My Brother’s Keeper – First Interlude (Text)

Avril was alone, asleep on a beach. Suddenly he woke as the sand began shifting all around him. He felt as though he, along with a good portion of the beach, was being lifted into the air. Frightened and confused, Avril tried to bury his arms deep into the sand. It was all he could think of to anchor himself and keep from getting tossed around. He tried to push his hands ever deeper as he began to feel a strong wind against his back.

Riding on that wind was an overwhelming sense of peace, and joy, and pure ecstasy beyond what Avril could have ever imagined. All fear and confusion seemed to be blown away by the warm air gusting behind him. Avril loosed his hands from the sand and lifted them high in the air as he began to laugh.

Almost as soon as that wind stopped, Avril was blinded by brightness. The sand everywhere began to glow and sparkle so brightly that his eyes began hurting. Avril tried to shield his eyes with his left hand as he lay back on the warm, glowing sand. He was still laughing and in spite of the brightness and mind-blowing circumstances, the euphoria that had come with the wind was still with him.

“Avril, son, I love you and you are mine.” The voice came from everywhere and nowhere. It reverberated through every fiber of his body. He heard it directly from his mind, yet the very air around him shivered with its echo. The voice spoke again, “Until now I have sheltered you in my hand. In a way, I will continue to do so, yet I also have need of you. Will you go for me?”

“For you, anything” Avril shouted in a whisper.

As soon as he did, it felt as though he had been thrust into the air. Above him and around him there was nothing. It was pure blackness. Looking over his shoulder Avril saw the glowing sand spread out around him. Gradually the feeling of motion stopped and Avril felt as though he was simply floating, weightless in a sea of nothingness. Most of the glowing sand continued to spread itself out around and beyond him, but one by one each grain also slowed into stillness.

Avril was trying to adapt to the surroundings when he heard that voice again. “He needs you.”

Avril turned his head to the right looking towards the direction he thought the voice had come from. All he saw was a lone grain of sand, (or was it a star?) that was slightly bigger and brighter than the others around him. He called out in the darkness, “Who needs me?”

The star that Avril was looking at slowly began to grow bigger and brighter. Soon it was not just a star but a tiny blue ball. Little by little that ball grew bigger and bigger. Eventually, Avril was able to see tiny specks of white and brown and green as well as the predominant deep blue. Larger and larger this ball grew as it took up more and more of Avril’s field of vision. He noticed that the ball was slowly spinning. The white seemed to be moving along at a faster pace than the blue and green beneath it.

Gradually, the blackness and the stars were pushed out of view. Avril’s vision fixed onto one spot where a fist of blue seemed to punch into the green and brown around it. That spot, that bay, seemed to grow larger and larger as Avril, who by now realized that he was falling, saw more and more detail in the colors around him. Looking to his right, what had once appeared a smallish speck of white had turned into a billowing mountain of whites and grays and violets. It was the most beautiful and surreal landscape Avril had ever seen. This landscape grew larger and closer to him and Avril was enraptured by its beauty. The pillow of white mountains he was looking at was now level with him and continued to climb higher as he fell closer to the earth below.

Turning his gaze forward again, Avril was shocked to see what looked like a tiny town with a river flowing along its south end and gently rolling hills above and to his left. Below and to the left was an ocean of blue. Larger and larger this small town grew in his sight as lower and lower he descended. Avril imagined that this must be how an eagle would view the world. He could see more and more details of the town and he began to realize that it was much larger than he had first thought. In fact, it seemed to be larger than the entire forest he had grown up in. Those tiny moving specs grew in his sight into tiny moving people and animals and carts. With such a sheltered background Avril’s mind fought against the idea of so many people living so close together.

One building grew larger and larger in the center of his vision. It looked as if he was heading straight for it. Then, just as Avril threw out his hands before him to meet the impact, the roof simply was not there. Now inside the large room, Avril saw tables and chairs everywhere. About a third of the chairs had people sitting in them. Some tables had customers talking around them or people with money before them intently focused on what looked like some sort of game. In another part of the room, most people were busy eating the food set before them. At one such table, a hooded man sat alone. It was towards this table that Avril slowly floated down until he came to rest in the chair directly across from the hooded man.

Both brothers were shocked to see the other sitting across from each other. With a mind blank from shock, Avril felt his mouth open and heard himself say, “Brother, I’m coming.”

–     –     –     –     –

Kayeen found himself gaining consciousness ragged and wet on the beach. Every bone in his body was weary. His shirt was missing and there was a rip down his right leg. Still on his hands and knees, he began searching frantically until he found his sword. It was half buried in the sand about five feet to his right. Pulling the blade free from the scabbard, Kayeen tried his best to wipe it clean on his torn pant leg. Considering how wet and dirty his pants were, not much was really accomplished through the effort.

Through a supreme force of will, Kayeen pulled himself up and began walking across the bleak, stormy seashore. Beyond the pallid gray sand was a jagged rocky landscape. As far as the eye could see there was no vegetation. No life. Kayeen turned around in a circle looking for anything he could see that would jog his memory as to where he was and how he got there. Nothing. Cupping his hands to his mouth, Kayeen shouted, “Hello!”

