had been was familiar enough to him to know who the victim at the end of the rope was.   He covered his face with his hands and he started to cry.  Then the truth came back to him as did the memories.

After the death of his son he had fallen into a deep depression.  He had been on the verge of it since losing his wife, but his devotion to the boy had staved it off.  When he was gone it came on with a vengeance.  When the staff had left, and he found himself alone shortly after the burial of his beloved progeny, he found himself in the attic on many occasions.  The last time he was up here he had found some rope.  He was to far gone at this point.  What came down from the attic after the act was not the full man that had entered, but a mere shadow.

It took several moments for him to realize that the light that had exposed his own corpse to him had not subsided.  His hands slowly came away from his face when he heard a voice.  It was telling him that he had suffered long enough.  It was time to move on.  Fate had been trying to get him too for many months now, but the man had not heeded the signs or the messengers.  He had even blocked the fact that he was not of this world anymore.

When he looked towards the light he saw who had spoken.  A small frame and a familiar face stood there smiling at him just inside the light.  A little arm raised, and a small hand opened ready to take his, if he wanted.  His tears stopped, and he stood.  He slowly walked to the light making sure that what he saw was real.  Then he reached out and took the small hand.  The touch confirmed it.  He smiled and said he missed the small person.  Then the other small hand waved him into the light.  He followed.  Soon both of them were on the other side.  The light slowly faded.     When it was completely gone the old house fell silent.  Anything that had been there to harm or usher anything else faded too.