His voice was drowned out by the wind and the waves crashing along the shore and probably did not carry very far. He listened for a response and just barely above the crashing of the waves Kayeen could swear he heard laughter. He shouted again. This time he definitely heard someone laughing and the sound sent a chill down his spine

His voice was drowned out by the wind and the waves crashing along the shore and probably did not carry very far. He listened for a response and just barely above the crashing waves Kayeen could swear he heard laughter. He shouted again. This time he definitely heard someone laughing and the sound sent a chill down his spine. As disoriented as he was, Kayeen had no idea what direction the laughter was coming from. He strained his eyes trying his best to see any movement, but Kayeen could not see far in the murky darkness.

Suddenly, he heard a voice very close behind him. “You are mine,” the tenor voice said with contempt. Kayeen spun around with his sword gripped in both hands in front of him. Nothing. Adjusting himself to a defensive stance, Kayeen slowly started advancing in the direction he thought the voice had come from.

Again he heard behind him, almost over his shoulder, “You are mine.” Again Kayeen spun around, this time swinging his sword. Again there was nothing.

“I am nobody’s!” Kayeen shouted back in frustration.

From nowhere and everywhere Kayeen heard the darkness calling out to him. “You are mine and now I am coming to claim you.”

Kayeen heard the shouts of a thousand voices as shapes started walking towards him from beyond the waves. It looked as though the sea was giving up its dead. Some of the things coming toward him were nothing more than skeletons. Others were bodies in various states of decomposition. One looked as though it had walked through a fire. The charred skin was blending into burned bone. On another, the skin was pale white and dark hair was missing in patches on its head. There was a rope of seaweed still clinging to that one’s shoulder.

Slowly backing away from the waves and its coming occupants, Kayeen threw out his hand to stop them. Nothing happened. The living dead slowly, inexorably continued to advance and more and more continued to step out of the waves behind that first row. With a panic beginning to show in his eyes, Kayeen tried again to send a wind to push them back into the sea. Still, no wind came. His left foot twisted on a jagged rock and Kayeen fell backward in pain. Still not taking his eyes off the rows of advancing corpses, Kayeen made a motion that he somehow knew should call forth fire. No fire came.

Kayeen turned and ran. The broken ground beneath him prevented him from truly putting on any speed and more than once he lost his footing and bumped and scraped his hands and knees. The pain from his twisted ankle sent a sharp jolt up his leg with every step, but he continued on as fast as he could. Up ahead Kayeen noticed a flat patch of ground. Angling towards it, he saw that it was actually a circular raised stone platform. Carved all from one rock, there were two steps raising the completely smooth and level surface from the rocky ground all around it.

As soon as Kayeen stepped up onto the platform he felt as though he had been recharged. The weariness he had felt since first waking on this dreadful beach was gone. The pain and the swelling in his ankle were gone. The cuts and bruises from the many times he had tripped during his flight were all gone.

beyond all this, the very air around him seemed different. The clouds overhead seemed to clear just enough overhead for a ray of light to illuminate the rock. Where before the misty, heavy for prevented him from seeing more than a few dozen feet, now Kayeen could see as far as he wanted. What he saw, however, did not encourage him. He was on an island. In countless numbers, the dead continued their slow march straight towards him and they came from every direction. The first rows were now so tightly packed that every now and then one was jostled back into the row behind it as the rest closed the distance. They were not hurrying, but there was no need. There was nowhere for Kayeen to go and with the receding of each wave, another row of heads appeared marching in step with those in front of them. Kayeen was trapped by an ever-increasing number of malevolent zombies.

The panic Kayeen had been feeling was replaced by a grim fatalism. At least his energy had returned and he could still fight. Even if there was no escape, no hope of survival, he could take a good number of these creatures down first. So he waited.

After what seemed an eternity, the front row of these monsters finally reached the lower step. Almost as one they all raised their feet to step up… and stopped. As if by silent command they put their feet back down and just stood there, before the rock, staring up at Kayeen. When the row behind them bumped up against that first row, they too froze. Wave upon wave of these creatures came to a halt and all stared straight up at Kayeen. Thousands upon thousands of eyes seemed to bore into the long refugee on the rock.

The voice Kayeen had first heard on the shore called out from every direction, “You can’t stay there forever. Sooner or later you will have to come down.”

Kayeen noticed a slight hint of frustration in that voice and called back defiantly, “Never! I will die before I let you have me.”

Then there was silence. Dead silence. Not even the waves could be heard any longer from where he once saw the seashore. There was no wind blowing through the sea of bodies looking directly at him. Even upon the bodies that still had most of their flesh there appeared no movement in their chest to signify breathing. Every hair, on the ones that still had hair, stood completely still. Eyes never blinked. It was terrifyingly unnerving.

Kayeen began pacing in a circle on that raised stone platform like a nervous cat trapped in a cage. He did not dare get within arms reach, but neither could he remain still. Warily he moved in a small circle with his knuckles white from gripping his sword. Nothing else would move. Kayeen could not stay still.

After what felt like days, the voice called out again, “How long must we play this game. You cannot hide. You cannot run. There is no escaping your destiny. You are mine.”

Kayeen shouted back, “Never! I am my own man. I belong to no one but myself.”

As soon as he said this, there was an earsplitting crack. Dropping his sword, Kayeen put both hands to his ears to stop the pain. Below him, he noticed that a crack had split the stone in two. What he saw when he reached down to pick his sword back up turned Kayeen’s insides to ice. The army of evil had taken the two steps up and was advancing toward him.

Kayeen began desperately hacking and slashing at those undead warriors. Above his desperate flight, he could hear that voice laughing at him. It stopped just long enough to say, “Now you are mine.”

Just before he was completely dragged under by all those hands grabbing at him, Kayeen heard another voice, “Brother, I am coming.”

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